Firth, Colin Firth.Colin Firth Career Timeline. Online since 1997. Updated
||Question: What do you see when you look in the mirror?
Colin: Something very over familiar and ordinary.
Question: What's your charm?
Success hasn't changed the fact that Firth is a sensitive and thoughtful person - qualities which are hallmarks of his intelligent portrayals. These formidable assets are coupled with a capacity for hard work. Each role is given a great deal of preparation. "I'm like a glutton... anything I can lay my hands on from the moment I know I'm doing a job." [Film & Filming, Sept. 1989]
Colin about Paul Scofield, Colin's co-actor in the film 1919: "The first actor who really blew me away was Paul Scofield in [the movie] A Man for All Seasons. I'd never seen such integrity in acting, and it struck me as a fascinating paradox because acting is artifice. It can be argued to be entirely false. I thought, how can an actor suggest such truth?" [A&E Monthly, Dec. 1996]
Other actors he admires are Albert Finney, Donald Pleasance, Anthony Hopkins, Robert Duvall. "I did Schnitzler's The Lonely Road with Anthony Hopkins. I learned so much from him. He gave me everything, he listened intensely - and yet it was him everyone looked at". (NY Times, Jan. 14, 1996)
"Something happens when you see him on stage" explains Penny Edwards who taught drama to the schoolboy Firth at Eastleigh's Barton Peveril College. "He has this huge presence and of course that amazing voice. Once you have seen him in action it does alter your view of him." (Daily Express, Dec. 20 1995)
Director Anthony Minghella says: "Colin is delicate." Is that the same as subtle? I ask. "Subtlety is nothing to do with acting - it's how you put your fingers down on the piano keys - he's delicate." (The Guardian, Feb. 10, 1996)
"I have a sort of neutrality about my appearance and my background which is applicable in a lot of different directions. I'm just about educated enough, I'm just about well spoken enough. I've got enough of a voice, I'm neutral enough looking, I can be good-looking enough, I can be unattractive enough. I'm in absolute pole position really, all of the advantages - there are no complaints here at all." [Attitude, April 1997]
The roles of which he has been proudest have involved both the challenge of moral values and the destruction and healing of "ordinary" men: A Month In The Country in which he played a Paschendael survivor whose longing for the vicar's wife was declared only by his burning eyes and the way in which he folded her rose into his book, and crushed it. Another, Robert Lawrence in Tumbledown, the journey of a Falklands "hero" shot and paralysed. (The Guardian, Feb. 10, 1996)
"The thing that shocked me most about Tumbledown was I'd got so close to Robert. Here was a guy who was at my side through the whole shoot. And I thought: I'm really like him. I was imagining being him, and then when the thing came out and all those familiar facial gestures appeared, I was physically ill with disappointment. It took years to appreciate what I'd done. It's just an actor and his vanity. But with Fever Pitch I learnt from that, I filtered out all the bullshit early on. I think that's why I'm a lot more like Nick in the film than some people expect. It's not an impersonation but it is a form of osmosis." (Time Out, March 19-26, 1997)
On living in Canada: At the time, I was exhausted. I'd been doing back to back jobs for years. I was in danger of losing my love of it. I was bitterly disappointed at Valmont's lack of success. I also felt a tremendous relief that it didn't launch me to another level.
You're supposed to get yourself signed onto a new job before anybody sees whether your last job was any good, but I refused even to go to the meetings before it was released. Probably people thought I was being snobbish. It has much to do with fear - fear of success as much of rejection. I'd be very frightened if I suddenly found myself famous. Yet part of you does want to sell out and be adored. Your vanity, or your dignity, keeps you from whoring out - and then you start whining that nobody loves you." [Sunday Mail, Nov. 10, 1996]
"I like playing strange characters," says Colin Firth, who got his wish playing a fastidious, twisted film fanatic in the haunting Apartment Zero. "Some people might say it has something to do with a hidden part of myself, but I think it's a lot simpler than that: normal people are just not very interesting." [Premiere Mag. Nov. 1989]
Firth is a big stickler for good parts and worthy projects, although he says he's not beyond temptation. /.../ "I've never been any good in anything that has been badly written", says Firth who is known to be highly self-critical. [Attitude, April 1997]
"I completely respect people's curiosity, and I'm actually glad of it in a way. It means you've made some sort of impact. But there should be a degree of mystery about any creative process, and I think that's the way it should stay. When you see a magician perform, it's appropriate that you should be curious how the trick is done; it's not necessarily appropriate that you should be told".(Jasper Rees, Elle, May 1997).
