News / Arts & Entertainment

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

Director Tom Hooper poses at a screening of his film
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.

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

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book 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.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Wayne Casey – “KC” of KC and the Sunshine Band – comes to VOA’s Studio 4 to talk with "Border Crossings" host Larry London and perform songs from his new album, “Feeling You! The 60s.”