Colin Firth was born
September 1960 in England in Grayshot, Hampshire. The son of two
who worked for many years in Nigeria and in Saint Louis, Missouri, and
a grandchild of missionaries who worked in India, Colin spent his
as a wanderer.
When he was
fourteen he announced
to himself and others that he wanted to be an actor: his grandmother
been an amateur actress. After leaving school he worked first as a
and then as a cloakroom attendant in London theatres until he was
to the prestigious Drama Centre, where he commenced studying
Since 1983 he has
over 20 films, 15 TV serials and ten theatre productions. He achieved
acclaim for his portrayal of the character of Mr Darcy in Pride and
Prejudice, from Jane Austen’s novel, produced by the BBC in 1995
also aired on television in other countries. Writer Helen Fielding drew
inspiration from the character played by Firth to create the character
of the barrister Darcy, the politically correct [counterpart]
the charming publisher in the best-selling novel Bridget Jones’s
from which Firth himself, together with Renée Zellweger and Hugh
Grant, achieved enormous success on the big screen.
Colin lives in
his Italian wife Livia and their son. He has another son, now twelve
old, who lives in California with his mother, Meg Tilly, Firth’s
in Milos Forman’s Valmont.
I was one of the few British actors who had never performed Wilde...not
even in the theatre. I know his work very well but I had never acted in
one of his plays.
Importance of Being Earnest was released in the cinema in the US
May, after a preview in New York during the Tribeca Film Festival. Is
the first time that you tackled a part from an Oscar Wilde script?
know! I was
offered to play The Importance... in the theatre but I didn’t
it seemed to me a bit boring...
It has been a challenge for me. I was interested in the opportunity of
doing it in a new, different way.
can an actor recreate Wilde’s rhythm and spirit in the cinema?
I’ve been playing guitar for a long time, I’ve studied a bit of
on the other hand plays the piano.
the film you sing a ballad together with Rupert Everett accompanying
with a guitar.
you play music well?
It is true...18 years have gone
relationship between our two characters is similar: he is the wittier
more ingenious; on the other hand I’m more serious, more earnest.
met again on set, after the cinema debut of both of you in 1984 in the
film Another Country....
Maybe it was difficult for him to work with me! I’m joking; it went
well; we are great friends!
it difficult to work with Everett?
There are only few actors who transform themselves to play a certain
De Niro perhaps or someone else. I read the part and do what it takes
play the role, as I see it myself. I never decide before how to tackle
a character. In any case I always put a bit of myself into my acting.
is impossible to act well without drawing on oneself.
are an eclectic actor, you go from one role to the next without
do you manage?
I draw on a part
but not always the same aspect. In Wessex [Ed note: Firth’s character
Shakespeare in Love], for example, I saw a rich and bored
ignorant and without imagination, and I found all of these qualities in
myself. Even though you play a role of a murderer, you have to find the
cruelty in yourself, that bit of cruelty for instance you need to kill
Yes, even though I am not that famous in Italy! I am very pleased about
that as I spend a lot of time here…divided between Rome and Umbria.
recognizes me here and I can lead a quiet life. I’ve never been an
star and it’s perfect for me like this. You have to be crazy to long
fame. It is pleasant, sure, to be loved, respected, well paid,
not the fame...it’s not normal.
twenty films, many TV series, a lot of theatre...fame however arrived
Austen’ s in Pride and Prejudice and then Helen Fielding’s in Bridget
You think that
work and above all freedom of choice. But, ironically, it is not
so. Now I’m making a film called American Girl—it is the remake
of a Vincente Minnelli comedy, in which I play another Darcy. I refused
many similar roles I didn’t like; I eventually accepted this one as it
is a nice job, I like it, but Bridget Jones’ s success has led
in a specific direction. Many offers of work, but all of a certain kind.
Jane Austen never describes the men’s motives, maybe she cannot
them. She was honest and never attempted what she herself could not
In her novels you can never find a conversation scene between two men
a woman present. But Jane Austen had a great instinct and her men are
credible, and are described with great subtlety. I had to guess
Darcy was thinking: an apparently arrogant man, but in reality a bit
it true that you didn’t want to play the lead role in Pride and
as you thought that Jane Austen created wonderful female characters,
the male ones were not of the same stature?
It depends….The English Patient was so different from the book
which it was derived! My character, the betrayed husband, was
invented. It is difficult for the screenwriter and the director; the
the text the more difficult it is to translate it onto the big screen.
It is very, very complicated to create a film from Dostoyevsky’s
It is very complicated to capture the concept at the base of a more
text; it is easier to act in a thriller or an action film. It is up to
us actors to find the substance; it is easy to work within a framework.
it more difficult to play characters from literature or roles specially
written for the cinema? How do you approach the novels of great writers?
Tell that to the British critics, they always write about a cinematic
in their articles which complain of an intolerable situation. They talk
about shit films, of a cancer in the cinema...
cinema is experiencing a golden period, productive and rich in
There are successful actors and directors; it seems to be back to the
of the ’60s, to the films of John Schlesinger
Four Weddings and A Funeral, The Full Monty, my [own] Fever
You have to be able to take some risks. Talent always exists, but
you rest on your own laurels. Maybe social conflict helps; in Italy
the fascist era and the war you created the best cinema in the world.
in Spain after the Franco era something started moving in Barcelona. In
England after Mrs Thatcher—with clearly
differences—as Thatcherism has nothing to
do with dictatorship—they started to
something different. Who knows, now that in Italy you have a
government with Berlusconi .... Among the Italian directors I really
do you need then to do good cinema?
I like writing very much and I would like to go on doing it, but
I don’t have enough time!
wrote a children’s story as part of a collection of stories edited by
Hornby, a book which has sold very well, and with the proceeds going to
a charity for autistic children. Do you like writing and
you do it again?
I don’t even think about that! The discipline you need to write for the
cinema is too similar to the one you need to act. What I like about
fiction is that it’s something totally different from what I usually
I enjoy “escaping” every now and then.
what about writing a film script?
Oh yes! And it is funny, as I am not an expert in this field. Once I
part in a demonstration for immigrants outside the Houses of
There were clergymen, political activists, social workers: all people
had been working in this field for years...but the press only wrote
me. I was told that my involvement looked a bit pretentious; all
in all I’m only an actor.
pay a great deal of attention to the reality around you. You intercede
to obtain visas for asylum seekers in Great Britain, and promote
to defend intellectuals. Do you get positive results?
them [the press] that they had answered their own questions [by] asking
me instead of talking to the experts who were there. Fame is worthless
for an individual; it is only good for reserving a table at a
In certain instances, though, you need to exploit it. I love these kind
of demonstrations; I feel embarrassed to respond to the press, as I
enjoy preparing on one particular subject. But when I read about
something unjust I feel I have to intervene. My popularity allows me to
be heard more than other people.
Definitely not Olivier, as he is not the type of actor I prefer.
Tracy used to capture my attention when I was a kid, but the actor I
most from was Paul Scofield. I worked with him at the beginning of my
when I played his character as a young man in Nineteen Nineteen,
a very small film about one of Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytical cases.
It was a real privilege!
Pride and Prejudice you were confronted with Lawrence Olivier who
Darcy in 1940 with Greer Garson as Elizabeth. Which actor has
your career the most?