David Seidler: Oscar-winning 'King's Speech' screenwriter dies

  • Written by Thomas Mackintosh
  • BBC News

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David Seidler won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for The King's Speech in 2011

David Seidler, Oscar-winning author of The King's Speech, has died at the age of 86.

The London-born screenwriter, who had a stutter, brings the true story of how King George VI overcame his speech impediment to the big screen.

The 2010 film stars Colin Firth, who also won a BAFTA Best Actor and an Oscar for his portrayal of the King.

Seidler was also behind the film adaptation, which opened in the West End in 2012.

He dedicated his 2011 Oscar to “all the stutterers around the world” – at which point he thanked the Queen for “not putting me in the tower for using the F-word”.

Seidler's manager, Jeff Agassi, confirmed to the BBC that he had passed away on Saturday.

“David was in the place he loved most in the world – New Zealand – doing what gave him the greatest peace, which was fly fishing,” Agassi said.

“If he had the chance, it would be exactly as he would have written it.”

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David Seidler (5th from left) stands next to the cast including Colin Firth (3rd from left) at the 68th Annual Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in January 2011

Born in 1937, Seidler moved to the United States in the early days of World War II and the London Blitz. He attended Cornell University where he was a friend of the American writer Thomas Pynchon.

According to the Los Angeles TimesSeidler's early work in entertainment included writing dubs for Japanese monster films, and he broke into television with the 1960s series Adventures of the Seaspray.

Throughout his career, Seidler has written other projects including the animated children's musicals The King And I, Quest For Camelot, and Madeline: Lost in Paris.

Seidler won his first Writers Guild Award for the 1988 biopic Onassis: The Richest Man in the World, starring Raul Julia as Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis.

He also co-wrote Francis Ford Coppola's 1988 comedy-drama, Tucker: The Man and His Dream.

But the King's Speech was what he was most famous for. The plot follows the story of King George VI overcoming his severe stutter and his unlikely friendship with speech therapist Lionel Logue in the run-up to World War II.

In February 2011, Seidler received two BAFTA Awards and months later in September he received a Humanitas Award for his work.

“I was writing about myself,” Seidler told the BBC in a 2011 interview.

Agassi said the West End theater version of The King's Speech has been translated into “more than six languages” including Italian, Japanese and Spanish.

It has been shown on four continents — and was only shut down on Broadway in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“David focused on the lessons of life, love, loss and rebirth,” Agassi said.

“He continued to work on ideas that caught his interest, and at the time of his death he had multiple projects in development, including documentaries, limited series, and feature films.”

Additional reporting by Aruna Iyengar

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