Sun Newspapers, May 23, 2002, by Linda Hoy Socha

Theirs is an 'Earnest'

Time does most to nurture 'Importance'
of Everett-Firth respect

Nearly 20 years ago, Colin Firth was admittedly earnest and Rupert Everett made fun of him for it. Now, these two vastly different Brits are starring in "The Importance of Being Earnest," scheduled for release on May 31.

Everett, openly gay and bitingly droll, met straight-man Firth, the knight-in-shining armor of "Bridget Jones's Diary," when they were making the 1984 film, "Another Country."

"He's a lot easier to get along with than he used to be," Firth says of Everett, "and in a lot of ways, he hasn't changed in the slightest. He was outrageous then, he's fairly outrageous now. He's very funny, but I tend to not be on the wrong end of his humor as much now as I was then. I was terribly earnest, to coin a phrase, in those days.

"His description of me is something along the lines of a ghastly guitar-playing communist ready to give his first $500 to charity instead of getting rich. He found that objectionable. Of course, it's probably not far from the truth."

Everett, perhaps best known by Americans as Julia Roberts' boss in "My Best Friend's Wedding," concurs. "[Colin] was very dull in the old days, strumming on the guitar, one of those very left-wing university characters, promising to give his first million dollars to charity—if he ever earned it." Everett pauses, whimsically adding, "I'd like to know what happened to that."

"Now, I, in turn," Everett proudly states, "was obviously going completely in the other direction."

Firth says he's loosened up a bit and "given in to my superficialities." He still plays the guitar, demonstrating his skills in "Earnest," when the two men serenade the objects of their affection.

"Like most guys of my generation, I wanted to be a rock star," Firth says. "Like most of us, it didn't happen."

He admits to being nothing like Mr. Darcy, whom he portrayed in the BBC's "Pride and Prejudice." The image of the perfect gentleman still follows him, though he nearly turned the part down because he didn't think he was right for it.

"Women I knew who were in love with Mr. Darcy as school girls when they'd studied or read the book begged me not to do it because it would ruin their image of this guy."

Everett compares the more somber Firth to Winnie the Pooh's dreary friend Eeyore. "He's really good at whining," Everett notes. "You can wind Colin up and get him to complain about anything."

It's left to "Earnest" actress Reese Witherspoon to offer kind words for both co-stars. "Rupert and I were like fast friends within a day: 'You shut up.' 'No, you shut up.' He was really supportive and helpful with my accent. He understands what it is to sound like an American, the difference and all.

"I'd just loved Colin's work for so long, particularly in 'The English Patient,' and all my girlfriends think he's such a babe. I'm like, 'Y'all, he's married. He's got a couple of kids.' He's still a babe, but you can't tell him that in front of Rupert because Rupert gets too jealous."

Firth, 41, and wife Livia Giuggioli have a 1-year-old boy, Luca. Firth also has an older son, Will, 11, with actress Meg Tilly.

"Earnest" stands as the second Oscar Wilde-inspired film for Everett, who received critical acclaim for his lead role in "An Ideal Husband." It may not be the last. At 46, Everett is the same age as the playwright when he died. He says he'd like to portray Wilde on screen in the period following his imprisonment for gross indecency.

"All of the films about him always end when he's going to court," Everett says. "I think that's the part of his life that's really the least interesting because you've got the plays to speak for that time."

 Return to Articles List