icCoventry.co.uk, August 2003, by staff reporter
Colin let's rip



There's a scene in the teen comedy What A Girl Wants which actor Colin Firth is hardly likely to forget. And it's a safe bet that the audience will find it rather memorable too.

Colin plays Lord Henry Dashwood, a man who has become weighed down by the responsibilities of an aristocratic family tradition and the expectations of a blossoming political career. He's forgotten how to have fun, but the sudden arrival of the teenage daughter he never knew he had turns his world upside down.

Recalling his days as a motorbike rider, back-packing musician and his romance with the liberated Libby, he dons leather trousers and performs air guitar in front of a mirror.

Mention it and a huge smile breaks out on this 43 year old actor's instantly recognisable face.

"Yes, all the dancing with leather trousers, I did wonder if there's a good chance it could kill my career," he laughs. "I very rarely get asked to do the self mockery thing on a big scale, I very rarely get asked to do it in front of a mirror! And I spent most of my youth doing exactly that, I mean that was me. That was far more me than the guy in the suit that I'm sort of known for playing. I mean, it was a bit physically painful at my age but it was fun to let rip and I'd do it more often if I was allowed to."

Firth is one of Britain's best known actors. His first big break came playing D'Arcy in the highly acclaimed BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice which won him a BAFTA nomination. He also starred alongside Renee Zellweger in the hit comedy Bridget Jones's Diary and notched up appearances in such films as The English Patient, Fever Pitch and Circle of Friends. He recently starred in Hope Springs with Heather Graham and is soon to be seen in Love Actually, a contemporary romantic drama written by Richard 'Four Weddings' Curtis.

You've been very busy...What A Girl Wants, Love Actually, Hope Springs. Any more you'd care to tell us about?

There's loads actually [laughs]. It's funny, sometimes you create that impression but you only have to do two a year to have it seem really busy. And actually by the standards of acting and the sheer good fortune which accompanies most actors—which is almost none—twice a year is a lot. Particularly if the projects are noticeable. By the standards of most people's lives working twice a year for three months is not a lot at all really, so it's interesting. I tend to find people say I've been busy if they notice the projects and actually my output has been has been exactly the same it just depends how many of them flop and how many rise to the surface. Every so often you will do something that will put more attention on you and I guess Bridget Jones was one.

Dennie Gordon, director of What A Girl Wants, said that she came over to England before filming to convince you to take the part. What happened?

She did say that it was to the exclusion to anyone else, which is quite a seductive thing to hear I must say, it really is, you can't ignore it. I didn't take an interest in this initially. I didn't have any negative feelings about it. I just had my eyes scanning the horizon for something and it didn't strike me as the one initially.

How did you find playing Lord Henry Dashwood?

Well, it's fairy tale stuff and for me I was always slightly split about the whole issue of fantasy, fairytale escapism versus keeping a foot in reality just for that to work. I think fairy tales don't have to be untruthful things but I think if they get too saccharine I get worried. And I actually found Henry strangely believable and despite the trappings of this character and the trappings of this film, it didn't feel like some of the characters I've played before. He's not Mark Darcy. To me he absolutely isn't.

It is a modern day fairy tale. And presumably you saw a lot in the message—be yourself—that you liked?

Yes, I did. It is told in a fairytale kind of way, almost to the point of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang or something. But I think what I really liked about this film, more than I thought I would, is how much it owns up to being a fairytale. It's not a fairytale disguised as a heart rending drama at all, it practically starts with Once Upon A Time...It gives you a very mythological view of London and absolutely makes no bones about that. You walk out of a vast mansion and there you are on the King's Road or something or Oxford Street. This guy goes to work in a 1962 Rolls Royce every day, despite having forfeited his title, and that's makes a different statement to us in Britain than it does with Americans with a fairytale view and in a way you don't want to tread on that. If this really was an earnest pretence that England is really like that I think it would be dishonest. But I don't think it is.

Amanda Byne, who plays your 17 year old American daughter Daphne is enormously popular in the States...

If you are under 13 and a girl that's been her market and she is a massive star to a particular demographic. I didn't know her really, but my kids did. And she is a huge star the world over and Amanda is very clever. I saw her show after working with her and she is very good. I wouldn't want to compare her against her own wishes, but to me she reminded me of Tracy Ullman, she has this multi talent for different characters and different voices, amazing sort of expansiveness and confidence and she commands that show. And she is moving out of that now, I mean, she is growing up, simply age wise, and I think things like this will help her. I think she will be perceived differently because of this film.

Will there be a Bridget Jones 2?

Well, I have to say your answer is as good as mine. It's a boring answer I have to give all of the time. I know they want to make it but there are so many variables and every so often there is a flurry of activity and it seems it's on and they want to do it. But it's quite a thing to organise. Like most films you have a wish list of actors...

But I would guess that they want you and Renee Zellweger and Hugh Grant to return, but that it must be difficult to get you all at the same time?

Yes, I think it's easier first time around because I think obviously they got their first choices—I presume I was first choice [laughs]—but presumably they could have gone ahead with other choices. Now it's been so well established and people fell in love with Renee as Bridget it would be very difficult for them to try to do it without her. So obviously they want all of us at the same time and they'll try. I think they want to do it this September.

And you would be happy to do it if the script was right?

Yes. But I sort of contradict myself on this. If you say to me would you rather do a sequel of something I did or something completely different if I can find something completely different I would go for that [laughs]. Although not necessarily, I suppose in the abstract, I would say give me some variety. On the other hand, I'm not concerned enough with varying the act to go for a lesser project just because it feels different. It's an instinctive thing, if something just grabs you there can be a load of reasons why.

You contributed to a collection of stories collated by the author Nick Hornby. Are you still writing?

In a way. I'm doing it the way I've always been doing it, which is sort of tampering, putting it away in drawers half finished. Unless I've got a gun to my head ..

Did Nick Hornby put a gun to your head?

Yes, he did. He was the first person to make me...actually, I did a couple of articles a few years ago for Harpers and someone said 'here's your deadline, don't let me down..' and I did it. I made a promise and I cursed and raged against it but I did it. But I so resist doing the homework that I have to have that or I won't do it and I can't inflict it on myself. I knocked that off very quickly but I wrote one that wasn't working and got very, very deflated and then that one came along and 'boom'.

I think I need someone to come along and say 'come on Colin..' Also it's too easy for me to earn a living, I've got other options and that's another thing. You know, drop that, make some money here. And actually I was writing that story (for Hornby) during Bridget, I had to get it finished and Bridget gave me plenty of time, it wasn't a very difficult part to play. I phoned in an old performance really [laughs] so I was able to concentrate on it a bit, it was a couple of weeks during filming.

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