The Tonight Show
(with Jay Leno)
January 18, 2006
transcribed by Ada

Jay: Welcome back, everybody.  We’ve got a terrific show tonight.  From the new family movie, Nanny McPhee, Colin Firth is here tonight. [to Kevin] You know, my biggest fear is that I’m actually going to call him Colon.
Kevin:  (chuckles) Don’t do that, man.
Jay: I know. It’s an unusual name. Remember, Colin.
Kevin: Colin, alright.

[Jay continues with the other guest intros]
Jay: My first guest (in his bad English accent) terrific actor from England. You know him from the Bridget Jones movies. He’s now starring with Emma Thompson in a new movie called Nanny McPhee. A very funny family kind of movie.  [speaking toward Kevin] Yeah, yeah. It’s like, it’s not really a kid’s movie. It’s a family movie. [back to audience] It opens January 27th.  Please welcome Colin Firth!

[Applause, some yelling. Colin strides out, shakes Jay’s hand and goes over to the chair.  Wave to crowds and then sits.]

Jay: Hey, thanks for coming!

Colin: What do you think it’s like for Colin Powell?

Jay:  Colin Powell. That’s right, yeah, that’s right.

Colin: He was christened Colin. It’s the same problem.

Jay: Oh, it is? Yes, well, it all sounds like a medical problem.

Colin: Yeah, it does sound like a medical problem.  I’ve been called worse, though.

Jay: Does it go both ways in England? Colon, Colin? Not that you go both ways.

Colin: No, no, I don’t go both. No, I don’t.

Jay: No, no. I mean... (laughter from audience)

Colin: We know exactly which side our bread is buttered on.

Jay: Right, I mean does...Well (starts to chuckle), can’t beat toast.

Colin: Yeah. (grinning)

Jay: Now, let me ask you this, is Colin or Colon also a common name or is it only Colin in England?

Colin: No, no, no. We... No, no. Colon.  Nobody’s called Colon.

Jay: That’s what... (laughing)

Colin: No. Who would do that to their child? (chuckling)

Jay: Well, I don’t know what, but it’s like... It does sound rather cruel, but that’s what I mean.

Colin: (laughing more) Yeah.

Jay: But I guess, I’m glad I got it right because I’m a fan and I enjoy your movies very much.

Colin: (said sarcastically) I know, I know. I can tell, yeah. (audience laughs)

Jay: Yeah. (laughing) Now, I know you just moved into a new home in England. You live there?

Colin: That’s right.

Jay: Okay.

Colin: Yeah, moving house is, you know, they put it up there with divorce and bereavement.

Jay: Yeah.

Colin: and I, uh...

Jay: It’s a horrible experience.

Colin: Yeah, I’ve somehow managed to put it to the top of those, that list, I think, of stressful experiences. I moved to...I was in a new neighborhood and I’m not a particularly neighborly person.

Jay: Really?

Colin: I don’t like to be unfriendly, but I like to have my privacy.

Jay: You don’t go out of your way. You don’t knock...

Colin: No, exactly. So when I meet the neighbors, I, you know, I’ll nod and, you know, I don’t want any intimacy. Just, you know, I just want to get inside the front door. And I’d been in my new house for probably 3 days, 4 days, maybe a little longer and, you know, I was, I wasn’t ready for company.  My family were actually away.  I was alone. And I, you know, how one dresses when one’s not ready for company? I don’t know how you dress. Well, I mean, well, I won’t go into it now.

Jay: Right, yeah.

Colin: I was wearing, I came downstairs in a pair of nonpresentation underpants.

Jay: Ah, really?

Colin: And also a pair of slippers, which an uncharitable friend had given to me as a sort of joke for Christmas...You know those fluffy things with the face on the front?

Jay: Oh, yeah.

Colin: Some sort of woodland creature, I don’t know. Possum or an ocelot or something with eyes. And they were for warmth and that’s all I was wearing. And there was a…I needed to open one of the windows for some air. It was a window looking out to the backyard and it was stuck.  It was a sash window and I noticed it was actually locked so I went to get a key and I climbed onto the radiator, which, in order to reach it, which was under the window and it had kind of sharp edges, so I needed the slippers and I perched myself on the radiator, opened the lock of the sash and the top sash came slamming down.

Jay: Ah!

Colin: ...taking three of my fingers with it. Into a space, which you actually wouldn’t have been able to get a credit card, you know--

Jay: Oh!

Colin: So I was actually, this is 9 o’clock on a Sunday morning, in London, and I find myself on top of a radiator, with 3 fingers jammed between two windowpanes and nobody to help.  And (deep sigh), various things went through my mind. One is what has happened to my fingers?

Jay: Right, I’m sure.

Colin: Will they ever be able to be reconstituted in any way?  Then the pain started to make itself apparent...

Jay: Sure.

