Firth says 'King's Speech' role helped him love royals

Oscar-nominated British actor Colin Firth said Wednesday that his role in "The King's Speech" helped him discover his "love" for the royal family.

The dramatisation of the real-life relationship between King George VI and his speech therapist on the eve of World War II is screening on the sidelines of the Berlin film festival, which runs until Sunday.

When asked about his views on the British monarchy after playing a member, Firth said he had been surprised to confront a historical figure of such depth and strength.

"I had no idea that I was going to encounter a character that I felt such deep regard for and love for really," the 50-year-old told reporters.

"I think that those qualities that I so admire have been maintained by the next generation. I have great regard for the way they do their job."

Helena Bonham Carter, 44, who is nominated for a best supporting actress Oscar for her turn as the king's wife and mother of Queen Elizabeth II, said she also thought the royal family was often underestimated.

"I've always had respect for them as individuals," she said.

"If anything I think I left the film with more respect for them than before."

Firth has drawn rapturous reviews for his study of the king's battle with a crippling stammer at a time when he was called to rally the British people for the fight against the Nazis.

He said that although World War II themes had been covered time and again in cinema, this was a chapter that may prove eye-opening to many European audiences.

"So much is written about this period in history, there are so many documentaries, there are so many films and in some ways I find it very refreshing to take one of the less-represented stories, of somebody's struggles, and address that," he said.

"I knew the same history that everybody else does but I think nobody really knew about this (story) and that was part of the appeal."

"The King's Speech" is making a courtly procession through the awards season, picking up seven gongs at Britain's BAFTAs this week and the Best European Film prize at the Goyas, the Spanish film awards.

The picture is nominated for 12 Academy Awards, to be handed out February 27, including best actor. Firth won that honour at last month's Golden Globes, the awards considered the strongest pointers to Oscar glory.

The Berlin film festival opened February 10 with a screening of the Coen brothers' remake of the classic Western "True Grit", which is up for 10 Oscars.

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