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Parade

Colin Firth: 'We Actors Do Want Attention'

Colin Firth is surrounded by Oscar buzz for his deeply affecting performance in A Single Man. In the film, he plays a gay university professor contemplating suicide after the tragic death of his long-time partner.

Firth told Parade.com's Jeanne Wolf why he felt a deep connection with his openly gay character even though he's happily married with two children.

Playing gay.
"If you're a straight actor who takes on the role of a gay man, it's obviously not the same as being one in this business. I think there are still some constraints against being openly gay. It is to do with whatever sexual taboos are in place. In Hollywood, I know that some actors are far more circumspect about keeping that secret hidden. There are not a lot of openly gay leading men."

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Don't expect to be shocked.
"There's sex running all the way through the movie, even though we don't need to see anybody doing it. I think the fact that the man I play is comfortably open about the fact that he is gay is definitely significant. But I think it just reinforces the power of the story, which is about a love between men that has a very accessible, universal quality."

Which is not to say that sex doesn't sell.
"Over the years, particularly where actresses are concerned, there's that one movie they did where they took their clothes off that has just haunted them. It's been mentioned in every article they've ever sort of had written about themselves. It's extraordinary how carried away we get about it when a film seems to cross this, that, or that line. It sort of becomes the most important thing when it's really not."

The character that wouldn't go away.
"Some films you walk away from, job done, what's next? This one has really stuck. I think George is a character that does haunt you. I think even when you read the book, he grabs you. I always have the feeling that maybe I'll run into him somewhere. I hope he's OK. I know it's strange to admit you have that attachment to a fictional character, but I do feel that way about him. He's the kind of guy you sort of want to look after."

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Understanding his midlife crisis.
"I could relate to George's midlife crisis because mine has been going on since I was about 30. I have been in one for at least 20 years. I guess as long as midlife is there, the crisis will be there. I find it very hard not to be 19. I miss that time. But I think probably the biggest moment when you face growing up is just becoming a parent. You cannot cling to being a kid at that point. It's your children's turn."

What's important.
"My day job is acting, but I do have a life beyond it. I invest more in my personal life than I do in my professional life. My wife is spectacularly good at keeping my feet on the ground. I have a home to go to at the end of the day, which helps me deal with the rigors and the ups and downs, and expectations and the disappointments. Disappointments don't last unless you cling to them, and neither do expectations really. I do find that the sanest actors I know have a very strong home life and friends outside the business."

But he doesn't mind a little Oscar buzz.
"We actors do want attention. It's hard to fault an actor who's having his insatiable need for attention fulfilled because he'll probably be at his best. It's that Tom Waits line, 'I don't have a drink problem sir, until I can't get a drink.' So check in with me when I'm not getting any attention and I might be a different person."

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What he doesn't want to become.
"You get so many points for not being a total jerk. I think when people have a brief encounter with someone who is famous, they're terribly pleased that the famous person can be nice, and terribly devastated if they're not nice. Of course, sometimes fans aren't nice or just sort of lose it. I've been that way. I feel bad when I've met famous people walking away cursing myself out for something stupid. And I've had stupid things said to me, of course."


 
 
 
 

 

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