*** TRANSCRIPTION COMPANY BOUNDARY ***
Tom Hooper, Putting Words To 'The King's Speech'
DAVE DAVIES, host:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies, filling in for Terry Gross.
Imagine you've grown up with an embarrassing speech impediment that makes you
terrified of public speaking and you suddenly become an important world leader
who has to address the public. That's the fate that befell King George VI of
England, who came to the throne in 1936 after his brother King Edward abdicated
to marry an American divorcee.
After years of speech therapy King George gave this radio address in 1939 when
Hitler had invaded Poland and England had declared war on Germany.
KING GEORGE VI (King of England): For the second time in the lives of most of
us, we are at war. Over and over again we have tried to find a peaceful way out
of the differences between ourselves and those who are now our enemies. But it
has been in vain.
DAVIES: King George's long relationship with his unconventional speech
therapist is the subject of the new film "The King's Speech," directed by our
guest Tom Hooper. Colin Firth plays the king in the film. The Australian-born
speech therapist is played by Geoffrey Rush. Tom Hooper won an Emmy for
directing the HBO miniseries "Elizabeth I," starring Helen Mirren. He also
directed the miniseries, "John Adams." Among his other films are "Longfordâ and
âThe Damned United."
Well, Tom Hooper, welcome to FRESH AIR.
Mr. TOM HOOPER (Director): Thanks, Dave.
DAVIES: This film, "The King's Speech," this is one of those films where we
don't have to worry about giving away the story. I mean, it's fairly
straightforward. It's about this very close relationship between the king,
George VI and his unorthodox speech therapist. And there's a fascinating back
story of how the screenwriter David Seidler developed the story. Tell us where
his interest came from and how he pursued it.
Mr. HOOPER: Well the story of how this film was made really begins in the
Second World War with a small boy who had a terrible stammer. And this little
boy used to listen to King George VI on the radio and think, well, if the King
of England can cope with a stammer maybe there's hope for me. And that little
boy is our screenwriter, David Seidler.
King George VI was David's childhood hero, his inspiration, his guiding light
and when he grew up and became a writer he long dreamed of writing about King
George VI. And so he started to research this and got some blips on the radar
of one Lionel Logue, a speech therapist for the king, of which there was very
little information about. But he managed to track down a Valentine Logue, who
features in our movie, who is the son of Lionel Logue.
And Valentine revealed that there was in his attic a handwritten diary account
of the speech therapist, his father's relationship with the king. But he said,
you know, before I show it to you, you need to get permission from the palace.
So he wrote to the palace. And the Queen Mother wrote back to David and said,
yes, but please not in our lifetime. The memories of these events are still too
DAVIES: King George VI of course led his nation during World War II and was an
important inspirational figure for his people and had to give all these
speeches on the radio. And it's interesting that he was confronted with this
challenge of conquering his stutter in some respects because of technology,
right? I mean, 30 years before or after he wouldn't have had such an issue
Mr. HOOPER: No, I mean, what's extraordinary about the whole drama of this
story, it derives from the advent of this new medium, this new mass
communication medium called radio. Because before the advent of radio the king
was a visual icon. I mean, as long as he could wave from a carriage, look good
on a horse, look good in uniform, he could perform the theatrical duty of being
a king which was principally I would say in terms of mass iconography visual.
And with the coming of radio suddenly the king was required to speak, to
connect, and therefore to be effectively an actor.
So you have this guy, you know, whoâs the younger brother, who has no
expectation of being king. You know, his older brother gives up the throne to
marry the American Wallis Simpson. He has a terrible stammer and becomes king
right at the moment when this medium has taken off. And, you know, his audience
is not just in England, you know, Britain still has 58 countries in the empire,
so it's a vast emergent global audience. You know, and he can't speak.
And even more ironically, it's that, you know, 10, 15-year window when it was
only a live medium. I mean, you could not prerecord. You could not edit, so you
couldn't cheat the stammers out. It had to be a live performance.
DAVIES: When he gave these wartime speeches, was this speech therapist, Lionel
Logue in the room with him? Was he the only one in the room?
Mr. HOOPER: Yeah, I mean, that's what we can tell from the diaries is that, you
know, Lionel Logue was in the room, one on one with the king for pretty much
all the, you know, the wartime speeches. And, you know, one of the things
that's so, you know, the other great thing about the diaries is it reveals what
lies behind, you know, famous imagery.
