For 31 years, brothers Bob and Harvey Weinstein founded and operated Miramax Films, a tiny film distributor that became as pow- erful as a major studio. Along with discovering talent (Quentin Tar- antino, Kevin Smith, Steven Soderbergh) Miramax released movies that became massive hits (The English Patient, Chicago, Scream) and amassed 42 Oscar wins and countless nominations. In 2005, the brothers left the company and relaunched The Wein- stein Co. But with the exception of Inglourious Basterds, the Wein- steins had been unable to recapture their previous glory (last year’s The Road and Nine bombed). But this year The King’s Speech snagged 12 Oscar nods (and is becoming the front-runner for Best Picture). Another title, Blue Valentine, earned Michelle Williams a Best Actress nomination. We spoke with an elated Harvey Weinstein about the film.
Q: Were you surprised by how well The King’s Speech fared?
A: I wasn’t surprised as much as I was happy and thrilled. It’s a beloved movie, and it’s a classic movie. One thing about the Academy is that they understand what a great ensemble this movie is. . . . Everyone called in favors to get this cast together on a $14 million budget. Colin Firth had a relationship with Jennifer Ehle from when they made Pride and Prejudice together. [Director] Tom Hooper used his friendship with Helena Bonham Carter to bring her onboard. She was shooting Harry Potter during the week and worked on our film during the weekends. Claire Bloom worked with Charlie Chaplin on Limelight, so it was a dream to me to have her play Queen Mary for us.
Q: What makes your period pieces different?
A: We tried to reinvent what period pieces are by bringing a modern sensibility to the genre, like taking Henry James’ The Wings of the Dove and turning it into a real sensual, sexual thriller.
Q: Were you surprised when The King’s Speech pulled a big upset at the Producers’ Guild of America awards?
A: I always had faith that when the movie went out to people beyond critics and industry folks, it would connect with audiences in a big way. There are people who vote with their heart and their head, as opposed of saying ‘This movie is relevant to today.’ It’s not about relevance. It’s about the best achievement in a motion picture. And people get it. In 1941, How Green Was My Valley won the Best Picture Oscar, and that movie reminds me of The King’s Speech, because they are both about people overcoming adversity. These movies are timeless. They never go out of style.