I thought it was pretty damned fucking hiliarous that Colin Firth’s obvious Oscar clip from The King’s Speech simply could never ever be shown at the Oscars: it features royal Bertie’s speech-therapy breakthrough coming when he allows himself to unleash a torrent of vulgarity, which he is able to speak without getting tripped up by his stutter. And it is actually a truly moving moment, because it represents Bertie allowing himself to be angry in a way that he doesn’t appear to have done before, and not just because royal decorum wouldn’t permit it. Bertie’s got issues, you see: he’s got a lot to be angry about, and arguably his sublimated rage has been manifesting itself in an inability to make himself verbally understood without great difficulty.
It’s a pivotal moment for the character and for the film, and it’s handled with such a lovely, odd combination of grace and humor and earthiness by director Tom Hooper and by Firth that to see it is to realize why it’s not at all unreasonable for all those Oscars to have been showered on the film and the talents behind it.
But if you haven’t seen that scene already, you’re about to be out of luck:
A day after the uplifting “The King’s Speech” triumphed at the Oscars, there’s controversy over a new PG-13 version that will be completely replacing the R-rated version that won Best Picture.
The edited version, approved by the MPAA last week, apparently mutes the sound in the pivotal scene where Colin Firth, as the stuttering King George VI, lets out his frustrations at the urging of his speech therapist with rapid-fire cursing – 15 f-bombs with a few other epithets mixed in.
The distributor, the Weinstein Co., had protested the R rating, but was unable to get it changed in the United States. The British Board of Film Classification however, acceded to the pleas of director Tom Hooper and reduced the rating from a 15 to a 12A, allowing 12-year-olds to see it and younger children if accompanied by an adult.
How could Tom Hooper, Oscar-winning director, possibly have gone along with this? Turns out, he didn’t:
Harvey Weinstein has created a new, more family-friendly PG-13 cut of The King’s Speech, but the film’s director Tom Hooper, the proud owner of a shiny new Best Director Oscar, hasn’t yet seen the cut. Within the context of creative enterprise this is an interesting representation of the cross purposes of storytelling and business, but after the resounding endorsement of the current version of the film (four Oscars, over $100m domestic box office) is the whole idea of a different edit just a weird coda to the film’s success story?
THR asked the director about the new at the Governor’s Ball last night after the Oscar ceremony and his response was to the point: “I haven’t seen it yet.” In other words, the alterations were made without his participation, not that such a thing is any great surprise given Harvey Weinstein’s well-documented tendencies to make changes to films.
Bertie himself would surely have a loud What The FUCK to say about this.
What does Firth think? He’s fuckin’ pissed:
I don’t support it. I think the film has its integrity as it stands. It serves a purpose. I’m not someone who’s casual about that kind of language. I take my children to football games. I hate hearing that kind of language in their ears, but I won’t deny them the experience of a live game. But in the context of the film, it couldn’t be more edifying, more appropriate. It’s not vicious or insulting. It’s not in the context that might offend. I still haven’t met the person who’d object to it. I am against it.
I wholeheartedly echo Josh Tyler, who writes at Cinema Blend:
Anyone who buys a ticket for the censored version of King’s Speech is sending them a loud and clear message, and that message is this: I don’t care if you make good movies as long as they receive the right rating. You’ve chosen not to watch the best possible version of this movie, in favor of something less than. You’ve told Hollywood that it’s ok if their movies aren’t as good as they could be, and they will be listening. The King’s Speech just won Oscar’s best picture. If the studio system can make more money by making a such a high profile movie worse, that has huge implications for other movies released down the road. Making good movies is hard, why put in all that extra effort if it doesn’t really seem to matter to your audience?
As if the MPAA hadn’t ruined movies enough, now there’s this. If you despair of the lack of smart, mature movies for adults now, just wait till The King’s Speech, reedited for knee-jerk prudes afraid of their own shadows and unable to competently parent their children to explain how words work, makes $100 million at the box office.