November 5, 2010 in Features

R rating shocks ‘King’s Speech’ filmmaker

Patrick Goldstein Los Angeles Times
 

“The King’s Speech,” a British film being touted as a leading contender for the best picture Oscar, is a delightful, heartwarming account of how a cheeky Australian speech therapist helped King George VI conquer a terrible stammer.

“Saw 3D” is the seventh installment in the torture-porn horror film series.

Yet according to the Motion Picture Association of America’s ratings system, both films are rated R – meaning no one under 17 allowed without a parent.

“Saw 3D,” which hit theaters last week, earned the designation for innumerable scenes of violence, torture and depravity.

“The King’s Speech,” which will be released at Thanksgiving, got it for one brief scene where the future king of England, encouraged by his therapist, utters a volley of swear words to cure his stutter.

Director Tom Hooper was appalled when he learned “The King’s Speech” had earned an R rating.

“What really upsets me is that the boundaries for violence have been pushed farther and farther back while any kind of bad language remains taboo,” he says.

“I’m a filmgoer as well as a filmmaker, and I know what it’s like to see something disturbing that puts an image into your head that you can’t get rid of. I felt that way in ‘Salt,’ when Angelina Jolie had a tube forced down her throat against her will to simulate drowning, and I felt the same way in ‘Quantum of Solace’ where Daniel Craig’s (testicles) are smashed in through a chair with no bottom.”

Yet the ratings board deemed those films PG-13 while giving “The King’s Speech” an R.

“What I take away from that decision,” says Hooper, “is that violence and torture is OK, but bad language isn’t. I can’t think of a single film I’ve ever seen where the swear words had haunted me forever, the way a scene of violence or torture has, yet the ratings board only worries about the bad language.”

The British Board of Film Classification initially gave “The King’s Speech” a 15 certificate, prohibiting kids under that age from seeing it.

But the board recently reconsidered and changed its rating to a 12A – England’s equivalent of a PG-13 – saying that the swearing was allowed because it was “not aggressive and not directed at any person.”

Joan Graves, who heads the MPAA’s rating board (officially known as the Classification and Rating Administration), argues against making an exception for “The King’s Speech.”

“We’ve made clear what our language guidelines are, and it’s not fair, in fact it would look arbitrary, if we threw it out for just one film,” she says.


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