Acting is not very nice when it affects your personality or when you're being slagged off. I'm rather run-of-the-mill, in that I'm yet another of those who constantly flirts with the idea of giving it all up. The trouble is we become a little precious. We are spoiled because we're permitted to operate outside normal conventions. We hug and kiss to say hello. We use foul language without anyone telling us off, behave extremely badly if we want, play when everyone else is at work. That makes us feel special and self-dramatising, but we can also think it is not a very dignified, grown up or important enough job for an intelligent person. You have to be a bit mad. We cherish the notion that one day we'll write or direct and we're not simply a luv. I am no exception." [Radio Times, February 1997]
On playing Darcy in Pride and Prejudice: Since he was away making another film while the miniseries was shown in England, he wasn't able to fully register the extent of the hysteria. Women have been naming their babies Darcy, buying Mr. Darcy-ish garments for their boyfriends. The BBC itself auctioned one of the film's famous frilly shirts for charity, inviting women to take "a last look at the shirt they longed to undo." "I can't understand it," says Firth. "I've never tried harder not to be sexy in my life." [US Vogue, Sept. -96]
"I feel a bit of an impostor; I certainly don't get mobbed in the street and nobody's sent me their knickers yet. There is a Fans of Firth Website now, or so I've been told. Obviously I want to leave Pride and Prejudice behind and go on to other things. I think my problem is that I never really appreciate what I'm doing until a long time afterwards. Despite the moist tripe that was written in some quarters, most people accepted that what made Firth's performance special was that it was a romantic rather than a sensual depiction, one in which 'less was more'. Maybe Firth's astringent attitude to his craft is a reflection of his admitted guilt at not having followed his parents into academic life, "not having got into Cambridge or been a missionary in Africa. Mind you, my granny was pleased as punch that I'd done some Jane Austen." [Time Out March 19-26 1997]
Q. Have you recovered from playing Mr Darcy?
In Fever Pitch Firth has exchanged Darcy's breeches for jeans and leather jacket but still stands out. A scene is being shot in the school corridor where his character is letting slip an indiscretion to the headmaster. The exchange, though enacted again and again, is very funny and cracks up the crew, and everybody else, every time.
Actress Holly Aird about Colin: "Colin Firth hasn't let fame go to his head. People ask if I was jealous because Ruth Gemmell gets to kiss him in Fever Pitch and I don't. In real life Colin is nothing like Mr Darcy. Of course, to play a sexy role, you have to have part of it inside you, but Colin isn't arrogant. In real life he's quiet, shy, and mostly sits and reads. When we meet socially he always says hello and remembers our last conversation." [Woman's Journal, May 1997]
Fever Pitch - /.../ is arguably the role that most reflects Firth's real personality. (Jasper Rees, Elle, May 1997)
"It's common for me to believe I'm an impostor when I act. Who the hell am I to take on these people's lives which have nothing to do with me? I feel I don't have the credentials, and that makes me jittery. But I've, discovered ways of appropriating a character and very often I end up thinking I've just played myself."
This doesn't mean he has no real personality of his own, like many actors, but he does admit, "It can be a recipe for instability. Your own identity becomes dislodged so the job tends to attract those with a rather oddly placed ego. Someone who can change personality although I resist the word "change" because I think you're always playing yourself in a sense - one may have a weak sense of oneself, or be prone to suggestion. It's asking for problems when you put these over-sensitive creatures into a position where financial stakes are high and they're in the hands of other people's judgment. My way out is to have a healthy sense of the absurd, which kicks in at crucial moments.