So for example, it was my birthday recently and my sister gave me a copy of The
Times from the 4th of September 1939, so the day after warâs been declared. Now
it being England and we're an understated nation, news of the outbreak of the
Second World War made page eight of The Times. And on page eight there's a big
half page picture of King George VI in his full naval uniform at this grand
ornate desk with these ornate microphones his father used in a very grand and
gilt room, giving the speech that we see at the end of our movie which is
basically the speech he made when war was declared.
But we know from the diaries that this is not true. He made it in a special
room that Logue set up which he decorated to make it look cheerful with an old
school desk that Logue had rescued from the basement of Buckingham Palace, you
know, which he'd hammered wooden stilts on to raise it up. And the king did it
standing up with his jacket off, with the window open, with Logue in the room
one on one.
And so we know, I now know that that image, that famous image of him giving the
speech is complete nonsense. It's a fabrication. It's a piece of propaganda and
that's what, you know, is so lovely about the diaries is not only did it give
us some flavor of that dialogue and their relationship, but it also, you know,
gave these wonderful physical clues with which to get behind, you know, the
surface of the monarch at that time.
DAVIES: So the world knew that King George VI struggled with a speech
impediment but knew that he had managed to overcome that and give these
speeches. And what this story really tells us now, it sort of unmasks this
close collaborator, this man Lionel Logue, the speech therapist. Tell us just a
little bit about him.
Mr. HOOPER: Well, he was older than the king and he was kind of someone, you
know, who grew up, you know, basically being fascinated by the voice. So he was
born in Adelaide but moved early in his life to Perth, where he married.
DAVIES: He's Australian.
Mr. HOOPER: He's Australian, yeah. In Perth he taught elocution in schools. He
recited Shakespeare and Dickens. He acted a little bit. I think he taught drama
and when the First World War came there was this sudden influx of young men
returning from the Western front with speech problems, with post-traumatic
stress disorder, with shell-shock.
And they literally kind of said oh, well you know, oh Lionel you're the local
guy who knows about speech, so why don't you have a crack at helping these poor
young men? And that's what he did. And he basically taught himself through
trial and error speech therapy in Perth and developed techniques in order to
help these men. And, you know, the script, our film suggests that what he felt
was these young men, you know, had lost faith in their voice and he was giving
them the right to be heard again, to talk about their trauma and to find their
And he went to England I think it was 1923 or 1924 and he went because I think
on the encouragement of his wife because he felt that, you know, London was
probably where it was at in terms of speech therapy and so, you know, he should
go and find out more about it. And I think they went not intending to live
there but they ended up staying. And he ended up setting up a practice in
Harley Street and landing the biggest client of his life.
DAVIES: Right. And of course it's actually King George's wife, who's played in
the film by Helena Bonham Carter, who comes and visits Lionel Logue. One of the
things that you see in the - in his methods is that he believes it's not a
matter simply of mechanics that there is a psychological basis for this and he
invades the king's royal privacy by asking questions about what happened to him
in his childhood. What do we know about the origins of King George's stutter?
Mr. HOOPER: What we know is that he had a very tough childhood. I mean, his
parents were very absent. I mean, it's worth pointing out that children of that
class you know, aristocratic children, the norm was you would be brought down
at teatime every day and praised in front of your parents for half an hour and
that was kind of the relationship. As a very young kid you're basically -
you're mothered by nannies. But the nanny, you know, who he had very early on
in life was absolutely in love with David, his older brother and didn't like
I mean not only didn't like him but neglected him and, you know, didn't feed
him enough and caused him, you know, stomach problems which led to, you know,
having ulcers and being invalided out of the army during the First World War,
so I mean, what I know about stammering and a lot of this comes from David, the
writer who had this stammer, when as a young child you lose the confidence that
anyone wants to listen to you, you know. So you've got parents who aren't
interested and you've got a nanny who loves your older brother and isn't
interested. You lose confidence in your voice and you lose confidence in the
right to speak and a lot of the therapy is about saying you have a right to be
heard and people should bloody well listen.
DAVIES: Well that's the story. Let's talk about bringing it to life on film and
I thought we'd listen to a clip here. The king is played by Colin Firth and the
speech therapist, Lionel Logue, is played by Geoffrey Rush. And this is a
moment where the - they've been working together for some period of time.
George VI is now about to be crowned king and this is a moment where they have
cleared out Westminster Abbey so that they can rehearse and this king can
confront the task of making a few remarks upon the occasion of his coronation.
