EXCLUSIVE: What Harvey Weinstein Has to Do to Get ‘King’s Speech’ a PG-13 Rating

1:51 PM PST 01/27/2011 by Pamela McClintock
Courtesy of The Weinstein Company

Without a special waiver, he’d have to pull the Oscar-nominated drama from theaters for no fewer than 90 days – in addition to paying other costs.

Without a special waiver, Harvey Weinstein would have to pull The King’s Speech from theaters for no fewer than 90 days if deciding to resubmit the film for a PG-13 rating after editing out a string of f---s.

But a waiver isn’t out of the question. Joan Graves, chairperson of the Classification and Rating Administration, could recommend that the re-cut film be allowed to replace the R-rated version right away.
 
Graves, however, doesn’t have sole authority. The final decision would be up to Motion Picture Assn. of America president-interim CEO Bob Pisano and National Assn. of Theater Owners prexy-CEO John Fithian (the MPAA and NATO jointly administer the ratings system).
 
Resubmitting a film during its theatrical release is very rare, and hasn’t happened during Graves’ 20-year tenure. Saturday Night Fever was re-cut and re-launched in 1978 with a PG rating, but the R-rated version wasn’t still in theaters (the PG-13 rating didn’t exist at the time).
 
There would be costs involved with re-releasing a new version, since it would likely entail new advertising materials.
 
The Weinstein Co. never officially appealed the R-rating bestowed on Speech for two scenes where Colin Firth’s character, King George VI, utters the word fuck multiple times as part of his speech therapy.
 
But after Speech picked up 12 Oscar noms—the most of any film--Weinstein revealed he’s talking to director Tom Hooper about the possibility of making a more “accessible” version for U.S. audiences sometime after the Oscar ceremony on Feb. 27.
 
Insiders said educators and some theater owners have reached out to the Weinstein Co., saying they’d like younger teens to be able to see the historical drama.
 
Speech is already a box office hit, grossing nearly $60 million to date, so it’s not about shoring up the film financially, which should be further boosted by its Oscar attention.
 
However, a PG-13 rating could lure families. It is unlikely teens would go to the film on their own in droves, since historical fare isn’t their genre, according to box office observers.
 
The Weinstein Co. wouldn’t make any changes to Speech unless Hooper agreed. So far, Hooper hasn’t publicly disclosed his thoughts on the matter. 
 
CARA declined comment, since a new version of Speech hasn’t been submitted. In recent years, CARA has tried to be more filmmaker friendly, but there are still strict guidelines for language.
 
According to CARA rules, the withdrawal period from theaters and pulling of advertising is designed to avoid public “confusion” between the original version and the differently rated version.
 
The provision regarding a waiver states: “Upon showing of good cause by the  submitting party, the chairperson of CARA may determine that a withdrawal period of less than 90 days is sufficient to prevent such public confusion in light of all the circumstances relate to that motion picture.”
 
If Graves made such a determination, her recommendation would then go to Fithian and Pisano.
 
In the case of Saturday Night Fever, the R-rated version contained profanity, nudity, drug use and an attempted rape scene. These scenes were re-cut with alternate takes, shortened or completely removed for the PG version.
 
While the PG version was designed to attract a wider audience, it did only a fraction of the business the original enjoyed. The R-rated Saturday Night Fever grossed a boffo $85.2 million; the PG version, $8.9 million.
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