|* Times Behind-the-Scenes article here
* Daily Mail Behind-the-Scenes articlehere
Region 1 DVD (US) to be released Nov 11, 2002; can be preordered via The Boutique here
Click for "Links" to online video interviews with cast members, including Colin
Images from VH1's Cast Party
|Many new articles about Colin to
the film. Check on News
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Transcribed television and radio interviews:
|Two young gents living in 1890s England have taken to bending the truth in order to put some excitement into their lives. Worthing (Colin Firth) has invented a brother, Ernest, whom he uses as an excuse to leave his dull country life behind to visit the ravishing Gwendolen (Frances O'Connor). Moncrieff (Rupert Everett) decides to take the name "Ernest" when visiting Worthing's young and beautiful ward, Cecily (Reese Witherspoon) at the country manor. Things start to go awry when they end up together in the country and their deceptions are discovered—threatening to spoil their romantic pursuits.|
|John Worthing, J.P.||Algernon Moncrieff||Lady Bracknell||Gwendolen Fairfax||Cecily Cardew|
Tom Wilkinson as Dr Chasuble — Anna Massey as Miss Prism — Edward Fox as Lane
|Interview by StudioLA’s Jim Ferguson
Colin:One of the things that amuses me about Victorian England as an idea—and Oliver Parker’s captured that in this film, is that all these corseted people, all these utterly kind of repressed and austere people were studying the classics, which featured nothing but sex, really.
Jim: (laughs) Yeah.
Colin: I mean, you’ve got naked maidens tied to trees...and the pre-Raphaelite paintings.
Jim: In the scene in the nightclub when your character, Jack, a country gentleman, goes into London, they’re all in there watching the dancing girls...
Jim: ... throw up their skirts, you know—
Colin: That was all going on, as well. I mean, it was a very, it was actually a very corrupt and decadent society. I mean, the Victorians were just as known, really, for all their perversions...as they were for their austerity.
Jim: You have Judith Dench, Tom Wilkinson, go right down the whole cast list. A very talented group of people you were working with.
Colin: Absolutely. This play, I think, is dependent on that. You’re not going to get anywhere if you can’t cast it well. It depends on actors. Bad actors are going to make those lines sound very rigid, and frosty.
Jim: The Importance of Being Earnest. Beautiful to look at, great acting, great sets, costumes. Can I say anything more except don’t miss this one. Thank you so much.
Colin: Thanks very much.
of the Wilde (Daily Mail, Aug 13, 2002)
On the steps of the Palladian north front of the house, the lead actors are intoning a scene. Colin Firth, fresh from his triumph in Bridget Jones’s Diary, but still best known as Mr Darcy in the BBC’s version of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, is playing Jack Worthing, who is a good egg, if a little pompous. Jack himself could be a direct descendant of Mr Darcy, but there are no wet shirts in this production, just tight neckties. (Read complete on location article here)
Going Wilde in the Country (The Times, Aug 24, 2002)
“I don’t know, but I feel there is something archetypical about us that puts us together. Funnily enough, I don’t usually feel like the short one—I’m 6ft 2 in and it’s not often I’m looking up to someone and feeling like the little guy. But I swear Rupert’s grown in 18 years. I feel like I’m Ernie to his Eric or something. Actually, it’s even worse, I feel like Peter Glaze to his Leslie Crowther. You know, the little round angry man constantly frothing with the indignity of it all, that’s me, and he’s the tall, funny, languid fellow.” (Read complete background story here)
Firth Sings in Earnest (TV Guide Insider, May 22, 2002)
"I'm very flattered that you even ask [if it was me]," Firth tells TV Guide Online. "If they got a professional voice in [instead], it would have sounded a lot better than that.
"I didn't really prepare very much except in my bedroom once or twice," the 41-year-old adds. "It was a fairly unprepared thing, but I think that was the spirit that was required. I was rather hoping it would all be dubbed!" Firth has a very different opinion when it comes to the vocal performance of co-star Reese Witherspoon—whose part calls for her to utter Oscar Wilde's witticisms with a British accent. "I certainly think that nobody could have been better in the role," he gushes. "We all had to make a bit of a reach... No one speaks like that. [The play]'s a hundred years old and most of us English people are fairly detached from that culture and that way of speaking now."