And they get into an argument and I'll just mention it makes it easier for the
clip if we get to understand it we know that there's a point at which the
therapist, Logue, has the effrontery to park his seat in the chair where
monarchs sit and we'll hear that. And what really begins the argument is the
king is frustrated and fearful and angry about this situation and he also has
discovered that Lionel Logue is not a doctor and is essentially self-taught.
(Soundbite of film, "The King's Speech")
Mr. COLIN FIRTH (Actor): (as King George VI) No training, no diploma, no
qualifications, a great deal of nerve.
Mr. GEOFFREY RUSH (Actor): (as Lionel Logue) Lock me in the Tower.
Mr. FIRTH: (as King George VI) I would if I could.
Mr. RUSH: (as Lionel Logue) On what charge?
Mr. FIRTH: (as King George VI) Fraud. With war looming, you've saddled this
nation with a voiceless king. You've destroyed the happiness of my family all
for the sake of ensnaring a star patient you couldn't possibly hope to assist.
It'll be like mad King George III, only mad King George the Stammerer who let
his people down so badly in their hour of need. What are you doing? Get up you
can't sit there, get up.
Mr. RUSH: (as Lionel Logue) Why not? It's a chair.
Mr. FIRTH: (as King George VI) No that is not a chair, that is St. Edward's
Mr. RUSH: (as Lionel Logue) People have carved their names on it.
Mr. FIRTH: (as King George VI) That chair is the seat on which every king...
Mr. RUSH: (as Lionel Logue) I don't care how many royal assholes sat in this
Mr. FIRTH: (as King George VI) Listen to me, listen to me.
Mr. RUSH: (as Lionel Logue) Listen to you? By what right?
Mr. FIRTH: (as King George VI) By divine right if you must, I am your king.
Mr. RUSH: (as Lionel Logue) No you're not. You told me so yourself. You said
you didnât want it. Why should I waste my time listening to you?
Mr. FIRTH: (as King George VI) Because I have a right to be heard. I have a
Mr. RUSH: (as Lionel Logue) Yes, you do.
DAVIES: And that's Geoffrey Rush and Colin Firth from "The King's Speech"
directed by our guest Tom Hooper. You can hear Colin Firth and his playing a
royal with a stutter. He has to get this just right. He can't overdo it. Tell
us about developing his character?
Mr. HOOPER: Well I think the inspiration for his performance for both of us was
the real king. And we found this wonderful bit of archive footage on the Pathe
News, which I think is available on the public site from the one...
DAVIES: The one in Glasgow?
Mr. HOOPER: Yeah, the Empire Exhibition, 1938 and, you know, try as the
newsreel people can to cut away from Bertie so they cut from his close-up to,
you know, spectators in the crowd. They cut to fluttering flags. They cut to
chimney pots all around them. Whenever they come back in this profile close-up
to the king you can see, you just can see in his eyes this longing. He just
wants to get it right.
That's all he wants to achieve and he keeps getting caught in these horrible
painful silences in which he drowns and he stops himself and gathers himself
and tries again and gets caught and drowns in silence. And it's so, it's so
moving that by the end of this three or four minute clip I had tears in my
eyes. And Colin and I saw this and we were both hugely moved. And I'm not sure
how aware Colin is, but I think he's kind of, in an extraordinary way, bottled
the essence of the real king's stammer. And to me, you know, what it's closest
to is, you know, if you think of all the references for stammering we thought
about that's what it's closest to.
DAVIES: You know, it struck me that a stammer is almost like a physical
metaphor for someone who hesitates at taking on a duty that seems too daunting,
like being a wartime monarch in the United Kingdom. And the other thing that
struck me was that what was so powerful about the performances was not the
sound so much as the - what he's doing in those awful silences when between the
sounds, when he's trying to get them out.
Mr. HOOPER: Yes and, you know, from what we understand about the mechanics of
it, I mean, your throat really does lock up and so there's a, if you're a
stammerer it doesn't, you know, the block, although it maybe starts
psychologically it ends up physical. I mean there is no air passing in either
direction down your throat when you're in mid block and so you're also lacking
oxygen supply just to add to the woes.
And there's a couple of great profile shots in the film where you can see how
much the musculature of Colin's neck is being sort of - is seizing up with this
effort. And he actually started to complain of getting numbness in his left arm
over the course of the shoot such was the physicality of playing this.
