Woman, November 8, 2004, by Gary Mars

A Tale of 2 Gentlemen

This week sees the release of the long-awaited Bridget Jones’s Diary sequel, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, starring Renée Zellweger. The film picks up on Bridget and Mark Darcy’s blossoming relationship— but with Daniel Cleaver back on the scene, the course of true love is bound to be anything but smooth. Hearts all over the country will be torn between the arch-rival suitors, played by Hugh Grant and Colin Firth. Here the two stars answer our questions on life, love and big pants. . .

One of the best moments in Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason is when your character Daniel Cleaver talks to Bridget’s oversized pants. Were you trying not to laugh?

It was Renée who was quite giggly—but mainly out of embarrassment because I was addressing the crotch of her pants. That was very sporting of her—not many actresses would let me speak that close to her you-know-what. I don’t see myself as a funny many but I do think I’ve got better at it. It’s taken me 20 years and I think what I’ve done recently has been OK.

So can we expect more of the same roguish Daniel Cleaver?

Yes and no. My character was a huge womanising sleazebag in the first film, but in this one he has the possibility of becoming a better person. He gives the impression he could be saved. I like that element because I was worried about repeating myself.

But you and Colin do have another big fight in this film...

Absolutely. Well, we fought like girls in the first one and wanted to keep it up in this one. We were aiming for two pathetic Englishmen, scared of each other and throwing handbags, basically. Which is what I might be like in real life if I were in a fight—but I never am because I’d just run for it.

You’ve said you’re not like William Thacker in Notting Hill—so are you more like Daniel Cleaver?

There are people who’ll say that I am, but I don’t think I’m that bad. I could have become that bad, but that’s a fun aspect of doing this type of role, exploring something you could have become. It’s true I don’t feel at all under pressure to settle down, even though the newspapers seem to think I should. I suppose, like every man, you want the wife and you want the mistress, hopefully rolled into one person.

How’s your relationship with Jemima Khan going?

I won’t comment on that...

In the movie you ask Bridget for a second chance. Do you believe in second chances?

I haven’t thought about it much—but, yes, I think people can change. And I have given people a second chance.

Has being a Godfather changed you? It’s been said that you only like babies for a couple of minutes at a time!

Well, less than that actually. I’m Godfather to a lot of children and I have a very good assistant who has them all on Microsoft Outlook, so an alarm comes on when it’s someone’s birthday. She chooses a present and I pay for it—that’s where my Godfatherly duties end.

How do you deal with fame?

It’s very difficult. It’s been worse for my ex, Elizabeth, who has people crowding around while she’s in a car with a screaming baby. I have rows outside my house with paparazzi. They tell me I need the publicity. Well, I don’t.

Do you travel to get away from it all?

Yes, I love anywhere in Continental Europe. But having said that, I like the exotic too. I’m ashamed to say, I was in Marrakesh earlier this year with my father and we had a guide taking us around the usual tourist spots. I kept saying, ‘I want to see poverty!’ I wanted to see people in rags, you know.

You’ve also taken up playing golf

Well, it’s destroyed my life actually. There are very few golden rules, but one of them is never, ever play golf. It’s more dangerous than drugs. Just say no! It’s so addictive and then that’s all you do.

Do you keep a diary?

I used to, but every time I write one I stop because I don’t know who I’m writing it for. You imagine your mother might read it after you’re killed in a road accident, which is unthinkable. So I’m not doing it any more.

What was it like stepping into Mark Darcy’s shoes again?

It was difficult because we re-enter Darcy’s life almost where it left off, whereas I’ve since had two children and my life’s almost unrecognisable. There was nothing easy abou it, but it helped having Hugh and Renée there—you resume friendships again.

How did you deal with fame?

I have problems with it. I think Hugh’s lived with it very intensely for years—much longer than I have. He has a different life to me and it attracts people. There’s a lot about it that’s not fun. It can be incredibly restrictive if you have a family and if you value a life outside this business.

Mark Darcy is quiet and serious. Are you like him?

Not very much (laughs). He’s incapable of expressing himself, he doesn’t like to speak much and likes to operate quietly, whereas I’m demonstrative and not afraid to speak up. I disagree with people who think he’s desperately boring though. At a dinner party he’d be a fascinating man to talk to on a certain level.

Have the Bridget Jones films taught you anything new about women?

Nothing new as such, but it gives you an angle from which to laugh at the whole weight-obsession and 30s-angst thing which perhaps you didn’t have before. But Bridget Jones hasn’t invented anything about 30s angst—it’s been with us for a long time before we started drawing attention to the concept.

Do men in their 30s have the same anxieties as women?

Absolutely. Bridget thinks she’s fat and no one else is; she thinks she’s incapable of doing things that everyone else can. Men have the same problems. Men worry about their weight too, and worry if they’re going to find someone who loves them, and about making social faux pas. Everyone has a bit of Bridget in them. I don’t know if men are as eager to marry—but then again I think it depends more on the person than their sex. I know some women who run screaming from commitment and some men who really want it. My best friend from childhood dreamt of having children throughout his teenage years, and got married very young. Then his wife left him.

Do you think you’ll be typecast as the quintessential good guy?

No, I’ve been playing so many bad-guy characters that I couldn’t possible be a prisoner of that. In the film Trauma I put a tarantula in someone’s mouth and strangle her to death, and recently I played a genocidal Nazi. But in this film I wouldn’t swap my role for Hugh’s bad guy at all. It makes a change to get the girl—it’s been a while.

Hugh was saying that you and he were ‘fighting like girls’ in the film.

Yes, he’s been saying this a lot. He’s quite right, but actually Hugh knows exactly what he’s doing and handled me very gently. He has SAS training and is trained to kill, so I felt like I was in very firm hands! But I think it looks as if we’re fighting like a couple of seven-year-old boys.

Have you ever read anyone else’s diary?

No. That might sound a little sanctimonious but it isn’t because of moral scruples. It’s just that I feel a bit queasy about it. I prefer to let people present what they want to present in a window display, so to speak. I don’t like seeing the contents of people’s purses, bedroom drawers or even their bedrooms. So I’d never read a diary or keep one of my own—I don’t want to leave any evidence.

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