Firth Things First
We cover a British kids'
movie because it's January and there's nothing else
Colin Firth is best
known for playing the inarticulate nice guy in Bridget Jones’ Diary.
His new movie might be thought of as a continuation: Bridget Jones dies
and leaves Firth alone with seven unruly children. Whatever is a nice
guy to do?
The answer: Hire a magical nanny, of course. The nanny (Emma Thompson)
whips the kids into shape, Mary Poppins-style, while Firth tries to
find a wife so that his great aunt won’t stop his trust fund. Because,
of course, it would be better to force the kids to live with a
desperate gold digger than a single father. Those darn British.
you discipline unruly children? Do you believe in a
I have learned that
there are no answers. I have a very
good answer when the children are not your own, which is give them to
someone else. Part of the joy of doing this film was that if the going
got tough, I’d just walk away. [With my kids,] nothing works. That’s
the conclusion I’ve come to.
walk away from this gang a few times?
Oh, yeah. I mean, not because they’re necessarily unruly. It’s just
that you have seven or eight kids away from the bounds of their normal
living constraints. A lot of the time, they didn’t have a parent with
them. There’s always somebody there legally, but they weren’t in a
schoolroom, they were in a kind of very hyper-stimulating situation,
being asked to perform and being given hugely unhealthy amounts of
attention. And that’s a pretty deadly cocktail with eight kids.
film ends with a disastrous wedding. Ever had a bad wedding
I’m not a big fan of other people’s weddings. I always find them
slightly depressing. It makes me sound a bit of a curmudgeon, but
everyone else is weeping because they’re moved, and I’m sort of weeping
from despair and boredom.
you want to do a kids’ movie?
I can’t remember. I can remember things that appealed to me. I
don’t know what order they occurred. I don’t know if I thought, “I want
to do a family comedy” first, and then the good one came along, or
whether I thought, “This is good, and it happens to be a family
comedy.” I liked the fact that it wasn’t trying to be hip. I don’t mind
the children’s films that have the kind of urbane witty references for
the adults. That’s fine, but I did like to see one that didn’t go for
that, that was unashamedly old-fashioned. Just, basically, that it
allowed itself to have a kind of cozy feeling of old, familiar
nursery-parlor fairy tales.
will the kids learn from this?
I don’t go for messages as messages. We can’t prescribe what people
take away from the film, I don’t think. But definitely I think that it
is a picture of a life starting over when it seems like it’s hopeless.
It’s a picture of problems getting solved. In this film, there’s a
magic person who makes it snow and provides a wedding veil.
Nevertheless, the people who shed tears in that moment – and there are
quite a lot of them in the audience – are doing so because they yearn
for things to have a rebirth, and to find hope after despair when they
don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel.
take a pie to the face like the best of them.
That was fun, but what wasn’t fun was the extraordinary popularity
of the job of throwing the pie at the leading actor. I’ve noticed, not
just on this film, but on almost every job I’ve ever done, if something
humiliating has to happen to me and any assistance is needed, the line
of volunteers is huge. Very often, because rank is pulled, it’s the
director who actually is the one to throw the porridge, stand next to
the camera and make sure that the pie/cake hit.
does that tell you?
Exactly. You can draw your own conclusions. I don’t dwell on it.