Lionel refuses to let Bertie smoke during their speech sessions, saying "sucking smoke into your lungs will kill you." King George VI, who often smoked twenty to twenty-five cigarettes a day, died from complications of lung cancer surgery on February 6, 1952, at age fifty-six.
Nine weeks before filming of the movie began, Lionel Logue's grandson, Mark Logue, discovered a large box in his attic that contained his grandfather's personal papers. The box held Lionel Logue's diary, his appointment book, notes from his speech therapy sessions with King George VI, and over one hundred personal letters to Logue from the King. It also contained what is believed to be the actual copy of the speech used by George VI in his 1939 radio broadcast announcing the declaration of war with Germany (which he makes at the end of this movie). Mark Logue turned his grandfather's papers, letters, and diary over to Director Tom Hooper and Screenwriter David Seidler, who used them to flesh out the relationship between Logue and the King. Geoffrey Rush and Colin Firth also read through the material for insight into their characters. The exchange in this movie between Logue and King George VI following his radio speech ("You still stammered on the 'W'." / "Well, I had to throw in a few so they knew it was me.") was taken directly from Logue's diary. Colin Firth insisted that it should be included in the movie.
Screenwriter David Seidler stammered as a child, and heard King George VI's wartime speech as a child. As an adult, he wrote Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother (widow of George VI) and asked for permission to use the King's story to create a movie. The Queen Mother asked him not to during her lifetime, saying the memories were too painful. Seidler respected her request.
The role of King George VI was written with Paul Bettany in mind. Bettany declined in order to spend more time with his family, and later admitted that he regretted his decision. Colin Firth was cast instead and received an Oscar for his performance.
After the abdication, Edward and Wallis (a.k.a. Duke of Windsor and Duchess of Windsor) were genuinely surprised to learn that they were banned from the United Kingdom, never to return. It's generally believed that Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, the new Queen Consort, was behind the ban. She blamed Wallis for throwing King George VI into a job for which he wasn't prepared, and contributing to his premature death. Queen Mary, Edward's mother, never reconciled with her son, and refused to attend his and Wallis' wedding in France. Edward was allowed to return to England for the funerals of his brother, "Bertie", and his mother. Queen Elizabeth II gave special permission for Edward and Wallis to be buried on a Royal Estate.
While preparing this movie, the production knew that having some key cast would help the movie get made. They convinced someone who lived near Geoffrey Rush to put the script in his mailbox, against industry practice. It included a note apologizing for the unsolicited delivery, and explained that they were desperate for him to know the script existed. Rush read the script and agreed to do the movie.
The King's speech, as delivered in the movie, is only two-thirds of the original. The original speech has four hundred seven words, the movie version has two hundred sixty-nine. Four sentences were deleted and four sentences were shortened.
In one scene, the Duchess of York talks to Winston Churchill. Helena Bonham Carter's grandmother, Violet Bonham Carter, was a good friend of Churchill, and her great-grandfather was Prime Minister H.H. Asquith.
The MPAA gave this movie an R rating, due entirely to the scenes where Bertie curses as part of his speech therapy or preparation for the climactic address. Bob Weinstein and Harvey Weinstein appealed, but were denied. They later submitted a cut without some of the profanity, and got a PG-13 rating. However, the R-rated version is considered the Oscar-winning one, extending a string of R-rated Best Pictures from 2005 to 2010.
At one point, King Edward VIII makes fun of Prince Albert's stammer by saying, "Younger brother trying to push older brother off the throne. P-p-p-p-p-positively medieval!" Minus the stammer, that was an actual line written by King Edward (later Duke of Windsor) to his brother (later King George VI) when he was away from Great Britain for a time and gave Prince Albert a few responsibilities in his absence.
Lionel Logue is an actor turned speech therapist. To help develop his character's stammer, and the exercises used to overcome it, Colin Firth also turned to his sister Katie Firth, another actress turned speech therapist.
While arguing about the coronation chair, the King mentions the Stone of Scone (pronounced "skoon"), also called the Stone of Destiny, underneath the chair. Scottish and British monarchs have been crowned over the stone for centuries, although it has probably not been really the same stone all this time, as a few "switcheroos" are believed to have taken place over the centuries. It was still in Westminster Abbey at the time shown, but was returned to Scotland in 1996 to appease anti-English feeling that the stone was rightfully Scotland's. It will temporarily return to Westminster Abbey for future coronations.
This movie includes acting depictions of four consecutive British monarchs: King George V (reigning 1910-1936), King Edward VIII (reigning January-December 1936, later known as Duke of Windsor), King George VI (reigning 1936-1952), and Queen Elizabeth II (began reign 1952, still reigning as of 2019).
Colin Firth won the best actor Oscar for his performance as King George VI in this movie. The next year, he presented the Best Actress prize to Meryl Streep for her performance as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady (2011). Streep then subsequently presented Best Actor to Daniel Day-Lewis for portraying Abraham Lincoln in Lincoln (2012). So in a span of three years, lead acting Oscars were presented by the King of England to the British Prime Minister and then to the President of the United States.
The piece of music heard during the broadcast of King George VI's 1939 radio speech is the second movement Allegretto of Ludwig van Beethoven's 7th Symphony. It was slightly altered to suit the movie, by mimicking the King's speech patterns: the immediate repetition of the movement's opening woodwind chord is a "musical stammer" similar to the King's stutter; the tempo chosen (roughly fifty-four beats per minute) is slow relative to Beethoven's Allegretto indication (meaning "moderately quick"), while the silences between the musical phrases are lengthened through extreme rubato (meaning that the music is played not in strictly even time, but rather with some flexibility). These alterations communicate the King's progression from a nervous start to a confident, flowing delivery.
