Tom Hooper’s Filming Experience

The King’s Speech director recently did an interview with The Telegraph newspaper and had all of this to say about filming Helena:

Some of my most special shooting experiences have been at weekends. Take the first time I shot with Helena Bonham Carter on The King’s Speech. That was a Sunday. We were shooting in Portland Place, a five-minute drive from my home near Regent’s Park. I got up at 5.30am and was on set 20 minutes later, which was positively luxurious considering I usually end up in the car for more than an hour to get to location.

It was the first scene in the film; the one where Helena, playing the late Queen Elizabeth – or the Duchess of York as she was then – visits speech therapist Lionel Logue (played by Geoffrey Rush), at his surgery on Harley Street. She wants to ask if he can rid her husband, Bertie (later King George VI) of his terrible stutter.

After all the research we’d done, it was amazing to see Helena’s interpretation. She had some extraordinary ability to make me feel that she actually was the Queen Mother, which is quite illogical as she doesn’t look that much like her. But she had this idea that the Queen Mother was like a “marshmallow, but a marshmallow made with a welding machine”, and she captured that mixture of sweetness and toughness brilliantly.

We shot most of The King’s Speech in London at weekends because Helena was shooting Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 during the week. But there was something particularly satisfying about that first Sunday, because it so nearly didn’t happen. After we’d scheduled our whole shoot to work Saturdays and Sundays, Harry Potter came back and said that if it rained during the week, they’d still need Helena at weekends. I went to my producers and asked if we should risk going with Helena when there was a good chance we would lose her. It was a really small-budget film and we would be taking a very expensive bet against the English weather in late November.

Amazingly my producers backed me and we were lucky; it didn’t rain on Harry Potter and we got Helena on that Sunday. I’ll never forget the sense of relief and the incredible joy I felt that I was filming with her. You see, despite my persistence, she’d never actually said yes to the part – I’d just made it impossible for her to say no. Finally, at the British Independent Film Awards in London in November, when she was accepting the best supporting actress award, she said: “Tom, I do owe you a formal ‘yes’.”

Leave a Reply