Audience Recaps of Q&A at the Burns Film Center
on November 11, 2003

Lesson learned: Arrive early for best of everything. Ticket agent gave good advice on when to come back for best seating. Early fans are usually there for Colin Firth. Met nice people who were full of questions and I became the Oracle of Pleasantville. After some rearrangement, became second in line. So far so good.

Layout of Center was very nice. At 6:15, the doors opened and leisurely took our seats. Very sophisticated film buff type of crowd, also very warm and friendly. Lady next to me gave expert opinion on where to sit ; she was a member and saw and spoke to George Clooney last year. Assured me that Colin and Scarlett would sign. She said the local crowd would not be interested in getting autographs etc. (Too world weary?) Looked through audience for Hillary and Bill, my NBF [Ed note: New Best Friend] thought they might appear.

Announcer introduced movie and how thrilled he was that Scarlett Johansson was there and "Oh, we might also have heard of Colin Firth, who was making a name for himself." To his credit he mentioned that we all might want to catch A Month in the Country—a real gem. We watched Girl With a Pearl Earring and there was applause at the end.

Janet Maslin (JM) stepped out and introduced Colin and Scarlett (no Peter Webber). Heart stopping moment to realize in same room, same air, same outfit as on The View (who dresses him?).

Must compose self to ask question. Mic comes to me and more yadda from JM.

Me: Congratulations to you both on a wonderful film. My question is general in nature. When you film something you think is brilliant and the critics call it rubbish and trash you and the film, what do you as an actor do to work through this type of rejection? How do you exorcise the bad reviews?

Guess who answers? JM. She shut me down with a her response. I still had the mic and I clarified that the question was general, the problem is widespread.

Me: For example: as an ordinary person when I have a performance review, it’s between me and my boss. I can shred it or file it and no one will ever know unless I tell them. Colin and Scarlett are artists and by nature much more sensitive to criticism. Look, we just saw a mesmerizing film.

Colin was really engaged at this point and said to her: "I know what she's talking about and it’s a real problem." Scarlett took over and railed about her bad review when she was compared to the Hansens in The Horse Whisperer. Colin then responded and made eye contact with me. He spoke eloquently, gave examples, told an hilarious anecdote, mugged, covered his face while peeking out between his fingers. And all this time looking me straight in the eye. The people around us were commenting on how funny and warm he was. I was having a "near death experience."

After Q&A the Co lin fans went to the stage and he signed everything for everyone. Learning: Take the quality stuff: DVDs, books, Speaking With the Angel and Girl With a Pearl Earring (book). As soon as he saw my SWTA, he immediately said to the handler, "I will stay and sign. No one has to leave." He took my copy of SWTA and showed Scarlett the weird plastic Colin on the cover [Ed note: American version] and she laughed. He said "This is my favorite picture."

After signing for me I also said "Sorry to have brought up a negative subject" and he said "It needs to be discussed. It's a real problem."

Colin appeared for a Q&A after a showing of GWAPE at the Burns Film Center. I had never heard of this place even though I live about a half hour away and I checked out their website and called them and they said that it was sold out but that I could come and be on a standby list and I did and I actually got in!

They showed GWAPE and after it was over I ran out to go to the restroom before the Q&A started and I opened the door to the lobby and HE was standing there smiling and posing for pictures and signing autographs for the theater staff! And I think I went into shock. It seemed so unreal like it couldn't possibly be him right there and I didn't want to stare and gawk and act all uncool, so I just went past him and went to the restroom and when I came back he was gone and I went running into the theater as Colin and Scarlet were just walking out on the stage and I had a seat in the second row. He was lovely and charming and funny. He had on the same clothes he had on The View earlier in the day.

I asked him a question too! People were asking technical questions about the lighting and that sort of thing (that the director could've better answered), and Scarlet was asked a lot about her other movie, Lost in Translation. I wanted to get the focus back on Colin. The guy going around with the microphone was right next to me, and I asked for it. I was so afraid of not being able to speak—to get the words out—I've never spoken into a microphone before. But I took deep breaths and did it. I asked something like "You've done a lot of great things that are maybe lesser known, like the Advocate and Apartment Zero, what are some of your favorite roles from the past?" He answered and brought up how A Month in the Country" was a favorite and how it was similar to GWAPE in that the love is unconsummated. He was looking right at me, while he was answering, but I don't even remember all that he said because it was so surreal and even when it was happening I didn't believe it was happening.

