It’s been quite a week for Colin Firth. The 50-year-old British actor got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He won Best Actor honors at both the Golden Globes and the Critics’ Choice Awards for his performance as the stammering King George VI in “The King’s Speech.” And critics and fans predict that he’ll take home the Best Actor Oscar in March. (The nominations won’t be announced till January 25, but Firth is sure to be on the list.) UPDATE: Colin Firth did indeed win the Oscar for Best Actor, though the Academy passed over Geoffrey Rush for supporting actor.
For three decades, Firth has given solid performances, ranging from comic to tragic, in a wide range of films, including “Valmont,” “Bridget Jones’ Diary,” “The English Patient,” “Shakespeare in Love,” “Love Actually,” “Fever Pitch,” “Nanny McPhee”, “Mamma Mia,” “Girl With a Pearl Earring” and “A Single Man” (which garnered him an Oscar nomination and a BAFTA win in 2009 for Best Actor).
But the role for which he has been most famous is that of Mr. Darcy in the BBC’s beloved 1995 production of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.” Firth brought Mr. Darcy to life, and sent legions of female fans into a swoon when he emerged from a pond in a wet shirt. He followed up with a modern version of Darcy in “Bridget Jones’ Diary” and “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason.” For many (mostly female) fans, Colin Firth is Mr. Darcy, and vice versa.
In a 2007 London Times interview, Firth said: “Every single film since there’s been a scene where someone goes, ‘Well I think you’ve just killed Mr. Darcy.’ But he is a figure that won’t die. …I’ve never resented it – if it wasn’t for him I might be languishing, but part of me thinks I should do this postmodern thing, change my name by deed poll to Mr. Darcy. Then people can come up to me and say, ‘But you are not Mr. Darcy,’ which would be different.”
Firth’s George VI won’t kill Darcy, but he may finally overshadow him. “The King’s Speech” is a great movie, and the give-and-take between Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush (as speech therapist Lionel Logue) is hugely entertaining. Ironically, George VI bears quite a few similarities to Darcy as played by Firth. Both are repressed, isolated men who bury their emotions–and a dry wit–beneath regal, unsmiling surfaces.
No wet shirts for George VI, though.