Why Harvey Weinstein wants to cut ‘The King’s Speech’

Sanitizing the Oscar front-runner is just the movie mogul’s latest outrage

by Brian D. Johnson

Film distributor Harvey Weinstein and his wife, Georgina Chapman, arrive at the 2010 Academy Awards It’s no surprise The King’s Speech is leading the Academy Awards with a dozen nominations. This true tale of a stammering monarch has everything that Oscar loves in a movie­: royalty, disability, and an underdog hero with an English accent triumphing over adversity. And if The King’s Speech wins Best Picture at the Feb. 27 awards ceremony, expect to see a beefy mogul who would not look out of place on The Sopranos—the man known by his friends and enemies simply as Harvey—bully his way into the spotlight.

For Harvey Weinstein, The King’s Speech represents a comeback, and a return to the title he seems to covet as if by divine right: Oscar King. After creating Miramax with his brother Bob in 1979, Weinstein became the Midas of independent distributors, beating Hollywood at its own game with Oscar-winning hits such as My Left Foot, The Crying Game, The Piano, Pulp Fiction, Sling Blade, The English Patient, Shakespeare in Love and Chicago. But the man who created the indie film boom of the 1990s also destroyed it by inflating prices and selling Miramax to Disney. Since parting company with Disney in 2005, and losing their beloved Miramax (which Harvey and Bob had named after their parents), Harvey and his brother started from scratch with the Weinstein Co. After a string of failures, they’re back in the game. And Harvey is back to his old tricks.

The distributor who earned the nickname Harvey Scissorhands for his habit of recutting films recently suggested excising the profanities from The King’s Speech so the movie, now R-rated in the U.S., can get a broader rating and reach a wider audience. David Seidler, the Oscar-nominated writer of The King’s Speech, told me last week that both he and director Tom Hooper disapprove. “Harvey is a master of awards, he’s a master of marketing,” said Seidler. “I do not believe this is one of his better ideas.” The film’s profanity, in fact, is crucial to the story of King George VI (Colin Firth) finding his voice by unleashing his emotion. “It’s not there for shock value or puerile interest,” added Seidler. “It is purely for therapeutic use. It’s based on my own experience as a stutterer.”

The irony of Weinstein proposing to clean up The King’s Speech is that he built his early success on securing X-ratings for art-house fare—such as The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover—then milking the controversy for mainstream publicity. What’s more, Weinstein himself is notorious for his profane outbursts. In Unauthorized: The Harvey Weinstein Project, a new documentary by Canadian director Barry Avrich, former Miramax publicist Mark Urman says Harvey’s violent tirades turned his female employees into “walking ulcers.” Another interview subject, the late filmmaker George Hickenlooper, comparing him to “an alcoholic patriarch,” recalls Harvey screaming at him to reshoot a love scene in Factory Girl between Edie Sedgwick (Sienna Miller) and a fictionalized Bob Dylan (Hayden Christensen): “So Hayden, Sienna, it’s going to be a sex scene! You’re going to hump her and hump her and hump her. Then you’re going to flip her over and do her the other way!” When Weinstein saw the final scene, the director says he exploded: “You’re a f–king loser idiot. I’m going to take a full page out in Variety saying Hickenlooper is a loser and don’t ever hire him for anything.”

What Weinstein lacks in manners he makes up for in commercial savvy. When he bought Steven Soderbergh’s feature debut, Sex, Lies and Videotape in 1989, he paid a record $1 million. Which seemed crazy until the movie grossed US$25 million in North America. His other discoveries range from Quentin Tarantino to the rookie writers of Good Will Hunting—Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, whom he froze out of the film’s US$138-million gross.

The son of a Manhattan diamond cutter, Harvey may have inherited his father’s eye for picking gems. But as author Peter Biskind says in Unauthorized, presentation is key: “If you display a diamond correctly, it becomes the only diamond you’re looking at. That’s what Harvey did with movies. He displayed them on a black felt cushion.” Now with The King’s Speech, he has Oscar’s eye trained on a crown jewel.




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Why Harvey Weinstein wants to cut ‘The King’s Speech’

  1. Geez, I thought the "sex scene" in Factory Girl was way over the top so to hear that Harvey screamed at the director and didn't like the outcome is apalling to me. The only good thing in that movie was the scenes with Sienna Miller and Hayden Christensen. Money certainly goes to their heads but this one thing I know, he will ultimately pay for his ways.

  2. Geez, I thought the "sex scene" in Factory Girl was way over the top so to hear that Harvey screamed at the director and didn't like the outcome is apalling to me. The only good thing in that movie was the scenes with Sienna Miller and Hayden Christensen. Money certainly goes to their heads but this one thing I know, he will ultimately pay for his ways.

  3. The director's unused footage of the original love scene is much better than what made it into the movie in my opinion. It was a more natural progression of the scene and was extremely sensual. Sienna Miller and Hayden Christensen had an undeniable chemistry in every scene.

  4. The director's unused footage of the original love scene is much better than what made it into the movie in my opinion. It was a more natural progression of the scene and was extremely sensual. Sienna Miller and Hayden Christensen had an undeniable chemistry in every scene.

  5. So, the King's Speech is rated R based on some swear words; meanwhile, a lot of violence in other firms is just dandy fine. Go figure.

    Cutting out the profanity would emasculate a key scene. Merd!

  6. So, the King's Speech is rated R based on some swear words; meanwhile, a lot of violence in other firms is just dandy fine. Go figure.

    Cutting out the profanity would emasculate a key scene. Merd!

  7. I agree that cutting out the swearing would open the theater doors to families with young children who stutter, as I have talked with several who say they refuse to go because of it. I know of no speech therapist who uses profanity as therapy, and I come from a family of stutterers and have many contacts with people who stutter both because of that and because of being an educator who encountered many students who stuttered. There are other forceful words that could have been chosen for the film and used in the same context of stuttering being lessened when the words are short, loud, and enunciated as in cussing. The segment that shows Logue mouthing "f**k, f**k, f**k" while King George VI is giving his speech is totally unnecessary. He could have done just as well to maintain his rhythmic directing with his arm and not mouth a thing or just "good, good, good." The Stuttering Foundation of America, who has been helping stutterers for over 60 years, has nothing in any of their professionally prepared materials about specialists using cussing.

  8. I agree that cutting out the swearing would open the theater doors to families with young children who stutter, as I have talked with several who say they refuse to go because of it. I know of no speech therapist who uses profanity as therapy, and I come from a family of stutterers and have many contacts with people who stutter both because of that and because of being an educator who encountered many students who stuttered. There are other forceful words that could have been chosen for the film and used in the same context of stuttering being lessened when the words are short, loud, and enunciated as in cussing. The segment that shows Logue mouthing "f**k, f**k, f**k" while King George VI is giving his speech is totally unnecessary. He could have done just as well to maintain his rhythmic directing with his arm and not mouth a thing or just "good, good, good." The Stuttering Foundation of America, who has been helping stutterers for over 60 years, has nothing in any of their professionally prepared materials about specialists using cussing.

  9. i hate all forms of censorship, so keep it as it was!

  10. i hate all forms of censorship, so keep it as it was!

  11. By all means, take out the swears so this can become a film that kids can see and learn from. Is it a brazen attempt by Weinstein to make money? Of course, but I'm not too sure how many of you out there wake up every morning and look for ways NOT to make a $. Good for Harvey.

  12. By all means, take out the swears so this can become a film that kids can see and learn from. Is it a brazen attempt by Weinstein to make money? Of course, but I'm not too sure how many of you out there wake up every morning and look for ways NOT to make a $. Good for Harvey.

  13. It's his movie that he created….how is that censorship? As the film is now, my kids can't see it and that is a shame. Cleaning it up doesn't take away from the story or the message.

  14. a thousand congratulations for managing to raise the only children on earth never exposed to swear words.

    absolutely cleaning it up takes away from the story and the message. the film's writer, himself a stutterer, claimed as much, and as the movie is about overcoming such an affliction, i'm going to trust his word that the swearing was an important part of his recovery and a necessary part of the story.

  15. a thousand congratulations for managing to raise the only children on earth never exposed to swear words.

    absolutely cleaning it up takes away from the story and the message. the film's writer, himself a stutterer, claimed as much, and as the movie is about overcoming such an affliction, i'm going to trust his word that the swearing was an important part of his recovery and a necessary part of the story.

  16. I knew that the reason why Factory Girl sucked so bad was because of the Weinstein Company. Factory Girl was a curse…

  17. I knew that the reason why Factory Girl sucked so bad was because of the Weinstein Company. Factory Girl was a curse…

  18. Did I watch the same movie? As a whole, I would say that the movie had very little profanity in it, and none that I would consider remotely gratuitious. The fact that it received an R rating in the States seems to demonstrate to me, more than anything else, that the ratings system is complete nonsense. If memory serves, it is rated PG-13 in Canada. R rated movies typically end up 14A or, more commonly, 18A.

  19. Did I watch the same movie? As a whole, I would say that the movie had very little profanity in it, and none that I would consider remotely gratuitious. The fact that it received an R rating in the States seems to demonstrate to me, more than anything else, that the ratings system is complete nonsense. If memory serves, it is rated PG-13 in Canada. R rated movies typically end up 14A or, more commonly, 18A.

  20. its not his movie hes just the American distributor. Lets have one movie that's not watered down so kids can see it. If you think the swearing is too much then maybe the final concept of overcoming adversity is also too adult. Feel free to take them to such drek as transformers three which has war and violence with out consequences but is rated OK for kids.

  21. its not his movie hes just the American distributor. Lets have one movie that's not watered down so kids can see it. If you think the swearing is too much then maybe the final concept of overcoming adversity is also too adult. Feel free to take them to such drek as transformers three which has war and violence with out consequences but is rated OK for kids.

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