FEATURE Bridget Jones's Diary

Love at Firth Sight

Renee and Colin

Colin Firth reveals to Anwar Brett why he'll never escape from being Mr Darcy - especially when his new film has huge parallels with Pride and Prejudice...

From Film Review May 2001

We've all read the interviews, the opinionated, analytical, psycho-profiling type piece that actors and actresses are typically subjected to. And we all carry with us the impressions - right or wrong - that flow from those newspaper and magazine features. Take Colin Firth, for example. The one thing that every article you read seems to agree on is that he is fed up with being tagged, six long years after Pride and Prejudice, as Mr Darcy. He even hates talking about it, apparently.

"In a way I think I should just say, 'Okay, I hate talking about it'," he sighs. "But I never do have to talk about it unless a journalist is asking me those sort of questions.

"It's only when I get into a room with a journalist that they'll say, 'you really hate this don't you? You want to shake it off?' But I don't. It doesn't do anything for me one way or the other, so it's fine. But I'll still read that 'Colin Firth is still trying to shake off Darcy' and this only perpetuates it."

The question is relevant now because Firth is playing the dashing Mark Darcy in this month's Bridget Jones's Diary - a literary déjà vu in that the character was inspired by the actor's previous portrayal of the hunky Jane Austen hero. So starring in a film that has been cross- pollinated in this way by his own past work is hardly a sign that Firth is desperate to avoid the subject being brought up.

"If you can't beat them join them," he laughs. "I just thought I'd get in on the act now. And in a way there's something quite satisfying about being a part of it again. The problem with the Darcy thing before was that it's always very difficult to have anything new to say about something you're not doing any more. But now I sort of am doing something that at least has a connection with it, so at least something I'm doing is relevant to it."

So relevant, in fact, that Firth found himself re-watching some episodes of the 1995 series. "I did have a look at it before doing the film. Not all of it, but I hadn't seen it in a very long time and just wanted to try and remind myself who they were talking about, when they were talking about my character being loosely based on 'this guy'. I'd lost all sense of who 'this guy' was supposed to be."

The new film - inspired by Helen Fielding's popular newspaper column, and the best-selling book that came about as a result of them - introduces hapless 30-something singleton Bridget (Renee Zellweger), drinking, chain smoking and dieting her way towards reluctant middle age, watching those around her pairing off and settling down. Could there be a flame, a spark, or some, small smouldering feeling between the eternally romantic Bridget and the reserved but sometimes rather charming Mark Darcy? We shall have to wait and see. At the time of the interview even Colin Firth had not seen the film, but he held out high hopes for it.

"One has to be a bit careful of something that has been so well designed to be a hit," he says, tentatively. "But I think this film has been done properly. If there is a problem that British films tend to suffer from - and this is not true of most American films - it's that we rush things into production that really aren't ready to go. But that's not true of this film. They've worked very hard on making this script work and they even brought Richard Curtis in, and he's the genius who knows how to pitch this kind of territory."

The fact that Hugh Grant and Colin Firth are actors who are quite familiar to American audiences will surely not hurt the film's chances of success in America. And the two heart-throb actors do get to indulge in one of this year's more memorable screen fights.

"Oh, that was great," Firth smiles. "We just decided to fight like a couple of wallies, which is probably how we would fight if we did it for real. No big cowboy punches for us. The whole thing probably took two or three days, and while it was very tiring it was terrific fun."

Bridget Jones's Diary opens on April 13 and is distributed by UIP.

Image copyright: UIP
Feature © Visual Imagination Ltd 2001. Not for reproduction.

Film Review May 2001 issueMore from Colin Firth in this issue. Read Lórien Haynes' review of Bridget Jones's Diary here...

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