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Firth discusses royal role in 'Speech'

By KAREN BUTLER
Firth discusses royal role in 'Speech'
Australian actor Geoffrey Rush and British actor Colin Firth attend the premiere of "King's Speech" at Odeon, Leicester Square in London on October 21, 2010. UPI/Rune Hellestad | License Photo

NEW YORK, Nov. 27 (UPI) -- Actor Colin Firth admits he didn't know much about Great Britain's King George VI before he read the script for his latest film, "The King's Speech."

The monarch, who hated public speaking because of his severe speech impediment, took the throne in 1936 after his elder brother King Edward VIII abdicated so he could marry an American divorcee.

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"The King's Speech" is about how George worked with an unconventional speech therapist, played by Geoffrey Rush, to find his voice shortly before England joined World War II.

"I knew nothing about it," Firth told UPI in New York recently when asked how familiar he was with the life of Queen Elizabeth II's father.

"I knew that he existed, I knew about the abdication crisis, but I knew nothing about it; I hadn't even watched any of the dramas about it," Firth explained. "I wasn't quite sure whether he was George V or George VI. I remember my mother telling me that she had great sympathy for him because of the stammer, so I knew about that. I knew he died relatively young and that the Queen came to the throne very young. We all know that because that was 1952 and she's still here.

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"I always understood that she was very close to her father and it must have been very tough to take that job on while you were still grieving. I had a picture of that as a kid, but that really was it. I couldn't have told you the date that it all happened. I never heard when it was broadcast, I don't think I even knew that our Queen Mother was his wife. I mean, it made sense. I'm not a royal watcher, so I was starting from scratch."

The 50-year-old actor is best known for his work in the iconic miniseries "Pride & Prejudice," as well as in the films "Bridget Jones's Diary," "Love Actually" and "Mamma Mia!" He earned his first Oscar nomination for his work in 2009's "A Single Man," but lost out to "Crazy Heart" star Jeff Bridges.

Buzz surrounding Firth's performance in "Speech" suggests he will not only be nominated again for an Oscar, but might actually win this time around.

So, does the actor think he has hit his stride at this point in his career?

"It's a great moment," Firth replied. "I think it's too random to call it a 'stride.' If I keep getting roles as good as this I would like to think it could be a stride, but, I mean, this is a profession which notoriously trips you up. I felt there were moments when I had my mojo and I just didn't have the scripts, and I may have dropped the ball a few times along the way. I'm mixing my metaphors. This happened to be a time when I was really enjoying the work. I feel I'm at an age which is making the stories interesting. I don't relish the deterioration process, but I do find it interesting to play characters where the past counts, and I've lived long enough to actually have one now."

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"The King's Speech" is in theaters now.

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