While talking about William Shakespeare, one of Logue's sons mentions "the Scottish play". That play is "Macbeth". According to a widely-held superstition, the play is cursed, and saying its title aloud brings bad luck.
According to EMI recording engineer Peter Cobbin, the original royal microphones had been in the EMI archives for over seventy years. The EMI Archive Trust granted permission for five of them to be loaned to Abbey Road Studios. Three were restored to good working condition and used for recording this movie's orchestral score. The microphones, designed for His Majesty King George V, His Majesty King George VI, Her Majesty Queen Mary, and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth (Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother), were adorned with silver and chrome details bearing royal coats of arms and other individual insignia. They were state-of-the-art in the 1930s, and excellent even compared to much modern equipment. Composer Alexandre Desplat and Director Tom Hooper were pleased with the result, and felt that the slight coloring of the sound caused by the older equipment gave the recordings an authentic "patina" of the time period.
Screenwriter David Seidler has said of King George VI: "Here was a stutterer who was a King and had to give radio speeches where everyone was listening to every syllable he uttered, and yet did so with passion and intensity."
Helena Bonham Carter appeared in two 2011 Academy Award winning movies: this movie, which won four Oscars, and Alice in Wonderland (2010), which won two. Bonham-Carter played a Queen in both movies: Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother of Queen Elizabeth II) in this movie and The Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland (2010). Ironically, Bonham Carter's Red Queen image was inspired by Bette Davis' Queen Elizabeth I in The Virgin Queen (1955).
When Princess Elizabeth meets Lionel Logue the first time, she says that the President for the Royal Society for Speech Therapists warned her that Logue's "antipodean methods were both unorthodox and controversial." Antipodean can mean the exact opposite of something, or it can refer to the collective region of Australia and New Zealand. This movie makes use of both definitions: Logue was an Australian, he is portrayed as a rogue character whose treatments go against conventional wisdom. Director Tom Hooper played on Logue's Australian nationality and his unconventionality because he felt that the British have an aversion to therapy.
The real Winston Churchill was seen with a large cigar so frequently that a specific cigar size was named in his honor. Churchill-sized cigars are seven inches long and 50/64-inch in diameter (or 50 ring gauge).
Colin Firth won the Best Actor Academy Award (Oscar) for this movie on his second nomination. Firth was a consecutive nominee as he had been nominated the year before in the same category for A Single Man (2009), losing to Jeff Bridges for Crazy Heart (2009). Bridges was also nominated in this same category the year Firth won, for True Grit (2010).
When told to waltz in preparation for the King's final speech, Bertie sings part of his speech to the melody of the "Garland Waltz" from Tchaikovsky's "Sleeping Beauty" ballet. The tune is familiar to many listeners as "Once Upon A Dream" from Disney's Sleeping Beauty (1959), which adapted some of Tchaikovsky's ballet for its musical numbers and score.
With Colin Firth winning the Academy Award Best Actor Oscar for playing King George VI in this movie, Best Acting Oscars have now gone to an actress and an actor playing Queen Elizabeth II (Dame Helen Mirren in The Queen (2006)) and her father.
When Archbishop Cosmo Lang (Derek Jacobi) attempts to dismiss Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) as the King's speech therapist, he says that he found a "replacement English specialist with impeccable credentials." He overly stresses the word "English" in an apparent display of English elitism and as a snub to Logue's Australian background, but Archbishop Lang was Scottish.
The BBFC originally gave this movie a 15 certificate, for seventeen occurrences of the word "fuck". On appeal, it was reduced to 12A, with the information "contains strong language in a speech therapy context". This extended the controversy started a few weeks earlier when Made in Dagenham (2010) was given a 15 certificate solely for nineteen occurrences of the word "fuck" in casual speech.
Keen eyes will notice the Blackshirt advertisement posters in the movie; "Fascism is Practical Patriotism " and "Stand by the King". The Blackshirt was the British Union of Fascists newspaper. Founded by Oswald Mosley (considered a potential British Prime Minister only a few years earlier, but who changed his political allegiances as often as his socks) the BUF's popularity began to dwindle as Nazi Germany became a serious threat to Britain.
Though having had a large body of television work, Tom Hooper won the Best Director Academy Award for this movie on his first nomination, this movie being just Hooper's third movie. The first two being Red Dust (2004) and The Damned United (2009).
Earlier on in the movie, a conversation by some administrators mentions that the Prince of Wales had broken up with Lady Furness. "Lady Furness" was originally Thelma Morgan, the identical twin sister of Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt, who was the mother of Gloria Vanderbilt and the grandmother of Anderson Cooper.
During their first meeting, Lionel shows Bertie a home phonograph recorder that he calls a "Silvertone". Silvertone was a brand name of the Sears-Roebuck department store and mail-order catalogue company of Chicago, Illinois. Sears introduced the brand name for their wind-up phonographs in 1915, expanding it to include their radio, vacuum tube, and radio battery lines in the mid 1920s. Sears renamed its musical instrument lines "Silvertone" in the 1930s, followed by their guitar amplifier lines in the late 1940s. The Silvertone brand name was retired in 1972.
The British Empire and France declared war on Germany on September 3, 1939, but made no reaction at all to the Soviet invasion of Poland on September 17. The German-Soviet invasion of Poland was agreed in the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, signed on August 23, 1939.
Michael Gambon plays King George V, grandson of Queen Victoria. In Victoria & Abdul (2017), he played U.K. Prime Minister Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, the 3rd Marquess of Salisbury, who was the final Prime Minister of Queen Victoria's reign.
Michael Gambon,Helena Bonham Carter,and Timothy Spall have all appeared in several of Harry Potter films Miichael Gambon took over the role of Dumbledore after Richard Harris the original Dumbledore passed away