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The sheer hugeness of the job
Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter, Geoffrey Rush and Tom Hooper on The Kings Speech... • Page 1 of 2
Opening night: Hooper, Bonham Carter, Firth and Rush at the premiere; and (below) at the press conference.
10.Sep.60 • Grayshott, Hampshire
HELENA BONHAM CARTER
26.May.66 • Golders Green, London
|B Y R I C H C L I N E
For the London premiere of The King's Speech, director Tom Hooper and cast members Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter and Geoffrey Rush faced the press in a crowded cinema. Everyone was in a great mood, mainly because the film was beginning to gather strong buzz following its showing at the Toronto Film Festival a month earlier. All of them were chatty and engaged, reacting to what the others said and offering witty commentary along the way. And while the film itself is also packed with humour, it's essentially a serious story about overcoming personal obstacles...
Is there a message in the film for people with disabilities?
Have you ever suffered stage fright?
Colin: What was the thing Seinfeld said?
Geoffrey: Oh yes. He said, "Do you realise, more people have a fear of public speaking than death? So at the funeral, most people would want to be the person in the coffin rather than the person giving the eulogy."
Colin: Yes! And I do suffer from those fears. I got appalling stage fright last time I went on stage actually, on opening night. We'd only had two weeks' rehearsal, hadn't had a proper dress rehearsal. We were at the Donmar, there were no prompters, and I had to open with a two-page monologue. I locked myself in the toilet around quarter to curtain-up. I wasn't planning to stay there, but I just thought, "Take a deep breath and think of your first line," and I couldn't. Then I thought I needed some air, and there isn't any backstage at the Donmar. There also isn't a stage door, so I went out through fire door, which closed behind me. Now about five minutes before curtain-up, I had to go round the front, through the audience, the very people I was terrified of! I had to go through them all one by one with full body contact on the way. I couldn't remember the pass code to get backstage, so I had to beg to be let back in. Then I was told I had to go straight on stage, and I weirdly remembered the lines and got to the end. It was like a car crash. So what I think does happen is that there is this mixture - a tension that can be debilitating and a tension that actually, God willing, you can convert into something functional and the right energy.
How close is this film to real events?
Was it tricky to fill in the blanks in a story about the royal family?
How much research did you do to portray Bertie's stammer?
Colin: A lot. And I've done a lot in my life, because it's the third time I've played somebody with a stammer. What was interesting to me was that you don't just pull out your stammer from the drawer, from your last performance. It really doesn't work that way. That was an education for me, because I thought perhaps I could.
Helena: Oh, stammer: done that!
Colin: But no, it's not the same for everybody. What you're really playing is not stammering: it's what the person is going through. I've researched it as an issue and spoken to people who do experience it, including our writer David Seidler, who was probably our best source because he'd overcome a stammer himself. It wasn't so much what was happening physiologically that was interesting, I had to try to find that in my own way and apply it to the way this man appears on the page and timed according to how our director worked. Tom sculpted it to a great deal - how much do we need at this point, in order to show this much recovery? So there was an awful lot of very deliberate technical plotting of it.
But then you have to do something that's far more instinctive and visceral than that. And what interested me, rather than what's going on in a man's muscles, was talking to David about what the fears are. He would say that, when it was bad, it was all you'd think about. You go to a restaurant and you don't order the fish if you can't say F, you order the beef, even if you want the fish. Those things were very helpful to me as an insight into the terror this man felt when he couldn't climb out of his silences.
And if you look at footage of him making a speech, there's a kind of little narrative to what I think he's going through - at least how I interpret what he's going through. He hits a word, you realise that moment's come when he knows that it's not going to come out, and you see the dismay. You see another attempt. You see him then say, "I can't attack this head on." You see him going through that moment of containing himself, and when you watch that you find out about him. For me, there's something quite heroic there: there's an entire epic going on in those few seconds. And then you see him come back out of it and carry on with the same dignity - there's nothing to do but go forward. And that revealed more to me about the character than anything. I found that out really through the stammer as much as anything else.
© 2011 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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