You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Hooper quick to avoid royal cliches

'King's Speech' works best as an Everyman portrayal

Films about British royalty are catnip to awards voters. But in “The King’s Speech,” Tom Hooper uses every tool at his disposal to treat his central character as a man, not a monarch.

“If there’s a cliche of royal filmmaking, I was desperate to subvert it,” Hooper explains. “Originally, the whole film was about royal pageantry, but I wanted to avoid all that lavishness and sumptuousness and gilt, and everyone wearing costumes covered with gold braid and feathers.

“Fortunately, my desire to subvert royal film cliche coincided with primary research that revealed royal film cliche was inaccurate. I saw pictures of Bertie (Prince Albert, who becomes King George VI) in a black overcoat, grey suit, black bowler hat, and he was no different from anyone else. I was struck by this image of him against a dirty brick wall, mumbling a speech. He’s an Everyman figure, and there’s not a single thing that marks him out as royal.”

The production and costume design, the use of extreme close-ups, off-kilter compositions and long Steadicam shots, and the intensive workshopping of the script with the actors and the writer in the weeks before shooting, were all calculated by Hooper to achieve a directness of emotional expression between the characters and the audience.

“We had three weeks of rehearsal with two actors (Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush) are who are unbelievably rigorous on the detail of text,” Hooper says. “It plays so well because we really did the hard work. Being quite forensic with how intimate the camera is with people was also very important to me in terms of subverting cliche. It makes the film feel vividly present tense. It makes people think, ‘I don’t know this world, and I don’t know this story.’ ”

As a result, he says, “The trappings of royalty set up no barrier between Bertie and the audience.”

It certainly seems to have worked, judging by the emotional reaction at festival and industry screenings.

“I’ve had the odd meeting with hard-bitten studio executives who tell me I’ve made them weep and start talking about their relationship with their dad,” Hooper notes.

Directors return to reliable troupe

DIRECTORS
Darren Aronofsky | Danny Boyle | Lisa Cholodenko | David Fincher | Debra Granik | Tom Hooper | Christopher Nolan | David O. Russell | Martin Scorsese | Lee Unkrich
In the mix

More Film

  • Bradley Cooper Robert De Niro

    Bradley Cooper on His Secret Pact With Lady Gaga for 'A Star is Born'

    Films about British royalty are catnip to awards voters. But in “The King’s Speech,” Tom Hooper uses every tool at his disposal to treat his central character as a man, not a monarch. “If there’s a cliche of royal filmmaking, I was desperate to subvert it,” Hooper explains. “Originally, the whole film was about royal […]

  • The seagull

    Tribeca Film Review: 'The Seagull'

    Films about British royalty are catnip to awards voters. But in “The King’s Speech,” Tom Hooper uses every tool at his disposal to treat his central character as a man, not a monarch. “If there’s a cliche of royal filmmaking, I was desperate to subvert it,” Hooper explains. “Originally, the whole film was about royal […]

  • Verne TroyerStarkey Hearing Foundation Awards Gala,

    Verne Troyer, Mini-Me in 'Austin Powers,' Dies at 49

    Films about British royalty are catnip to awards voters. But in “The King’s Speech,” Tom Hooper uses every tool at his disposal to treat his central character as a man, not a monarch. “If there’s a cliche of royal filmmaking, I was desperate to subvert it,” Hooper explains. “Originally, the whole film was about royal […]

  • 'Greatest Showman' Tops Disc Sales Charts

    'Greatest Showman' Tops Disc Sales Charts as 'Last Jedi' Slips to No. 2

    Films about British royalty are catnip to awards voters. But in “The King’s Speech,” Tom Hooper uses every tool at his disposal to treat his central character as a man, not a monarch. “If there’s a cliche of royal filmmaking, I was desperate to subvert it,” Hooper explains. “Originally, the whole film was about royal […]

  • Stockholm review

    Tribeca Film Review: Ethan Hawke in 'Stockholm'

    Films about British royalty are catnip to awards voters. But in “The King’s Speech,” Tom Hooper uses every tool at his disposal to treat his central character as a man, not a monarch. “If there’s a cliche of royal filmmaking, I was desperate to subvert it,” Hooper explains. “Originally, the whole film was about royal […]

  • READY PLAYER ONE

    Steven Spielberg's 'Ready Player One' Crosses $500 Million Worldwide

    Films about British royalty are catnip to awards voters. But in “The King’s Speech,” Tom Hooper uses every tool at his disposal to treat his central character as a man, not a monarch. “If there’s a cliche of royal filmmaking, I was desperate to subvert it,” Hooper explains. “Originally, the whole film was about royal […]

  • Hans Zimmer90th Annual Academy Awards, Roaming

    Hans Zimmer to Receive Steiner Award at Hollywood in Vienna Gala

    Films about British royalty are catnip to awards voters. But in “The King’s Speech,” Tom Hooper uses every tool at his disposal to treat his central character as a man, not a monarch. “If there’s a cliche of royal filmmaking, I was desperate to subvert it,” Hooper explains. “Originally, the whole film was about royal […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content