From TV Guide Online, 6 April, 2001. By Daniel R. Coleridge
Despite his roles in romantic faves like Shakespeare in Love and The English Patient, devotees of Colin Firth still love him best as Mr. Darcy from the 1995 BBC miniseries version of Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice.
One such fan was bestselling novelist Helen Fielding, whose Bridget Jones's Diary has been made into a charming film starring Firth, Renee Zellweger and Hugh Grant (which sneak previews today and opens nationwide April 13). Obviously, the heartthrob's casting was no coincidence. Fielding admits she "nicked the plot" of P&P and updated it as a tale about a thirtysomething working-girl Brit, and in so doing, wrote her own version of Mr. Darcy with Firth's dreamy portrayal in mind. But was he embarrassed by the scribe's public paean to him?
"I took nothing but delight in that," Firth tells TV Guide Online. Still, he concedes, "It's almost impossible to try to play any image of yourself that other people have. You don't know what it is. When someone says, 'I wrote this with you in mind' - which you is it? It's just very difficult to know what they see... So you decide what to do and go for it."
Having become something of a romantic icon as a result of his heroic turns in lush period dramas, one might imagine Firth feels pressure to live up to fans' idyllic visions of him. But in fact, he actually spends far more time railing against Hollywood's lowered expectations. "Popularity implies that you lack substance," he says. "It certainly does among the English. It's very odd. Particularly if it's popularity based on some sort of romantic figure... I'm thinking of Mr. Darcy. It tends to imply that you must be trivial in some way and, paradoxically, it gives you more to prove."
In the interest of showing his range as a performer, might Firth quit playing the knight-in-shining-armor altogether?
be honest, it's not very interesting," he ventures. "I just think that...
the business of being one of life's less affective and attractive people
is often a lot more interesting for an actor." However, he diplomatically
offers, "This doesn't mean I don't ever want to play romantic parts - it
can be very helpful to do so and certainly pleases people like my mother.
A healthy diversity in what one does is what we all look for, really."