The Good, The Bad & The Badass: Colin Firth

Before breaking for the Sundance Film Festival, we took a look at the career of Ewan McGregor, a perennially underrated actor. This week's subject is another who may not be the first person who comes to mind when you think of the term “badass” but has had a consistent, thirty-year career as a leading man and only seems to get better with age...
Colin Firth

It's funny how long it's taken Colin Firth to catch-on in North America. Having been working since the mid-eighties, Firth has been something of a British icon since at least the mid-nineties, with his role as Mr. Darcy in the BBC adaptation of PRIDE & PREJUDICE having turned him into a household name over there and the idol of many a literary-minded young woman. He was so popular that in Helen Fielding's wildly popular BRIDGET JONES novels, the Firth version of Darcy was the basis for love interest, Mark Darcy, who - naturally - Firth played in the film version.

Coincidentally, it was BRIDGET JONES' DIARY which helped Forth finally catch on in North America, but outside of Richard Curtis rom-coms like LOVE ACTUALLY, it took a while for film bosses to figure out how to use him. He had the charm of a Hugh Grant, but seemingly not the eagerness to be turned into a heartthrob, preferring to tackle stronger stuff. Firth was almost fifty when he was cast in Tom Ford's A SINGLE MAN, which got him a best actor Academy Award nomination. He lost, but the next year he'd win for THE KING'S SPEECH, which finally granted him the American stardom which long eluded him.

Since then, Firth's had his share of triumphs (TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY) and fumbles (the barely released remake of GAMBIT). This week, Firth totally reinvents himself in Matthew Vaughn's KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE, which puts him in full-on super-spy mode, with the movie itself looking like a gonzo 007-spoof of the campy Roger Moore era (my review comes Friday, read Eric Walkuski's rave here). It's definitely an interesting new chapter in a career that's been anything but predictable.

His Best Film

I suppose Firth's legions of female fans would choose Darcy as Firth's best part, but having never seen the BBC serial, I must opt for THE KING'S SPEECH. This could have been a stodgy period piece, but Firth's immensely moving performance as King George VI – the shy, reluctant monarch – is a gem. As someone who stuttered as a child, Firth's performance struck me on a deep level, and his chemistry with Geoffrey Rush's Lionel Logue and Helena Bonham Carter's Queen Elizabeth is wonderful. I hope him and director Tom Hooper reteam some day. They really brought out the best in each other. Firth's performance in A SINGLE MAN is pretty damn impressive too.

His Most Overrated Film

Again, Firth's fans may hate me for this but I always though him as Mark Darcy in BRIDGET JONES' DIARY was too much. I think they were being a little too cute by casting Firth in the part, having him so closely fulfill Jones' romantic ideal that it became too fantastical, although I suppose that's what the fans wanted. It's not a bad movie (the sequel is awful) but certainly no classic (although his follow-up, LOVE ACTUALLY, is).

His Most Underrated Film

One movie of Firth's that's really gone under the radar is an HBO Telefilm made back in 2001 called CONSPIRACY. A chilling docudrama depicting the Nazi Wannsee Conference, where SS officials Reinhard Heydrich (played by Kenneth Branagh) and Adolf Eichmann (Stanley Tucci) put into effect “the final solution”. A film about the men planning the holocaust is certainly not the easiest sell, but the film is both fascinating and terrifying in the absolutely dispassionate, matter-of-fact way these monsters plan the monstrous murder of millions. While probably Branagh and Tucci's show, Firth has a compelling part as German State Secretary Wilhelm Stuckart, one of the authors of the infamous Nuremberg Laws. It's a film that's well-worth checking out (thanks to JoBlo's own Nick Bosworth for the recommendation).

His Most Memorable Scene

To me, Firth's finest piece of acting was his climactic radio address as George VI on the eve of WWII, as he struggles with his disability to give his nation the rousing address it desperately needs.

His Top Five Films


Up Next

KINGMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE comes out Friday, while Firth also has the very Oscar-sounding GENIUS out later this year, casting him as famed editor Max Perkins, the man who oversaw the careers of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolfe (played by Jude Law).

Source: JoBlo.com



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