Dressed in a sharp black suit and open collar white shirt, Colin Firth looked every inch the Hollywood leading man as he was presented with Variety’s ‘International Star of the Year’ award by Carey Mulligan at DIFF 2010.
The Oscar-nominated actor received a loud round of applause in the packed auditorium and then sat back in a sleek leather chair for a public Q&A session. Unlike his serious, sometimes humourless on screen counterparts, Firth was surprisingly candid and funny. He shared anecdotes about his childhood and career and took time to answer questions from the audience.
Here are some of the highlights:
On how he decided to become an actor:
“Oh, one day when I was 14. I’d love mincing about as a child in frocks. If I hadn’t succeeded as an actor I’d be some burlesque queen or something. I just had to have a life where I could put make-up on.”
The difficulty of stammering for The King’s Speech:
“Our director Tom Hooper was very strict about it. I had some concerns about this because…I mean he wanted me to stammer on every single line and I thought, you know, not only will I get exhausted, I was afraid the audience would get exhausted with it. You’re walking a bit of a tight rope with that sort of thing because, a) you’re praying that it’s going to be authentic anyway, and then to be told the performance was going to feature it that much is rather mind-blowing. There are a lot of words. The writer had marked stammering on the first two pages and then said I’m not going to do it for the rest of the script…you’ll decide.
Tom felt the stakes had to be that high…partly because he [King George VI] never overcame the stammer completely. That’s not what was going on, he was trying to come to an arrangement with it and overcome the terror that accompanied it. But the stammer was not something you could completely defeat.”
“But he [Tom Hooper] couldn’t push me how to do it. There’s no way of telling somebody how to stammer. There’s a lot of stuff written on how not to stammer and how to overcome a stammer but there aren’t any books on how to stammer, there are no experts on how to stammer.”
The ingredients for an ideal director:
“It’s a tough job but it can take so many forms. I mean the perfect director is almost an impossible thing for a human being to encapsulate.
The perfect one would have to know everything about the text, have a profound understanding of the text. Would have to have a profound understanding of the job of the performer and the interpretation of that text. And understand actors as creatures.
They would also have to know all about lens and light. They would have to understand the crew’s problems, the technician’s problems. They’d have to understand make-up and hair. They’d have to work well with producers. They’d have to know how to promote a film. They’d have to know how to develop a film, to develop a script and work with writers…Frankly if you can tick three of those boxes, you’re probably pretty good.”
Initial reaction to the role of Mr Darcy:
“When I was offered the role, I was inundated with people begging me not to do it because I would ruin it. I had people, even in my own family, I had women saying please I’ve been in love with this character since I was at school, please don’t undo that for me. You’ll take a great character of literature and you’ll spoil it forever. I was listening to them, I mean I think they were right. This is a man who…this smouldering, taciturn, rather still figure who is perceived always through the eyes of someone else, you never hear an account of himself from himself except briefly. So it’s very hard to know how to inhabit that, and I thought this character doesn’t do anything except scour and look out of windows. I thought I couldn’t make a stretch to be a guy who scours, looks out windows and be so fascinating.”