By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist January 31, 2011 at 7:08AM
With "The King's Speech" now the odds on favorite to take home a significant chunk of Oscar gold in a few weeks, Harvey Weinstein is looking to ride that momentum by getting as many eyeballs on the film, and asses in the seats as possible. Just this past weekend -- the first Friday after the Oscar nominations were revealed -- the film expanded to over 2,500 screens but there's just one little problem. An R-rating -- mostly found in one key sequence -- is keeping the film away from even bigger crowds and apparently educators who want to screen the film for their students. Last week, Harvey Weinstein revealed his desire to re-cut the film to pass the MPAA's rigorous standards, but director Tom Hooper isn't having it.
Speaking with EW, the helmer is unequivocal about editing the film. “I wouldn’t support cutting the film in any way. I think we looked at whether it’s possible to bleep out the f—s and stuff, but I’m not going to actually cut that part,” Hooper said referring to the scene where the King George VI (Colin Firth) unleashes a string of curse words to his speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). If you haven't seen the film, it might seem like a arbitrary scene, but the problem is, it’s a key scene in establishing the relationship between King George VI and Lionel and besides that, it’s just a great little segment. And in case there was any doubt about Hooper's thoughts on what a PG-13 might do to broaden the audience for the film, the director is clear: “I’m not going to cut the film.” Of course, Harvey has his own thoughts on the matter and he recently spelled them out in an interview with Deadline.
Well, [the R-rating] hurt us. I think the movie could do even bigger box office than $100 million if we could free ourselves of the rating. The rating is really difficult. The movie is outdoing us in the UK for one simple reason: the rating in England got overturned to essentially a PG-13. Mom, Dad, and the kids are all going to see the movie in England just like 'True Grit,' which is a PG-13 film. You're getting everybody seeing 'True Grit.' I've got four daughters, and all four would never be caught dead at a Western. But because there's a 14-year old girl and the movie is rated PG-13, they all went with six of their girlfriends. But my daughters can't see 'The King's Speech' because it's rated R. I showed it to my daughter anyhow, and she loved the movie, and so have her girlfriends. I've heard from so many educators that this is crazy. I believe the MPAA is sympathetic to the movie, but the rules are the rules. And look, I won with Blue Valentine. I can't go back, hat in hand, again. We were hoping that, as happened in England, the MPAA would see the movie in context and change the R to PG-13. That’s what happened on 'Blue Valentine.' They rated the movie NC-17, we didn’t make any changes to the movie, and they reduced it to an R. But we didn’t get the contextual rating we wanted. Tom’s got a couple of ideas that don’t involve cutting that will serve the same purpose. I’ll leave that as a bit of a mystery as we examine it further. We are trying to find every way possible to have the film seen by as wide an audience as possible.
Of course, we're not sure that any 14-year olds are too keen to see a period drama about a stuttering king -- even if his kid and her friends like it -- and as Harvey notes, the film has already healthily found its audience to the tune of $100 million worldwide and growing. We think attempting to snip the film for whatever, arguably marginal box office growth the film will have is a bit misguided. No kids are going to this by themselves and if they go with a parent or relative, they can see the film anyway. And as for the cast of the film, they're behind Hooper too in keeping the integrity of the film.
“I don’t think it needs to be cut down. I think every 13-year-old knows [the words], I think every 8-year-old [does]. It’s the whole point of it. It’s not to be offensive. I think they said they were going to put the bleeps. [The film] is not violent. It’s full of humanity and wit. [It's] for people not with just a speech impediment, but who have got confidence [doubts]. Everyone who has a sense of inadequacy, which is practically everyone,” Helena Bonham Carter told EW. Meanwhile, Geoffrey Rush told THR that he doesn't agree with cutting the film and that “they should just ‘bleep’ it. If you cut it, then you’re going cut one of the key thrills of the film.”
In a relatively controversy free Oscar season, this is certainly one of the more intriguing stories to play out. No word on what happens next, but "The King's Speech" is Weinstein's Oscar baby and he will want to make sure he keeps everyone involved happy as it heads towards the Kodak Theater.