Translations by Antonella, Janet and Moon
Article Excerpts from

the Rome Press Conference for

L'importanza di chiamarsi Earnest
(The Importance of Being Earnest)

February 6, 2003

Amici solo sul set (Friends but only on set)
by Paolo Piersanti for

Di diverso parere Colin Firth: "Personalmente non ho mai sopportato tanto Rupert - dice l'attore che ha già lavorato con Everett in Another Country nel 1984 - ma sul set riusciamo ad andare veramente d'accordo. Io e Rupert ci odiamo perché siamo fondamentalmente molto diversi, lo trovo una persona spaventosamente sofisticata. Con l'età è un po' migliorato; non è diventato certo più serio ma più tollerante". Firth si è ormai specializzato in ruoli da commedie brillanti. "Ma non sono io a scegliere se interpretare una commedia o un film drammatico - spiega - però devo dire che mi hanno proposto soltanto questo. Recitare in una commedia è molto difficile, solo ora mi accorgo che forse sono pronto per affrontare anche altri ruoli. Ho appena finito di recitare in un film drammatico diretto da un giovane regista, Peter Webber, tratto dal romanzo di Tracy Chevalier La ragazza con l'orecchino di perla. E' stata un'opportunità che non ho voluto perdere e che mi ha concesso una sorta di vacanza dalle mie solite interpretazioni in chiave comica. Al mio fianco in questo film ci sarà la giovane attrice americana Scarlett Johansson". L'attore è sposato con un'italiana e dice di ammirare moltissimo il lavoro di Gabriele Muccino. "Mi è piaciuto molto soprattutto il suo primo film. Un giorno l'ho anche incontrato a Londra; sicuramente mi piacerebbe lavorare con lui."

Colin Firth has another opinion: "Personally I’ve never been able to stand Rupert very much,” says the actor who had already worked with Everett in Another Country in 1984, “but on set we managed to get on really very well. Rupert and I hate each other because we are basically very different. I find him a frightfully sophisticated person. He’s improved a little with age; he’s certainly not become more serious but more tolerant." Firth now specialises in comedy roles. "It’s not me who chooses whether to play comedies or dramas,” he explains, “I merely get these kinds of offers. Acting in a comedy is very difficult, only now do I realise that maybe I’m ready to face other roles too. I’ve just finished filming a drama directed by a young director, Peter Webber, based on Tracy Chevalier’s novel, Girl With a Pearl Earring. It was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down and gave me a break from my usual comedy roles. Costarring in the film is a young American actress Scarlett Johansson". The actor is married to an Italian and also says that he admires Gabriele Muccino’s work very much. "I especially liked his first film. I met him once in London and I would certainly like to work with him."

L'importanza di chiamarsi Ernest
by Claudia Cipriani for Il Nuovo

Parole dure, in conferenza stampa dall'attore inglese: ''Blair sbaglia sulla guerra, non sono affatto d'accordo. Lui pensa di poter cavalcare la tigre - conclude Firth già protagonista di Shakespeare in love di John Madden -, ma la tigre non si può controllare''.

The English actor said some harsh words during the press conference: “Blair is wrong in the question of the war. I’m not in agreement at all. He thinks he’ s able to ride a tiger," concludes Firth who also starred in John Madden’s Shakespeare in Love, "but a tiger cannot be controlled."

Everett contro Firth: quale dei due sarà Ernest? (Everett v. Firth: Which one will be Ernest?)
by Claudia Morgoglione for la Repubblica

Confermando la sua vocazione alla commedia, a consolidando una notorietà internazionale esplosa grazie a Bridget Jones. E se l'attore dice di non essere ancora certo che ci sarà un seguito sulla single più famosa del Pianeta, si dice invece convinto di voler tornare a ruoli più drammatici. A cominciare dalla pellicola che ha appena terminato di girare: "Si chiama La ragazza con l'orecchino di perla - racconta - ed è tratta dall'omonimo romanzo. Io interpreto il protagonista maschile, il pittore fiammingo Vermeer". E il sogno del cassetto? "Girare con Gabriele Muccino".

Confirming his dedication to comedies, which brought him international fame in Bridget Jones's Diary, the actor is not yet sure there will be a sequel. He does say he would like to return to more dramatic roles. "I have just finished filming Girl with a Pearl Earring, adapted from the novel. I play the male lead, the Dutch painter Vermeer." And the artist's dream? "To work with Gabriele Muccino."