But, you know, he - what I think Colin understood brilliantly was that - a bit
like, you know, the best way to play a drunk is to concentrate on trying to be
sober. The best way of playing a stammerer is concentrate on trying to get out
of the stammer rather than trying to get into the stammer. And I think Colin
concentrated on the exit strategy and found the stammer through that.
DAVIES: Our guest is Tom Hooper, his new film is "The King's Speech". We'll
talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
DAVIES: If you're just joining us our guest is film director Tom Hooper. His
new film starring Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush is "The King's Speech."
I wanted to talk about "John Adams," the HBO miniseries you directed which got
a lot of awards and was - and drew a big audience. And it's interesting
because, you know, you're bringing to life characters that Americans have
idealized in a lot of ways, the founders. And I'm just wondering as a film
maker when you have to bring to life Ben Franklin and John Adams and Thomas
Jefferson do you need them - to make them in some way recognizable to us as
these idealized figures or do you want to humanize them or is it some of both?
Mr. HOOPER: That's a very good question. I mean I struggled to see any of these
characters as anything other than human. I mean King George VI, I've never had
a problem thinking of him anything whether, you know, people go well, they're
royal, how do you see him as human. I don't - I've never struggled with that. I
think in the case of John Adams, I think there was a certain freedom that I
wasn't - by not being brought up in America, not being taught the idealized
version of the Founding Fathers, where they were these impossibly mythic, kind
of superheroes on pedestals, perhaps I was more able to, to approach them as
I mean I love for example, this early thing I picked up from David McCullough's
wonderful book that Thomas Jefferson just didn't speak in the Continental
Congress. I mean he, you know, he was the silent one. He was the guy. He was
the gnomic one who never contributed to debates, never opened his mouth and
said very little which is so counter-intuitive because we think of him as the
great wordsmith because he's famous for the Declaration of Independence.
And we also, you know, assume he is the, you know, a big iconic star, and of
course through McCullough's book and research you learn that when the
Continental Congress started he was very much the junior partner in the room,
in particular to John Adams. And so one of the reasons he didn't say very much
he was very junior and, you know, in fact was asked to write the Declaration of
Independence partly because they, you know, John Adams thought it was too
junior a task for him to do himself and he was too busy with what he felt was
the main event which was winning the debate on the floor.
And of course, you know, Mr. Adams didnât realize, you know, the kind of status
that document would have got because I'm sure he would have written it himself
in retrospect. But, you know, it's those kind of way-ins which immediately you
know, what's great about say that detail about Jefferson is because the general
public don't know it.
You're immediately sort of wrong-footed because you're kind of going that's
Jefferson, how intriguing. I didn't know he was so quiet and in that moment of
realizing that you don't know a story that you thought you knew, suddenly the
storytelling can become vividly present tense because you're no longer
navigating it through people's existing cliches. You basically bust through
them right at the beginning with the way you introduce the characters.
And it's terribly exciting when you do that for audiences because, you know,
they basically start connecting in a completely different way.
DAVIES: Director Tom Hooper, his new film is "The King's Speech". He'll be back
in the second half of the show. I'm Dave Davies and this is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
DAVIES: This is FRESH AIR. Iâm Dave Davies filling in for Terry Gross.
Our guest is director Tom Hooper, who's new film "The King's Speech," tells the
true story of King George VI stutter and his relationship with an
unconventional speech therapist. I also asked him about directing the HBO
miniseries "John Adams" and portraying the American Revolution.
You know, I read that you shot the American scenes, particularly the scenes
during the Revolution, differently than those in Europe, such as when Adams was
in Paris and England.
Mr. HOOPER: Yes. I chose to shoot the American material quite roughly. I mean
it was almost exclusively handheld cameras. It was quite a lot of Dutch tilts
where the camera is off the level, you know, so it's down on the left or down
on the right. And more than that, there was no, there was often no consistency
in the Dutch tilt, so I'd be cutting, you know, shots that were slightly off
balance with shots that were on balance.
And I was interested to do this, because I was desperate to capture the sense
that the story in front your eyes was, the creation of America, was
relentlessly provisional. You know, because the hardest thing to do as a
director when we're all sitting in America and American independence is a fact,
is to create any sense that American independence was not a foregone
conclusion. And actually, as a project when it started, was supremely unlikely
to be achieved. I mean in fact, you know, when the war started it wasn't even a
war - it wasn't a war about independence. It was a war about redressing rights
and the notion of independence came quite late and was so radical that was, you
know, it was so radical because it seemed so unlikely that it could be
DAVIES: So the handheld cameras and the odd angles kind of remind us that this
was a risky and by - and very uncertain undertaking on the American side.