Many people were taking pictures during the Q&A and, since I had sent my husband out to get a disposable camera earlier I took some too.

Afterward, people went up and he signed autographs and I got one. He smiled and made eye contact when he handed me back my paper and he is just lovely and incredible and his smile is so radiant and he's sweet and kind and just so nice! I will regret forever walking right past him in the theater lobby! I will never have this opportunity again. I just should have said something like "you are a great actor and there are people all over who really appreciate it" or something and I didn't. But I did get to see him up on the stage and to get his autograph. He is really a lovely person.

The Jacob Burns Center is a very nice place in a very quaint little town, what I could see of it in the dark. Seem to have very interesting programs there.

I thought the announcer said he was the Program Director of the Center. He intro’d Janet Maslin, then left so we could watch the movie. Went out to the lobby and struck up a conversation with the Program Director, noting that I agreed A Month in the Country was indeed a gem, one of my favorites, and very difficult to get but that as of a year ago, I got it in a Blockbuster which surprised him. Told him I’d seen GWAPE already and he presumed I was there for YKW. I brought up Apartment Zero, which he didn’t know, but another guy standing there, who possibly worked there, chimed in, and we started talking about that for a few secs til I went off to the loo. [Wasn’t missing anything earth shattering in the first 10 mins anyway, at least not the third time]. On my way back, they were still gabbin, so I threw out Tumbledown as an example of one of his better things, too, which of course I knew he wouldn’t have heard of.

I’m not putting these in any particular order that they were addressed. And quotes are close, but not necessarily exact.

They talked about the painting...if the long shot [that starts in close on the light on the pearl earring] was the real thing or a digital reproduction or print. They said it was a high resolution print. It was very detailed, down to the cracks. What was rather jaw-dropping to me, was JM asked if the real painting was cracked like it is in that close-up. Pffft! It’s 400 years old! Thinkin’ maybe there might be a few. I mean, could it have been a dumber question? From the *moderator,* no less.

Another less than brilliant thing JM said was to note how different they here....rather gregarious vs. they way they were in the movie....brooding or rather humble. She started a question, then stopped herself and said, "Well, you are actors, aren’t you." Well, DUUUH!! Bet she was stunned by how gorgeous Colin was sitting next to her and couldn't think straight. I'd let her slide for that reason. ;-) Or maybe she was stunned by those stupid boots Scarlett was wearing.

They discussed the relationship of the Master to the maid, body language and use of eye contact. They were given lessons in how 17th-century people in these situations would move and look, or not look at each other. They were asked to walk down the hall, passing each other, like a master and maid would, while avoiding eye contact. Then they were asked to repeat that, but this time make brief eye contact. Scarlett said that as they made eye contact, her heart skipped three beats as she saw Colin's look. Actually mine skipped just hearing about it. Oh, the thought of it. *sigh*

The idea was to show how they went from being disconnected to connected to each other [other than physically]. Colin discussed how their intimacy really manifested itself when he accepted Griet moving the chair, which ultimately influenced his work. She had crossed the line into forbidden territory.

They discussed the possibility of morphing into the picture of the painting from Scarlett’s pose, but decided against it since Scarlett doesn’t look like the painting as much when compared directly to it. [Though some prominent features of Scarlett greatly resemble the painting such as the eyes, and the lips to a lesser degree to me when she turns around in "the pose"]. Colin joked that morphing them came out looking like Margaret Thatcher. SJ looked out in the audience and said, "Who?" Of course she was kidding....I hope. ;-)

Colin discussed portraying someone about which virtually nothing is known, including what he looks like. He said the only painting that comes close to being a self-portrait is one in which a woman is sitting with her back to us, her face reflected in a mirror [this painting was rather extensively discussed in a PBS show on Vermeer]. A smidgen of easel and what he said was Vermeer’s toe, was the extent of his self-portrait. So that was the extent of his inspiration for Vermeer. A toe. It was rather amusing the way he discussed it. I can’t capture that. :-(

The use of accents came up. JM asked why Scarlett sounded English. [Gee, I don’t know, maybe so she wouldn’t sound so out of place with the others?] Colin had a long answer about how they got to the accents. They weren’t going to speak 17th-century Dutch. Basically it came out to making sure the accents weren’t distracting, no matter what they all used.

