The Works, April 26, 2006, by David Richardson

Firth Direct
There's more than romantic comedies to Colin Firth,
as he reveals his plans to The Works


To many women, he's the symbol of the perfect man. The Ultimate romantic figureMr Fitzwilliam Darcy and Mark Darcy rolled into one sophisticated package. Yet the enduring Pride and Prejudice and Bridget Jones image isn't how Colin Firth sees himself. He likes to play darker, more complicated roles, and it's a change of style you'll see in his upcoming projects that include The Meat Trade (a thriller about 19th Century serial killers Burke and Hare), The Last Legion (a historical drama set during the last days of the Roman Empire) and Toyer (in which he plays a very clever lunatic who lobotomizes his victims). Date movies they are not.

"It's not a reaction to typecasting, I just tend to like darker territory," Firth tells The Works, as we meet in a London Hotel.

"I've got nothing against romantic comedies but I never went out looking for them really. It's something that landed in my lap somehow, I participated in it and have reaped enormous benefits from having done them. My life would be much more of a struggle if that had not happened. But I feel much more comfortable in drama than I do in comedy."

Firth is here to talk about the DVD release of Where The Truth Lies, Atom Egoyan's noir drama about a dark secret that haunts two successful entertainers during the 1950's. Lanny Morris (Kevin Bacon) and Vince Collins (Firth) have it all: success, adoration, women and money. But years later their past is investigated by a writer who suspects foul play in the case of a young woman who was found dead in their hotel suite.

"What was not to like?" he says of the decision to accept the role.

"I spoke to Atom before I saw the script and I thought, 'It's going to be thoughtful and have an unusual take on its subject'. It'll be somewhat uncomfortable and probably specializing in something people find disagreeable. I liked all the dark stuff, I liked the unpredictability of the characters, and I thought it had a lot of possibilities".

Plus there was the chance to play a comedian who was racked by inner torment.

"Tortured is always good for an actor, " He beams. "I just like that. I don't know anyone who doesn't want to do a bit of tortured. What that usually means in reality is someone who has got some stuff they are wrestling with internally and that's what our job is to portray that.

"It's pretty hard to imagine an essential character in any film who is happy in the beginning, happy in the middle and still happy at the end. Your action hero may have obstacles that are external, but in most other genres it's stuff the character has to deal with. What is Bridget Jones if not tortured?"

Where The Truth Lies did well with critics and on the festival circuit, but suffered its own torment at the box office. In the US it took less than $1 million
a small fraction of its reported $25 million budgetnot because it didn't deserve to succeed, but simply because the film fell foul of the strict censors. One particular scene, in which Lanny and Vince engage in a three-way naked romp with a young woman, resulted in the death sentence of an NC-17 rating. The sequence was pivotal to the plot, and Egoyan was unable to cut it.

So the questions begs to be asked: What's it like spending your day acting out a three-way with Kevin Bacon in front of a soundstage full of camera's lighting men, sound staff and production crew.

"It's a bit grisly at first," Firth concedes. "By the time you've reached your mid-forties as an actor, if you've done a few films there's always sex somewhere. You're lucky to make it through drama school without having to get your kit off. You get over it. You stop giggling about it. the crew are yawning away, they've seen it many times, and you have to get on with your scene. After a few seconds have gone by you are concerned with doing that properly".

Surprisingly, Firth insists that such scenes are easier to film with three actors pretending to have naked pleasure, rather than just two.

"If there is just two of you it's probably hard to make conversation when you're poised there...." he smiles. "You've seen those scenes in Love Actually when the stand-ins talking about the traffic on the M3 while humping each other? Somehow having three of you tended to make it more normal.

It's clear the actor has been asked about the scene many times before, and this won't be the last time he'll have to discuss it. Even so, he stands by its inclusion.

"That scene was so critical to our film. We would have saved ourselves a lot of grief at the box office if we'd just chopped it out, but you can't. It's not the most explicit scene I've ever seen, there's not even any frontal nudity in it. They sometimes add up how many thrusts there are
cut one thrust out and you may get it through the censor!"

Firth won his first film role in 1984, playing Tommy Judd in Another Country
a role that he had orginated on the London stage. In the last two decades he has never stopped working, with an eclectic CV of acclaimed and popular projects: A Month in the Country, Valmont, Circle of Friends, The English Patient,The Importance of Being Earnest. Love Actually, Nanny McPhee... It's easy to see why the 46-year-old is regarded as one of Britain's best and most liked actors.

A career that interesting must contain some cherished projects, but try and get Firth on the subject and he's not forthcoming.

"I don't like to get into it," he insists, "because I always think someone is going to be offended not to be on the list. They are all collaborations and you become very attached to the people you work with.

"Sometimes I'm dying to talk about what a crap experience something was or what a bit of rubbish the film was, but you can't. There will always be someone there who had everything invested in it that you were very fond of."

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