Reporting Jenn McBride
HOLLYWOOD (CBS) — The King’s Speech reigned supreme Sunday night with four wins at the 83rd Annual Academy Awards, thanks in part to best actor recipient Colin Firth’s highly acclaimed portrayal of a stammering King George VI.
A brilliant depiction of the reluctant ruler’s rise to power, the film also won awards for best directing, original screenplay and the most coveted prize of all: best picture.
I, for one, was so sure of Firth’s impending win that I opted to stop my copious note-taking and research the night before the awards. Instead, I popped in Bridget Jones’s Diary to see him play Mark Darcy, a reindeer sweater-donning lawyer, one last time before he officially became an Oscar winner.
Firth, who has been up for best actor twice in as many years, was previously nominated for A Single Man and has appeared in Oscar greats such as The English Patient, which won nine awards in 1996. Two years later, he appeared with Best Supporting Actor nominee Geoffrey Rush in Shakespeare in Love, which earned seven Oscars.
The complexity and breadth of his talent is perhaps best seen when juxtaposing his most recent roles with those that made him a household name. From the singing Harry in Mama Mia! — a part that prompted him to tell 60 Minutes‘ Scott Pelley he “has no shame” — to his portrayal of Fitzwilliam Darcy in the British Pride and Prejudice mini-series, there seems to be no character Firth can’t, or won’t, master.
However, after thanking his wife for putting up with his “fleeting delusions of royalty”, he admitted that he’s looking forward to taking a break from his winning role.
“I think I’m going to cook a lot. I don’t think I’m particularly good at it, but I’m going to inflict my cooking on anybody within range,” he quipped with Oscar in hand. “I tend to find that’s a very good way to decompress. I’ll probably be the only one eating it, but that’s what I’m going to do.”
Seated in the front row of the press room, I was embarrassed to find myself doing an obnoxious fist pump every time The King’s Speech snagged another award. It looks like a bizarre auction backstage, as hundreds of journalists wave numbered cards in the air, hoping to be called on to interview the winners. I was fortunate enough to ask best director winner Tom Hooper what his greatest challenge was, given that the film had a responsibility to maintain historical accuracy (not to mention that it recounts the life story of a sitting queen’s beloved father).
“I think probably the greatest challenge was the risk with this film is it could have been quite slight,” he said. ”It’s a film about a man who makes a bad speech, and at the end, he makes quite a good speech, a bloody brilliant speech. And I have thought a key thing was to get inside the mind of someone who stammers, because if you are a severe stammerer, even ordering lunch in at a restaurant can be hugely traumatic.”
“I felt if Colin could capture the intense drama and suspense of being a stammerer, and then add into it the constitutional implications with the stammerer who became King against his will, and then the story would open up. There’s so many stories about conflict between people. This is really a story about a conflict within someone. It’s hard to tell. There’s so much more to acting, and I think Colin is being acknowledged tonight probably because he did it so brilliantly.”
The show certainly wasn’t all about The King’s Speech, though. Unlike last year, when The Hurt Locker won six awards, films such as The Fighter, The Social Network, and Inception all won several Oscars.
Fiery performances from The Fighter’s Christian Bale (Dicky Eklund) and Melissa Leo (Alice Ward) were enough to beat out frontrunners Geoffrey Rush (speech therapist Lionel Logue) and Helena Bonham Carter (Queen Elizabeth). Leo, who was apparently still in character, made Oscar history when she became the first winner to drop the “f-word” during an acceptance speech. She later apologized in the press room before rushing out to see Bale — who lost more than 60 pounds for his role as a recovering drug addict — win the award for best supporting actor.
“Whatever it takes, I feel like I’ll do for a movie,” Bale said of his win. “But the thing is, a lot of people see it as a gimmick, and it’s not a gimmick. I’m getting a little bit older now. I’m starting to recognize if I do too much, there may be no coming back from it. I don’t have quite that same mentality which I did only a few years back, where I felt I was invincible and it didn’t matter what I did.”
The Social Network, Aaron Sorkin’s adaptation of Ben Mezrich’s The Accidental Billionaires, won him the award for best adapted screenplay, but backstage he had nothing but kind words for Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
“As for Mark, I think he’s been an awfully good sport about this. You know, I don’t think there’s anybody here who would want a movie made about things they did when they were 19 years old. And if that movie absolutely positively had to be made, you would want it made only from your point of view, and you wouldn’t want to include also the points of view of people who have sued you for hundreds of millions of dollars and, you know, had a visceral emotional reaction to you. But that is the movie that we made,” Sorkin said.
A pregnant Natalie Portman, who was heavily favored to win best actress for her portrayal of troubled ballerina Nina Sayers in the psychosexual drama Black Swan, offered her own take on her Oscar-winning role.
“Well, I think that one of the most beautiful things about the film is that it can be interpreted in so many different ways,” she shared. ”I really see it as this young woman’s coming of age and that she becomes a woman. She starts out a girl and becomes a woman by finding her own artistic voice and sort of killing the child’s version of herself. She becomes a woman. So I don’t see it necessarily as a death at the end like many people do.”
With her first Academy Award win, Portman has officially earned her wings. And in finding the voice of King George VI, Colin Firth left much of the world speechless.