Firth (part 2)
by Monica Agelorius (3/17/01) for
I was wondering: did you ever
No. I'd like to. It is something
that always seemed like an important thing. And now I'm suddenly forty.
And I haven't done it. And I can't quite believe it.
Where was it?
This was in northern Nigeria.
What was your father doing there?
He was teaching.
And your grandparents were missionaries?
Yes. They were. People have the
idea of missionaries as going out with the Bible and hitting natives with
it. It's not really what they were doing. They were all doing something
rather different. My grandmother was a minister as well, which was not
that common in the 1930s.
She couldn't possibly have been
Neither could they have been Anglican.
One of my grandfathers, actually, having gone out there as a minister,
decided he would better serve the people as a doctor. So at a very late
age—at the age of 38 in fact—he changed course and decided to become a
doctor. He started medical training and went to America with a ready (made)
family, and studied medicine. And then returned to India, I suppose seven
or eight years later, as a doctor.
How do they regard your profession?
They're dead. So they're perfectly
at peace with it now.
What about your parents?
They were a little bit alarmed about
it, I think, when I first made an announcement that this is what I was...
Isn't it a bit too light-hearted
No. It wasn't that. I don't think
that they had that perception of it. They just were worried that it was
a precarious profession.
Did you ever have to struggle?
No. I haven't had to struggle very
much. I haven't paid my dues. I think I have been lucky. I think I wondered
if it was going to cost me some- thing, at some point. I don't want to
sound smug but I am reasonably satisfied with how it's gone. I think it's
Does your child watch your movies,
and when you come on TV?
Generally, no. We decided not to
do that. As time goes on...it is not a harsh judgement we make. When he
was very young I didn't want it to be confusing. To see me in strange situations,
and to have to explain the difference between reality and fiction. It's
not everybody that sees his or her father on a screen, or on the television.
And I wanted him to feel relatively normal.
Is there anything that you want
him to see?
No. There's nothing I'm burning
for him to see, at all. He has seen things now. He's been on an aeroplane
when they have shown something. You can't control that situation.
That must be freaky for him.
It is a bit freaky. I wasn't there
at the time. He was about three and stood up and shouted, 'That's my daddy'.
How old is he now?
What do you do when you're not
I kind of reserve the right to have
that not is anybody else's business. In general, I just enjoy myself. I
spend the time with people who are more consistently in my life than perhaps
the people I work with. Some of them are people I have worked with. Italy
is an enormous asset in my life now. I feel it's just a privilege for me
to have actually met someone who is from a country that is so fantastic.
And so a lot of it is the exploration of that country, trying to learn
its language, eating its food; which is probably one of my primary pursuits.
Now you're famous, what's the
weirdest thing a fan has ever done to catch your attention?
There's quite a few. You get sent
Yes. That too. What do you do with
it? Yes. What do you do with it?
Do you have to do something with
I don't think so. But I've been
sent shoes. I think that is even stranger than underwear. I have been sent
socks and ties. And a carving of a bird. Pictures of me. A lot. Pictures
people have drawn and painted. Do you keep any of these? Because it is
almost like voodoo! Someone who is really, really into you has painted
a picture and then you throw it...
It can make you a bit uncomfortable.
I think you can sense the spirit in which it is done. Some times it's scary
and sometimes you just feel it's quite sweet. If it's a child, it's not
scary. It's the sort of thing a child might do. It's usually all right
if it's not recurrent. It's when it's recurrent I think it gets a little
bit alarming. There is a line not to cross. And I think if you reply to
someone, or if someone starts to become fixated then it's worrying. If
someone approaches you in the street, or off backstage from the theatre
and says things and wants to make conversation for a second, that's entirely
feasible. But if you walk away and they start to come with you, that's
crossing the line. Because then you've moved into a different space. But
that does happen.
Do you get groupies in the theatre,
like a rock band thing?
Yes. In a manner of speaking. Yes,
Are they different?
They're different from rock groupies.
Do they look better?
Well, I don't know. I don't know
what rock groupies look like. I can say to this day, that I've actually
never had a sexual proposition. And I think rock groupies generally have
the reputation of being fairly direct.
They don't beat around the bush!
I mean from a fan! It would be sad
if I said that I've never had a sexual proposition in my entire life.
Have you ever expressed your admiration
to somebody, as a fan? Someone who didn't know you?
Yes. I have done. Yes. I did. I
went up to Rod Steiger the other day. Not the other day, I mean a few months
ago. I saw him at the Venice film festival. I have been a huge fan for
a long time. And I came over all coy and shall I, shan't I? And then I
felt, I had to. Steiger was one of the first actors to really capture my
imagination. And I just felt that impulse to say something to him.
What female stars would you like
to work or think you'd have great chemistry with?
I'm not getting caught out on that
one. That's private.
What's your new project?
It's with Frances O'Connor and Reese
Witherspoon—who I have always felt I would that chemistry with...It's inevitable!
It's The Importance of Being Earnest. It's a film of the Oscar Wilde
play. It's with Rupert Everett and Judi Dench, as well.