ELLIOTT KEENE

In Profile: Colin Firth

Posted on: May 5, 2011

From grumpy toff to stuttering monarch, Colin Firth may be at the Oscar-winning height of his 30 year career, but it was no overnight success. Ahead of the DVD release of his latest epic The King’s Speech, I take a glimpse at the real Mr Darcy’s tale…

Born in 1960 to two academic lecturers, a young Colin Firth moved from Hampshire to Nigeria at just two weeks old, where he spent several of his early years. “There was an immense cultural diversity under my roof throughout my entire upbringing” Firth says. Having also lived in St Louis, USA before moving back to the UK at 11, the quintessential Englishman had a surprisingly multicultural childhood.

Neither did he have a particularly privileged start – forget the Justin Beiber’s and child stars of today – Firth started out collecting rubbish in his first job as a dustman. In fact, nothing about his life on the road to fame echoes qualities of the upper-class gentlemen that his typecast character has become so renowned for. Studying at London’s Drama Centre Firth tells of how he “tended to get flamboyant characters, paranoids and psychos. Since then, I’ve been astonished to find myself playing naive, sensitive, romantic young chaps.” After going on to appear in huge theatre productions such as Valmont in 1989, he branched out to Hollywood cinema with a string of films – including Wings of Fame and Femme Fatale in 1991, neither of which were remarkably successful.

As a major international success the BBC adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice propelled Firth to new heights, playing heartthrob character Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy. The television series gained the young actor sex icon status with one of Rom-Com’s most iconic scenes that still remains resonant in minds today – yes, the wet shirt.

The following year in 1996, Despite Firth’s personal life complications with the separation from co-star Meg Tilly in 1994, his career grew from one blockbuster to another, with the release of Shakespeare in Love, the Bridget Jones Diary series, Love Actually and more recently Mamma Mia.

However his role in multi-award winning film A Single Man, directed by fashion designer Tom Ford, was described as “a quantum leap for Colin Firth”. Firth took on the role of a grieving gay college professor which earned him an Academy Award nomination and gained triumphant film festival attention, whilst Firth used his increasing fame to speak out about the challenges facing gay actors who risk losing roles if they come out. “I think it needs to be addressed. I think we should all be allowed to play whoever — but I think there are still some invisible boundaries which are still un-crossable.”

In 2007 the actor exclaimed how grateful he was to receive an honorary degree from the University of Winchester, before his profile reached royalty status earlier this year with the phenomenal success of The Kings Speech.

His portrayal of the stammering George VI was a powerful performance that put him in line for Oscar glory earlier this year, whilst also winning big at the BAFTAs and Golden Globes. At such a pinnacle point of one’s career, it seems Firth has been able to break away from his romanticist hero typecast set by the commercial success of Bridget Jones, to reveal a more raw, genuine and of course, brilliantly English, talent.

There is no denying Firth has now reached a point that all actors dream about, but he stays rooted in reality, accepting his Oscar saying “I have a feeling my career just peaked,” before dedicating it to his mother Shirley, wife Livia and “all the people who have been rooting back home”. His increased star power is bound to change his future career, most likely using it to aid his charity work and campaigning which he has shown commitment to for many years, but in the movie stakes it seems he is opting for smaller art-house movies in between his big accomplishments. Firth plays more of a cameo role in his next project the John Le Care thriller Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy out this Autumn.– but in the mean time you can enjoy the epic that is The Kings Speech on DVD, available from 9th May.

The King’s Speech – available at Play.com

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