An interview with Colin Firth on Weekend Today
conducted by Soledad O'Brien

May 26, 2002

Soledad O'Brien: ...this weekend in a remake of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest.

[clip of Gwendolen nibbling on Jack, going on about the name Ernest, while he proffers Jack
as having equally attractive qualities. It certainly does, the way he says it.]

Colin Firth, good morning.

Colin Firth: Good morning.

SOB: Nice to see you. And Jack, of course, is his actual name.

CF: That’s right.

SOB: And hence the story. But I’ve got to tell you, every single, young woman who I’ve mentioned I’m interviewing you this morning has said, ‘Colin Firth! What a hottie.’

CF: That right?

SOB: Is that strange or odd to you? Or just nice? You’ve really become this American heartthrob.

CF: You know, I never meet these people. I’m always told, you know, it’s someone’s mom or my friend or someone’s secretary or something. But it’s never . . . I never actually meet this person. [shrugs]

SOB: But you have to take my word for it. It is true. Let us talk a little about the movie. It is a remake of Oscar Wilde’s play. Were you concerned about doing a remake. I would imagine that anytime you redo something that everyone’s familiar with, you run some risks.

CF: Yes, there were definitely concerns. But you’ve got text that is this wonderful. Obviously everybody is going to have done it. But on one hand it’s going to help you. I mean, as an actor, that is your source material and there’s nothing like having beautiful language. I mean that’s all we have to work with. On the other hand, you can’t blame the writer when you get it wrong. You know, a few people have proved it works.

SOB: It all your fault if it doesn’t work. You play Jack Worthing, who’s a wealthy man who kind of splits his time between the country, where his big manor is, and the city where he’s living a double life, posing as his ne’er-do-well younger brother. Pick up the story from there without giving away all the very funny twists and turns.

CF: Yes, it’s a real challenge to tell this story actually. I get completely lost in it. Basically, he has a friend who also has a duplicitous life, whose intentions—dastardly intentions—are to seduce my stepdaughter. And my intentions are to stop him. And then we have two women who, I think the quote is, “We live in an age of ideals and my ideal is to marry someone by the name of Ernest.” And both the girls share this and both the men want to be called Ernest. And then you have mixed identities and . . .

SOB: It’s very, very funny and very silly in some ways. Was it a fun shoot to do or . . .

CF: Enormously so and it’s an oddity about filmmaking. You often find when it looks fun, it really wasn’t. That the product of a very laborious process and, in our case, we were having fun and were able to harness that atmosphere and put it on the screen. And it’s quite unusual to do that.

SOB: It definitely looks that way. I mean, it’s such a fun movie. I want to watch a clip. This is Dame Judi and essentially I guess the core to the movie is your character wants to get married and she’s the one who gets to decide yes or no.

[clip of Lady Bracknell’s interrogation of Jack]

It’s wonderfully cast overall and she, Dame Judi Dench, is terrific in it. Was it a little overwhelming to work with her? I mean, she is such an incredible actor.

CF: Well, when she starts acting, it is overwhelming. But she doesn’t specialize in being overwhelming as a person. She’s . . .  one of the great gifts is how natural she is. And she . . . she’s an old-fashioned trouper in that way. She wants to be part of it and there are some people who are great and they make you feel small and there are some people who are great and they make you feel great. She’s one of those. I’ve worked with her in Shakespeare in Love as well, in actually a rather similar relationship really, where, you know, she has all the power and I stand there like a fool. But, no, she’s very mischievous and a terrible giggler and, you know, she’s there to have fun. So, no, she puts everybody at ease very quickly.

SOB: Well, I would imagine especially in this movie which is so much fun that you guys were giggling through the entire thing. Colin Firth, it’s so nice to see you and, once again, this movie is The Importance of Being Earnest.

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