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WRITING/ Oscar winner David Seidler: “Giving in” to friendship changes history. I’ll tell you about “my own” King’s Speech

November Thu 15, 2012

David Seidler with his Oscar  David Seidler with his Oscar

He won an Oscar for the best original screenplay for The King’s Speech, the film directed by Tom Hooper that won three other Oscars in 2011 (out of 12 nominations). David Seidler was a guest at the Catholic University of Milan, where he inaugurated the new Master’s program in screenwriting and producing. In this interview with ilsussidiario.net, Seidler tells about how he thought of the idea of telling the “uncomfortable” story of a British king who stutters, and about an extraordinary friendship. For the screenwriter, it was also a chance to tell about his personal experience, and to finally reach the top of his field. Here is also tells about his latest, surprising progect.

You have said that you had always wanted to write something on George VI, and that he was a childhood hero for you because of his stutter. You also had a stuttering problem in your youth. How much of what you wrote in the play and screenplay for the movie The King’s Speech was autobiographical?
They always advise young writers to write about what they know, and the mistake is to take that advice too literally and to think that you need to write about yourself as yourself. Some people can do it: Proust made a life’s work out of examining his memories of his childhood. I cannot do that. I cannot conceive of the audience being interested in me and my life per se. However, as a writer, I do feel impelled to tell my stories. How do I do it? I do it heavily disguised. I can tell somebody else’s story that resonates with me, or that I have also experienced. Thus, I am writing about my own experience of a childhood of stuttering, but I am not writing about little David. Who cares about little David in a certain sense? I am writing about a king, or rather, a person who is forced to be king when he does not want to and does not feel ready to, and is not trained to be king, at a time in history when his country is threatened. The stakes are very high, and so I think that people will care about that story, though it is also my own experience.

Can you tell me about the difference between writing a story based on historical facts versus one that is made up? What is different about the work required and which do you prefer?

I write both, though admittedly most of my projects are historically based. I love history, and am fascinated by the little corners of history, the little side corridors that are seldom walked and visited. People do not know about them, and so they are new stories. The advantage of writing about history is that you already know the story, and you already know that it is important because it has been remembered. It is easier to tackle. However, I also like writing fiction, something completely my own. Real life stories are a challenge because people do not have the good grace of living their lives in a three act structure, whereas when you make it up, you can make up the structure.

In this particular story, there were some problems about getting the permission of the royal family to tell the story. How were you able to speak about it, get material about it, and eventually create a film that Elizabeth II would even be pleased with?



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