Colin Firth: 'Odiavo Rupert Everett, anni fa' (Colin Firth: 'Years ago I used to hate Rupert Everett')
by Massimo Galimberti for Kataweb

Colin Firth is an unusual actor. He is forty-three years old [sic] and has been acting in films and on television for about twenty years but, each time you see him, it is like seeing him again for the first time. He doesn’t stand out because of an extraordinary physical appearance (even though hordes of women would readily maintain that he is one of the sexiest men around), nor does he display any extraordinary acting skills. He has always had supporting roles that are often overshadowed by his co-stars, but he possesses the flair of a refined and well-bred Englishman who lends a certain tone to a film without even being aware.

Married to an Italian (when he feels like it, he speaks our language with confidence), a casually dressed Colin Firth is in Rome to promote his film. Kataweb met him in a hotel in the centre of the city.

Was it difficult to achieve a rapport with Rupert Everett, considering that in this film you have to be a perfectly tuned comic pair?
On set it's usually very difficult to find the right chemistry with another actor. Often you have to take a risk, a gamble, because maybe you're in sync with a colleague on a personal level, but you aren't able to recapture that during filming. On the other hand, it often happens that you may have a bad relationship with your co-star, which somehow translates into perfect rapport on film. It's impossible to predict. Rupert and I worked together many years ago. It was my first film and we played two very close friends even though, in reality, we didn't like each other. At the time he had more experienced than I did and the problem was simply that there was no off-screen chemistry between us. So, when I took this film, I was very curious to find out how our relationship would evolve. When I arrived on the set, I realised that our past history would add a very important dimension to the film. It was important to meet again, eye-to-eye, to test the situation. I myself would have never talked about this if he hadn’t done it himself during a press conference in New York. In the end I think everything went well.

You’ve done many comedies but your career also includes many dramatic roles…
I don’t choose a role on the basis of whether it's a comedy or drama; it’s simply that more good comedy roles have come my way. In fact, right now, I’m actually more interested in dramatic roles, given that I’ve just finished a film where there is absolutely no humour and I liked that very much. I would like to do more of those roles, psychological dramas that would allow me to express a much wider range of emotions and nuances than I have been able to do in recent years. But not too many of these opportunities have come my way up to now. I've been relegated to other types of roles and it is something that I’ve surprisingly come to accept, as young actors are usually cast as heroes, although that type of role is usually the most boring. On the other hand, when you get older, you get more interesting roles like the villain, the eccentric and the emotionally disturbed. But the exact opposite happened to me. I started off playing bad guys, paranoid people, ever since my television days. I thought I wouldn’t be offered hero or leading man roles because I was too old, but it was exactly the opposite. But now, to reiterate, I am very interested in going back to playing different types of roles.

Is it the first time that you’ve tackled an Oscar Wilde play?
I may be the only Englishman who has never acted in a Wilde play before. I say "the only Englishman" rather than "only actor" because even people who work in banks have acted in a Wilde play at least once. All in all, I have to say that it was a very pleasant experience. The fact is that something strange happens to Wilde when it is adapted for film. While it certainly loses something, at the same time, it is enriched.

Theatre and cinema are very different and hard to compare. But I think that theatre is easier. You have rehearsals, audience reaction, and events unfold chronologically. In the theatre, you go on stage after weeks of rehearsal in which you checked everything and everything is under your control. In movies, things are very different; for example, at nine o’clock, I’m supposed to kill my wife, then at ten o’clock I have to marry her. Scenes can be cut merely due to bad weather. Of course you are somehow freer because you don't have the limitations of the stage. You have the opportunity to be more spontaneous, you can speak in a lower voice or you can use more subtle expressions. But you are under the absolute control of a director; if he is good, so are you. Emotions can be accentuated through other elements such as the music, lighting, etc. But you cannot cheat in movies. The camera doesn’t allow you to. It looks right into you.

