Colin Firth (part 2)
by Monica Agelorius (3/17/01) for Unreel

I was wondering: did you ever go back?
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 a Catholic.
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 a profession...?
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 fine.

Does your child watch your movies, and when you come on TV?
Generally, no. We decided not to do that. As time goes 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?
He's ten.

What do you do when you're not working?
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 strange things.

Yes. That too. What do you do with it? Yes. What do you do with it?

Do you have to do something with it?
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, I do.

Are they different?
They're different from rock groupies. Yes.

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.



With thanks to MariaT

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