The story of King George VI or “Bertie” (Colin Firth) and his fight to conquer his lifelong stammer after replacing his brother King Edward VIII (who abdicated the throne to marry American Wallis Simpson) might have been little known to the worldwide public when director Tom Hooper (pictured left) began work on his period drama The King’s Speech. Awards acclaim and enthusiastic audiences have changed all that and now with just days to go before the 83rd Academy Awards Sunday night, The King’s Speech, nominated for multiple Oscars including Best Picture, Actor in a Leading Role and Directing, and its British director are Oscar favorites.
On a sunny September afternoon during the Toronto International Film Festival, Hooper sat in the restored bar of the Windsor Arms Hotel, a discreet boutique hotel adjacent to Victoria College at the University of Toronto. Earlier in the day, what romantics call the “wee small hours of the morning,” Hooper celebrated the enthusiastic festival premiere of The King’s Speech with cast, crew and hundreds of supporters at the Windsor Arms’ ballroom. After all the excitement, the director of the HBO drama series John Adams and the acclaimed soccer film The Damned United enjoyed the quiet. He also reflected on the fast-paced shoot and his job pushing Colin Firth to make the stammer as extreme as possible.
“I remember the very first day I kept pushing him to go deeper into the stammer and he kept saying, ‘Are you sure?’ I remember that was a key moment,” Hooper told me. ” I had to blow apart his comfort.”
Firth, a favorite for the Actor in a Leading Role Oscar, should be forever grateful that Hooper pushed him beyond his comfort zone. Actually, both director and star have been changed for he better by their work together on The King’s Speech — no matter how much Oscar gold they take home.
The Oscars, co-hosted by Franco and Hathaway, air 8 p.m. EST Sunday on ABC.