Firth gets uptight –
Ensconced in a
Beverly Hills hotel suite, Colin Firth thrusts his
high-top-sneaker-clad foot on the arm of a posh sofa. It's hardly a
move his neat-freak character in 2001's Bridget Jones's Diary and, now,
the sequel, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, would make.
In the flesh, the actor, 44, is just as British-accented, tall,
curly-haired and great looking as on film. But Firth is hardly his
ultra-reserved character, Mark Darcy. Indeed, today, Firth is wearing a
pair of dark-blue jeans, a blue sweater with sleeves pushed up above
the elbows and the aforesaid sneakers.
"When I first played Darcy, everyone was saying, `You couldn't possibly
be that guy in a million years,'" Firth says. "It was the biggest
stretch I'd ever made. But ironically, Darcy is whom I've become
In the sequel, the scatterbrained thirtysomething Bridget (Renée
Zellweger) is still ga-ga over the hunky Darcy. When the film opens,
Mark has been plump Bridget's perfect boyfriend now for six weeks. But
can she hold onto him? And what about that cad of an ex-boss, Daniel
Cleaver (Hugh Grant), who's still hot for her?
Right—our starry-eyed Bridget has to cope with
a slew of mushrooming challenges.
And Darcy is right there for her—for example, looking after the jolly
heroine after she gets tossed in prison. An unlikely pair, but
protocol-driven Darcy is ever-captivated by Bridget's candor. Still,
notes Firth, "he's just a romantic device. We're not engaged with his
main life—being a human rights lawyer. That all
takes place in the wings."
The movie's climatic water-fight scene has rivals Darcy and Cleaver
having at it over Bridget in the middle of the fountains in Hyde Park's
Italian Gardens. "London in November: It was freezing!" Firth says. "I
came down with something afterwards and lost my voice."
For camera and lighting requirements, a number of takes were done over
a few days. Between each take, Firth and Grant, in cold, soaking-wet
suits, were warmed by sitting in "a kind of hot tub and having a cup of
tea. It was very bizarre. We didn't stay in it for very long, though,
because it smelled of sulfur or something. Very strange."
It was in winter decades ago that the Hampshire, England-born Firth
caught the, er, acting bug. Part of a Christmas pantomime, the
schoolboy played Jack Frost. He's gone on to appear in lots of British
theater and more than 40 films, including The English Patient and
Shakespeare in Love.
Last year, Firth starred opposite Scarlett Johansson as enigmatic
painter Vermeer in Girl With a Pearl Earring and as an infatuated
writer in Love Actually.
And as different as Firth and Darcy might be in real life, it's a part
the actor played even before the Bridget Jones films. Well, sort of.
Darcy is modeled after the dashing Mr. Darcy in Jane Austen's Pride and
Prejudice, a role that Firth portrayed in a 1995 BBC-TV adaptation.
To do publicity for Bridget, Firth is taking a few days off from
filming Where the Truth Lies in Toronto. "It's Rat-Pack-type stuff—repartee and music," Firth says. He and
Kevin Bacon play a '50s Las Vegas comedy duo, and the drama involves a
woman found dead in their hotel room.
But rather than talk just about his movies, Firth shares a tale about
the quirky work habits of the painter Rene Magritte.
"I don't know if it's true," Firth says, "but the story goes that he'd
wake up punctually at the same time every morning, pack his portfolio
as if he were going off to work at an office, kiss his wife goodbye and
leave the house. Then he'd walk around the block, come back to the
house, go upstairs to his studio and paint. At 5 o'clock, he'd reverse
the process and come back home. I think everybody, to some extent,
leads two lives, maybe even five, six or seven."
The anecdote calls to mind the pride the actor takes in
compartmentalizing his own life. Firth, who has two boys with his wife
of seven years, documentary film producer Livia Giuggioli, and a son
from a previous relationship with actress Meg Tilly, says:
"A lot of us change channels when we work and when we're home. It's
probably more pronounced if one of your lives is quite public. That
certainly isn't something you want to bring home and affect your
family. A person who's ambitious to do things creatively [can] feel
different from the person who wants to be a good dad."