Director Tom Hooper
Producers Iain Canning, Emile Sherman, Gareth Unwin
Production companies See-Saw Films, Bedlam Productions
US distributor The Weinstein Company
International sales FilmNation Entertainment
US release date December 10, 2010
Iain Canning and Emile Sherman set up See-Saw Films with offices in the UK and Australia in February 2008. The next month, a script came across their desk with both UK and Australian elements.
“It couldn’t have been more perfect,” Canning says of the project about the Australian speech therapist who helped King George VI overcome his stutter.
Another UK producer, Gareth Unwin of Bedlam Productions, had optioned the story five years earlier, developing it with writer David Seidler. “I knew we had an upper level that we had to aim for,” says Unwin of his need to find co-producers for the ambitious project. “I also knew that being my second film [following Exam], I was going to need like-minded partners.”
UK director Tom Hooper, whose debut feature wasThe Damned United, heard of the project and chased Canning and Sherman to come on board. Geoffrey Rush signed on as the speech therapist, and The Weinstein Company jumped in quickly.
“Harvey [Weinstein] saw the potential in it and pursued us relentlessly, even before we had cast Bertie,” says Canning.
Also on board from the start were UK and Australian distributors Momentum Pictures and See-Saw sister company Transmission, as well as finance from Aegis. The final piece of the puzzle was signing Colin Firth as Bertie (Film4’s Tessa Ross, not on board the project, suggested the actor).
The $15m project shot on a tight schedule of 39 days in and around London at the end of 2009. One tough obstacle, Canning says, was the “mind-bending” scheduling of the cast: Firth was doing awards promotions for A Single Man, while Helena Bonham Carter, playing his wife Elizabeth, could only shoot on weekends since she was making Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows.
The team was careful to make a period drama that did not feel like so many others. “It’s uplifting without being cheesy,” says Canning. “The Weinsteins gave us one really great note early on, which is, it’s all about the friendship. We honed it to focus on that.”
The film has taken off with audiences, starting with its premiere in Telluride and continuing in Toronto where it won the audience award. Firth was awarded the best actor — drama Golden Globe and the film picked up 14 Bafta nominations, more than any other title.
“A lot of the comment coming out of Telluride was that in terms of the film landscape at the moment, it’s a lot of insular, bleak films,” Unwin recalls. “And this is a classic triumph-over-adversity story; it has royals in it; there are doorways of interest for a worldwide audience. It’s quite different from what’s out there.”