Mademoiselle, November 1989, by Julia Szabo
Firth Class
He’s one of eighteenth-century literature’s most notorious Don Juans: dashing, debonair and dangerous to know. He’s the Vicomte de Valmont from the classic book Les Liaisons Dangereuses, and everyone from members of The Royal Shakespeare Company to the great Gerard Philip (in Roger Vadim’s 1959 film) to John Malkovich in last year’s Academy-Award-nominate Dangerous Liaisons has played him. But that didn’t stop director Milos Forman (Hair, Amadeus) from tackling the story once again—or from casting unknowns in Valmont, his version of the classic, due out this month.

When two films based on the same story are released within a year of each other, moviegoers—and critics—are bound to make comparisons. The most talked-about will be between Malkovich and Forman’s surprising choice for Valmont, Colin Firth—a familiar face only in his native England, where the 29-year-old has acted in films, plays and a TV series.

Firth admits he didn’t see himself in the role of the lady-killer at first. It certainly doesn’t jibe with the callow types he played in Another Country, A Month in the Country and Apartment Zero. But Forman wanted to excite speculation as to Valmont’s motives, and Firth’s boyish innocence brings complexity to a character traditionally interpreted—most recently in Dangerous Liaisons—as a more worldly lover. In fact, aside from the inevitable surface similarities, Firth maintains the two films have little in common, citing Valmont’s “entirely different” plot direction, “more poignant” ending and “less moralistic” tone.

If Valmont is as successful as its most recent predecessor, Firth’s career could take off. He brushes aside such suggestions: “I don’t see this film changing things radically for me.” But the last time Forman cast as unknown in a leading role, the gamble paid off. If F. Murray Abraham’s success with Amadeus is any indication, those could be famous last words, indeed.

Thanks to BrendaL

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