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5 Questions: Colin Firth

Colin Firth
Bill Phelps

The “King’s Speech” star answers what it’s like to be on the road for Oscar before stopping at the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Just before his Jan. 13 star ceremony on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Colin Firth — on a promotional tour for The King’s Speech — chatted by phone from Paris.

We spoke after The King’s Speech debuted at the Telluride Film Festival. You told me after your first standing ovation there that you felt giddy. Now you’re in Paris facing more. Does this whole race to the Oscars make you feel like you’re in a whirlwind?

Yes, it’s quite giddy. But at Telluride, you’re 9,000 feet up, and you don’t know what’s altitude and what’s a half a glass of wine. For us and the audience both. People laughed so much. I said to Geoffrey [Rush], “We’re gonna have to test this at sea level” to see whether it’s just the rarefied heights.

Promoting a movie to the press — it’s like how they broke prisoners in the Korean War, by asking them the same questions over and over again. Isn’t going on the road to promotional events kind of exhausting?

There are very few I can honestly look back to and say, “I miss that.”

What have been some of the high points of the tour?

Winning the audience prize at Toronto. My 50th birthday was the day of the screening, and it’s quite an experience to hear 2,000 people sing “Happy Birthday” when you walk out onstage. Geoffrey was supposed to come out and do the Marilyn Monroe rendition of “Happy Birthday” to me, but he chickened out. I’ll get him on my 60th. I’ll hire him.

Now you’re coming back to Los Angeles to install your star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Do you remember that Kinks song about the Walk of Fame, “Celluloid Heroes”? It goes, “You can see all the stars as you walk down Hollywood Boulevard/Some that you recognize, some that you’ve hardly even heard of/People who worked and suffered and struggled for fame/Some who succeeded and some who suffered in vain.” You struggled for a while, but not in vain.

I feel I haven’t struggled as much as I should’ve, actually. On a grand scale, my troubles are nothing. The perks of this profession are wonderful. It’s been very, very kind to me. The disappointments I would really have to be petulant and spoiled to complain about. It’s hard enough for people to get a job; to get the share of good ones that I’ve got, I’m deeply thankful for. When I think of other people in my drama class — some of them went on to do very well, but some you haven’t heard of at all, and they were vastly more talented than I am. I’ve had more than my share of luck.

Finally, any favorite films this year?

Toy Story 3 is one of the best. It’s great that they’re making movies for people with children ... and getting screeners is one the great perks of the business.          

 

FIRTH: MY 5 FAVORITE ROLES

Bill Haydon in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011)
“There’s no better character — he’s like a Russian doll, with one doll nesting inside another inside another.”

George VI in The King’s Speech (2010)
“He’s a man struggling for dignity when in fact he feels humiliated and very exposed by his speech problem.”

George Falconer in A Single Man (2009)
“Without it ever having been demonstrative, he experiences everything you can in one day. His dignity and his sorrow, bent on hating himself. It invites a certain tenderness. He has the vulnerability of a child but always striving for grace.”

Walker and Ned in Three Days of Rain (London’s Donmare Warehouse, 1999)
“I played two characters in there, and they both qualify.”

Weinstein Company/Courtesy Everett Collection
The Weinstein Company
Byron Purvis/AdMedia/Newscom

Astin in Harold Pinter’s The Caretaker (London’s Comedy Theatre, 1991)
“Pinter did feel he was a genius, but he looked at the play as something
he had to discover along with the rest of us. To be in the hands of the one who gave birth to your character is wonderful.”