There's a paradox to most things in life. Acting is often dressing up in frocks and chasing your ego, but that doesn't mean you don't take it seriously.
A lot of actors love to believe they are doing something noble, that telling stories is essential and beneficial - and at the same time wondering if they're just trying to feed their egos, make money and gain applause. Its possible the two can coexist, but I cling to the belief that acting has its uses. I'm not at ease discussing them because of the dreaded 'luvvie' label, although I have to say it doesn't bother me terribly. It's just a nickname, and I daresay it's been earned." [Radio Times, February 1997]
On future roles: "I would like on of the next five at least to be theatre, despite how inconvenient it is for me to do theatre at the moment. /.../ I would like to work in this country more. I miss working with english people. It was fantastic to do something contemporary and domestic with Fever Pitch, to come and use a vernacular close to my own". ( Elle, May 1997)
He both longs and fears for the chance to take on a huge Shakespearean role - to put his stake down on the hill of men and to have his courage and worth tested. "I remember talking to Robert Lawrence, who I played in Tumbledown, and knowing that something happens in war when the adrenalin flows and there's only going for it in a bestial sort of way. Just occasionally a part comes along which provokes that recklessness in me and yes, Hamlet would be one. But you get eaten up by it - and I'm afraid. I don't want to be lost to the world." (The Guardian, Feb. 10, 1996)
Colin Firth plays the solemn and humourless Lord Wessex in the Oscar awarded film Shakespeare in Love. Gwyneth Paltrow on Colin: "When I first met him I thought he was quite serious. But actually he is very funny." [People, Feb. 1999]
No need to make up praise for his portrayal of the pernicious English aristocrat who comes between William Shakespeare and the Bard's true love (played by Gwyneth). As The New York Times put it, "[He is] a perfect Mr. Wrong." Still, Firth knows that his supporting role is unlikely to catapult him to Hollywood-style superstardom anytime soon. And that's just fine with him. "I've got nothing against being adored," he says. "Actors do need to be praised. But do I want everyone in a restaurant to know me? Absolutely not." [People, Feb 1999]
Colin Firth and his sister Kate were interviewed in The Times 1994. Kate: "It's an odd experience watching Colin act. He really becomes the character. Most of the time I forget it's him, then suddenly I see a smile or hear a tone of voice and think: 'I know that person'." (The Sunday Times, Aug 1994)
After spending most of the morning of April 16  appearing on US tv shows chatting about Bridget Jones's Diary. By noontime, he sounded relieved to be out of a television studio. "It's a strange experience," said Mr. Firth, who plays the somewhat wooden lawyer Mark Darcy in the film. "It's not me at my most comfortable, doing live television. The format has too much to do with the sound bites. I find it unnatural that anybody is comfortable being watched." A pause, then: "A strange thing for an actor to say." But he had an explanation: what audiences see in "Bridget Jones's Diary" is an actor playing a character, not Mr. Firth being himself. "I don't feel I resemble myself at all when I see myself on television." Then, in the course of a conversation that touched on everything from the death penalty to kamikazelike drivers in Rome, he said the same kinds of things he had said on television about Mr. Grant and Ms. Zellweger. [NY Times 17 April, 2001]
People magazine: It's time to hit the beach and find a look that works both on the sand and in the surf. Describe your favorite swimsuit. Colin Firth: "I do not wear tiny swimming trunks. I have a sense of humor about myself, but it doesn't extend that far..." [People Mag, 11 May, 2001]
From the GQ Award ceremony in London 5 Sept. 2001, when a disbelieving Colin Firth received the Actor of the Year Award: "I'm not normally nominated for anything. I suppose the purist in me doesn't really believe in them... But there's nothing more convincing than getting one - to convince you otherwise!"
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