Total Film, Nov 2007

Firth holds forth
Bear with us—Colin is the hottest actor in Britain right now...

“It’s funny,” muses Colin Firth when Buzz, in all seriousness, suggests he’s the busiest actor in Britain. “I do seem to spend a lot of time sitting around on my arse.” The evidence contradicts him. however, as he’s starring in the likes of the “spectacularly un-PC” St Trinian’s, emotional drama And When Did You Last See Your Father? and musical Mamma Mia over the year ahead. It must be nice for an actor who—thanks to Pride and Prejudice and the Bridget Jones flicks—seemed doomed to play variations on Mr Darcy for ever more. A shuffle through his current projects, though, reveals there’s not a single wet shirt to be found...

Mamma Mia

Take Phyllida Lloyd’s film version of her West End hit, for example, which sees him join Meryle Streep, Pierce Brosnan and Stellan Skarsgård for a campy frolic through Abba tunes. “Yes, I regret to announce I will sing,” deadpans the 47-year-old, who admits to some trepidation whether the stage show’s galvanic impact on a live audience can be duplicated on film. “We’ve got to replicate that sense of being at a big hen night,” he says. “Even if you only like Wagner or the Sex Pistols, there’s something that happens about two or three bars into an Abba song. It’s infectious. It makes people loosen up and not be afraid to be ridiculous...”


At the opposite end of the spectrum lies Michael Winterbottom’s latest, a back-to-basics ghost yarn in the vein of Don’t Look Now about a father trying to rebuild his life after the death of his wife. “It couldn’t be more contrasting,” says Firth, who admits the Mighty Heart’s director’s pared-down aesthetic left him a little spooked. “There were moments when I got a chill, partly because you are filming in such real circumstances,” he explains. “You’re in real rooms, you have a whole run of scenes and you’re staring at what you’re supposed to be staring at. So if it’s 3am, dark and you’re playing a scene where you hear something, it’s sort of real...


Which is more than can be said of this Michael Caine remake, on the back burner despite a Coen brothers script Firth describes as “lovely and witty”. The last I heard PJ Hogan was on board,” he shrugs. “It’s now in the hands of a producer [Graham King of The Departed fame, reportedly] who’s been working to get it set up.” If it does get made, though, Firth will have no fear stepping into Sir Michael’s size 12s in this tale of a dashing thief out to steal a priceless statue. “I don’t know the original so it doesn’t hang over me,” he says airily. “I’d much rather it wasn’t a remake, but I’m told it’s a vast departure from the other film...”

And When Did You Last See Your Father?

Before any of the above, though, our Col can be found playing a son coming to terms with the death of his father in Anand Tucker’s film of Blake Morrison’s autobiographical bestseller. “I know it’s a very glib thing one says about stories, that it applies to us all,” muses the actor, who shares his role with newcomer Matthew Beard. “But it couldn’t really be anything more applicable to everybody than a family story about loss and bereavement. It either has happened to everyone, or it will.” As much as the script hit home, however, it was the film’s evocation of a ‘60s childhood that really appealed. “Washing the car on a Sunday, having iodine put on your cuts, putting a tent up come hell or high water—the whole thing resonated,” he grins. “Camping trips in the rain were not unusual when I was growing up. To me, though, there was never any recreation about freezing rain in a field...”

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