Colin: ...and it was quite considerable at this point. And then I realized that I couldn’t possibly go anywhere. You know, I mean, I was here. I knew a friend of mine was coming around about 2 o’clock that afternoon, by which time, you know, I’d had ideas about gangrene. And then I suddenly thought: do the people outside comic strip cartoons actually use the word ‘help’? Do you actually do that?  Help exclamation mark? And how do you frame that word when you actually need to use it and will anybody in London listen? I mean the answer is no. (audience laughs)

Jay: So you yelled for help?

Colin: Well, actually I tried ‘excuse me’ and...

Jay: Just into the air? Did you see anybody? Or just yelling ‘excuse me’?

Colin: (overlapping with Jay) No, no, no. I moved into this area because the house was a little more isolated so, hopefully, out of earshot. This was now counting, you know, against me and, but, I, ‘Excuse me, would anybody by any chance? Hello?’   And it’s very difficult for English people to sound urgent about anything.

Jay: Yeah, right, yeah. (chuckling)

Colin: Even if we’re about to go into battle. It’s righty-ho. It’s going to be a bit of a tricky situation. Some of you may not return. So it’s very difficult to tell whether an Englishman is being disemboweled or having a cup of tea. (laughter throughout examples)

Jay: Right. Wow.

Colin: This is the situation I found myself in, and I knew that I had to create a bit of drama in order to get any attention.

Jay: Sure.

Colin: And this was a horrible story because there was a part of me that would rather my fingers rotted than to meet any of my neighbors.

Jay: Plus you had your nonpresentational underpants on.

Colin: Yeah, that actually I’d begun to forget about the underpants and the slippers at that point because, you know...

Jay: The pain?

Colin: The pain. But I called out and nobody came. I called out several times and no body came. What I thought I’d do then was to break the glass. So, I let out a bloodcurdling scream and broke a pane of glass at the same time. And I thought the sound of the breaking glass, combined with the scream, might actually attract some attention. It did. My very reserved English neighbor leapt over the fence, came running to my rescue, managed to get in through the back door—I’m not sure how—and failed to rescue me.

Jay: No?

Colin: He couldn’t do anything.

Jay: Well, you hadn’t probably been properly introduced.

Colin: No, exactly (laughing)

Jay: That’s what I mean…

Colin: No, no. Well, no, we did chat, at least: What do you do? I’m, well, no. I know, thank you very much. It’s one of my favorite movies as well. And, yes, thank you. (sexy giggle) Oh, your wife liked it and your mother. Thank you. So anyway, about my fingers, and he basically said I don’t think we can do anything for you. And at that point, the front doorbell rang, and I said, ‘perhaps you’d better answer that.’ And he did. And my entire neighborhood entered my living room. It was the old lady that looks in the front window. It was the local wacko who only leaves his house in order to shout at traffic, you know. There was the local newspaper seller. They were there.

Jay: People, yeah.

Colin: Discussing what can be done about the situation. Somebody found some sort of piece of metal, prised my fingers open and...not my fingers, the...

Jay: The window, sure.

Colin: The window and then it was all invitations to tea and all that sort of thing.

Jay: Right, right. Did you put on any trousers at this point?

Colin: You know what? That all came afterwards. I had to be helped down from the thing.

Jay: Wow!

Colin: Yeah, and they left and I made arrangements to move house immediately.

Jay: Look, we’ll take a break.  Be right back after this with more Colin Firth.


Jay: Welcome back! Talking with Colin Firth. Now in this movie—I enjoyed it very much by the way.

Colin: Thank you.

Jay: Now there were a lot of kids and animals in this picture.

Colin: Yeeeesssss.

Jay: Which seems like sort of a...

Colin: Yes, whoever said that was a wise man about not working with children and animals. I mean it’s a little unfair to lump them together. I mean, they are different. There are different species.

Jay: Right, yeah, right.

Colin: There are children and there are various animals and, I think, you know, I have nothing but good feeling towards most of the children and animals that we worked with.

Jay: (chuckling) Most of them?

Colin: The donkey; it’s almost impossible to talk...I don’t know if anyone’s ever worked with a donkey but they don’t have a reputation for being cooperative and I remember Emma Thompson at one point saying, ‘You know, I think I would like to harm this donkey and I would then like to have something written at the end credits that said the donkey was harmed during the making of this film by Emma Thompson.’

Jay: Now there are tarantulas in this, as well. Are those native to England, the tarantulas?

Colin: No, I don’t believe they are. This tarantula was actually an old co-star of mine.

Jay: You’d worked together?

Colin: We have worked together before.

Jay: Same agent?

Colin: (chuckling) The agent may actually be closely related to my tarantula. No, the tarantula was called Colin. Named it on my insistence on a film which absolutely nobody saw about 2 years ago called Trauma, in which (directed to audience, some of which acknowledged the film) Oh! Thank you!  In which I used the tarantula as a murder weapon.

Jay: Oh, okay.

