(2/20/04) Translations by Antonella
Article Excerpts from

the Rome Press Conference for

La ragazza con l'orecchino di perla
(Girl With a Pearl Earring)

February 19, 2004

Io come Vermeer (Me as Vermeer)
by Rosa Esposito for www.cinematografo.it

Per realizzare il film, il regista ha ammesso di essersi ispirato al film di Jacques Rivette La bella scontrosa (storia dell'ultimo quadro dipinto da Frenhofer). ''Ci è servito molto per capire cosa dovevamo evitare per non cadere nei soliti cliché di tanti film sulla vita di celebri pittori'' spiega. ''E' stato molto più istruttivo di qualsiasi lezione di pittura'' aggiunge Firth. Per prepararsi alla parte, l'attore non ha seguito nessun corso, ma ha studiato a lungo le opere di Vermeer. ''Mi affascinava molto tenere in mano il pennello, giocare con i colori, ma quello che più mi premeva era riuscire a cogliere il particolare rapporto che Vermeer aveva con la luce, il modo in cui riusciva a catturarla e a trasferirla sulla tela. Volevo che attraverso me il pubblico imparasse a conoscere questo personaggio ancora avvolto in una fitta aura di mistero''.

To make Girl With a Pearl Earring, director Peter Webber has admitted to have taken inspiration from Jacques Rivette's film, La Belle noiseuse [The Beautiful Troublemaker] (the story about Frenhofer's last painting). ''That was very useful to understand what we had to avoid in order not to fall into the usual cliché of so many movies representing famous painters' lives. Says the director.  'It was much more educational than any painting lesson'' adds Firth. To prepare for the role, the actor didn't take any classes but he researched Vermeer's work extensively. ''Holding the brush in my hand and playing with the colours fascinated me, but what I was keener on was to succeed in understanding that special relationship that Vermeer had with the light, how he was able to catch it and convey it onto his canvas. I wanted that through me the audience could learn to know this character who is still shrouded in an aura of mystery."

Firth: 'Ho cercato la luce di Vermeer' (I searched for Vermeer's light)
by Chiara Ugolini for Kataweb

He dressed in the Shakespearean garb of Lord Wessex for ‘Shakespeare in Love,’ then played the a turn-of-the-century gentleman in Wilde’s ’'Earnest.' Now Colin Firth is back in the role of the great Flemish [sic] master Johannes Vermeer in Girl With a Pearl Earring, starting tomorrow on Italian screens.
Adapted from Tracy Chevalier’s bestselling novel (over 2 million copies sold worldwide), the movie of Peter Webber, a documentary producer and director, tells the story of the mystery behind one of the greatest masterpieces of Flemish art, ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring.’

The author and screenwriter (Olivia Hetreed adapted the novel for the big screen) created a story of platonic and artistic passion between Vermeer and one of his servants, Griet, who became his muse, causing jealousy and tension inside his household.

We met Colin Firth-Johannes Vermeer in Rome.

How did you prepare for the role of Vermeer?
Preparing to play Vermeer was a very interesting exercise, because the most important part of the character for me was the mystery surrounding him. I wanted to get at the heart of that mystery, but questioned whether doing so would have diminished the fascination with Vermeer He painted great paintings that I would obviously never have been able to paint, but what I enjoyed most was working with the materials. It was like going to a spice market or a jewellery shop—magnificent colours and materials which anybody can appreciate even though you are not a master painter.

What relationship did you have with the painter? Did you take lessons?
I didn’t think it important to learn Vermeer’s technique. First of all because I wouldn’t have been able to and then I don’t think that was my job. It was more important for me try to convey his way of thinking, his way of capturing the light and how he managed to convey it in his paintings. Vermeer didn’t sketch his figures but he painted them directly on the canvas.

Nevertheless, did you ever felt like a painter during the making of the movie?
Absolutely not. As an actor I am used to playing different roles and, in this case, I’ve really tried to enter the painter’s world. What I mean is that I tried to understand his way of seeing the reality around him not mastering his way of holding the brush. I couldn’t paint like Vermeer; I couldn’t even paint like an art student. There is nothing I can do about it. What  I could do was to get as close as possible to his world. After months of being obsessed by Vermeer, I finally had the experience of stepping into his studio, reconstructed by the set designer, and was thus able to see that room, the light coming from the left as in most of his paintings, and seeing Scarlet who moves and behaves as Griet would have done. All this was a great source of inspiration for me. You see, playing a good artist or a very bad artist is much the same to an actor. Of course, it is easier if you’re playing artist you like.

You have just finished filming the sequel of Bridget Jones’s Diary. In the book, the main character meets you, Colin Firth, in Rome. How did you solve this problem?
The sequel is a very free adaptation of the book. We did more or less what we wanted. For that scene I would have had to play myself, so we solved the problem by cutting out the scene completely.

 Return to Articles/Interview Index