It's one thing for Brits to return to their roots, but can an American do it as well? "I think that the nationality and the origins of the person really come second," he asserts. "I'd rather she even got the accent wrong than have a perfect English rose who can't act."
In fact, Firth has a happy track record of acting opposite U.S. starlets playing UK beauties. Besides Witherspoon, he's also co-starred with Renée Zellweger in Bridget Jones's Diary and Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love. "Every time an American actress has come to do a film in England, I've usually been there in the film as well," he laughs. "So, I've always heard all the talk. But I don't know if there's really been a fuss about it. It may be more of a problem [in the States] than it is in England. We don't particularly care."
[Listen to streaming audio of the entire serenade "Lady Come Down" linked below.]
'Earnest' takes a walk on the Wilde side (Angela Dawson,
That summation probably wasn't far from the truth, admits the actor best known as Mr. Darcy to the legions of fans of the BBC series "Pride and Prejudice."
"He was very dull in the old days," Everett mockingly laments, correcting Firth's figure to "the first $1 million" to charity. "I wonder what happened to that!"
These days the two Brits, both in their early 40s, get along famously. It is probably a good thing too, since they play lifelong friends in the latest film adaptation of Oscar Wilde's century-old British satire "The Importance of Being Earnest."
Complete article can be read here
"Earnest" excitement" (THR, April 26, 2002, by
"And Colin, I find, is a terrifically detailed and sensitive performer. He can bring the sensitivity and complexity (to the role). What I was really thrilled with was I feel there's a lot of range to him in this part. I think there are moments that I was surprised that they're sweetly affecting. I wasn't quite sure how they'd turn out. (And that's) partly because of the rapport between the two guys. They worked together many years ago on 'Another Country' on screen and that rapport is there. On set it's there. I'm pretty confident that that's what sort of (resulted in) what they do on screen. Rupert is a terrifically sharp-witted fellow and you've got to keep your own about you. And Colin and he had some terrifically good fun almost fraternal tangles. It was so clearly aimed at what they were doing and they became even firm friends, I think, by the end, which was lovely."
Complete column can be read here
Sense and Sensibility (Vogue, May 2002, by Vicky Woods
(Read the complete article here)
Will screen at the Tribeca Film Festival
"Rupert Everett's Cheeky Ad-Lib" (Aug 6,
Matt Wolf, AP (Aug 1, 2001) "Director Revisits Oscar
And rise Colin Firth does, even if his character, the gently smitten Jack Worthing, would rather be alone with Lady Bracknell's daughter, Gwendolen (played by Frances O'Connor).
After all, when you're dealing with one of the most formidable women ever written—and a no less formidable actress—you don't dillydally.
"'Semi-recumbent,"' says Dench later, savoring the word during a break in filming. "Heaven!"
She stars in a new film version of Wilde's 1895 play, which is due for a possible Christmas release in one or two cities and a far-wider release in the spring. The movie also stars Firth, O'Connor, Rupert Everett and, as the fresh-faced young ward Cecily Cardew, Reese Witherspoon.
The director is Oliver Parker, who two years ago came out with a film of another Wilde play, An Ideal Husband. That one cost $10.5 million and grossed $40 million, which makes the slightly pricier Earnest a good commercial bet.
The problem, of course, is that Earnest is a far better-known play and was already successfully filmed once, in 1952, with Michael Redgrave and Edith Evans under Anthony Asquith's direction. Evans established the gold standard for Lady Bracknell's horrified question, "A handbag?"
Parker, who once played Jack in a staging of the play a dozen years ago, sighs. "You're bound to make decisions that a lot of people won't agree with, and I actually liked the old film of Earnest. It's charming in its way," he says. But he adds, "the thing that frustrates me about productions when I see them is that they tend to become the opposite of what I think is the play; they've become establishment property." The spirit of Earnest, he says, demands something different. "There's something wonderfully light but anarchic in it."
That's certainly true of the scene being filmed on this particular day. Lady Bracknell—the play's gorgon-like comic motor ("To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose both looks like carelessness.")—is checking out Jack's suitability for her daughter. She also, perhaps, is eyeing him and his friend Algernon Moncrieff (Everett) in some vague way for herself.