What other actors influenced your development as an actor?
There were moments, particularly when I was young, when a certain performance changed my overall conception of acting and what it is possible to do with it. Initially, I thought that acting meant changing yourself, transforming yourself in a deep and radical way. Instead I realised that, with some actors, it’s not like that at all. When I saw Paul Scofield, I was shocked because I realised how an actor was capable of doing certain things. Scofield didn’t use his body very much but I was still able to understand read his mind. For the first time, someone gave me an insight into a character's depths. This was a new concept for me and I didn’t think this was possible. At that time, I was probably 13 years old and it struck me as strange because everything in acting is false. By definition, to act means to pretend. But on that occasion I found out how much truth it can possess. And it is something I look for in other actors like Spencer Tracy or Robert Duvall. And this capacity interests me, the capacity to reveal an interior universe rather than just being an actor who transforms himself by wearing a fake beard or a pair of glasses.

Is there a technique for comic timing?
Personally I don’t have a specific technique. It is very difficult to do comedy. The spontaneity is only an appearance, on the surface.

Comedy is much more difficult than drama, so actors like Hugh Grant or Rupert Everett are underrated by the critics. Hugh, for example, is a very meticulous actor, timing his lines and constantly checking them out at the end of a scene on the monitor. If it's not perfect to the second, he redoes until it is.

Actors in dramatic roles, who play traumatised people with serious problems, often act like they're in opera. It’s a way of acting which is paradoxically easier, but then receives awards because, from the outside, it looks very difficult.

For my part, I repeat, I don’t think I have a special technique. I think only about putting in a lot of effort. I don't want to stop doing comedies because it is an ongoing challenge for me, but at the same time, I would like to play a dramatic role because at least it would allow me to take a break.

Incontro con Colin Firth (Encounter with Colin Firth)
by Flavio Della Rocca for

The comic pairing of Everett-Firth seems to work perfectly . . . 
It's difficult to predict the chemistry that will develop between two actors. Sometimes you can be very friendly with someone in real life but on the set there is no chemistry: 25 years ago [sic] I worked on my first film, with Everett, and we played two close friends even though we hated one another. This new encounter was affected by our past. It contributed a lot to the unpredictableness, the spontaneity of what's on screen.

Why did you hate each other?
He found me too "earnest." He thought I was too serious, without a sense of irony, almost haughty, just the opposite of himself. We didn't take to each other, but this is a story that I would have never revealed to the public if he hadn't done so during the promotion of the film in the States. The fact is that the result is amusing . . .

But now you're more sophisticated than you were?
I try to pretend I am when circumstances demand it. Rupert isn't any more serious now, but I am more tolerant.

After so many comedies, do you want to change genre?
I have to say that I don't have any preferences. It's simply what has happened up to now. I've been asked to do these roles. Yet currently I'm more interested in drama. I have in fact just finished a film in which there isn't the slightest hint of humor and I am about to act in a psychological drama that would allow me to express a range of emotions greater than that in a comedy.

So your career then is in continual development?
I would say that in general when you are young, you're given boring roles as heroes, but little by little as you continue your career, you do more interesting roles as villains, eccentrics, paranoids. But the exact opposite has happened with me: Since Mark Darcy [sic] on television--I was already in my thirties--I have mainly played good guys. Now I would like to take a break and turn to roles of the paranoid!

Given that you're suited perfectly to comedy, why do you want to abandon it?
It's not that I have a specific comedic technique, but I am convinced that it's more difficult to do comedy than drama. Just for this reason, actors like Rupert or Hugh Grant are underrated given their talents. Rupert has the gift of spontaneity, Hugh is a perfectionist. Every time he does a scene, he immediately rewatches it on the monitor to see if the timing is off, even by a half second. He wants to redo so that it's perfect. The fact that those who do dramatic roles more often receive awards paradoxically shows how much simpler it is to act those roles.

Have you ever done a film in chronological order?
No, that has never happened in any film and I don't think it would be possible.

How you ever done Wilde before?
I think that I'm the only person in England who had never done it, and I'm not speaking of only actors, but anyone, because in England, even people who work in banks have done Wilde at least once in their lives.

And how was doing it?
Film is very different from theater: more is cut and more is added. You're not limited by the stage. You can speak with a lower voice and have more subtle facial expressions, which makes it rather interesting even if I can't make comparisons like Rupert, who has even done Wilde in French, and Judi Dench, who has frequently done Lady Bracknell on stage.

But which do you prefer?
I like both but I think theater is easier and more fun. There are rehearsals, which are lacking in film, and this isn't an insignificant thing, the audience is present and the acting is done in chronological order. In film, it is more unrealistic: at 9 I have to kill my wife, at 10 I'm marrying her, and at noon we're making love. If it rains, the scene is cut. Theater isn't like this, you have total control. You rehearse for six weeks and then you go onstage. In film, it's all in the hands of the director: if he is good, you're good with him, but if he isn't, you're in trouble and this also holds for the composer, the editor. There are too many things not under your control. We are talking about two forms that are completely different.

