The biggest problem facing “The King’s Speech‘s” quest to win the Oscar for Best Picture is that pesky race for Best Director. The two categories are usually linked, of course, but Tom Hooper‘s directorial work isn’t flashy in this film. It’s stylish and impressive in an understated, veddy British regal way, yes, but it’s not sexy like David Fincher‘s razzle-dazzle in ” The Social Network ” or Christopher Nolan‘s puzzle-piecing and effects wizardry in “Inception.”
If Hooper surmounts this and wins at the Directors’ Guild of America, then “King’s Speech” is an Oscar shoo-in, natch, but beware: he’s got a lousy track record at showbiz awards, including a shocking past defeat at the DGA.
In 2008, Hooper looked like a cinch to win DGA and the helmer’s trophy at the Emmys for his HBO miniseries “John Adams.” The big, sprawling, epic production took 110 days to shoot, cost more than $100 million and was widely praised by critics. TV Guide‘s Matt Roush hailed it “as sumptuous and satisfying as TV gets: gorgeously produced, marvelously acted and written with a sense of high drama amid generous displays of wit.”
“John Adams” won so many Emmys that it set a new record – most ever for a TV mini and, heck, most ever for one program in a single year: 13. It swept all of the top categories, including Best Mini, Best Writing, Best Actor (Paul Giamatti), Best Actress (Laura Linney) – but NOT Best Director. That went to Jay Roach for “Recount,” which had won Best TV Movie, but lost almost everything else (8 races).
Next, Hooper and Roach had a rematch at DGA and there Roach whooped Hooper again.
Hooper also lost at BAFTA in the past – for “Longford” (2006). He did win one major showbiz contest during his career so far, however – and it was, curiously, for helming HBO’s miniseries in 2005 about another British monarch: “Elizabeth I,” starring Helen Mirren as the Virgin Queen.
Of course, Hooper doesn’t have to win the Oscar for Best Director in order for “The King’s Speech” to nab the Best Picture crown. It just helps … a lot. Over the past 20 years four directors won without their films prevailing on high: “Brokeback Mountain’s” Ang Lee (“Crash” won Best Picture of 2005), “The Pianist’s” Roman Polanski (“Chicago” triumphed in 2002), “Traffic’s” Steven Soderberg (“Gladiator” slayed all rivals in 2000) and “Saving Private Ryan’s” Steven Spielberg (“Shakespeare in Love” won the hearts of Oscar voters in 1998).
Photo: Tom Hooper at the London premiere of “The King’s Speech” (Broadway World)