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Confessions of David Seidler, a 73-year-old Oscars virgin

Special to the Los Angeles Times

My first realization I was hooked on Oscar was when I seriously began pondering one of mankind’s most profound dilemmas: whether to rent or buy a tux.

That first step, as with any descent down a slippery slope, began innocently enough. We had started showing our little film, “The King’s Speech,” at the Telluride Film Festival way back in August. I arrived too late for the first screening but got to the theater in time to catch the final credits. Good grief, people were applauding. Standing up and applauding. Glad I saw it — it would never happen again.

But it did, repeatedly. Still, it didn’t really have anything to do with me. There was no connect. Until the very last night, when “The King’s Speech” was selected to be shown at the city park for the local townsfolk.

Everyone else on “The King’s Speech” team was booked on an earlier flight. I was the only member remaining in town, virtually an afterthought, so I was asked to present the film. OK, fine: I introduced myself as Colin Firth. Hey, I thought I might get lucky. But all the females in the audience sniggered. A few even laughed hysterically. It’s a bruising experience for a man to finally recognize he doesn’t look anything like Colin Firth.

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Then came the Toronto Film Festival. Telluride had been small, intimate screenings. Suddenly we were in a vast auditorium filled with over 2,000 people, standing, smacking their hands together.

Later, at dinner, I found myself seated next to Michael Ondaatje and his wife. One of my favorite writers, the author of “The English Patient”! They were being nice me. How was this possible?

“The King’s Speech” went on to win the Toronto People’s Choice Award and Oscar talk started in earnest.

So how often would I need a tux? Maybe half a dozen times at the very most. I figured out the rental cost versus purchase price. Even a kid with grade-school math could see it was cheaper to rent. So I bought one.

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It was on sale.

They threw in a clip-on bow tie and a tummy warmer.

Soon, I realized a tux was not appropriate for every occasion. I needed a dark, formal business suit. The Italians do a nice job. I purchased one on a trip to London. Man, those threads made me look snazzy. Colin Firth had a suit just like it. Well, maybe not exactly identical. Maybe mine kind of looked like the cheap cousin of his, but hey, at a distance, in a dim light, no one could tell.

Then I realized some of the events, like the Q&A sessions, were more informal, and what I needed was a smart jacket. So on my next trip to London, I went back to the store where I’d bought the suit. My personal salesman and wardrobe advisor, Mr. Khan, showed me a swell dark jacket. There were pants to go with it. I didn’t need another suit. Mr. Khan, being a man of the world, convinced me what I was really buying was a jacket and a pair of pants. At a bargain price. How could I resist?

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When I got back home to Santa Monica I realized I had bought the same suit. Which is a very good thing if I get a cigarette burn on the arm of one jacket and a spaghetti stain on the pants of another; I can combine the unblemished jacket and pants. One really needs two identical suits. Everyone knows that.

Next thing, the old girlfriends started to resurface. Not even old girlfriends — women I’d tried unsuccessfully to date several incarnations earlier. Even a girl from grade school. They all loved me. In fact, had always adored me, but I’d misunderstood. I guess I didn’t understand why they never returned my phone calls. I can be so stupid.

New friendships came my way. Aaron Sorkin, screenwriter of “The Social Network,” generously reached out and we became new best e-mail friends. My favorite exchange was when he admitted going on a date with a woman who wanted to see “The King’s Speech.” He took her. Paid for two tickets. I told him he was shameless and would do anything no matter how demeaning for female companionship. He replied that it was probably true. I replied that I’d be happy to date someone who was actually young enough to know what Facebook was. He didn’t reply. We’re still friends though.

The seemingly endless blur of Q&A sessions started. Fun at first. But like a politician, you have to stay on message to avoid hoof-in-mouth disease. The days are micromanaged to the nanosecond. For the first time in my life I had empathy with George W. Bush. He found being president hard work. So is being a nominee. On the other hand, it’s better than not being a nominee.

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Then my IMDbPro STARmeter™ came to life. For years I’d hovered around the 500,000 mark. That is to say, roughly speaking, half a million people were above of me on the Hollywood food chain. No worked-out Zen person obsesses about the STARmeter™. So I started looking at it every day. I started to move! When I broke the 10,000 barrier my hat size went up a notch. The other day I looked and I was 2,730. Wow. Then I realized: There are still 2,729 people ahead of me. I want them out of town.

Now the Award Season has begun in earnest. The seat of my tux is already getting shiny.

Too busy for exercise, yet I’m not gaining any more weight. You never eat at those fancy do’s. They don’t want waiters wandering about during the TV show so the portions are small and the service is fast. You spear one wilted lettuce leaf and, zip, the salad is gone. A bite of chicken … gone.

However, you do get to drink.

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And regret it.

There are the red carpets, of course. They’re fun. Everybody wants to interview the writer. Right? The other night I found myself in the wake of Natalie Portman. Every camera lens within two miles was pointing … guess where. I could’ve been something a dog left on the sidewalk. Finally I shouted, “I’m Natalie Portman’s brother!” Only Natalie thought it was funny. I went ahead of her. They still didn’t take my picture.

Hey, I’m Mister 2,730!

Last night, at a very fancy party, a stunningly bejeweled woman turned to me and flashed a pitying smile, “This is only your first Oscar nomination?” she asked.

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Tomorrow there could be half a million ahead of me on the STARmeter™.

Never buy a tux.

Seidler is the screenwriter of “The King’s Speech.”


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