Helen Hunt’s ‘Then She Found Me’ opens this weekend, here Colin Firth talks about stepping into a much darker romantic role than usual.
What is it about Colin Firth? The man oozes charisma, women everywhere want to date him, while men want to be him. A recent video interview with Colin for Mamma Mia! on Movies.ie received 20,000 more views than a similiar interview with his co-star Pierce Brosnan, so he must be doing something right! Not content with huge box office success in ‘Mamma Mia’, Colin is returning to cinema screens this month to star opposite Bette Midler and Matthew Broderick in ‘Then She Found Me’, the directorial debut from actress Helen Hunt.
Q: Your character in ‘Then She Found Me’ is a much darker romantic lead than the Colin Firth we are used to seeing, no?
“I haven’t inhabited those romantic roles to quite the extent that they’ve inhabited other people’s imaginations, if you know what I mean. It’s down to a handful of films, or some TV with the stuff in people’s imaginations. Which is great, successful things, you’re probably only too aware of all the oddities that come out over time, but they’ve all been romantic. So from where I stand romantic is not more than a theme, I think this is more to do with other people’s perception of it than mine.”
Q: Did you get a handle on such a dark character right away?
“I wasn’t sure who he was when I first read it. We didn’t have a lot of time, I don’t quite know the history but I believe financing came together very suddenly so I was cast in haste. I had ‘When Did You Last See Your Father’ looming, and I didn’t think I had time to do it, but this just fit in beforehand. I didn’t know whether they wanted me to play him English or American. He was a little bit undefined on the page, really. But Helen was up for any suggestions, and we just sharpened it in that direction. I think it’s quite funny to use that English stereotype and insert a bit of hysteria.”
Q: Some of the dialogue doesn’t sound like the work of an American screenwriter, did you have a hand at adding some classic Colin Firth dialogue into the script?
“Yeah, I think I tweaked one or two lines in that direction. My character wasn’t written English, which is a blessing really because there’s no ‘I say, old chap,’ which could well have been there if they decided to make a virtue of his Englishness. There was a little bit of tailoring to be done to make him playable in my tones. That line is pretty comical, and I think that’s not unusual for English guys in a rage. It’s usually a preposterous spectacle.”
Q: There are a lot of ladies out there who think of you as a sex symbol and a romantic icon. . . “When I look in the mirror I’m glad that they feel that way. I haven’t been chased down the street, not has anyone ever thrown their underwear at me! Anyway, I’ve spent years trying to figure out why Mr. Darcy’s fully clothed swim in his breeches and shirt caused such a sensation. My wife Livia certainly wouldn’t go weak at the knees if I came home in a sodden shirt! And I’ve certainly never seen myself as a sex symbol.”
Q: Do you think you will ever get away from the Mr Darcy tag? “Mr Darcy got my name recognised but it also put me in a box. It made me feel a bit of a star but 12 years on it feels like a school nickname you can’t shake.”
Q: Would you ever follow in Helen Hunt’s footsteps and direct a movie yourself? “I don’t want to direct myself, it’s just too much like hard work. I would direct something if I felt passionate about enough about it to stick at it for a couple of years, two or three years, because it really does take that if you want to develop something yourself. I wouldn’t just change my job description for the hell of it.”
Q: When playing a dad on screen dad are you conscious that your younger co-stars might steal the scene and take away some of the gloss from your performance?
“Very. This thing about not working children and animals isn’t just a mindless adage, there’s some wisdom in it. It’s not because they’re impossible, for one thing there are two conflicting things going on here. You’re dealing with a kid of about four, and their needs are nothing to do with the filmmaker’s needs. They’re not going to time it conveniently, filmmaking does not happen to a schedule, you don’t shoot something because you feel like it and you’re ready, you shoot something because the camera guy is ready, the circumstances are right, the light is right and the producer is looking at his watch. That’s why you shoot it. A four year old is very, very unlikely to have a temperament that’s compatible with any of that. And so the chances are you’re going to have people there who just ask a child to do that thing, now, and get going again. Also because you’re going to lose them in a few minutes because of all the rules. Actually a child doesn’t need any of that at all. Probably shouldn’t even be there. A child needs all sorts of other things that are nothing to do with filming, or a filmmaker’s interests.”
Q: Your screen daughter performed beautifully in one scene in which she was supposed to have earache, didn’t she?
“We called her Meryl Streep, she’s just extraordinary. There was a scene I was talking to Helen about, we just watched her having no self consciousness at all. I can’t remember how old she was, I think she wasn’t older than about three or four, and she just sat there, existing as a human being while all these cameras and things were going around her. Actors can’t do that very easily, we act like we’re sitting there existing. But that was the thing where you just think you could take a leaf out of her book, because that’s the real thing happening.”
Q: Does being a dad actually help in the scenes that you share with younger actors?
“I don’t know, dealing with somebody else’s child is so different from dealing with your own that you might as well be someone who doesn’t have kids. I acted with kids, not as a dad, but I did act with kids before I became a father and I think you’re just using your imagination in another way, really. People with kids don’t necessarily like anyone else’s kids and a lot of people who don’t have kids love kids anyway, so I don’t know.”
Q: What’s the reaction of your own children to the notion of acting for a living?
“Two of them are too young really to be at that point, and I haven’t really exposed them to much of it. I’ve got older step kids who I’ve known since a very early age, and a son, and they’re not interested. But they haven’t only seen the good bits, they’ve seen that it’s a bit of a mixed commodity.”
Then She Found Me is at Irish cinemas from September 19th