The stammer is back. A “sequel” to The King’s Speech, dramatising a nervous King George VI’s historic trip to meet President Roosevelt in New York, will be one of the highlights of the BFI London Film Festival.
Hyde Park On Hudson, a comedy-drama set in 1939, stars Samuel West as the stuttering King and Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth, and is set weeks apart from the Oscar-winning King’s Speech.
The new film, co-produced by Film Four and directed by Roger Michell (Notting Hill), is set during the first US visit by a reigning British monarch.
The King is seeking to bolster FDR’s support for the impending allied War effort but discovers that the roguish President (Bill Murray) is conducting a secret affair.
However the wheelchair-bound President boosts George’s confidence when he talks about overcoming his disability, in a scene comparable to the speech therapy which the King received from Lionel Logue in the earlier film, starring Colin Firth.
Hyde Park On Hudson, awarded the Centrepiece Gala screening, is expected to be one of the most popular attractions among the 225 fiction and documentary features which will be showcased during the festival, which begins on October 10.
Amanda Nevill, chief executive of the British Film Institute, which plans to pump £273 million of Lottery money into UK film over the next five years, urged film-makers to capitalise on the Lottery-backed success of Team GB’s athletes.
She said: “The zeal to win has become fashionably acceptable again. We want the same for film. Everyone in the industry believes that British film and film-making can be among the best in the world. People want to see really successful British films. Sometimes in Britain it’s almost been frowned upon to win.”
David Cameron has urged British film-makers to produce more box office-friendly films. However Ms Nevill said financial backers had to take creative risks to produce hits. “With all due respect to the Prime Minister, there isn’t a film-maker alive who doesn’t want their film to be commercially successful,” she said.
“We will get break-out hits like The Woman In Black and The King’s Speech. If you knew what was going to be successful in advance you wouldn’t need lottery money. We invest lottery money in films which have commercial potential but haven’t been able to complete funding elsewhere. There are films which appear to be slightly more risky actually have got commercial potential. “
There will be 67 British feature-length and short films in the Festival, a higher proportion than previous years, Ms Nevill said. Highlights include Spike Island, the story of four school-friends’ attempt to see The Stone Roses in the Summer of 1990 and Sightseers, a black comedy from director Ben Wheatley (Kill List) about a couple whose romantic caravanning holiday turns into a killing spree.
The documentary competition features Mea Maxima Culpa, a controversial expose of sexual abuse by Catholic priests, from the Oscar-winning Alex Gibney. The film examines the abuse carried out over 25 years at a Wisconsin school and builds to a “damning indictment of the Catholic church’s reaction to the worldwide child abuse outrage”.
The 56th BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express runs October 10-21 at various venues - bfi.org.uk
Five BFI London Film Festival films to watch
Frankenweenie - Opening Night Gala
Funny, dark and whimsical 3D Disney animation from Tim Burton. Martin Short and Winona Ryder voice story of a young inventor who brings his beloved dog back to life.
Great Expectations - Closing Night Gala
Four Weddings director Mike Newell promises a “new ending” for his thriller-style take on Dickens’ classic starring Helena Bonham Carter and Ralph Fiennes.
Crossfire Hurricane – American Express Gala
The Rolling Stones will shuffle down the Red Carpet for the premiere of a documentary revealing the truth about those 60s drug busts, marking the rockers’ 50th anniversary.
Argo – Accenture Gala
Ben Affleck stars in and directs true story about a 1979 CIA plot to repatriate US hostages held in Iran by sending an agent to Tehran masquerading as a sci-fi film producer.
A Liar’s Autobiography – Cult Gala
Fellow Pythons contribute to a surreal 3D animated autobiography of Graham Chapman utilising audio recordings made for his own candid and untrustworthy autobiography.