British films: politicians should put up and shut up
I have resigned myself to the coalition government being a cabinet of cupboard clearer outers. A pinny-wearing brigade who pull on their rubber gloves and wipe out the darkest corners of the pantry, exterminating spiders and destroying cobwebs. They hang sticky fly paper traps up and throw out the odd past sell-by date item, but mainly concern themselves with rearranging an ancient tin collection and filing spices alphabetically in a rack. Then they pour a liberal and publicly-subsidised glass of Burgundy (on only 5 out of 7 days a week, obviously) before doing an online shop.
I can nearly put up with it, nearly; until they start pontificating about the film industry. Today, we are told, the British film industry should concern itself with making ‘commercially successful’ films. The quotes are because the words are from the Prime Minister’s lips – except he said ‘commercially successful pictures‘, a choice of word that reveals him to be the anachronism his carefully constructed I’m alright really mate posh Tory boy act pretends not to be.
So Dave, you want commercially successful pictures do you? Like, say The King’s Speech?
Here’s what happened with the King’s Speech, Dave. Actor Geoffrey Rush, who played the unorthodox speech therapist Lionel Logue, picked it up off his doormat as the unsolicited script of an unproduced play by writer David Seidler. Rush liked the piece, but he didn’t want to do a play. He called his agent in LA – if it became a film, he was in. Perfect David Cameron might think. Except there’s a story behind that. It took nearly three decades for the writer David Seidler to get to the point where he could get the story out there. He had written and asked for the Queen Mother’s permission to tell the story of her husband’s, King George VI, stammer, in the mid 1970s. She had said no, not in my lifetime. 28 years later she died.
And wait, there’s another story, the film maker, Tom Hooper, read the script, because his mother saw a reading of the play in Islington and recommended it to him.
And there’s another story: the writer David Seidler also had treatment for a childhood stammer.
That’s a lot of stories (they’re here if you want them), a lot more intervening years and a great whacking dose of serendipity that got that ‘commercially successful picture’ made.
And that is art. It’s not a production line. There is no sell-by date on an inspirational idea. Demanding more of the same betrays ignorance and rampant mercantilism. I swear David Cameron is no wiser than Roald Dahl’s fictional Veruca Salt, who visited Charlie’s Chocolate Factory, and wanted it all. Now!
Posted on January 11, 2012, in Art, Film, News, Politics and tagged British Film Industry, Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, David Cameron, David Seidler, Oompa Loompas, The King's Speech, Veruca Salt. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.