Europe was different, right?
Mr. HOOPER: Yeah. And with Europe, I reverted to classical filmmaking, where
the cameras dolly-mounted and, you know, the shots are level and the language
of the film is classical. There's lots of nice wide shots intercut with the
close-ups, whereas you - actually I kind of avoid a lot of classical wide shots
in America so that you feel a sense of your back in the traditional world, in
the ossified world of rules and classical rules and classic, you know, and
classical governing structures, like the monarchy, that had been around for
DAVIES: I wanted to play a clip from the film, and it's one that's from the
European part of it. And this is well into the story...
Mr. HOOPER: Okay.
DAVIES: ...when John Adams, the Revolution is over, America has gained its
independence and John Adams has been chosen as the first American ambassador to
England. And after being in London for while he has been granted an audience
with King George III.
Mr. HOOPER: Oh, great.
DAVIES: And he has been carefully instructed in the protocol, that he is to
enter the wrong, bow immediately, walk halfway to the throne, bow again, and as
he approaches the throne, bow deeply again. And this is Adams humbly
approaching the King, introducing himself, and then the King - King George,
played by Tom Hollander - responds. So let's listen to it. Again, Adams
(Soundbite of movie, "The King's Speech")
Mr. PAUL GIAMATTI (Actor): (John Adams) The United States of America have
appointed me Minister Plenipotentiary to Your Majesty. I think myself more
fortunate than all of my fellow citizens in having the - the distinguishing
honor to be the first to stand in Your Majesty's presence in a diplomatic
Mr. TOM HOLLANDER (Actor): (as King George III) I will be very frank with you.
I was the last to consent to separation. But the separation having been made
and having become inevitable, I have always said, as I say now, that I would be
the first to meet the friendship of the United States as an independent power.
I pray, Mr. Adams, that the United States does not suffer unduly from its want
of a monarchy.
Mr. GIAMATTI: (John Adams) Yes, we will, we will strive to answer those
prayers, Your Majesty.
DAVIES: And that's Paul Giamatti and Tom Hollander in "John Adams," the
miniseries directed by our guest, director Tom Hooper.
This is such an affecting scene, visually, too. Tell us a little bit about how
you envisioned this first encounter between the British monarch and the new
Mr. HOOPER: You know, it's kind of like, John, you know, John Adams meeting the
Darth Vader of our story. I mean, you know, this is the English monarch. This
has been the enemy since the beginning. I mean the Declaration of Independence
is a personal letter addressed to this monarch saying we've had enough. And,
you know, he comes into this room and it's such a heavy process of preparation,
that by the time you get to the door, you know, anyone would be out of their
head with nerves. And walks in and finds this slight, rather sort of unexpected
man standing by his throne, rather dwarfed by the heart of the throne, not
sitting in it.
And, you know, it's immediate - what I wanted to try and create was immediately
that the sense of bathos, where, how some human beings don't live up to their
mythology. And King George III was a man who, in person, could not possibly be
impressive as the machinery of monarchy would like to suggest he was. But then,
having created that sense of sort of anticlimax for the viewer, I was intrigued
that Adams was actually rather charmed and seduced by King George III. And when
King George III says at the end, quite sincerely, I hope that America doesn't
suffer from the want of a monarchy. I wanted to set in motion, in John's head,
this question mark about whether or not America would suffer from the want of
DAVIES: Well, you know, that scene was powerful to me in, for a couple of
reasons. One is you see John Adams coming in. It's his duty to represent his
country and to establish a relationship with England. But he is clearly over-
awed by the scale of the room and the throne.
Mr. HOOPER: Mmm. Right.
DAVIES: It's impressive and intimidating to see. But the other thing that I
found fascinating was Tom Hollander's portrayal of King George III, because
there is this incredible stillness about him.
Mr. HOOPER: Yeah.
DAVIES: And a look which I could only describe as otherworldly and - in his
eyes. And it made me think this is somebody, a monarch, whose grown up from
birth, believing he's different from all other human beings.
Mr. HOOPER: Mmm. I have to say, I think it is an absolutely extraordinary
performance from Tom Hollander. I mean and what I particularly loved was Tom's
decision. It was his idea, it was not my idea, that he would stand by the
throne and not sit in it, so that when John Adams arrived you expect to have
the cliche image of the king sitting on a throne and you don't get it. And Tom,
I'm sure being conscious of his height, because he's not a hugely tall man,
knew that it was going to present an odd image because the throne was going to
DAVIES: Tom Hooper talking about his miniseries "John Adams." His new film is
"The King's Speech."
