Rush Turns Down ‘King’s Speech’ Planned for Broadway Next Year

If “The King’s Speech” comes to Broadway next season as planned, it won’t be with the two stars of the Academy Award-winning hit movie.

Producer Michael Alden said Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush would not reprise their roles as the stammering Duke of York and the speech therapist who treats and befriends him. Firth won an Oscar and Rush was nominated for best supporting actor, losing to Christian Bale.

In an interview Thursday, Rush said that reading the play three years ago helped persuade him to do the film. Writer David Seidler, who overcame stuttering himself, wrote the script before he completed the screenplay.

“I know David Seidler would like me to do the play,” Rush, 59, said at a benefit for the Brooklyn Academy of Music, where he was winding up his run in the title role of “The Diary of a Madman.” “I have to keep myself alert and diversified. I’m getting older and I have to be open to other possibilities.”

Rush also cautioned against an immediate stage production. “They have to let the film mellow with the audience,” he said.

Alden, a co-producer of the musical “Grey Gardens,” is trying to raise $3.5 million to present the play, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

Premiere in U.K.

He hopes to open the play in the U.K. before coming to Broadway, according to a person briefed on the production’s plans. The minimum investment for a producer’s credit is $280,000, which can be shared by two people, the person said.

It’s unusual for a play to be adapted from a recent movie. Musical adaptations are more common. Much of the plot and dialogue of the nine-character play “ The King’s Speech” is identical to that of the movie, according to a draft obtained by Bloomberg.

Alden declined to discuss his plans in detail. He said that Adrian Noble, a former artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, has committed to direct. Seidler told reporters in Los Angeles after the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Jan. 29 that the play is headed to the West End in late 2011.

The movie has sold over $300 million of tickets worldwide, according to researcher Box Office Mojo. Baz Luhrmann, an Australian director (“Moulin Rouge”) who also attended the BAM benefit, said comparisons between the play and film will be inevitable.

“It’s all about how good the production is,” he said. “Seeing a great production of anything compels people to the theater.”

Filling Rush’s and Firth’s shoes will be a top challenge, said the veteran Broadway producer Emanuel Azenberg.

“These performances resonated,” Azenberg said. “You knew within 15 minutes that you were in good hands. The actors in the play would have to match that.”

To contact the writer on this story: Philip Boroff in New York at pboroff@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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