News / Arts & Entertainment

The Humble Roots of 2011 Oscar Frontrunner 'The King’s Speech'

Director Tom Hooper poses at a screening of his film "The King's Speech" at the Grauman's Chinese theatre in Hollywood, California, 5 Nov 2011.
Director Tom Hooper poses at a screening of his film "The King's Speech" at the Grauman's Chinese theatre in Hollywood, California, 5 Nov 2011.
TEXT SIZE - +

The front-runner for the 2011 Academy Awards is “The King’s Speech” with 12 nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, and top acting awards for three main cast members.

It tells the true story of how Britain’s King George the Sixth overcame a speech impediment with the help of Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue. While the film has become a commercial and critical success, the script behind the movie had humble beginnings, as an unproduced play in a London theater.

That may have been the end for “The King’s Speech” if not for one audience member who insisted that her son should turn the play into a movie. Meredith Hooper is an Australian author and the mother of British director Tom Hooper, who is nominated for an academy award for his work on the movie.

Author Meredith Hooper, mother of British director Tom Hooper.
Author Meredith Hooper, mother of British director Tom Hooper.

VOA's Sarah Williams spoke with Meredith Hooper about how “The King’s Speech” came to be made.

"Well, 'The King’s Speech' was an unproduced play. That is, the play’s agent in London hadn’t been able to find anyone to produce it. And so, a decision was made to just give [the] play reading in a very small North London theatre, and because it was about an Australian in London, a small group of Australians in London were sort of gathered together to see if they would help provide an audience. It was a weekday.. and there, I think, there was possibly 30 of us in the theatre, and to be honest, even though I go to the theatre a lot, I’ve never ever been to a play reading. And there was a semi-circle of kitchen chairs on the stage, and these people came in holding a sheet of paper each, and I thought, 'Fine.' And then they began to speak the words of the play, and I can’t remember how many minutes in, I’d suddenly thought, 'My goodness gracious, this isn’t a play, this is a film, this is a most extraordinary film. And what’s more, it’s a film that Tom, my son, should do.'

And so by the end of it, I was completely convinced the reason was that it had superbly inter-leading plot lines, it had wonderful balance between the public and the private, it was about a colonial Australian in Britain, and I was a colonial Australian in Britain. And also it had that really magic thing as a writer I recognized... it was a story with a very good beginning, an absolutely splendid middle, and a perfect end. So, having listened to this unrehearsed, unperformed play, the writer David Seidler was in the audience, and I got my nice, bold English husband to go up and ask him if he would let Tom see the script, and he said, 'Yes.' And we posted it to Tom, who was currently in Los Angeles, working. But I rang him up and said, 'Tom, I’ve found your next film,' and he said, 'Yes, Mum.'  And he was very busy and we had to ring him [on] a couple of more occasions, nagging, 'Have you read it yet?' Eventually, the poor bloke got time to read it.  And he said, 'You’re right. It’s amazing,' and he went straight to see David Seidler."

Now, as you mentioned, you yourself are Australian, but your son, your children, are dual citizens of both Australia and the United Kingdom.

"Yes, I was very, very insistent on this and I’ve never given up my sense of being Australian or wanting to be. As a writer, I write quite a lot about Australia, but all the children were given Australian citizenship at birth, and we took them back to Australia a lot, first of all to see their grandparents, which I thought was very important. Recently... we were lucky enough and we bought a beach house in Australia, so Tom knows that very well. And he’s hugely fond of Australia, and he feels that it’s part of his background and part of his life."

There are scenes in the film, very powerful scenes, between the King and Lionel Logue, the Australian speech therapist, where the different nationalities, it’s sort of interesting to see how they relate to each other.

"One of the interesting things about this film is Tom has talked about his childhood and given a narration of it in things that we never expected or knew about. He says that I am very specifically Australian in the way I brought the children up, in the way I related to my English husband. And that I had a directness which he noticed from the very beginning, and he felt that was one of the themes in the film that Lionel Logue, the Australian speech therapist, was extremely direct. He didn’t have an enormous obsequiousness towards the royal family, he just got on with it. And I think that’s how Tom feels is part of the Australian approach."

"In addition to being Tom Hooper’s mother, you’ve had an extensive career as a writer. You’ve written a number of children’s books. Do you think that has helped you to identify material that is appropriate for your son?"

"I think children’s books are one of the hardest kinds of books to write. You’ve absolutely got to be able to capture a child from the beginning, and plotting and thinking about what you’re trying to say and how to make it clear is central. But also, in 'The King’s Speech,' there’s a complex back story. The front story is this relationship between the King and his Australian speech therapist. But it all takes place in the complexity of politics, the time, the build up to the war.  And the back story needs to be there so that it makes sense, but not get in the way of the close up narrative, the personal narrative. Quite honestly, whenever I write a book, whether it’s for children or the adult market, getting the back story in place is one of the most difficult things to do. And I think that this was one of the things that is intriguing about 'The King’s Speech,' that it’s this combination of the close up, personal story and the complex, wider political story, and the way the two interweave and informed each other."

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Beyond Category

Saxophonist Craig Handy has an exciting new band called 2nd Line Smith, which combines the organ-jazz repertoire of Jimmy Smith with the “second line” rhythms of New Orleans parade music. Craig Handy joins "Beyond Category" host Eric Felten at Washington’s Bohemian Caverns jazz club to talk about the music and perform with the band.