Right after the Battle of Dunkirk, shortly before my third birthday, I was shipped to America with my parents. By the time I saw the Statue of Liberty I had acquired a stutter that cast a shadow over my childhood and adolescence. My ray of hope during those bleak years were the radio speeches of George VI.
"Listen to the King," my parents would tell me, "he was much worse than you." And there he was, not perfect by any means, but bravely doggedly giving magnificent stirring speeches that helped rally the free world. A world that was listening, often critically, to every syllable he uttered. If he could do that, there was hope for me.
As a writer, I always wanted to tell the story of my childhood hero, the King. And today I find myself an Oscar newcomer, at the rather improbable age of 73.
It was a long road that led to my screenplay for The King's Speech, and included more than a few detours. When I first began work on the script, I managed to get in touch with Dr. Valentine Logue, son of His Majesty's speech therapist, Dr. Lionel Logue. The younger Dr. Logue said he would be pleased to speak with me about his father and even show me the notebooks his father kept while treating the King. He had only one condition: that I receive written permission from the Queen Mother. Imagine my joy when I received an affirmative response from Her Majesty, although she, too, had a request: that the contemplated film not be made during her lifetime. Of course I wanted to respect her wishes, and, truth be told, I wasn't terribly worried about much time passing. After all, in 1982, the Queen Mum was 81. I didn't know she'd live to the grand old age of 101.
Thus, more than sixty years would pass before I plunged fully into writing the screenplay for The King's Speech. My memories and admiration remained vivid, however. I read everything I could get my hands on about George VI, his life and his times. I did my best to do justice to a largely forgotten story about a king who, aided by a remarkable therapist, overcame a speech impediment to lead his country through some of its darkest hours.
The King and his courage remain an inspiration to me, now more so than ever as I face my own personal challenges. I am returned to my youthful emotions as I see this story realized onscreen by an ensemble cast of brilliant, sensitive, sharp-minded actors, under the exemplary direction of Tom Hooper. Today, as I giddily absorb the news of the film's 12 Academy Award nominations, I remain in awe that my words came to be spoken by Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Claire Bloom, Michael Gambon, Jennifer Ehle, Guy Pearce, Derek Jacobi, Timothy Spall and Eve Best. I congratulate Colin, Geoffrey and Helena on their well-deserved nominations, and extend my heartfelt gratitude to the entire cast.