thu 24/04/2014

theartsdesk Q&A: Actor Colin Firth | Film reviews, news & interviews

theartsdesk Q&A: Actor Colin Firth

The best interview ever with the Oscar-winner as he talks about what made him an actor

Colin Firth: 'Hysteria, fear, paranoia, weakness, cowardice - I think it's important to reflect them'

In some ways it’s been an odd career. Everyone else in Another Country (1982), the stage play by Julian Mitchell about gays and Marxists in a 1930s English public school, shot out of the blocks. Firth was the only actor to play both lead parts, one onstage, the other on film (1984), but he took the slower road to outright stardom and only now is he clearly the bigger cheese than Rupert Everett, Kenneth Branagh and possibly even Daniel Day-Lewis. For years as a young actor he laboured somewhat in their shadow. He was in a film adaptation of Laclos's Les Liaisons Dangéreuses, but not the one which cleaned up at the box office. He spent a lot of time in Los Angeles but not for professional reasons; his son by Meg Tilly was growing up there.

Then in 1995 his performance in Pride and Prejudice fixed him as Middle England’s frock-coated, sideburned pin-up. Suddenly, and for another decade or more, he was living under the long shadow cast by Mr Darcy. Notwithstanding his presence in hugely popular hits like Shakespeare in Love, Bridget Jones's Diary, Love Actually and Mamma Mia!, he has only finally escaped it with these two films. Whether one, or indeed Firth himself, sets any store by these things, the roles of a bereaved American homosexual and a tongue-tied English monarch have won him two consecutive Baftas. The King's Speech has also earned him a Golden Globe. It's more or less the same trajectory Helen Mirren took for playing Firth's character's daughter in The Queen. And now the Oscar is his too.I first met Firth in 1987. He had written a fascinating diary about making A Month in the Country for a magazine and it needed trimming. By several thousand words. I helped with the cutting. Of the several times I have interviewed him subsequently, it has always struck me how, unlike the majority of actors, he talks in carefully fashioned paragraphs about the business of being an actor, of being Colin Firth. To mark the moment his career peaked, theartsdesk publishes a conflation of those several conversations, held over a number of years.

ASingleMan_review1JASPER REES: Is it fair to say that on the whole you play withdrawn people? There's not much throwing your arms around.

COLIN FIRTH: Another Country was a pretty demonstrative character. In fact, because that character was so demonstrative and ebullient I felt that if anything I was going to get typecast that way. Because I played the character in the film who's a much more contained person it went that way instead. I think that's the only one really.

Another Country launched several careers at once, but yours seemed to lag behind the others out in the fast lane. They got further faster. Was there a private sense of resentment?

I've always, I think rather compulsively, found myself looking at everything from so many different angles and having so many different attitudes to things at once, that if you feel yourself marginalised slightly you can resent it and cherish it at the same time.

Watch a clip from Another Country