Colin Firth (part 1)
by Monica Agelorius (3/17/01) for Unreel

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 young.

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 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 roof...
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 child.

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 is from Siena and one is from Florence.

What does your wife do? Is she an actress?
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 of things...

That's not a particular African memory...
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.

Continue to Part 2

With thanks to MariaT

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