Will Colin Firth stammer his way to an Oscar?
Firth wins rave reviews for his portrayal of stuttering George VI
If Hollywood is in the mood to give the best actor Oscar to a Brit in the New Year, there is no doubt who will be favourite to win it - Colin Firth, star of The King's Speech, which has received its UK premiere at the London Film Festival.
Firth's performance was already the talk of the north American film festival circuit. Now the London reviewers have joined the throng in praise of his portrayal of the stammering Duke of York - known to one and all as Bertie - who is thrust onto the throne after his brother's abdication in 1936.
The new King George VI's stutter is so chronic that the pre-war government fears whether he can command the respect of the British people as the nation faces war with Germany.
But the Duchess (played by Helena Bonham Carter) enlists the services of an unconventional Australian speech therapist, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), to help her husband spit his words out.
"Firth's performance will be studied by would-be actors for years to come," writes Kate Muir in the Times. "Never has a throat or an Adam's apple worked this hard on screen. Firth's body seems to be stiff with royal blood, and he constantly wears a terrified, constipated look, because the words will never come."
Tom Teodorczuk writes in the Evening Standard: "While Rush is excellent, it is really Firth's showcase. He conveys Bertie's inner pain expertly, to the extent that you regard this royal as anything but entitled".
The King's Speech opens at UK cinemas on January 7. Its chances of becoming a box office smash like the last big 'royal' movie - The Queen, starring Helen Mirren - have been greatly improved after the film censors agreed to reclassify it.
It had been given a 15 certificate because of a scene in which the King shouts out swear words in a typically Logue-inspired effort to beat his speech impediment. But after protests from director Tom Hooper and Firth, the British Board of Film Classification has agreed to a 12A rating.