'The King's Speech' to clean up its language for a PG-13 rating? Bulls-t.

THE-KINGS-SPEECHImage Credit: Laurie SparhamHarvey Weinstein is one of the savviest movie marketers in Hollywood history. For over two decades, he has proven himself capable of selling edgy, challenging, R-rated films to the masses, including three former Oscar nominees for Best Picture: The Crying Game, Pulp Fiction, and Shakespeare In Love, which actually won the award. To boost the fortunes of his latest contender, Weinstein is mulling a provocative gambit. According to The Los Angeles Times, The Weinstein Company is talking to Tom Hooper, director of The King’s Speech, about removing some of the R-rated words from his film — newly crowned with 12 Oscar nominations and blazing with heat following its Producers Guild of America win last weekend — so that the distributor can fully maximize the movie’s awards hype with a more accessible PG-13 rating. Weinstein’s intention is to allow the R-rated version — which to date has grossed a not-too-shabby $59 million — to continue playing in the theaters until the Oscar ceremony on Feb. 27. The PG-13 version would be released soon thereafter. We presume the R-rated version would remain in circulation, as well.

The irony is rather delicious. A movie about an English royal who must correct a speech impediment so he can give a speech to mobilize his people to action in wartime is mulling a plan to adjust its own language to mobilize more moviegoers to go see the film. But is the irony too good to be true?

I find it odd that Weinstein doesn’t want to release the PG-13 version until after Oscar season. The window for capitalizing on Oscar nods is now, not later — especially if The King’s Speech comes up empty on Oscar night. So why wait? Maybe because there’s a chance this PG-13 play could backfire. Weinstein must surely know that he runs the risk of negative press by sanitizing The King’s Speech in order to make a few dollars more. In fact, I think the stigma of a censored King’s Speech might actually discourage moviegoers from seeing the movie. The people that I know who haven’t yet seen The King’s Speech but want to (now, more than ever) want to see the real thing, not the safe-and-sane kid-friendly version. (Do kids even want to see a kid-friendly version? If they aren’t interested in seeing/sneaking into The King’s Speech in all its potty-mouthed glory, I doubt they’d be enticed by a less sexy alternative.) [ADDITION AT 3:56 PM: True, since the R-rated version would most likely still be available in theaters, moviegoers would have a choice between options. Maybe that makes it better. Maybe not. Regardless, it would set a provocative precedent. How do you feel about the idea of studios releasing multiple versions of their films, each version tailored to different audiences with different moral standards or sensitivities?]

Anyway, if Weinstein put the PG-13 edition of The King’s Speech out now, he’d be putting the film’s Oscar-nominated talent — including Best Actor frontrunner Colin Firth and supporting actor candidates Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter — in the awkward position of answering questions about his decision if not defending the decision in the weeks to come. Said questions might include:

Do you think the studio sold out your movie?

Do you think this move diminishes the film and your performance?

Are you worried that Oscar voters might think less of the film and your performance because you don’t have the sack to call bulls–t on all of this?

No, I don’t think Harvey Weinstein would do that to his actors. After all, he has a reputation for being a very, very, very, very, very nice man! Better, then, to wait and release the PG-13 version after the Oscars… assuming he’s actually serious about releasing a PG-13 version at all. Truth is, Weinstein gains a great deal by just letting people think he’s thinking about it, whether he’s sincere about this or not. For starters, it gets all of us talking about The King’s Speech. More, it gets us talking about the film in a way that corrects a potential image problem that might be currently limiting the movie’s box office. What? The King’s Speech is R-rated? Do you mean to tell that this film — which I perceived to be some stuffy British period piece — is full of edge and rough language, just like The King’s Speech chief Oscar rivals, The Social Network, The Fighter, and Black Swan? I had no idea! I am now much more interested!

What would make all of this even better for The Weinstein Company’s bottom line is if in the weeks to come, Hooper, Firth, Rush, and Bonham Carter use their press time to make it quite clear that they’re not big fans of Weinstein’s intention to snip-snip the salty stuff, and maybe even express hope that he reconsiders the plan. The entertainment press will seize on their quotes, frame the story as an Art vs. Commerce clash, and the upshot will be that the director and cast will look like heroes to both moviegoers and Oscar voters for defending the integrity of their film. Cut to: Harvey Weinstein announcing he won’t release a PG-13 version to theaters, but — with Hooper’s blessing — make a PG-13 version available to schools, and possibly on DVD, as well. Look for said announcement to come shortly after Oscar voting ends.

Read more:
‘The King’s Speech’ to get PG-13 re-release?
Oscar nominations are in: ‘The King’s Speech’ rules with 12 nods

Comments (39 total) Add your comment
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  • Allie

    Why? I saw the King’s Speech & loved it as is. People I know loved the cursing, singing, and at times both together. To take away the foul language would take away from the movie which is wonderful as is.

    • Noodley

      I agree. The cursing was actually hilarious and made Bertie even more endearing.

  • therealeverton

    Ah marketing.

  • Molly

    I’m kinda happy about this. My friends and I are not old enough to see R rated films and my parents won’t let me watch them on DVD. I’ve been dying to see this movie. This will be the only way I can.

    • LOL

      There is nothing “dirty” about this film. Your folks should buy you a ticket.

      • Molly

        I’m trying. I’m hoping all the positive buzz will convince them to let me see it.

