Colin Firth on the Bridget Jones's Diary sequel
Q: Does Darcy have a character arc? If not, what was the challenge of bringing something unique to Darcy?
CF: I don't know if there's an arc. The Darcy thing's been going on for so long for me. It's beginning to feel like an arc that dates back to 1994. This felt like another episode in this ongoing story of some guy's life in one version or another. I suppose that if there's a shape to what he goes through, in some ways it would be the path from the film three years ago. What happens when they walk off into the sunset? What happens to happily ever after? You see something of their -- the bliss of their relationship, which I think is one of the hardest things that you can seek to portray in any sort of genre or comedy. You see the irritations and you see the patterns repeat themselves. You see the things that annoyed each of them about each other when they first met actually come to haunt them. You see them separate, and then, you actually see a pattern that's actually one we've seen before. She suspects him of being, well, she finds him standoffish. She finds him arrogant, rigid and all the things that she didn't like when she first met him all come back. And all the good deeds he's doing are hidden away. He doesn't demonstrate any of them. Daniel Cleaver comes back on the scene. So you've basically got it very familiar.
Q: Were you ready to do this again?
CF: I didn't want to think of it as “again.” You see, I think it certainly wouldn't have been something I wanted to do if it felt like doing it again. The way we like to characterize this is that it is an adaptation of a novel, which was finished, done, dusted and an entity in its own right, I think already on the shelves by the time we made the first film. So, it did have a right to exist. It wasn't just conjured up to try to cash in on an earlier film. Having said that, yes, we were extremely cautious all of us I think. We didn't want it just to seem like an homage to something else. There are great dangers when the first film is very much loved. But we didn't want to mess with that really. And I don't think anyone recalls ever having said "Yes" to this job. It was something that, you know, there was a momentum that happened and it seemed inevitable. Not unlike getting your draft papers really.
Q: Did you rehearse the fight scene? How did you get it to look so realistic?
CF: We didn't rehearse it very much. I'm ashamed to say the reason it looked real is because we were two normal fellows who don't know how to fight. My experience of violent confrontation dates back to the playground age, about six or seven years old. So that's what I drew from, and I think Hugh would say the same. If you get two very angry yuppies and then put them together, I think you will get a fight that looks much more like that than Jackie Chan.
Q: Would you do a Bridget Jones 3?
CF: In the abstract, it's unthinkable. I don't really plan in the long term about anything. I can't think where a sequel could go. I think this time one would have to think of it as a sequel, unless Helen wrote another book. The only which I could possibly imagine it being interesting is that if it showed us in a state of advanced decrepitude really, a heavily deteriorated Mark Darcy. I think we're on the way. And Daniel Cleaver and Bridget, really puncturing the fairy tale completely might be a way to take it. But I've been ready to move on to other things for quite a while now actually. I'll be quite content to live my life without another one.
Q: Would you be willing to alter your physical appearance/weight like Renee did for a role? What was your reaction to her doing that?
CF: I didn't give it as much thought as many people do. The degree to which I'm asked questions about it and the sheer level of fascination on the subject is I think really a symptom of how this issue affects people, particularly women. The fact that women are in utter disbelief that anyone would consciously go the other way -- to actually try to do that -- is mind blowing. And I think they look at Renee with the same kind of awe that people watch someone on a high wire or something. Are they going to fall? How could anyone jump across the Grand Canyon on a motorcycle? Put on weight on purpose? What's that like? Tell us about it. She did it. It's not that unusual for actors to alter their appearance to play a part. Put on a bit of weight, lose a bit of weight. I mean I have done that before, advertently and otherwise. Not to perhaps quite that extent, but I think if I did it, it wouldn't get anywhere near the amount of attention.
Q: Wouldn't it depend on how many pounds?
CF: Yes, it would. I think that the most spectacular is the example that I think that I can remember, the first example that I know of, is what DeNiro did in Raging Bull. And I think that did get a lot of attention from people astonished, partly because of the extent to which he did it. It was a sacrifice made. I think he talked afterwards about having damaged his health to some extent.
Q: Or Tom Hanks going the opposite way.
CF: And then getting skinny. These are dangerous things to do. I think that's probably the thing that occurred to me most. I just hoped Renee was under the proper supervision, and I think she was. I think you are taking your health in your hands. I think it's a very courageous thing to do. But the reason why people are really interested isn't because of that. I just think it's absolutely fascinating to think that a woman would dare to do that on purpose, particularly someone who's very attractive and has a Hollywood-based career. It just seems almost reckless. So I think that's been admired and I think that, to be honest, Bridget doesn't have to be particularly overweight. I mean this is about women think they are whether they are or not. But on the other hand I think if she'd been, if she'd had the kind of leanness that only Hollywood actresses have, I think it would have been quite hard to accept her as representing that kind of neurosis. So it was important that she did it.
Q: What about the two of you working together this time?
CF: Well, the second time you have a shorthand and everything's much easier. You cut to the chase much quicker and I found it delightful to watch a character that was now familiar to me. It gave me a lot for nothing really.
Q: Do you share any characteristics with Darcy? Who would win in a fight between you and Hugh Grant?
CF: The second one, obviously it would depend on who you ask. We haven't put it to the test. I would say judging by Hugh's apparent level of physical strength while we were engaged in the fight and the number of times he asked for the nurse, I think there’s no doubt in my mind really. No, I can assure you I've never folded a pair of underpants in my life.
