Yours magazine, Sept 11-24, 2007, by Phil Penfold

Pride and Parentage

We loved him as Mr Darcy and were left wanting more in Bridget Jones’s Diary. Here, Colin Firth talks about his latest film and his major role in life—playing dad

Whether you’re a fan of ‘that scene’ in Pride and Prejudice, or loved him as the silent but smouldering Mark Darcy in Bridget Jones’s Diary, Colin Firth has left generations of women weak at the knees. His latest film, And When Did You Last See Your Father? is one of several new projects out this year, but now Colin is a family man with two children, keeping the family close despite his hectic schedule has become a major challenge.

Colin and his wife Livia have two sons, Luca (6) and Mateo (4). What concerns him, he admits, is that movie-making on such a grand scale takes him away from his family.

In fact, trying to make travel arrangements fit around his schedule is ‘one of life’s nightmares’.

“Projects that I get involved with have—to date—been very ‘child friendly’,” says Colin. “I’m a dad who goes to work, but if I’m working in the boys’ holiday time, then I’ll want to have them around.”

And we’ll be seeing plenty of this hard-working actor on our screens in the near future. Colin has five major movies due for release over the next few months and he’s lined up for another four. He’s also producer on a new documentary, In Prison My Whole Life, about a miscarriage of justice involving the black activist Mumia Abu-Jamal, who is on death row in the USA for allegedly shooting a police officer.

Due for release next month, And When Did You Last See Your Father? tells the moving story of poet Blake Morrison (Colin Firth) and the relationship he has with his father Arthur (Jim Broadbent), who is dying of cancer. It’s an emotional family drama, and Colin admits that before the arrival of his own children he had a whole different attitude to life and work. “You just cannot walk away from fatherhood. And if you do, you do it at a cost. No single event ever changes you as much as when you become a dad.

“When my boys came along, I realised that something had happened that I couldn’t go back on. When I think about what alleged ‘success’ is, and all the things that being moderately famous bring, they just pale into insignificance next to the things one really cares about.”

Colin is also a devoted father to his eldest son Will, now nearly 16, whose mother is the American actress Meg Tilly.

As far as roles are concerned, choosing which jobs he does—and which he doesn’t—has to be a case by case exercise. “Do what you want to do on a personal level, and then see where the chips fall. I think that film-making generally is all about a lot of luck. Right place, right time.

“But, of course, you also have to want to tell a story. That’s what I’m in it for—I just love telling stories.”

Following the success of Pride and Prejudice in 1995, Colin made the BBC’s adaptation of Joseph Contrad’s Nostromo. The critics gave it a unanimous panning, but as far as Colin is concerned the series totally changed his life. The production assistant was a lovely Italian called Livia Giuggioli and they fell in love, virtually at first sight. “She didn’t have a clue who I was,” he laughs.

With all the media attention on Mr Darcy getting married in real life, Colin and Livia had to fight hard to keep the location of their wedding a secret. It happened deep in the Italian countryside and not one reporter turned up. “I got very protective,” admits Colin. The couple celebrated ten years of marriage this year.

Colin’s new films for release include a modern take on the classic schoolroom comedy St Trinian’s, The Accidental Husband, And Then She Found Me and The Last Legion, in which he plays the Roman general Aurelius. “We shot that in Slovakia,” he says. “I was a bit wary about doing it at first—I thought I’d have to wear a toga, but then I found out that the generals were usually togged up in leggings. I don’t think that the world is quite ready for me in a toga!”

Colin has an actor brother Jonathan, his junior by six years, and a sister, Kate. She is a much-respected vocal coach. “Jonathan is far more like me—Kate is the major achiever,” says Colin.

There’s no professional rivalry between the two brothers, although Colin does allow that Jonathan has quite a sardonic sense of humour.  “When I told him, all those years ago, that I’d landed the part of Darcy, he just looked me up and down then, after a long silence, said, ‘Really? Colin, I thought that Mr Darcy was supposed to be quite dashing, and handsome?’ But I do think I have a kind of neutrality, physically, that has probably helped me in my film and TV career. I have a face that can be made to look a lot better—and a lot worse—than it is!”

When Did You Last See Your Father? is out in October.

Thanks to SH

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