Firth (part 1)
by Monica Agelorius (3/17/01) for
Have you ever felt like the character
that you play? What is your relationship with your mother? Do you wear
the clothes she gives you?
Are you my shrink? Do I wear the
clothes my mother gives me? No. No. My poor mother would no longer dare
do that. I was not quite as gracious as Mark Darcy about wearing what my
mother tried to make me wear. It tended to stop really, when I was quite
Do you have any examples of embarrassing
garments like your character has to wear?
Not really, no. Just the standard
ghastly Christmas sweater. You know. They didn't usually come from my Mum.
My mum wasn't bad at observing requests. It was usually aunts and grandparents.
You look back on those things with affection now. But at the same time
you really wonder. The last thing I would attempt to do is to buy clothes
for a child I didn't know well. You're doomed I think to get it wrong.
I probably would go to certain lengths to please her...now. If she really
wanted me to wear a reindeer sweater for the Christmas occasion I probably
would. I have to wear what she asks me to wear.
There is another film coming out
called 'Animal Husbandry' (aka 'Someone Like You') which has a bad portrayal
of men. Do you think that men are as lost as women these days, when it
comes to relationships?
I think that they're all hopeless
cases. I think the whole thing is about getting it wrong, and misjudging
everything and screwing up. Comedy essentially is about that. Almost every
comedy you see is about people making all wrong choices and making all
the errors of judgement possible. Good comedy is when it works on this
scale. Because it is psychologically very real.
Is it difficult for a man today
to know what's expected of him from a woman? Because women seem to want
a career but they also want the perfect gentlemen and all that sort of
thing. Is it hard to know what they're after exactly?
I think that some men are probably
quite confused about it. I think the goal posts have shifted a little bit
over the last few decades. Feminism came along and there seemed to be some
sort of requirement to re-invent ourselves. The new man concept arrived.
We're tired of men being bullies and rapists, warmongers and insensitive
beasts. And now we want them to be nice and gentle fathers, and considerate
and treat women as equals. And put an apron on...
But still fix the car and the
But then women got disgusted by
that, and most women can't bear it. So now women suddenly decide that they
hate men like that. And only want men in gladiator costumes. And so I think
that there are probably a few men who are a little bit confused. I thought
we weren't supposed to...And so suddenly men's movements grew up. It was
all about Robert Bligh. The new man doesn't work so now I've got to try
to discover my inner wild man. Men are horribly mocked for being in confusion.
Horribly mocked. They are mocked for being sensitive...So I think there
is a certain amount of confusion. It hasn't bothered me too much personally.
I've just tended to find that I'll operate on a case-by-case basis. You
know, I'll be who I am.
I read somewhere or someone told
me that you're expecting a baby quite soon.
That's true. He's not due for a
month...or in about three weeks. I should be there, in fact. Yes.
I've got a beeper. And I'm ready to go.
Is this your first?
It's not my first. No. I have a
Do you live in London?
What's the best and worst thing
about living here?
I don't know what the best and worst
thing. I find London is international. That's something I like about it.
There is no—it escapes— any sort of provinciality. I think it is endlessly
varied. There is a street near me, which is a very small street. It dates
back to about 1750. And in this very small street I can remember it exactly.
It starts, there is an Italian restaurant, a button shop, a hat shop, an
antique tool shop, a taxidermist, a puppet theatre...
Where is this?
This is in Islington...a pub, an
Italian deli. I think that London is very much like that. I find there's
humour in the air and people are interesting. And I think that it's a place
which is constantly surprising. The worst thing about it? I think it can
be smug and aggressive. I do notice that when I've been away and I come
back to London. People look at you. People are ready to pick arguments.
You go to the local market; my wife is Italian, she'll go to a fruit stall
and say "Can I try one of those cherries?" And she'll be told: "If you
want it, you buy it." And that's the attitude you get in the market. It's
not always there. But I can't imagine someone saying that in Rome.
You work most of the time in England.
Is it a choice?
It's a sort of a mixture of both.
Hollywood hasn't aggressively pursued me. Neither have I aggressively pursued
Hollywood. So it's a mixture of both. I think England has served me very
well. I like living in London for the reasons I gave. I have absolutely
no intentions of cutting those ties. There is absolutely no reason to do
so. Certainly not, so that I can have a swimming pool and a palm tree.
But you did live in Italy for
a while, didn't you?
I've spent time and I still do spend
time in Italy. Rome, mostly. A speak a little bit of Italian now. We also
spend time in Umbria. My wife is from Rome. Her parents are from...one
is from Siena and one is from Florence.
What does your wife do? Is she
She has produced documentaries.
Would you like to work on that
side of things, as well? Real life rather than acting?
It would interest me. Yes, it would.
Absolutely. I think it's fascinating. Most actors will tell you they have
some sort of dream of doing something other than what they're doing. I
don't know why it produces this dissatisfaction. Perhaps they feel that
they are not being treated as substantial enough, or something. I am no
exception. I'd love to try my hand at something else.
Do you share any African memories
with Helen Fielding (writer of Bridget Jones) because she's been there
so many times and you grew up there.
I didn't, you know. The thing is,
I left when I was four. But...I've long claimed to remember it. My mother
who thought it was rather implausible, put me to the test at one time.
And it did turn out that the things I thought I remember were actual.
What were they?
Well, I remember a small boy who
lived next door, a Nigerian boy, with whom I remember having fluent conversations.
He spoke a different language and I spoke English. And probably neither
of us really spoke very much in either of those because we were only three.
But I remember talking to him. But she remembers him. I remember his name.
His name was Godfrey. And I remember seeing his family around. I remember
watching my father driving to work. I remember a bird flying in through
the window. I remember the cat that shat in the house. There was all sort
That's not a particular African
No. But the atmosphere that goes
along with those memories is very African. And when I meet Nigerian people,
when I hear the language spoken, when I hear the music, I actually do feel
some sort of natural empathy. They say kids who are not five yet, can't
remember anything. But the kids who spend their early years in a foreign
country, they always remember.