    • Alexis

      You could go with your parents, the only slightly scandalous thing about the movie is the language, because of one seen where the f-word is repeated. Otherwise it really could be rated pg.

    • Abbey

      I’m not old enough to see it on my own either, but I ended up going with my mother and we both LOVED it. That’s an option, even if it’s your last choice.

      • JR

        I went and saw it with 3 generations of my family, afterwards i said, “this was rated R?? Why??” but it was great you should go.

    • MM

      This is why I HATE the R-rating – why WOULDN’T parents want their children seeing a film about a man overcoming a huge physical and psychological adversity? If I had kids, I would absolutely take them to see it. The MPAA messed this one up – this film should be more accessible, and it should be so as it is.

  • kat

    Good. I’ve wanted to see the movie but I refuse to risk the untold damage that would be inflicted on my pure and innocent ears. I thank you Harvey Weinstein.

    • LOL

      Kat FTW!

  • danielle

    Wow, cynical much?

  • Michelle

    The movie is fantastic as it is. I hope this is just a marketing ploy by good old Harvey. I, too, didn’t realize The King’s Speech was R rated until I went to see it, but that wouldn’t have stopped me from seeing it.

  • M Bluth

    This movie is rated R precisely because of one or two scenes with crude language which is played for laughs. The MPAA’s rating on this one is more than a little absurd and I see no reason why people of most all ages wouldn’t enjoy it.

  • Brent

    Seems like a ploy to me. Weinstein is known to do whatever it takes to win, so I don’t think he has any intention of re-releasing the movie. All it does it make The King’s Speech seem more relevant . . . something its chief rival (The Social Network) doesn’t have to strive to do. Honestly, if The King’s Speech wins, it will be a shame. The Social Network is head and shoulders above the competition this year.

  • actingup

    I LOVED this film. But the fact that it received an R rating for a few curse words shows how RIDICULOUS and corrupt the rating board is. There are PG-13 movies with crude jokes and sexual content and violence that should make them an R. And there are some R rated movies that are so violent they should be NC-17. But this is a brilliant film and should be enjoyed by teenagers as well as adults and should never have been rated R in the first place.

    • Alli

      I totally agree- I’d rather hear 3 or 4 F-words in a humorous scene than sex and violence any day!! The rating system is absurd and should be re-evaluated. If you take out the VERY brief and actually not offensive whatsoever language, the film is PG. The film would lose a lot if those scenes were taken away.

  • MTK

    This article lost credibility when the writer said Harvey is known as being a very nice man.

    • Dave

      You lost credibility when you took that seriously.

  • sTim

    Sounds good to me. I don’t enjoy hearing people swear, and it almost never adds to the story. I’d be more likely to see a PG-13 version.

    • KR

      I totally agree with you! I don’t want to hear people sweating and it really isn’t necessary. This won’t harm the story at all and will allow more people who don’t like the content in “R” movies to see it.

    • helene

      you obviously haven’t seen the film and don’t understand the context of the swearing. saying “it really isn’t necessary” is an uninformed comment as it is precisely the fact that the actor is using swear words that is so necessary. As i told a mormon friend who very much wanted to see the film and bring her teenage children, the use of curse words is not sensationalized, nor is it portrayed as cool or in any way would it make a child/teenager see cursing as normal or natural or desirable. The guy is trying to overcome a stutter. They are trying anything to get him to speak “normally.” the cursing is necessary to the piece and shouldn’t stop any parent from bringing a child. It is not gratuitous or salacious (and it was humorous in context). End of rant….

      • Alli

        I am Mormon and I NEVER see R rated films but I read reviews of TKS and saw it- BEST FILM EVER. The language was incredibly brief and quite humorous. It was not offensive in the least (and I’m very sensitive to bad language) and I truly believe the film would lose a lot of heart if those 2 scenes were edited.

  • suzyq

    I previewed this, and I am looking forward to seeing it with my 9 year old daughter.

    Bertie uses the “salty” language as a remedy to his speech disorder. Finding this inappropriate would be like saying that because I am against drug use, so I refuse to let my children see a movie about someone going through cancer treatment because it is inappropriate to see someone using drugs, regardless of the reason.

    The language usage is not salacious, derogatory nor offensive. I am more offended by the idea that audiences would be offended by seeing someone overcome their disability in a highly effective, albeit unorthodox method.

  • Shaun

    This would be an answer to my prayers. I really want to see it but the F word just hurts my soul.

  • sdam

    So, let me get this straight — “Kings Speech” gets an “R” because two guys drop the F Bomb several times. They just say it, they don’t do it. And the studio has to censor the film just to get a PG-13. But “Robin Hood” and “Jonah Hex” get PG-13s out the gate despite scenes of impalings, stabbings, shootings, sexual assaults against women, people — including children — being burned alive and doused with hot oil, and … need I go on? This line of thinking is fu — oops, can’t say it. I’ll get an “R.”

  • Beckie

    While I normally don’t agree with succumbing to MPAA demands to get a certain rating, I would be okay with this simply b/c there are some people out there who won’t see a rated R movie, no matter what, unless edited for t.v. My parents are included in this and despite my rave review and promise of its worthiness, they won’t back down, even though I know they would love it. So for the prudes out there (like my parents, god love them), this would be well met by me.

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