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Oscar Front-runner Colin Firth Gets Quiet for The King’s Speech

A crisis emerged yesterday afternoon as Academy voters and many a British person traded holiday malaise for Oscar fever at a private luncheon for awards favorite The King’s Speech on the Upper East Side. Colin Firth, the movie’s titular stammering monarch and the event’s guest of honor, had apparently contracted a mild case of laryngitis. “And our pitch is ‘Find Your Voice!’” whispered a distraught Weinstein Company employee.

We suspected the lost voice angle might have just been one of those tried-and-true publicist tricks to keep reporters at a distance from the star. But as the luncheon progressed, and we kept an eye on Mr. Firth, he seemed to be doing far more smiling than conversing. Then Firth and director Tom Hooper, who’d discovered he’d been nominated for a DGA award on the car ride to the lunch just a half-hour earlier, took to the front of the room for a Q&A. Hooper alone talked for the first ten minutes and we saw Oscar-luncheon-hostess extraordinaire Peggy Siegel pass a note to the moderator, “THEY WANT TO HEAR FROM COLIN TOO.” That seemed to do the trick.

Firth’s voice miraculously restored, he went on to talk about how he and Geoffrey Rush had been “ships in the night” on the set of Shakespeare In Love thirteen years ago, but had cemented a friendship in various pubs during the promotional tour for it. And about how some of the film’s best lines in King's Speech came from the letters of King George VI himself; Hooper had found them just sitting in a filing cabinet in the home of speech therapist Lionel Logue’s grandson’s London flat, unknown to archivists or historians.

Afterwards, we congratulated Firth on — heh — finding his voice. He was confused. “Oh, my voice is all right. It’s not an issue. It’s not quite enough for a story, I’m afraid. I just had a cold.” Drat. Well, in the name of imposing inane Oscar-race stories on unsuspecting actors, how did he feel about being in the Best Actor hunt against Jeff Bridges just a year after losing to Jeff Bridges? “I don’t think I can go around saying I’m just trying to make the best of the situation. This is not something to be wished away,” said Firth, laughing off this silly imposed story line yet again. “No one would describe this process as restful. But, you know, there’s plenty of time for rest. And you do spend most of your time in a daze; if it’s not by jet lag it’s by this rather unreal situation of being the center of attention and under the lights among all these people and just talking about yourself all the time, which is not very natural. But there’s nothing inflicted on you willfully by people who want to disturb your peace of mind. You are in it by choice. And you have to remember that.” Glad he got to say that.

Photo: Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images