We'll talk more after a break.
This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
DAVIES: If youâre just joining us, our guest is film director Tom Hooper. He's
directed "The King's Speech," starring Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush. It's
about the struggles of English King George VI with a stammer, and his
relationship with a speech therapist.
Well, I wanted to talk, just a bit, about "The Damned United," which is a film
released last year, which I missed completely. I guess it had limited release
in the states, but was just great, great fun. It's about a soccer coach in
England in the '60s and '70s, or I guess a football manager, as he would be
Mr. HOOPER: Yeah.
DAVIES: Tell just a little bit about the story and what got your interest.
Mr. HOOPER: Well, Brian Clough, who's the hero of this film, is the most iconic
football manager, soccer manager, in English history. And he was an
extraordinary outspoken maverick who was the star who burnt incredibly
brightly. And he was unusual in that he was so charismatic and popular that he
crossed over into popular entertainment culture. And he was kind of the person
who first road the wave of when the complex matrix of sport, big finance and
celebrity culture began to intersect to remake the game for the modern world.
And my film is really a story of hubris.
Our thesis in the film was that Brian Clough's success was really made possible
through a great working partnership and friendship with his assistant manager -
a man called Peter Taylor. But Clough, being a complete egomaniac, starts to
believe or want to believe that his brilliance is all his own and cuts himself
loose from his - from Peter Taylor to take on managing this team called Leeds
United, which was really his nemesis, you know, growing up.
DAVIES: Well, you know, I thought we should get a scene here where the main
character, Brian Clough, who as you said, is this rising star in soccer has
been chosen to coach at Leeds United. And he is played by Michael Sheen, who
people will remember from - he played Tony Blair in the film "The Queen." He
also played David Frost in "Frost/Nixon." But this is a moment at which he's
sitting down with the owners of Leeds United club. And part of the story here,
is that he has an intense rivalry with a much more famous soccer coach named
Don Revie, who had previously coached Leeds. And so in this moment, the new
owners are unhappy about their new coach. And so we hear a little exchange. The
owner, played by Henry Goodman, will speak first.
(Soundbite of movie, "The Damned United")
Mr. HENRY GOODMAN (Actor): (as Manny Cussins) I hired you to do this job
because I think you are the best young manager in this country.
Mr. MICHAEL SHEEN (Actor): (as Brian Clough) Thank you. I'm the best old one
Mr. GOODMAN: (as Manny Cussins) I also did it under the assumption that you
would be coming here wanting the best for this club, for the city of Leeds. So
why do I get the feeling this is all about you and Don?
Mr. SHEEN: (as Brian Clough) Of course, it's just about me and Don, always has
been. But instead of putting frowns on your foreheads or yell to the Leeds in
your blazers and your brass (bleep) buttons, you should put big wide Colgate
smiles on your big wide faces, because it means I won't eat, I won't sleep
until I've taken what ever that man's achieved and beaten it. Beaten it so that
I never have to hear the word Don (bleep) Revie again. Beat it, so the only
name anyone sings in the (unintelligible) of houses raised in the stinking jaws
to the stinking mouths, is Brian Clough. Brian Clough over (bleep) palace(ph).
DAVIES: And that is hubris indeed, isn't it?
(Soundbite of laughter)
DAVIES: Michael Sheen playing Brian Clough in the film "The Damned United"
directed by our guest Tom Hooper.
You know, a lot of your films, of course, deal with history, "John Adams" and
the current one, "The King's Speech." And this is in a way a kind of a trip
back to a different era of sport. I mean these soccer stadiums are pretty
decrepit and shabby. Is this something that you remember fondly and had fun
Mr. HOOPER: Yeah. I mean I was interested in putting on screen a kind of
forgotten football in Britain, before this incredible influx of money, partly
coming through you know Murdoch's Sky Television, which bought up football
rights and transformed it forever. Before it came in, when, you know, the
football grounds were falling apart and it was a working-class game. It was not
- it hadn't become transformed(ph). It hadn't become, you know, celebrated by
the middle classes. And the players made, you know, a little money as the fans.
