The story behind "The King's Speech"

Scott Pelley also interviews the film's best actor-nominated star Colin Firth

With 12 Oscar nominations, "The King's Speech" is among the most nominated films of all time. It's based on the true story of George VI, the father of the present queen of England. George VI was a man who, in the 1930s, desperately did not want to be king. He was afflicted nearly all his life by a crippling stammer which stood to rob Britain of a commanding voice at the very moment that Hitler rose to threaten Europe.

"The King's Speech" came, seemingly out of nowhere to become the film to beat on Oscar night. And Colin Firth is now the odds-on favorite to win best actor for his critically acclaimed portrayal of George VI.

The hidden letters behind "The King's Speech"
What's it like to hold history in your hands? Scott Pelley had that chance, reporting on the Oscar-nominated film "The King's Speech." Hear from Colin Firth and Mark Logue, whose grandfather's friendship with a king made history.

Segment: "The King's Speech
Extra: The real King George
Extra: Colin Firth, King and Queen
Extra: Firth's Oscar-nominated roles
Extra: Firth's "bland" looks
Pictures: Colin Firth on "60 Minutes"

When correspondent Scott Pelley asked Firth if he liked being king, Firth said, "I think it's hard to think of anything worse, really. I mean, I wouldn't change places with this man. And I would be very surprised if anybody watching the film would change places with this man."

"It's a perfect storm of catastrophic misfortunes for a man who does not want the limelight, who does not want to be heard publicly, who does not want to expose this humiliating impediment that he's spent his life battling," Firth explained. "He's actually fighting his own private war. He'd rather have been facing machine gun fire than have to face the microphone."

The microphone hung like a noose for the king, who was a stutterer from the age of 8. He was never meant to be king. But in 1936 his older brother gave up the throne to marry Wallace Simpson, a divorced American. Suddenly George VI and his wife Elizabeth reigned over an empire that was home to 25 percent of the world's population.

And like the George of over 1,000 years before, he had a dragon to slay: radio.

"When I looked at images of him or I listened to him, you do see that physical struggle," Firth said of the king's public speeches. "His eyes close, and you see him try to gather himself. And it's heartbreaking."

Among those listening was a 7-yr.-old British boy who, like the king, had a wealth of words but could not get them out.

"I was a profound stutterer. I started stuttering just before my third birthday. I didn't rid myself of it until I was 16. But my parents would encourage me to listen to the king's speeches during the war. And I thought, 'Wow if he can do that, there is hope for me.' So he became my childhood hero," David Seidler, who wrote the movie, told Pelley.

Seidler had grown up with the story, but he didn't want to tell the tale until he had permission from the late king's widow, known as The Queen Mother.

Seidler had sent a letter to her. "And finally, an answer came and it said, 'Dear Mr. Seidler, please, not during my lifetime the memory of these events is still too painful.' If the Queen Mum says wait to an Englishman, an Englishman waits. But, I didn't think I'd have to wait that long," he explained.

Asked why, Seidler said, "Well, she was a very elderly lady. Twenty five years later, just shy of her 102nd birthday, she finally left this realm."

After the Queen Mother's death in 2002, Seidler went to work. He found the theme of the story in the clash between his royal highness and an Australian commoner who became the king's salvation, an unknown speech therapist named Lionel Logue.

"The words that keep coming up when you hear about Lionel Logue are 'charisma' and 'confidence.' He would never say, 'I can fix your stuttering.' He would say, 'You can get a handle on your stuttering. I know you can succeed,'" Seidler said.

Geoffrey Rush plays Logue, an unorthodox therapist and a royal pain.

They say you can't make this stuff up, and in much of the film that's true. Seidler could not have imagined his work would lead to a discovery that would rewrite history. Researchers for the film tracked down Lionel Logue's grandson Mark, because the movie needed family photos to get the clothing right.

Mark Logue not only had pictures, he also had some diaries.

Produced by Ruth Streeter

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