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An Evening With Oscar Award-Winner David Seidler

Joe Peters |
April 7, 2011 | 8:39 p.m. PDT


The King's Speech (via Creative Commons)
The King's Speech (via Creative Commons)
The King's Speech screenwriter David Seidler discussed the making of the movie this past Tuesday at USC's School of Cinematic Arts, as part of a series dubbed 'Writing Presents...' Hosted by USC Writing Professor Nevin Schreiner, the event was a lively discussion on topics ranging from screenwriting to the Royal Family and Seidler's own struggles with stuttering.

Seidler, who won the 2011 Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, returned to Los Angeles late Monday after visiting New Zealand "for a month of seeing my son and torturing the fish," as he put it. He started by commenting on his amazement at all the attention the film had gotten him, even after thirty years in Hollywood. Schreiner remarked, "You made a private man public, and the movie did the same for you."

Three clips from the movie were shown during the discussion, and each sparked various anecdotes by Seidler about script changes and cut scenes. One omission, the euthanasia of George V, was one he particularly regretted, as he felt it would have served to highlight the power of the new broadcast media.

"The Times of London and BBC said 'we've got to have the news by midnight' and the old king [George V] was not dying on time." The Palace was fearful that if he died after the deadline, the less reputable afternoon papers might get the news first and mention the new King's affair with Wallis Simpson, which was then under embargo in the British press. "So they injected into his jugular vein a cocktail of morphine and cocaine," said Seidler, "and he went quite happily."

For Seidler, this underscored the obstacles to any future ascent by Albert. "If the new media was so powerful that it could cause the death of a King, imagine what it would do to this poor stammerer? They cut that, and I felt it was a big mistake thematically." He added, later, "The microphone is the villain of the piece."

Another potential obstacle was the early insistence by producers to include more of the Edward VIII's abdication, which Seidler resisted. "I felt if you go down that slippery slope, the abdication story is going to take over. And it's been done - Madonna's going to do it again, really badly." The producers eventually relented.

Other parts of the discussion involved recounting the familiar story about the producers' discovery of the King's Speech, and Seidler's advice for screenwriters.

Later Seidler explained how his own personal struggles with stuttering and, later, cancer, had provided the impetus for writing The King's Speech. At present, he is working on the story of Lady Hester Stanhope, "the female Lawrence of Arabia."

Selected quotes from the discussion are included below.

On writing:

"I think of a script in terms of music: of ebb and flow, of rhythm."

"It is the writer's duty to distill the truth of the story and characters, and to be true to that."

On the historical record:

"I am of the school that thinks don't let facts get in the way of a good story. But when you're writing about a recently ruling monarch of Great Britain, you'd best get as close as you can."

On The King's Speech:

"The template is really Rocky. It’s a Rocky movie without the fighting. Or a Rocky movie crossed with My Dinner with Andre."

How illness prompted him to write The King's Speech:

"I got diagnosed with cancer, and so I thought all this sitting around is not very good for my immune system. If I'm not going to do it now, when?"

“I was basically writing my last will and testament. I had the privilege of cheating fate and living to hear my last will opened and read aloud. It is a very personal story to me."

On life as a stutterer:

"I'm still a stutterer - you just can't hear it because I know all the tricks of the trade."

“I had the privilege in this process of having to do a great deal of thinking about what it means. It is also a gift – if you can survive a childhood of stuttering, you can probably survive just about anything. So it’s one of those things that tempers the steel.”



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.