‘Speech’ script on Rush’s doorstep

Aussie came to the project in most unusual way

Geoffrey Rush first encountered maverick speech therapist Lionel Logue in the shape of a brown-paper package, left on his doorstep in Melbourne. It was a script of an unproduced play called “The King’s Speech” and a DVD of a staged reading in a London fringe theater.

“The producer had a sister or a friend who lived two streets away from me, so despite normal protocols she propped the script like an orphan on my front doorstep, hoping I would take it in,” Rush recalls. “I read it and was drawn to this distinctive but completely unknown Australian character.”

Rush was compelled by the “fragile intimacy” between Logue and the stammering Duke of York.

“Those scenes cried out to be developed as a movie,” he says. “I liked the idea that here at the center of this historical whirlpool are two anti-heroes, two nobodies, because Bertie really was a minor backroom royal who the public wasn’t really aware of before he became king.”

So Rush became involved with writer David Seidler and director Tom Hooper in turning that original script into a screenplay.

“We looked for the qualities in Logue as an Antipodean therapist that would start to open up the Duke of York’s world. My bottom line with Tom was that there’s got to be an attitude and energy from Logue that comes from a much broader, flatter and more egalitarian society,” he says. “We tried to avoid any dramatic crudities, the idea that one’s a yob and one’s a snob, because that would limit the possibilities of their relationship.”

The discovery of Logue’s unpublished personal papers just a few weeks before shooting helped to give a more rounded and complex picture of Logue’s character. Rush says he was actually a dapper and cultured man with an “extraordinary sense of pastoral care.”

In the two weeks before production, Rush and Colin Firth workshopped their scenes with Hooper and Seidler in forensic detail.

“It was very organic, to make sure there weren’t any sentimentalized or Hollywood-ized jumps that audiences just had to accept,” Rush explains. This quest for authenticity extended all aspects of character, with Rush shedding his own accent to speak like a 1930s Australian living in London.

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Supporting actors in the mix

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