Colin: But I don’t want to change the tone by going in that direction.  But, no, as far as I was concerned...It was a she actually. It was an adorable, little furry creature.

Jay: So you could flirt a bit, being female.

Colin: Eh?

Jay: You could flirt with it. Use your charms.

Colin: You could, you know, flirt with it, have her stuffed and made into slippers or something.

Jay: So how did you prepare for this film, I mean it seems sort’s not a comedy, but it’s comical.

Colin: Yes, you know, it’s always a bizarre process, preparing for a role because you go into some other zone.

Jay: Right.
Colin: It’s very odd for the people who are living with you because you become immersed in something.

Jay: Sure.

Colin: (deep sigh) Sometimes you externalize your preparation in a way that’s involuntary.  You suddenly find yourself, you know, you’re going through your lines in your head and you’re in a restaurant or something and you start muttering and letting out expletives that shouldn’t be there and they’re antisocial. Now, if you’re preparing physical comedy—which is the first time I ever have—that becomes very complicated. And we were going through the possibilities of the comic double-take.

Jay: Oh, sure.

Colin: Now, this is not something that I’m a specialist in. I think you’re probably better at it than I am. You know, you sort of do the how many can you do. You can do the triple-take. Peter O’Toole used to claim that he could do eight.

Jay: Eight?

Colin: An octuple-take and pull it off.

Jay: An octuple? How would that go?

Colin: (demonstrating) And I was thinking is that actually possible and, if so, can I bring it into my performance in Nanny McPhee? And I was musing on this in, unfortunately, I was, in, at a hotel and I was in a steam room and it was quite a crowded steam room. It was quite small. There must have been eight or nine vile, naked businessmen through the gloom and the haze. And I was deeply immersed in ‘if you do the kind of, you could do the slow burn, and then you could do a couple of quick ones, maybe you could get to five.’ I suddenly realized the room was empty.

Jay: Oh yeah?

Colin: 30 seconds it had taken to evacuate that room because I, the naked actor, was sitting there going (makes several funny head and eye movements)

Jay: Yeah, yeah.

Colin: I suddenly realized I was alone and it was time to leave before security arrived. (Laughter)

Jay: Now, is the spit-take popular in England?

Colin: What’s that?

Jay: The spit-take.

Colin: Yeah, what’s that? I don’t know what it is.

Jay: Now you say. Alright, you say...

Colin: Show me the spit-take.

Jay: You can say, ‘I was with your wife last night’. (takes sip of water from cup)

Colin: I was with your wife last night... (water involuntarily sprays out of Jay's mouth)

Colin: (nodding and clapping) That’s it. I’ll popularize it.

Jay: See, ours is a bit cruder. Yours is more subtle. We go for the broad. Just spit’s a bit different. It’s all in interpretation.

Colin: Yeah, I know, but I will import that to England.

Jay: Yes, yes, thank you. That would be...Now we have a clip from the film.  Now tell us who you play. You’re an undertaker and you have what is it, seven children, eight children?

Colin: Yes, I have seven.

Jay: Seven children and the mother has…

Colin: I’m actually the make-up artist for corpses.

Jay: Oh, okay. That’s what it is. Okay.

Colin: Yeah, and so that’s my job description and the children are unruly, my wife has died recently and we’re about to all end up in the poor house, so that’s...

Jay: Right.  The kids are running rampant and you need to bring in a nanny but 17 nannies have been fired up to this point when the movie starts.

Colin: That’s right. There are no more nannies. No one’s prepared to do the job.

Jay: No one will deal with these children.  Let’s take a look.

[Shows clip of Nanny McPhee’s arrival at the Brown house.]

Jay: Let me ask you something, do you ever sneak into your own movies to see how they’re doing? Do you ever do that? Are you curious?

Colin: I had a bad experience doing that. It was quite sometime ago. I thought I might risk it just to see what it would be like to be among the crowd, you know, and to soak up the atmosphere. You know, not like a premiere where everyone knows you’re there.

Jay: Right, right.

Colin: But just to hear when the laughs came and when they didn’t, what worked and what didn’t. But I didn’t want to get caught doing that.  I mean, how much more embarrassing could it get?
Jay: Right.

Colin: Exactly. So I disguised myself as heavily as I possibly could, you know. I had borrowed someone’s glasses, pulled the hat down over my eyes and collar up, and bought my ticket like this (hunches down and hides face) and walked up the steps, and kind of kept my head down as I shuffled into the back row. Looked up and realized that I was the only person in the movie theatre.  (laughter)

Jay: It’s good for one’s popularity.

Colin: Exactly.

Jay: Well, the movie is...

Colin: The Master of Disguise (still speaking of movie experience)

Jay: Nanny McPhee.  It opens on the 27th.  Colin, thank you, buddy.  (to audience) Colin Firth!  We’ll be right back with Sasha Cohen. 

Jay shakes Colin’s hand and says private, “That was terrific.”

Gallery of screen captures here Download zipped file of video here



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