And as to all the lovely actresses with whom you've worked, who should we look out for in the future?
I've been very lucky to work with many and very difficult and risky to make predictions. It's been a while since I've worked with actresses that are not American, but if I had to give a name, I'd say Scarlett Johansson. 

Are actresses easier to direct than men?
There isn't a big difference, even men are neurotic at times. Judi Dench is very sure of herself and when she's on set there's a lot of respect for her. But actually in fact, she's the funniest one there. She tells jokes and laughs continuously. The result is that it's hard to get work done.

Renee, although a star, acted as if she wasn't one and was just the opposite of temperamental; she almost seemed a saint. The filming of Bridget Jones started with three weeks of filming at night, which certainly doesn't put you in a good mood. Everyone was bothered by it, except Renee who at 5 in the morning had a smile on her face and was ready to work.

Is it true that in the second Bridget Jones, you will be Mark Darcy and George Clooney will be Colin Firth, when he's interviewed by her?
Well, in the book, she interviewed me and it's obvious that I can't act as myself. And it's true that something has been written that calls for Clooney, but it is also possible that the film won't be made.

But in case it is, who would you like to be you?
I'd say Clooney would be perfect.

If we talk about the past, who influenced you?
When I was very young, I didn't think that a performance in front of the camera was capable of transmitting what was inside the person who was acting. Then I ran into Paul Scofield, who was capable of allowing me to read his thoughts. Although the cinema is totally false, from it can come a total truth. A truth that I found in other great actors like Spencer Tracy and Robert Duvall, both capable of showing what's on the inside. I appreciate this more than actors who use different kinds of masks or a particular walk to draw attention to themselves.

Colin Firth a Roma per dovere e per amore (Colin Firth in Rome for work and for love)
Marta Lari for

Arriving at the Hotel delle Russie in the midst of many other fans, a female photographer points out to me, "Isn't he handsome?" Not far away us, he smiles. She didn't know that Colin Firth, who is in Rome to promote The Importance of Being Earnest, speaks Italian fluently and is smiling at her remark. We weren't dealing with one of those stars who knows Italian only by chance circumstances (for example, Di Caprio); the handsome and fascinating actor, who has entertained us in his roles in Bridget Jones's Diary and Shakespeare in Love, is married to an Italian from Rome.

He does not even need the very charming translator. He feels at ease with our fellow journalists who wanted to know more about him and his co-stars. He speaks extremely well of Renee Zellwegger, alias Bridget: "She was the only one on the set who was always smiling. Even when we were tired and had filmed all night, at five in the morning, she was the only one who still had the strength to smile." Male actors? On set they are sometimes more difficult than the women.

Hugh Grant? A perfectionist.

Rupert Everett? I worked with him 25 years ago [sic] and we weren't at ease with one another. Now we're great friends.

Bridget Jones's Diary 2? Just as Hugh Grant has said (he was in Rome with Sandra Bullock): "We don't know if it will be made. And I don't know if I'll be in it."

"Acting in comedies is more difficult than doing drama. Dramatic is always considered the highest form and frequently wins the awards. But that isn't the case. It's more difficult to do a comedy."

Between movies and the theater, which would Colin choose? "Definitely, the theatre as there is continuity and stability in working in theatre. In the cinema, you have breakfast with your wife at 9 am, at 11 am you kill her, at 1 pm you're making love to her, and by 3 pm you can't film anymore because it's raining."

"Did I like working with Oliver Parker (who is not only a director but an actor)? Yes, but it is not because a director who is also an actor can better understand us actors and our problems better. The important thing is to work in harmony, have an intelligent and talented director who can communicate. I like working with him very much. Who would I like to work with? Certainly Muccino. We have met and I saw The Last Kiss and Come te nessuno mai which I liked very much."

The press conference is over. There is the usual autograph signing and he kindly remains seated to sign photos and press booklets. Some nosey journalists want to know more about his wife. "Her name is Livia (he answers in Italian). I can tell you that we always speak in English to each other, but I like your language very much." And that was easy to see!

 Return to Articles/Interview Index