The eloquent and impassioned David Seidler, who wrote the script for the stirring historical drama "The King's Speech" (opening in Baltimore Christmas Day), made clear to me this week that he always wanted it to celebrate more than "friendship and overcoming obstacles like stuttering."
Yes, the movie centers on the complicated, moving bond between the stammering King George VI (Colin Firth, right)) and his unconventional speech therapist, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush, below). But George VI's brother and predecessor, Edward VIII, is the one who raises the dramatic stakes when he renounces the throne.
That's when it becomes icy-clear that "This movie is also about something I'm very passionate about, which is the social contract -- which is ignored at our peril, but is ignored continually right now. With privilege, with power, with wealth, comes responsibility and duty. [George VI] absolutely understood this and [Edward VIII] either didn't or chose adamantly to deny it. His job was to be king and he quit his job. It's like a certain recent governor of Alaska!"
Edward VIII's lover and then wife, Baltimore's Wallis Simpson, functions as the villain of the piece, a ruthless social climber with a soft spot for fascism.
But the rest of the movie celebrates the affection shared by a monarch and an upwardly-mobile commoner from the other side of the globe -- George VI and Logue, who was Australian.
Seidler was born in Britain and raised in the United States; director Tom Hooper's mother is Australian. The writer and director "agreed that there was no way an English therapist could have succeeded, because if you're English, you're basically stuck with being in awe of royalty. Look at me, I have an American passport, I'm an American citizen. But I'm British-born, and I also have a British passport and am a British citizen. When the Queen Mother [George VI's widow] said, 'Mr. Seidler, please, don't tell this story in my lifetime, it would be too painful' – I waited."
As an Australian, Logue was perfect for the job of rescuing George VI, Seidler said. "Australians are irreverent. He was able to break through the class barriers. His whole technique was based on equality. You have to mate and befriend the patient. When you read about Logue -- and there isn't much to read, just bits and pieces -- the words that keep on being used to describe him are 'charismatic' and 'confident.'"
But he focused his charisma and confidence on his patients. "He would say, 'You can fix your stutter. I'll give you certain aids, but you're going to do the work, and you can conquer it; I know you can.' Now, a therapist can't do that if he's saying 'Yes, Your Majesty,' and 'No, Your Majesty.' It was imperative that Logue broke all that down."