"She's cheeky," smiles the 41-year-old Firth. "There's sex involved here; these lines are a lot more alive than I had thought."
"I mean, she's frightfully flirtatious," says Dench, 66, who played Lady Bracknell at London's National Theater in 1982. "There are so many allusions to how fond Lady Bracknell is of Algy particularly, and then there's poor old ailing Lord B. stuck up in a room with a tray."
As she talks, Dench's blue eyes glisten. Her face looks tiny under an elaborately bedecked hat. "She's done frightfully well for herself, hasn't she," Dench asks of her character, "for someone who started out with no fortune?"
"It's a bit of a scary monster, that part," says Parker. "You really need to break it down and give it some humanity and vulnerability, as well as power."
The actors talk about the importance of approaching the famous play without preconceptions— of not being too earnest.
Says Firth, the movie "offers you the opportunity to escape the cliches of the play."
Watch a BBC news clip showing the filming (requires Real Player)
Evening Standard (June 14, 2001): "Passport
to Ealing gets renewal stamp"
Baz Bamigboye, Daily Mail (June 8, 2001): "Wilde
days as Earnest stars get their Oscar nominations"
Producer Barnaby Thompson calculated that his two leading actors, Colin Firth and Rupert Everett came away with 17 outfits each, including Rupert’s armour. “That’s possibly right”, admitted Rupert. Colin insisted “I never demanded them, I was provided with them”.
All this before we even get to what the ladies are wearing in the sumptuous film version of Oscar Wilde’s play about mistaken identity, The Importance of Being Earnest. Rupert plays Algernon, the penniless London playboy (essentially a ligger), while Colin is John Worthing, who lives one life in town and another in the country.
There’s Frances O’Connor, as Gwendolen Fairfax, in a most becoming silk number with a cream jacket fitted so tight she must have been sewn into it. And Reese Witherspoon as dear, darling Cecily Cardew, in a pretty blue and ivory dress. And Anna Massey, prim and proper in plain cotton and silks as Miss Prism.
Judi Dench, though, commands our attention in a hat of immense distinction and a faux fox wrap (she would have strongly disapproved of having a real fur around her neck). She’s also sporting thick-soled buffalo boots, because Lady Bracknell must have height. (She swore she would hit me if this was revealed. Ouch).
Judi has been on the set since Tuesday, having arrived late because she was shooting another movie, Iris, in this country, and also attiring in The Shipping News in Newfoundland. Today Judi sails out of a 16th century church in poshest Buckinghamshire and into view in….a graveyard. “Prism! Where is that baby?” she demands.
It’s just one of the great many lines from Wilde’s play. Director Oliver Parker, who shot an opulent film version of Wilde’s An Ideal Husband two years ago, looks at the public morality and private vices of late Victorian high society.
But I don’t think there’s any point in doing a period film if it doesn’t have a bearing on the present”, Parker said. “There’s no reason to just having people walking and talking and looking beautiful. There’s stuff going on beneath the surface and no one is what they seem. Gwendolen hides her dark desires under a cloak of respectability. Her mother, Lady Bracknell clearly used to be a bit of “gel” in her day, so I didn’t want her to be a dragon”. Even so, as Judi explains, Algernon and Jack are frightened of her. “But Lady Bracknell has a soft spot for Algy—she’d probably pat his knee, given half a chance”.
The young ladies aren’t the innocents they first seem either. Gwendolen, for instance, sports a tattoo, bearing the name Ernest. “She loves Ernest—people do anything for love”, said Frances O’Connor. “You can dress it up how you want, but people are just people underneath it all. They want basic things—love and romance—and Wilde had a knack of providing that”, the Australian-born actress said.
Reese Witherspoon, a superb actress, was in the film Election two years ago. Her Cecily is extraordinary bright, but consumed by an inner romantic fantasy life. “She fantasises about an errant knight coming to carry her off”, she said.
The ensemble, which includes Tom Wilkinson as Dr Chasuble, seem devoted to each other. Ms Massey hands out expensive biscuits and explains the meaning of difficult words. Mr Firth tells naughty jokes while Judi tries not to get the giggles. She knows this piece very well. She played Cecily at the Old Vic in 1959 and Lady Bracknell at the National.
