Great, wonderful, I couldn't be happier. I don't know where we're going to stop, but there are definitely times when one two-year-old can be quite enough!
You've described fatherhood as being completely frightening. Do you still think that?
I think I said that before becoming a father. I didn't find it frightening after I became one. I think I just found it distasteful. It didn't appeal to me, that's all.
There's a great line by the writer Robert Towne about fatherhood which hit the nail on the head for me. He said he'd always associated fatherhood with age and the atrophy that goes with comfort—pipes and slippers and eventually death. But having a baby was rejuvenating and wild and wonderful.
Being a father is more like passionate love than I'd imagined. You have the same sense of being on the brink of being out of control, and of utter euphoria. It's what makes life most worth living—no question.
Are acting and fatherhood equally challenging?
Fatherhood is a more important challenge, and it runs far deeper into what I care about most. If I had to do without acting, I'd survive. But I simply couldn't do without my kids.
Are you a very hands-on dad?
Oh, very. I change the nappies and help out wherever I can, but I think most dads do that. Even Tony Blair does, doesn't he?
Were you there at the birth?
Yes, and it was amazing. It was brave of me, actually, I have to say. I'd begun to think that things had evolved to the point where it's now de rigueur for the father to be present at the birth, but I don't think that it's necessarily a good thing for everyone at all. I think a lot of women don't want to be worrying that their husbands are going to faint.
I found the whole birth absolutely wonderful, but I think if you're the sort of person who can't bear it and you get queasy and terribly nervous, you're not going to be any comfort to your wife. So best to stay away.
How do you juggle changing nappies with Hollywood roles?
Like I say, they're two completely different things, and dealing with dirty nappies definitely keeps your feet firmly planted on the ground. I like doing both.
How would your wife describe you?
You'd have to ask her. But I don't think she thinks I'm the strong, silent type in real life. I'm more of a nerd. I'm a fairly dorky sort of person. If I went around trying to smoulder at people in real life, they'd just laugh at me.
Is she a fiery Italian to balance your repressed English side?
They say opposites attract, but the truth is it's never that simple. Not all Italians are fiery and not all Englishmen are repressed.
But it was love at first sight for me. I immediately felt she was amazing, and it was very quick. It was instinctive, inexplicable, and I've never looked back.
Have you ever hit a Bridget Jones type of low point in your life?
Not in my career, but personally, absolutely. I've had my heart broken. I met Livia when I was 35, so it was late, but I never worried about being alone.
Did you and the rest of the cast slip back easily into the roles from Bridget Jones?
No, it was quite difficult. I think people expected us all just to pick up where we'd left off, but I've done quite a bit of stuff since, including Love Actually.
It's one thing revisiting a role, but it's another thing revisiting a role that everyone knows. I was playing a guy who was out there in the public consciousness, and my first day back on the set was out in public in London. So to walk onto a London street dressed as a familiar character in front of 200 people, including paparazzi, was a bit like doing some variety version of what I'd already done. It was very odd. Here we are, Mark Darcy—The Live Show! We're taking Bridget on the road!
Is Renee Zellweger as quirky in real life as she seems?
Quirky? I don't know. I'm used to her and very fond of her and she's a real individual.
I've only ever met her with an English accent. I've never met the girl from Texas.
She does talk about home sometimes, but it's always in an English accent, so it's bizarre to hear her talk about lassooing mustangs and going to the rodeo when she sounds like she's from Croydon.
Did she want you to join her doughnut diet?
I'd join that diet any day. Hugh and I just gaze enviously at her as she sits and stuffs herself.
One of the most bizarre sights is watching Renee—this young, very attractive Hollywood star—downing pint after pint of Guinness. It's not something you see very often.
Hugh and I dropped the idea of dieting for the sequel. On the first movie we were desperately trying to reclaim our boyish figures at the age of 40. This time we both felt we're getting too long in the tooth for that. We don't want to deal with that any more. Thank God.
How do you get on with Hugh Grant? Are you good friends?
I get on really well with him, I like the guy, despite his outrageous rudeness about me. It's a running joke, and we do it to each other. I'm always hearing how he's announced that I'm too old to be in the cinema any more.
So what do you think of Hugh wanting to give up films and become a family man?
I believe him—he's sincere. He did stop working for nearly two years at one point, so I do believe that he finds acting pure torture.
I think he would like to give it all up, but what else do you do?
Acting seems like a silly job for a grown-up, really. I'm doing this because it looked good when I was 18. I'm now 43, and you change.
It's well paid, I get lots of time off and there are enormous perks, but it's hard to take the concept of it seriously.
Your career's going so well—would you ever move to Hollywood full-time?
No, I'd never move there—but not because I don't like it. I do, and I go there fairly often to visit my eldest son, Will.
It's more that I thrive on London. I love the city and it gives me so much stimulation, so a great deal would have to change in my life.
I like LA, and I have a lot of friends there, but I'm so rooted here in London and I'm happy here.
What's the most valuable thing you've learned so far in life?
It's probably to do with committing yourself to something you can't undo—like having a child.
I'm learning so much about myself through that, and I'm finding out that I'm not who I thought I was.
Having a relationship with someone cannot be an egotistical process if it's to survive. Children and marriage: nothing comes close to that.
Return to Articles List