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Nigel Sheinwald

Nigel Sheinwald

Posted: March 1, 2011 03:54 PM

It was a great night for Britain at the Oscars. The King's Speech, nominated in 12 categories, earned four of the biggest nods of the night for Best Picture, Best Director Tom Hooper, Best Actor Colin Firth, and Best Original Screenplay by David Seidler. But the film about Royals was not the only British recipient of awards from the Academy: Welsh actor Christian Bale took home the Best Supporting Actor statuette for The Fighter and the Oscar for best Visual Effects went to the London-based team of Brits who worked on Inception. The Oscars success speaks to a British film industry that is really thriving -- part of a creative sector that accounts for more than 5 percent of our economy with more than $25 billion in exports every year.

I've blogged before about Brits in Hollywood, and particularly about their successful portrayal of bad guys. More recently, as my colleague Catrin Brace has noted, British stars have broken out of the British-accented villain stereotypes, and landed the superhero roles too.

Underpinning the success that British movie stars and movie makers have on these shores is the close cultural relationship between our two countries. As I will argue this week in a speech in Missouri, the language we share (at least most of the time) helps support this. But so too do the values, traditions, and history we have in common. And the ways of doing things and thinking about things that make our cultures so open and accessible to each other.

The King's Speech is a wonderful example of this. In story that could have been written for Hollywood, Prince Albert (known as "Bertie"), who had never reckoned on becoming King, assumes the throne as King George VI, following his elder brother's decision to marry Wallis Simpson, an American divorcée (just in case you're wondering, the divorcée bit was the problem, not the fact she was American). The film ends with the King's call to resilience during the wartime bombing of London -- just as the UK-American alliance was being forged and then tested as never before, before emerging both victorious and profoundly strengthened. I'll be reflecting on that moment in history in another speech this week -- in Fulton, MO, to mark the 65th anniversary of Winston Churchill's seminal address there.

But for all the salience and attraction of history -- and many aspects of the story of The King's Speech are timeless -- our focus in the coming months will be on the next generation of the Royal Family and on the future of the transatlantic relationship. The marriage of King George VI's great-grandson, Prince William, to Kate Middleton will be marked with a day of national celebration in the UK and, I am sure, with huge interest here and around the world.

It doesn't end there. When president and Mrs. Obama make their State Visit to the UK in May, the best of British tradition and ceremony will provide the backdrop to discussions with our closest ally on the opportunities and challenges that shape our shared future.

London's hosting the Olympics, just over 500 days from today, will again put our country center-stage and offer an unparalleled opportunity to show the world what modern Britain can do.

So while it was never intended as such, The King's Speech marks the start of a period of intense interest here in the UK . Not just in our history and traditions -- although they matter -- but in the next generation, whether Royal or otherwise, and their hopes and aspirations for the future. I am confident that the success The King's Speech achieved Sunday night sets the scene for a year of success in the relationship between our two countries and our people.

 

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