When it comes to just why audiences are responding to his film about a stammering monarch, director Tom Hooper states the reasons flawlessly.
“The truth is that we all face blocks between us and the best version of ourselves on a daily basis, whether it's shyness, insecurity, stress,” Hooper tells PopcornBiz of his critically hailed “The King’s Speech,” which depicts England’s King George VI’s struggles with a severe stammer when taking the throne at the brink of World War II and the unconventional assistance he received from speech therapist Lionel Logue. “A stammer is just a very profound version of that block. To see someone cope with it and get over it is a moving story for everyone.”
Hooper believes the film is unique in that “it really makes people laugh properly, and it really makes people cry and it's uplifting. I think that not many films nowadays do all those things. They're either incredibly sort of bleak or they go off into comedy but this film manages to straddle both tones. And I think it's resonant. It's partly that the film is set in the 1930s, coming out of The Great Depression, facing the threat of war. Here we are coming out of a great depression, facing the threat of war on many sides, and you've also got this universal story of a man overcoming a stammer.”
“The most moving thing is when stammerers sit in the audience and come up afterwards,” says Hooper of the response from filmgoers with their own speech difficulties, citing one in particular who told him “'You can't imagine how moving it is for me to see this movie and feel that what Colin Firth is experiencing is entirely accurate to my experience.' That's what they keep saying. They keep marveling at Colin's ability to inhabit this and get it right – they were all worried that he wouldn't get it right, but he really has.”
Although not a stammerer himself, Hooper layered in very personal elements when exploring the cultural and class distinctions between the British king and this Australian therapist.
“The film’s quite personal for me, because I’m half Australian and half English, and one of the themes of my childhood growing up was my Aussie mom dealing with the effects of my dad’s English upbringing,” says the directors. “And I suppose it’s nice for me to feel you can touch on personal things in your life in your work, even if you’re apparently talking about the king of England.”