Exclusive: Oscar Nominee Colin Firth on A Single Man

The former Mr. Darcy on Tom Ford's directorial debut.

by | February 15, 2010 | Comments

RT Interview: Oscar Nominee Colin Firth on A Single Man

For 15 years, Colin Firth remained best known for emerging from a lake in a white shirt as Mr Darcy in the BBC’s Pride & Prejudice miniseries. Since then, he had two girly fights with Hugh Grant in the Bridget Jones movies, flirted with a Portuguese girl in Love Actually and threw himself into 2008’s all-singing, all-dancing extravaganza Mamma Mia. But he’s never really had a chance to show us what he can do. Until now.

His recent Best Actor Oscar nomination for A Single Man was proof that, given the right material, Firth can blow us away. The directorial debut of fashion designer Tom Ford follows a day in the life of George, a lecturer in 1960s Los Angeles who, devastated at the death of his long-term partner, plans his own suicide. Firth talked to RT about the role of his career, and why he’d consider Mamma Mia 2


A Single Man

[tomatometer]MuzeID=1218217[/tomatometer]

You’re getting accolades and nominations galore for A Single Man. How do you feel?

Colin Firth: Great! The Venice Film Festival was the best moment because there were no expectations and nothing riding on it. The film hadn’t even been sold at that point. My wife is Italian so Venice is special anyway. We showed the film for the first time and got so much warmth. I remember thinking, it can’t feel better than this. That was so fantastic that anything else is just gravy.

How do you respond to critics that accuse it of style over substance?

CF: Some people feel there’s a dichotomy between style and substance, but the look of the film is absolutely critical to the story. The way that George dresses is a sign of his desperation, his neurosis. External appearance is the only thing he can control. I thought there was something wonderful about that. I wish I could open my drawer and see all my shirts starched and prepared. But that’s not me. Incidentally, I’ve been to Tom Ford’s home and it’s a lot like that. Tom is very fastidious, like George.

Were you wary of a film being made by a fashion designer-turned-film director?

CF: It definitely had its doubters. Some of the people advising me were very keen for me not to do it. In fact, they were adamant that I shouldn’t do it. They knew that everyone would notice this film and, if it was a catastrophe, it would be a very noticeable one. People told me that this was nothing but a fashion designer’s vanity project, it would just be one big embarrassment and I should steer clear.

A Single Man

Colin Firth in A Single Man

But you never had any doubts?

CF: Not about Tom. But there was a problem with the narrative that did concern me. You’re supposed to invest a great deal in George’s grief. But, other than a couple of flashbacks, we don’t know anything about his relationship. Why should we care about this man’s pain when we don’t know his history? The scene with the phone call solved that. Tom was so courageous in letting that take its course.

You look absolutely destroyed in that scene. How was it to film?

CF: In the script, that scene is just two pages of dialogue in which George is very polite. It doesn’t say how he reacts at the end of the phone call. It’s just, “thank you for calling,” and that’s the end of the scene. What actually happened was that I put the phone down and Tom didn’t say “cut”. He was in a different room, watching on the monitor, so I stayed there until the magazine ran out. Eventually, I went through to the other room and said “how was that?” And I saw the crew were passing tissues around. Tom said, “could you do that again?” We did three takes, and that was it.

There is also a lot of humour in the film. How much of that comes from you?

CF: The words are all Tom’s. And shaving off the eyebrow? That actually happened to Tom when he took mescaline. He was a young man at the time! My job is how it’s delivered and Tom is not an interfering director. The suicide rehearsal scene with the sleeping bag is without dialogue, so there’s a lot of my humour in that.

A Single Man

Colin Firth in A Single Man

How does this experience compare to working on a film like Mamma Mia?

CF: That wasn’t your film-festival-Oscar-nominations sort of film. But that’s snobbery. Some people thought it was just a big old karaoke, despite the fact that none of the boys can sing — which I quite accept! The segues from the dialogue to the songs are all ridiculous but we’re supposed to be in on that joke. Critics wildly missed the point when they complained that it’s clunky. It’s a joke! French and Saunders satirised it brilliantly, but the problem was that the film already satirises itself almost as much as they did. Comedy — particularly the frothy and frivolous — is notoriously neglected by festivals and awards. But it’s bloody hard to get right.

You’re also starring as George VI in The King’s Speech later this year. Did it cross your mind that his daughter, The Queen, might see it?

CF: That did occur to me. I know the Royal Family don’t comment on such things, but I was very aware that she would probably see it. And I’m aware that he’s remembered, not only by members of his family but also by the public, with great affection. I’m not a… well, we’ll leave my political views out of it. But, whatever my feelings about the monarchy, I hope the affection and respect I feel for him comes across. There was something very quietly heroic about him.

One last thing: Pierce Brosnan recently nixed the idea of Mamma Mia 2

CF: Oh he nixed it did he? He’s going to need the work! No, I’m joking. I don’t want to spend my life in sequels and franchises but, having said that, I’d certainly get back with that group of people in a second.

A Single Man is out now.

Tag Cloud

Christmas Fantasy ABC Family diversity vampires BBC Netflix Trailer Universal FX ESPN cinemax The CW politics Calendar Fall TV GIFs mutant Hulu political drama Countdown GLAAD Animation BBC America serial killer USA Network binge Podcast Premiere Dates Star Trek romance HBO Spike First Look science fiction Logo Mindy Kaling Masterpiece IFC Films Kids & Family Year in Review zombies Ellie Kemper Esquire MSNBC Trivia Sneak Peek Comic Book Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt CNN Election Food Network VH1 History biography DirecTV what to watch Paramount unscripted FXX USA Oscars Disney Channel Reality GoT cats robots TIFF streaming Apple Writers Guild of America talk show social media 2016 Mystery DC Comics PBS Polls and Games CBS boxoffice TCA 2017 RT History Valentine's Day E! travel DC Universe Walt Disney Pictures Drama singing competition Mary Tyler Moore Pop APB Musicals VICE Thanksgiving CMT Sci-Fi sitcom TV Land Dark Horse Comics cooking police drama war transformers Superheroes Musical docudrama thriller Best and Worst TruTV El Rey Nickelodeon TLC YouTube Red Character Guide Reality Competition Tomatazos Super Bowl TBS 007 hist historical drama X-Men Lifetime period drama Nominations crime drama Set visit Rom-Com technology Nat Geo See It Skip It Watching Series composers Ghostbusters festivals Crackle Comedy E3 Comedy Central Interview Britbox justice league aliens supernatural Box Office National Geographic Winter TV PaleyFest Rocky psycho 20th Century Fox Sundance Now Summer Rock Starz Pixar Biopics Superheroe OWN Cartoon Network Infographic crime Winners NBC Cosplay Syfy Western crime thriller 21st Century Fox Bravo Adult Swim Music A&E comiccon sports Ovation MTV crossover Paramount Network Sony Pictures ABC golden globes CBS All Access 2017 Certified Fresh zombie Video Games harry potter American Society of Cinematographers CW Seed Freeform NYCC ITV Shondaland AMC spy thriller Tumblr Schedule Opinion SXSW Acorn TV 45 Lionsgate dceu YA ratings The Arrangement dc BET President Red Carpet Fox News TNT Lucasfilm LGBTQ Teen Extras Toys Star Wars Horror medical drama Action Photos SDCC 2015 TCM TCA dramedy Awards Showtime based on movie Pirates Columbia Pictures cults Marvel Grammys 24 frames adventure Country finale Emmys WGN FOX cops Warner Bros. discovery Sundance SundanceTV Creative Arts Emmys Martial Arts Disney Holidays TV Marathons IFC Spring TV DC streaming service Amazon