Q: Have you had any odd encounters with fans from doing Bridget Jones?
CF: My life has been largely taken up with weird encounters. They're not particularly anecdote-worthy. They're just people very often, and they're polite usually. These don't take the form of propositions or psychotic belief that you really are the character that you're playing. They're people who obviously identify very heavily with a female character and we are devices seen through her eyes. It's quite interesting to be in that position because very often it's not that way. the sexual roles are reversed in cinema conventions. It's much more often the male protagonist and the women the device. And we are I suppose somewhat archetypal. In that way it's resulted in the fact that we remain the archetype, we remain something that was deliberately created in the eyes of a woman who wrote a book, gained through the adaptation and through the eyes of a central character. All of them are female, directed by a female.
Q: In the book, Bridget Jones interviews Colin Firth. Was this scene considered for the film? Would you play a dual role like that?
CF: No, it starts to get confusing. No, there was never any talk of Colin Firth appearing as a character. That wasn't contemplated for even a second. In fact, when the contract was being negotiated for Bridget Jones's Diary four years ago, I remember when they were discussing the option for the sequel, which was part of the contract, I think my agent said to whoever was at the other end of this, who, "If there is a sequel, who will play Colin Firth?" And there was a long pause at the other end of the phone, and the woman said, "We'll call you back." They called Kit about a half an hour later, saying, "There are currently no plans to feature a character named Colin Firth." There were discussions of creating a version of that interview using some other figure. It didn't have to be, it could be anybody really. Bridget Jones interviews someone, a celebrity. And they toyed with versions of it. It eventually went by the wayside. It was a nice conceit.
Q: So she lands in the pigsty instead?
CF: That was the replacement. I became a pigsty, yes.
Q: What was the experience of working on set with Renee?
CF: She makes it terribly easy for everybody basically. On two fronts, is on a personal level, if you're a leading actor, you are enormously responsible for the tone on a shoot in terms of the level of peace and happiness and harmony. And the leading actor can make literally all the difference. It doesn't matter what anyone else is like. If that person's a shit, then the whole thing's just a struggle. She was actually ridiculously generous. I've never seen anything like it. I've never seen punctuality like it. I've never seen devotion to off-camera performance, which is essential. To have someone who's that talented is obviously useful to us all. It reflects well on you. It makes you raise your game. But if that very, very talented person is not giving you very much once they're off camera, their use becomes limited. She gives as much off camera as [on]. If she was crying in a scene on camera, she'd do it again off camera. She would do it for the cutaway to Uncle Bob. She'd be there no matter what, no matter how jetlagged from her trips around the world. She's incredibly busy. This sounds like a gush, but it was so astonishing to all of us that we were gobsmacked by it really. She was even off camera -- this is going back four years now -- but she was even off camera, after three weeks of night shoots, about five o'clock in the morning when she could have gone home, for a shot on my feet. "My feet don't need you. This is fine." "No, no, no. I'll be here. It makes a difference. It makes it real." And so that's what we're talking about. It was good-natured, involved with everybody on the unit no matter what their role was. Film is a very hierarchical environment. The pecking order is very strong. People can profit from that. In all sorts of negative ways. She made it very egalitarian. It was wonderful.
Q: Can you discuss what you and Kevin Bacon were doing?
CF: This is a film Where the Truth Lies. It's from a novel of that name by Rupert Holmes. It's a little hard to pitch. It's set in the U.S. and it goes from 1959 to 1974. It cuts between those two eras. It's about an entertainment duo in the '50s. We're a fictional, legendary entertainment duo and their peccadilloes and their involvement with sex, drugs, the Mafia, and how it all gets out of hand. Eventually, it leads to the death of a woman in a hotel room. And it's never resolved. It's a big mystery, and then cut to 1974 where this investigative journalist on the case trying to find out why the actors broke up and who killed this woman and were they involved. That's basically the mystery of it.
Q: Are you the journalist?
CF: The journalist is a woman. And I'm one of the two. Kevin Bacon and I play the act.
Q: And how do you find Atom Egoyan?
CF: I find him absolutely fantastic. A lot of freedom. He has a very, very strong idea of how much he wants. He doesn't over-cover things. He knows exactly how he wants to shoot it. He doesn't protect himself with endless coverage. He just knows how he wants the scene to be revealed, depends on his actors and works with them very specifically. Sometimes you have a slightly adversarial relationship with your director. And that can be a good thing. I mean, it can be a stimulating, slightly contentious relationship. Atom doesn't work like that. He does it very gently. You have enormous regard always for his intelligence. So there's always a big listening relationship. He tends to work by watching what you do, finding something that interests him, even if it's just a speck of what you've shown him, and then expanding that.
Q: And you're working with Emma Thompson now?
CF: Yes. It's something she wrote for children. It's called Nanny McPhee. She's the nanny. She's in it as well.
Q: So you're the father of the kids the nanny is taking care of?
CF: That's right.
Q: Do you take part in the special effects or are you out of that?
CF: No, I'm sort of out of that. I'm a makeup artist in a funeral parlor. I make up corpses.
Q: Are you taking a break after that?
CF: After the film? I don't know yet. It depends on how long the break will be. I might.
Q: Will you work with Richard Curtis again?
CF: I like Richard and I think Richard wants to strike out to new territory. So if he did call again, I'd think it'd be something different, interesting.
Q: No more comedies?
CF: It might end up something comical. I don't know. I little bit of a dramatist.
Dont't forget to also check out: Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason