The Province, Sept 8, 2003, by Glen Schaefer

Easy to see why ladies dig Firth

Memo from our reporter in T.O. reveals Colin is sexy and cool


Memo to: Carey Gillette, assistant entertainment editor

From: Movie guy in Toronto

Now, I know you were kind of mopey when I told you I'd be interviewing Colin Firth but, trust me, I did you a favour. 

If you were in that hotel room, you'd have died of a heart attack when he walked in with those faded jeans, the baggy blue shirt untucked and the top two buttons open -- even I could tell what this guy does to women like yourself, what Firth calls "this other thing."

Here's him telling it: 

"Funnily enough, before all that exploded, I felt I was doing really well. I didn't think I was a star but I was fairly well up there, playing lead roles in interesting stuff, and getting about as much employment and recognition as I ever felt I had
the right to expect.

"So I was rather surprised when this other thing, starting with Pride and Prejudice, started up."

That would be when he came out of that lake all wet. Ring any bells?

"A lot of people felt I'd only just started right then and I'd been going along for 10 years. In some ways it was very weird to feel that my previous career had almost been cancelled."

I'm hear to talk to him about his new movie, Girl With a Pearl Earring, about the Dutch painter Jan Vermeer. He's also got the big-budget ensemble romance Love Actually at the festival but the smaller movie is clearly a labour of love.

"Oh, absolutely. It wasn't a payday, it was something I wanted to do, I never hesitated."

The movie tells the fictionalized story behind one of the 17th-century artist's most famous paintings, suggesting that the girl in the painting was a maid (Scarlett Johansson) and that his wife and family were scandalized that he
would use the maid as a muse.

There's a suggestion that the girl is tormented by a forbidden obsession with the painter,and that Vermeer in turn
found her a kindred spirit in creating his art. 

"In the end, he sacrifices a lot of people," Firth says. "On the other hand, he's in the grip of his own need to do what he does. I can understand very well what motivates him. He wasn't some indulgent bohemian."

Firth, who has a child with former girlfriend Meg Tilly and two children with his current wife, Livia, says the notion
of sacrificing relationships to art is something he identifies with. 

"I think I've made quite a mess of things through life in that respect. I'm settled now, not how I was before. Doing anything creative can be quite difficult for those around you. I don't think you have to be a genius on the magnitude of Vermeer for that to be the case."

Getting back to the movie, "On the surface, he doesn't betray his wife but he enters into a very dangerous territory, as does this young girl."

You hear that, Carey? Dangerous territory. Good thing you're in Vancouver.

"This relationship engulfs him in the end, even though it's not consummated. Something inside him dies."

I said to him that romance in fiction is best when it's not consummated and he agrees.

"In terms of romantic drama, I think it's got to be like that. In fact, you can't really tell a great romantic love story about a happily married couple. Domestic bliss is the stuff of sitcom.

"Great love has to have an element of the impossible. Whether Romeo and Juliet, or Tristan and Isolde, they're kept apart. Even in Jane Austen, they only finish with the coming together, you don't even get to a kiss in the books."

I know, you're wondering if Firth thinks he's a romantic.

"Obviously from a large part of what I do, I'm interested in emotion, its complications. I'm not necessarily an optimist in terms of romantic love. I'm not the type of romantic who enjoys the weepy movie and then sighs sweetly about it.

"I am more interested in the obstacles and the impossible than I am in resolution and happiness. It's the thing we're all trying to get to grips with, that's what storytellers are doing. Trying to make sense of seemingly insoluble things."

You see, Carey? You're better off back home, thinking about the obstacles between you and Colin. Look at the bright side. There's always the Fiennes brothers.


-- Schaef

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