"King's Speech" wins top Toronto film fest prize

Sun Sep 19, 2010 4:34pm EDT
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By Cameron French

TORONTO (Reuters) - "The King's Speech" won the top award at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sunday, giving the Tom Hooper-directed film some early momentum heading into Oscar awards season.

The film, which stars Colin Firth as Britain's reluctant King George VI and Geoffrey Rush as his speech therapist, captured the festival's People's Choice award.

Other films that won that prize -- "American Beauty," "Crash," and "Slumdog Millionaire" -- later walked off with best picture Oscars.

In addition to making a splash with Toronto audiences, "King's Speech" has been roundly praised by critics.

Firth's King George, the father of Queen Elizabeth II, is initially reluctant to ascend to the crown following the abdication of his brother Edward VIII. Plagued by a nervous stammer, he enlists the help of a speech therapist and is eventually able to lead the country into World War II.

"I am so proud that people responded to the film in such a positive way," director Tom Hooper, who was not in Toronto, said in a statement read at a festival awards luncheon.

Runner-up for the prize was the Justin Chadwick-directed film "The First Grader," which tells the story of an illiterate man in his eighties who tries to enlist in a Kenyan primary school to take advantage of government-sponsored education.

The 35th edition of the festival was notable for the long-awaited opening of the $200 million Bell Lightbox complex, the first permanent home for the festival.   Continued...

<p>Actors Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush (back) attend a news conference to promote the film "The King's Speech" during the 35th Toronto International Film Festival September 11, 2010. REUTERS/Fred Thornhill</p>