DAVIES: I read that you, for the crowd shots you used inflatable people among
of the audience.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. HOOPER: It's true. Yes. Not only that, the same inflatable people also
feature in "The King's Speech." And not only that, I had the bizarre experience
of having filmed at Leeds United Elland Road Stadium on "The Damned United,"
filled with 2,000 dummies. Who knew that only a year later I'd be back in the
same stadium, Elland Road in Leeds, re-creating Wembley Stadium in 1925 with
Colin Firth with the same, exactly the same 2,000 inflatable dummies for
DAVIES: And why that in a world of, you know, CGI and computerized graphic?
Mr. HOOPER: Because the cost of CGI is immense. I mean, you know, we keep being
told that we live in this new world where this revolution's happened. The truth
is the cost per shot of visual effects is beyond the kind of budgets that the
films, you know, I tend to make. And that I actually got the idea from Ron
Howard, who I found out had used I think up to 40,000 of these dummies in
scenes and used them also in "Frost/Nixon" in the dining scene. And the joy is
that once you've paid for them you can do any number of shots and they fill
out, you know, the stadium and the background. You don't need to worry.
Whereas, if you don't have them, every single time you see any part of the
stadium you need to, it becomes a visual effects shot. So it was a very - it
was one of the best decisions I took to invest in my 2,000 dummies.
DAVIES: So do you have a garage somewhere with thousands of deflated dummies?
Mr. HOOPER: They're not actually my own, you'll be pleased to hear.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. HOOPER: I believe my psychology is in good shape in that respect.
DAVIES: Well, Tom Hooper, it's been fun. Thanks so much for speaking with us.
Mr. HOOPER: Thank you very much.
DAVIES: Tom Hooper's new film is "The King's Speech."
*** TRANSCRIPTION COMPANY BOUNDARY ***
'Franklin And Eleanor': A Marriage Ahead Of Its Time
DAVE DAVIES, host:
When acclaimed biographer Hazel Rowley took a group tour of the historic
Roosevelt home Hyde Park years ago, she was struck by the number of questions
her guide had to field about the Roosevelt's marriage. On investigation, she
was further struck by the fact that though there are thousands of books devoted
to FDR and Eleanor, separately, there was no one book specifically devoted to
the married life they shared. Now there is.
Book critic Maureen Corrigan has a review of Rowley's new book called "Franklin
and Eleanor: An Extraordinary Marriage."
MAUREEN CORRIGAN: One of the most amazing anecdotes in Hazel Rowley's crackling
new biography of the Roosevelt marriage called, simply, "Franklin and Eleanor,"
has, on the surface, nothing to do with their personal relationship; yet, it
speaks volumes about the trust the first couple placed in each other.
In November 1939, as the Red Scare was gathering force, the House Un-American
Activities Committee subpoenaed members of a college student group called the
American Youth Congress to testify about their organization's ties to the
Communist Party. Getting wind of this event, Eleanor asked Franklin's
permission to turn up unannounced at the hearing. He gave it, and the first
lady took off. At the noontime break, the students still hadn't been called to
testify, so Eleanor invited them back to lunch at the White House.
When she found out the students had nowhere to sleep that night, she invited
all 10 of them to move into the White House - the People's House, after all -
for the duration. That evening, the students - some of them poor, first-
generation Americans - dined with the president and discussed HUAC, as well as
other breaking news, including the Soviet invasion of Finland.
It's unimaginable now to think of a first lady or a president acting with that
much autonomy, but what that anecdote also reveals is the enlightened disregard
Franklin and Eleanor had for conventional categories. As Rowley vividly
describes, throughout the latter two decades of their 40-year unorthodox
marriage, the Roosevelts shared their private life at close quarters with an
alternative family of aides, advisers and close friends - most of whom were
from working-class backgrounds.
Both Franklin and Eleanor also gave each other space to cultivate romantic
friendships outside of the marriage. Whether these relationships were physical
or not is still up for debate, but the language of existing letters shows
there's no question they were passionate. In Eleanor's case, those romantic
friendships were with men, like her beloved bodyguard Earl Miller, as well as
with women, like the journalist Lorena Hickok.
It was no secret to her colleagues in the press corps that Hick, as she was
called, was a lesbian; nor was it a secret that she and Eleanor seemed to be
deeply in love. A few months after FDR's first inauguration, Eleanor wrote to
Hick about their open secret: And so you think they gossip about us. I am
always so much more optimistic than you are. I suppose because I care so little
about what they say.
By the way, Rowley can quote those fearless words because Lorena Hickok
preserved almost all of the 3,500 letters she and Eleanor wrote to each other
from 1932 until Eleanor's death.
