The King’s Speech has managed to bag itself 4 Oscars at this year’s Academy Awards ceremony, including Best Picture.
Colin Firth picked up the much-desired Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of stuttering British King, George VI, after Natalie Portman received the Best Actress award for her role as a psychotic ballet dancer in Black Swan.
Firth stepped onto the stage with the nervous air of a schoolmaster who must address an assembly to break some rather embarrassing news. He delivers a witty speech, thanking director Tom Hooper and David Seidler and Harvey Weinstein, who spotted him when he was “just a young sensation”. At the end he says he is going to retire backstage and surrender to some powerful “impulses”.
I has been a long journey for Firth, who, many claim, should have been crowned Best Actor for A Single Man. But at last, his time has come.
Earlier in the evening, Tom Hooper triumphed over close contender Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan) in the Best Directing category and the film also won as Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.
When The King’s Speech was awarded Best Picture, cast and crew assembled on-stage to offer a final shout out. Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Tom Hooper and Colin Firth, as well as the producers – Gareth Unwin, Emile Sherman and Iain Canning – all paid thanks to those involved and especially to the UK Film Council, which seeded the project with an initial $1m investment.
The movie, a portrayal of the life of George VI and his relationship with his speech therapist, has also been lauded for putting an often misunderstood speech disorder in the limelight.
According to the National Stuttering Association, stuttering afflicts about 3 million people in the United States and 65 million worldwide. It is a speech defect, for which the cause is still not known, in which sounds, syllables, or words are repeated or last longer than normal. These problems cause a break in the flow of speech and if stuttering becomes worse, words and phrases are repeated.
Many are hopeful that the film will help to bring the speech defect out of the shadows and change some of the perceptions about stuttering. In fact, the film seems likely to do for stuttering what Rain Man did for autism and As Good As It Gets did for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Norbert Lieckfeldt, CEO of the British Stammering Association (BSA), speaking about the misconceptions of the disorder, said: “The obvious one is ‘if only you’d take a deep breath and think about what you want to say, it’ll come out. ‘People who stammer know exactly what they want to say. It’s just that their body at that point will not allow them to produce the right sounds in the right order.”
“There is a misconception that people who stammer are stammering because they are nervous, or more shy, or more intelligent or forced to be right-handed when they are left-handed: all urban myths.”
Lieckfeldt offers the following tips for anyone meeting someone who stammers for the first time:
- Always listen to what is being said, not how it is being said.
- Keep eye contact, don’t look away. That would indicate to the person with the stutter that you are feeling embarrassed.
- Try not to finish their sentence for them, even if you think you know what they want to say. If you get it wrong, the person with the stutter has to start all over again which is exhausting.
- Try to slow down your own rate of speech. If you talk very fast without pauses, that speeds up the general level of conversation.
The King’s Speech has been praised by stutterers and medical professionals alike for its raw and honest portrayal of the speech defect.
In an interview with CNN, Dr. Gerald A. Maguire , who underwent speech therapy and mediation treatment as a child, said: “It really captured well that anticipatory anxiety, the fear around the speech, the frustration that people who stutter have even today in seeking help and seeking relief of their symptoms.”
“The movie gave an accurate portrayal of the stuttering problem, and especially captured the frustration stutterers have in public speaking situations and the great lengths they will go to alleviate the problem.”
Other Oscar winners included the film “Inception”, which also picked up 4 Oscars, including Best Sound Editing and Mixing, Best Cinematography and Best Visual Effects. The Social Network also fared well, winning 3 awards, including Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Editing and Best Original Score.
Click here to see the full 2011 Oscar winners list and read bout Natalie Portman’s Best Actress win for her role in psycho-thriller Black Swan.
Also, read about the late comedian Charlie Callas, who often played off physical tics such as stuttering, speech problems and shaking.
Images: PR Photos and Wikipedia