The King's Writer

By Jeremy / On Feb.01.2011 / In Writing Oscars Hollywood / Width

David Seidler Oscar

A couple of weeks ago, I had a rare opportunity to see an Academy Award winning writer speak.  David Seidler the writer of "The King's Speech" attended a private screening that I attended with my wife and friends as part of the SAG award season.  At the time he wasn't an Academy Award nominee, and when you read this he may even be an Academy Award winner, but the funny part is that typically you don't hear the writer speak at all.  You hear his or her words, but they are spoken by actors.  So it was refreshing to see such an engaging writer as Mr. Seidler, who now in his seventies is at the peak of his career both commercially as well as artistically.  Funny how Hollywood is so youth centric but when it comes to longevity it surprises you sometimes.  There's a great deal of lessons in that for me.

One of them is that by staying in the game you often have more success than you ever imagined.  The only thing is that it's different for an actor than a writer.  An actor can be limited to the roles they play by their physical appearance, and age is certainly a component of that.  That's not to say that there aren't amazing roles for older actors as can be evidenced by Betty White winning the SAG award for best actor in a comedy at the ripe old age of 89, but she's the exception and not the rule.  But I digress...

Getting back to David Seidler there were a couple of great insights and observations that he provided in his Q&A session after the film.  First of all it was a real treat to see the writer after the screening of such an excellent film.  And I believe that the film worked on so many levels because of it's central relationship between King George VI and his speech therapist Lionel Logue.  This fact was illuminated by the story that Mr. Seidler told about how when he wrote the first draft, his then wife and writer partner told him that he had a few nice scenes, but was perhaps swept up by thethe king's speech cinematic devices and that he needed to re-write it as just a play forcing him to focus on the relationship of the characters.  So this proved to be a very powerful story for me.  Being a writer who is at heart an actor I've always been interested in the characters and their relationships to each other, themselves and the world, however when I began to get deeper into filmmaking I began to take note of cinematic techniques and started thinking about cool shots and such.  However while the visuals are essential to a film what is at it's core is the humanity of the characters and their relationship to each other, themselves and the greater ecosystem of their story.  Ultimately that story is our story and that is why "The King's Speech" works so well.  It's the story of a monarch of the world's greatest empire of the time looking for a bit of self worth.  He finds that in one of his subjects who comes to "know" and believe in him.  From this he draws the strength that he ultimately shares with his kingdom.  It's a touching story of friendship and what is truly "noble" in ones life.

The other interesting thing that Seidler revealed was the true inspiration for the film.  It was in fact that he too suffered from stuttering.  When he was a child his parents had him listen to the King's wartime speeches and told him that King George used to have a much worse problem than he did so there was great hope for him.  I found this deeply personal connection to his story and to what was eventually a great great success to be at the core of this very success.  In a world where often films are created based on what sells, it seems appropriate that the truly quality work that is also commercially successful came from a deeply personal story of the writer themselves.  Granted the backdrop of the story was a global leader in the midst of global crisis, but again the story was written as a result of one person's intimate connection to an issue and someone that inspired them.

So in conclusion, great night overall, and the lesson is write not just what you know, but who you know and how well they know themselves and those in their world around them.