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The Stuttering Foundation hails the 12-time Oscar-nominated The King’s Speech for combating cinematic stutterer abuse — and screenwriter David Seidler explains how it took him 30 years to turn his own pain into art.
“The Stuttering Foundation gives a hero’s welcome to The King’s Speech,” says spokesperson Jane Fraser, vp of London’s Association for Research into Stammering in Childhood, Michael Palin Centre. (Palin’s superb character in A Fish Called Wanda was inspired by his father, who suffered from stuttering, as did Winston Churchill, James Earl Jones, Rowan Atkinson and Jonathan Miller.) “There are few, if any, more accurate portrayals of the anguish faced by people who stutter, or of the hardship it places on family and friends, than in this movie. Stuttering is most often the province of comic relief, and never of the hero.”
Oscar-nominated writer Seidler, who’s overcome stuttering, waited 30 years to make the picture because King Bertie’s mother asked him to, but it wasn’t just her painful memories he was sparing. “I don’t know if I could’ve written it as well 30 years ago,” says Seidler. “I don’t know if I would have been able to go back into the pain. It’s like going to the dentist — once it doesn’t hurt any more, once you get over it, the relief is so profound that the last thing you want to do is dwell on it.” Did the 30-year wait make the film better? “I really do think it did.”
Seidler also credits his former writing partner Jacqueline Feather. “She said I was seduced by cinematic technique, so why not as a writing exercise try writing it as a play? If you get the tentpole, the relationship of the two men, right, then you can hang the rest of the story on it like Christmas tree ornaments.” What had to go was the “cinematic” character based on Seidler himself. “There was this whole B-plot of a little boy who stuttered.” The ghost of himself? “Oh, absolutely. It didn’t really belong in this movie. It was Colin Firth‘s movie. It wasn’t David Seidler’s movie.” There will be a David Seidler play, too. “It will be a stage play in all probability in the West End in London, in all probability next fall.”
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