Henry Fitzherbert, Sunday Express (June 3, 2001):
of crumpets in a Wilde reunion
The Oscar Wilde adaptation is shooting at West Wycombe House in Buckinghamshire with Everett playing Algy opposite Firth's Jack Worthing. It marks the first time the pair have acted together since making their movie debut in Another Country, the 1984 film which shot Everett to fame for his performance as a homosexual public schoolboy in the Thirties. "They are like The Odd Couple, completely different guys but very comfortable with each other, and that comes across in the film, " producer Barnaby Thompson tells me during a break in the action. Soon to join the cast as Lady Bracknell is Judi Dench, whom Thompson rightly calls "the hardest working woman in showbusiness".
Note: West Wycombe House was also a location in Another Country's lake and island scenes.
Netribution, May 11, 2001
of the World, May 6, 2001
Entertainment News Daily, May 4, 2001
PeopleNews, April 30, 2001
Although a byword for British comedy in the 1940s and 1950s, when it produced such classics as Passport to Pimlico, Ealing Studio in west London has not released a comedy since 1957. A source said: ‘They’re hoping to give a boost to the studio and the British film industry in general. The play is still hilarious and we’ll have to see what such a fantastic cast does with it.’
Michael Cieply, Inside.com, April 29, 2001
Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith, April 28, 2001
He says it'll be reunion time when he starts shooting Earnest in London this week. He starred with Dench in the 1998 Shakespeare in Love and recalls, "I did my first film, Another Country, back in 1983 with Rupert."
Variety, March 7, 2001
The Hollywood Reporter, Feb. 27, 2001
Earnest, which also stars Rupert Everett, Colin Firth and Judi Dench, is a comedy about mistaken identity set in English high society during the 1890s. Confusion begins when Jack Worthing (Firth) goes to the city, calls himself Ernest and falls in love with Gwendolyn Fairfax. Meanwhile, Gwendolyn's cousin Algernon (Everett) also calls himself Ernest, goes to the country and falls for Worthing's ward, Cecily Cardew (Witherspoon). Dench plays the disapproving Lady Bracknell.
Barnaby Thompson and Uri Fruchtmann of Fragile Films are producing the film.
And Rupert Everett and Colin Firth have joined Judi Dench in The Importance of Being Earnest, the adaptation of Oscar Wilde's play, directed by Oliver Parker and co-produced with Fragile Films.
The Independent, November 15, 2000
Rupert Everett and Dame Judi Dench are lining up to star in a new film adaptation of Oscar Wilde's classic comedy The Importance of Being Earnest, with Miramax Films expected to take worldwide rights. The film, produced by the independent production company Fragile Films, under the revived "Ealing Studios" banner, will be directed by Oliver Parker, who also wrote the screenplay. Everett and Parker previously collaborated on An Ideal Husband, another Wilde drama released by Miramax.
"The Importance of Being Earnest," perhaps Wilde's best-known play, is a frothy comedy of mistaken identity set in English high society in the 1890s.
According to Variety, the film and theatre trade magazine, Everett is to play Algernon, one of the two male leads, while Dame Judi is in talks to play the redoubtable Lady Bracknell, one of the great cameo roles in English drama. In the previous cinematic version, filmed in 1952 by Rank, the role of Lady Bracknell was made immortal by Dame Edith Evans. The film also starred Sir Michael Redgrave and Joan Greenwood.
It is likely to be the first film made by Ealing Studios since Fragile took over the west London studios earlier this year. Fragile has pledged to revive the Ealing comedy brand, which was established in the Forties and Fifties by the producer Michael Balcon.
The film, with a $15m budget, will begin shooting in the spring. Fragile Films declined to reveal further details yesterday.
The play has a poignant history in Wilde's life. It was first performed on Valentine's Day on 1895. While the play was in rehearsal, Wilde was in the middle of his troubled relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas, and was being pursued by Douglas's father, the Marquis of Queensbury. Queensbury planned to disrupt the opening night but he was stopped by a policeman. Two weeks later, Queensbury left a calling card in Wilde's mailbox at the Albemarle Club: "To Oscar Wilde, posing as a Sodomite (sic)." Wilde decided to take legal action and sued Queensbury for libel. He lost the case, was arrested for sodomy, tried, convicted and sentenced to two years' hard labour.
Chronology of Dame Judi Dench's Career
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