Someone expressed surprise about Luxembourg as a location, and Colin mentioned that there were quite a few productions filmed there at that studio. He started to try to name some, hesitated and said, "Well, at least, you know, that Venice one." Got a big laugh from the audience. Quite the comedian he was that night.

They were asked about how this film would be promoted. Colin said that while he doesn’t know much about the science of marketing or what Lions Gate had planned; he felt it would and should be a word-of-mouth, as it’s definitely an art house film. He said the worst thing would be to overhype it as a "bodice ripper," though he did note they had the "It" girl of the moment to sell it.

As far as promoting the film, it was interesting when JM said that Colin had been on the TV PR wagon this past week with the assumption it was all for LA. He said not necessarily. On the Today Show, they were supposed to talk about GWAPE and he had a clip, but they only showed BJD clips and TEOR stills. He was rather surprised it seemed.

The subject of TEOR came up. He said it was going well and Renee was so fantastic as Bridget, that he could see it going on. [Gasp!!] Matter of fact, he thought there was enough material that there could be two more! JM and Colin discussed the rumor that Helen Fielding was writing a third book. When JM brought up Hugh Grant, Colin said he liked Hugh (in response to a question), but slipped in again, almost as an aside since he said it so fast, that he kicked Hugh's a$$ a week ago. I think it's funny how he keeps mentioning that. Like the little boy on the playground who beat up the bigger kid who everyone pays attention to.

Someone asked a question about the film stock, that they acknowledged Peter Webber would be better equipped to answer but that it was a special kind. Scarlett talked about Eduardo Serra, cinematographer, how talented and quiet he was. He knew what he wanted, could determine it “like that” and just did what needed to be done quickly and quietly. Wasn’t a lot of talk about it. She also mentioned Ben van Os the production designer. Colin had some stuff to say here, too, but I don’t really remember much more than this.

Joann and Pauline had very good questions, as was posted. I remember Joann as she was sitting across the aisle one or two rows down. He made a little face and sound when The Advocate was mentioned. He said AMITC was similar to GWAPE, small film, character study. Said the shoot on AMITC was five weeks, but kind of rushed as it rained the whole time, while the setting was supposed to seem like summer. They had to shoot with whatever bits of sunlight would come through. They’d wait for a break in the clouds which might last for only 30 secs.

A question came up about career choices. No idea what she said. Sorry. He said, over his career, he was offered a bunch of paranoid depressive roles, then roles in breeches, then fluffy comedies. He says he does refuse many scripts, but after a while just takes whatever because, "I gotta work." He tries to pick and choose, which he doesn't think he's very good at, but then gives in craving work. He did mention seeming to have a run of poor judgment, which he looked rather...regretful [is that a word?], maybe. Kind of tried to chuckle it off, but obviously not happy about it. Maybe a tad uncomfortable in admitting it, possibly to us and himself. Pure speculation there on my part, as I can only imagine.

[On Pauline’s question about bad reviews] He spoke for quite a while about it. Just staying under the radar of getting wound up about it, IMO. He mentioned how personal the reviews can get by attacking the physical aspects of the actor personally, their family friends, etc. The inclination being to not read them, basically as protection of some peace of mind. He told a story about a famous actor (no names) who said he didn’t read reviews and would passionately refuse despite his friends trying to get him to read even a great review. Colin was very animated, telling this story, moving around and practically jumping out of the chair, at one point, demonstrating what the actor in his story would do. Finally, he said, the actor caved. For himself, sometimes (for the bad ones I think he said) he’s just got to call up people he knows and read them to them, to laugh about them, rather than avoid them. I think I got all that right. He stated several times it was a real problem.

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