Thursday, 07 June 2012

What good manners you have, Mr Firth

As Colin Firth signs up to a string of thrilling new film projects, The Lady reveals the little things that make the actor such a huge star...

Written by Annie Curtis

Hasn’t he been busy? While the rest of the country has been waving Union Jacks, uncorking bottles of bubbly and eating miniature sausage rolls, it seems Colin Firth has been working harder than ever. Which is no bad thing. After all, the harder he works, the more we get to see of him on the big screen.

Firth is currently filming The Railway Man, an adaptation of the true story of inspiring Second World War hero Eric Lomax. In fact, at the end of last month, the actor was photographed grinning outside a pretty Scottish church, as he prepared to ‘marry’ Nicole Kidman (who plays his on-screen wife, Patti).

Colin-Firth-June08-02-590Playing Mr Darcy in the 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, the role which shot him to fame

But The Railway Man is just one of several projects he has on the go. It was recently announced that he is also set to star in a new Oscar Wilde biopic called The Happy Prince. Cast alongside Rupert Everett, who has been lined up to play Wilde, Firth will appear as the playwright’s close friend Reginald ‘Reggie’ Turner. The film, which will be directed by Everett and starts filming next year, charts the Irish writer’s final days.

Firth has also signed up to play the effervescent playwright, actor and singer, Noël Coward, in Mad Dogs And Englishmen (named after one of his most famous songs). The film will tell the tale of Coward’s two-week 1955 stay at The Desert Inn in Las Vegas. Coward’s performances at the venue were legendary, drawing an audience of A-list stars, from Lauren Bacall and Judy Garland to Frank Sinatra and Humphrey Bogart. As Coward himself said of his Vegas run, ‘[it was] one of the most sensational successes of my career, and to pretend that I am not absolutely delighted would be idiotic’.

Colin-Firth-June08-SingleMan-03-590As George in Tom Ford's A Single Man

All promise to be challenging roles, adding to a career that came to a crescendo in 2010’s The King’s Speech, for which Firth won the Best Actor gong at the Oscars. Not that all the success has made him anything other than a (delightfully modest) gentleman. Despite wooing the world with his 1995 role as Mr Darcy in Pride And Prejudice, and recently being named on AARP’s list of the sexiest men over 50, Firth has spoken of how being good-looking makes life harder.

‘There was a time when a beautiful person was considered something fine and to be celebrated,’ he said in an interview with The Talks. ‘Now a beautiful person is assumed to be shallow and flaky… I think it is expected that if you want to become a professor, you don’t look like someone from Baywatch.’

Indeed, despite finding himself on countless best-dressed lists, he said, ‘It’s been easy so far because I have someone who has dressed me right down to my socks. I think if you know you are going to be photographed, you put some thought into it but, as much as possible, I like to leave the decision to someone else.’

So could that ‘someone else’ picking his socks be his beautiful wife Livia Giuggioli, with whom he has two sons, Luca and Matteo?

‘It used to be my wife,’ he said. ‘But then there are increasingly designers who offer you things and have great relationships with you, and if you like what they do, then it gets taken out of your hands.’

Colin-Firth-June08-TTSS-04-590Colin shared the screen with a stellar British cast in last year's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

He even knows how to write a good, old-fashioned thank-you letter. Indeed, when Berwick hotel owner, Elizabeth Middlemiss, sent Firth a cake as a welcome gift when he started filming The Railway Man in her local town, the actor responded promptly and politely with a handwritten thankyou note. Middlemiss said she was ‘thrilled to bits’.

‘I gave [the film crew] a note with [the cake] and suggested to Firth that if he didn’t want to eat it himself then he could maybe give it to Eric [Lomax], who is now 92,’ she explained. ‘After all, he’s the real hero.’

Firth’s letter, which will now take pride of place on Middlemiss’s wall, read: ‘Dear Elizabeth, thank you so much for the beautiful cake, which is a masterpiece. Sorry not to have made it this time to Sallyport [her hotel] but please accept my gratitude for this gesture and a delicious cake.’

And he even gave the cake to Eric. With manners like that, no wonder he’s such a star.

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