Imagine you're a frightened, abused British prince who lives in the shadow of his brother, David, the future king. You're paralyzed by a speech impediment. And then, with no notice, your brother abdicates his position -- all as World War II is looming. That's the true story of Albert, Duke of York, later King George VI, in Tom Hooper's 'The King's Speech.' In the wickedly funny and moving film, Colin Firth plays George, a role that will no doubt win him an Oscar nomination. Moviefone spoke with a very handsome and relaxed Firth at the Toronto Film Festival about his role as a royal.
I can't imagine how physically uncomfortable stammering [as King George VI] must have been. It was clear your throat and face muscles were straining.
I felt the effects. I got headaches and a very strange sensation of slight paralysis in my left arm. Not every day, but there were about two or three cases.

Director Tom Hooper told me you stammered afterward, making a speech.
I did. I found myself stammering during that time. I had a very interesting chat with Derek Jacobi about it. He famously did a stammer in 'I, Claudius.' [The same sensation] happened to him and it lasted some weeks. Even when I talk about it now, I am in danger of losing my flow.

King George VI had great difficulties in his life: A cruelly abusive nanny, being forced to do things he didn't want to do, especially being made king. Given his anger, how did you make him so sympathetic?

I found him sympathetic. I think he was fiercely honest, clearly extremely brave, but I don't think he felt brave. I think he felt suffocated by fear. He was also funny, something that's not written down in history. I don't mean stand-up comedy funny. But if you read anything he wrote, and we had access to his diaries, there is a great sense of wryness about him.

Guy Pearce plays David [King George VI's brother] as wicked and weak, totally enthralled by the sexually manipulative Wallis Simpson and oblivious to the pain he was causing.
People take sides on this issue. There are a lot of apologists for David; one of our consultants for the movie felt Simpson (his lover) had been very much maligned -- that she wasn't the predatory opportunist people think she was. She might not have been. I don't feel strongly about that. I do have a problem with how much time they hung out with Hitler.

What is also absolutely reliable knowledge about David is his selfishness. I don't think he ever gave his brother a thought. David didn't think twice about him or what abdicating meant.

I'm not for the monarchy and I don't mind going on the record about that. I don't think we need to have a royal family. What happened here could have been very serious. Imagine if there was a king of England who was sympathetic to a regime like [Hitler's], who knows where history would have gone. I don't think the British people would have accepted Nazism for one second, but it might have toppled the monarchy. That didn't happen, and the extraordinary events of history came out of the story of two brothers and a girlfriend in one particular family.

Firth's next projects are '
The Promised Land', a drama set in Palestine at the close of WWII, and the Cold War thriller 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy'.