The Roosevelts' nonconformist love lives, as well as their expansive impulses
to turn the White House into a World War II-era hippie crash pad, have been
recounted by other superb biographers, notably Blanche Wiesen Cook and Doris
Kearns Goodwin. What distinguishes Rowley's chronicle is her focus on the
evolution of the Roosevelt marriage from a standard-issue high-society alliance
of its day to a - what? We don't even have a term for such an unconventional
relationship. Certainly open marriage sounds too naughty, although open is what
the Roosevelts clearly became.
Of course, they didn't transform their marriage out of mere happy whim. There
was the harrowing tragedy of FDR's polio and his rehabilitation, which
naturally forced the couple apart. During the late 1920s, Rowley points out
that Franklin was away from home for 116 weeks. Eleanor was with him for four
of those weeks; his secretary, Missy LeHand, was with him for 110.
And then there were the failures which loosened both marital and family ties.
FDR's affair with Lucy Mercer; Eleanor's rather strained style of parenting the
couple's six children. Eleanor, an eternal daddy's girl, sadly confessed later
in life that: I do not think that I am a natural born mother. If I ever wanted
to mother anyone, it was my father.
Rowley doesn't excuse these flaws but traces how the hard times helped the
couple achieve what she dubs one of the most interesting and radical marriages
in history. Rowley has chronicled out-of-the-box relationships before. Her last
book was a highly acclaimed biography of the partnership between Jean-Paul
Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. Nothing against the French, but there's no
contest here. While Sartre and de Beauvoir were hashing over gender roles in
sequestered cafes, Franklin and Eleanor had already forged their own cutting-
edge version of a marriage, despite living for nearly four terms in the
fishbowl of the White House.
DAVIES: Maureen Corrigan teaches literature at Georgetown University. She
reviewed "Franklin and Eleanor: An Extraordinary Marriage" by Hazel Rowley. You
can read an excerpt at our website, freshair.npr.org.
*** TRANSCRIPTION COMPANY BOUNDARY ***
Scott Colley: An 'Empire' On The Prairie
DAVE DAVIES, host:
In the last two decades, New York bass player Scott Colley has backed jazz
musicians including singer Carmen McRae, pianists Herbie Hancock and Fred
Hersch, saxophonists Chris Potter and David Binney and drummers T.S. Monk and
Antonio Sanchez. Colley also leads his own record dates.
Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says Colley's new album has a strong sense of
place, even if it's one he's never visited.
(Soundbite of music)
KEVIN WHITEHEAD: Scott Colley's new album is called "Empire," named for a sod-
house Kansas hamlet where his ancestors settled after the Civil War - not the
Empire, Kansas, near Lake Kanopolis, but a short-lived community near McPherson
on the prairie, abandoned in the 1870s when the railroad passed it by. Scott
Colley's not from those parts, but his music fits the wide-open flatlands,
where you can see the weather coming on. For extra rural twang, he's got Bill
Frisell on bluesy country jazz guitar.
(Soundbite of music)
WHITEHEAD: Scott Colley's slow, singing bass there nods to his old teacher
Charlie Haden, the Missouri bassist with a touch of the Ozarks in his sound.
Colley's "Empire" is for various combinations of five musicians, including
pianist Craig Taborn, known for rambunctious playing with James Carter, Tim
Berne and Dave Douglas. In his solos here, Taborn catches the stillness of
sparsely populated landscapes. He makes a few notes carry far. It's all in the
touch and the timing, and quiet support from Brian Blade's drums.
(Soundbite of music)
WHITEHEAD: This music's spine is made of wires and wood: the ringing tones of
bass, piano and guitar. The lone horn player is trumpeter Ralph Alessi, whose
pealing sound lends Copland-esque grandeur to the amber waves. He and Frisell
stir things up a little, too, to make sure the music's not contemplative all
(Soundbite of music)
WHITEHEAD: Scott Colley's lyrical and catchy tunes bring "Empire" halfway home,
but it's the players who complete the job; who breathe life into the frameworks
he builds. This is heartland music born in Manhattan. Not Manhattan, Kansas -
the other one.
DAVIES: Kevin Whitehead is a jazz columnist for eMusic.com. He reviewed
"Empire," the new album by bassist Scott Colley on the CAM Jazz label.
You can follow us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter at nprfreshair. And you
can download podcasts of our show at freshair.npr.org.
For Terry Gross, I'm Dave Davies.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.