Esquire (UK), November 2004
Scanned for by Janet

The seven
myths of Firth


Women love him; men are, at best, deeply suspicious of him. But Colin Firth is not Darcy (either of them). He’s funny, he rarely smoulders and the last thing he ever wanted to do was another Bridget Jones movie

He is repressed
“I’m a big smiler. I have a fairly outgoing disposition. Like most people, I deal with shyness in my own ways. But I like to talk, I’m not quiet. I think about things too much, though. I enjoy that, probably to a fault. It can be quite paralysing, over-thinking. There’s this Hamlet quote, something like being “sicklied o’er with the pale cast of cast and losing the name of action”. I’ve changed over the years, I’ve become better at thinking and doing. But there’s nothing repressed about my passion—I wish there was. People around me wish there was.”

He is just another English public-school boy 2
“It was strange for me to come to represent the public-schoolboy. I started speaking posh at sixth form in Eastleigh in Hampshire, because the crowd I considered cool were well-spoken; before that, at my secondary modern in Winchester, I was putting on the Hampshire accent. It was survival—you couldn’t do Queen’s English, not in the playground. I’m a bit of a mongrel, really. I have all these American strains running through me—I was at school in St Louis for one year and was called The Yank during my secondary-school days. My sensibilities, my tastes and my preferences and where I feel at home are largely the other side of the Atlantic. My mother’s upbringing was largely in the Mid-West, and I was there eight years. My sister married an American, the mother of my first child is American... I consider it to be a huge part of myself.”

He has no sense of humour
“If there’s any perception of me—I mean, I’m ignored and treated as a stranger most of the time—but if I do get noticed, I do tend to find a smirk creeps onto the face, as if it’s rather ridiculous that I exist. There’s a smiling shake of the head; if I’m in a particular shop or restaurant, it’s like: ‘Him? Here?’ The funniest and silliest thing they’ve ever seen is me in this place. Once they get past the smirk, there’s curiosity. I get questions. I think it’s wanting to know if I’ve got a sense of humour. There’s nothing I like more than seeing the absurd side of things. Every time I’ve been down, my saving grace has been to see the absurd side of it. You can’t philosophise your way out. I don’t think I’ve got any friends—any friends—where taking the mickey isn’t in the mix.”

He is a bastion of middle-English values 4
“I love England for its wryness and its incredible sense of humour and its relish in friendships... but it’s the whole thing in the street, in the queue, on the train, at airports—people are talking too loud behind you, they’re walking too slow in front of you, too fast behind you, someone didn’t say please, they cut someone up in the road...and it can extend towards, ‘If you’re not polite I’m going to beat the crap out of you.’ Take Love Actually: people flocked to see it and lots of people got very cross with it, but it was only here that people got annoyed with it. I’m married to an Italian so I spend a lot of time in Italy, and they wave their hands a lot but they’re actually not annoyed; they’ve forgotten it in an instant. An incident in the road happens, makes the other driver angry, gesture, off: they’ve forgotten about it. An Englishman I know was annoyed by the shape of the new Citroën—annoyed!

He is intellectually vain
“An actor with a serious thought is considered something quite absurd in this country. And the more celebrated you are, the less you’re allowed to think. I do what I see fit. I do feel that everyone has a responsibility to do something as a citizen in a democracy. I’ve attended events where a television camera’s shown up because I’m there, and I’ve immediately got a slightly sneering, ‘What are you doing here?’ The cynics and the people who don’t give a shit are constantly on the lookout for hypocrisy in everything that might be well-intentioned—someone eats a bit less meat, they have to go at them for eating a shrimp...”

He is physically vain 6
“I’m not especially vain. There’s an inevitability to thinking about yourself as an actor—you are your own raw material. But I can walk past a mirror without looking at it. I do glance in a shop window and I will go, ‘Shit, my hair’s looking flat,’ but the closer I get to having to go in front of a camera or on a stage, the more distracted I get from how I look. You just suspend that, or it freaks you out. There’s something reckless about going on.”

7 He plays the same part every time
“As an actor, I’ve learned to become passionate in small bursts and then to become passionate about something else. It’s not a very grown-up way to be, really, but that’s the way actors work...It’s like being a serial monogamist. That’s why I was against doing Bridget Jones again. There was such an inevitability about it, and that doesn’t appeal to me very much—the actor is conditioned to look for new things. I felt I was recruited more than cast. But my scepticism evaporated on the first script read-through, when I saw how much goodwill there was towards these characters, and I realised there was more to be done. And I’m quite good at convincing myself each time that’s the first time I’ve ever acted.”

"A Bloody Mary really can work wonders," says Elfie Semotan
who photographed Colin Firth in London in anticipation of the actor reprising his role in the new Bridget Jones film. "Colin was lovely
but hates having his photograph taken and only after
second drink did he start to loosen up."

-contributed by JennyF

Words by James Medd

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