Our celebrated diarist (Bridget Jones) is in Rome and with Colin Firth, tra la tra la.
But why does he insist on talking football?
BJ Right. I'm going to start the interview now.
CF (SLIGHTLY HYSTERICAL SOUNDING) Good, good.
(VERY LONG PAUSE)
BJ What is your favourite colour?
CF I'm sorry?
BJ What is your favourite colour.
BJ What is your favourite pudding?
CF Er... creme bruléé.
BJ You know the oncoming film Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby which starts next Friday?
CF I do know it, yes.
BJ (PAUSE. RUSTLING PAPER) Do... Oh. (MORE RUSTLING PAPER). Do you think the book of Fever Pitch has spored a confessional gender?
CF Excuse me?
BJ Has. Spored. A Confessional. Gender.
CF Spored a confessional gender?
CF Well. Certainly Nick's style has been very much imitated, and I think it's a very appealing, er, gender whether or not he actually, urn... spared it.
BJ You know in Pride and Prejudice?
CF I do know in it, yes.
BJ When you had to dive into the lake?
BJ When they had to do another take, did you have to take the wet shirt off and then put a dry one on?
CF Yes I, I probably did have to, yes. Scusi. Ha vinto. E troppo forte. Si grazie.
BJ (BREATHING UNSTEADILY) How many takes did they have to do?
CF (COUGHS) Well. The underwater shots were a tank in Ealing Studios.
BJ Oh no.
CF I'm afraid so. The -um - moment of being airborne - extremely brief - was a stuntman.
BJ But it looked like Mr Darcy.
CF That was because he had stuck on sideburns and a Mr Darcy outfit on top of a wet suit, which actually made him look like Elvis as you last saw him. He could only do it once for insurance reasons and then he had to be checked for abrasions for about six weeks afterwards. All the other wet shirt shots were me.
BJ You know the other wet shirt shots?
BJ Were they you?
BJ And did the shirt have to keep being re-wet?
CF Yes. They'd spray it down. They'd spray it down and then...
BJ What with?
CF I'm sorry?
BJ What with?
CF A squirter thing. Look can we...
BJ Yes, but what I mean is did you ever have to take the shirt off and, and put another one on?
BJ To be wet again?
BJ (PAUSE) You know the oncoming film Fever Pitch?
BJ What do you see as the main differences between the character Paul from Fever Pitch and ...
CF ... and?
BJ (SHEEPISHLY) Mr Darcy.
CF No one's ever asked me that.
BJ Haven't they?
CF No. I think the main differences are...
BJ Do you mean it's a really obvious question?
CF No. I mean no one's ever asked me that.
BJ Do people ask you that all the time?
CF No, no. I can assure you...
BJ So it's a...
CF It's a totally brand-new, new-born question, yes.
BJ Oh Goody.
CF Shall we get on now?
CF Mr Darcy's not an Arsenal supporter.
CF He's not a schoolteacher.
CF He lived nearly 200 years ago.
CF Paul in Fever Pitch loves being in a football crowd.
CF Whereas Mr Darcy can't even tolerate a country dance.
CF Paul doesn't smoulder.
BJ Oh he did, though. That bit with the coffee cups, It's fantastic where that woman Miss Hughes is just standing there and Mr Darcy just masterfully takes the cups away and then, like, snogs her.
CF I think that might be a similarity, then.
BJ I'm not putting words into your mouth or anything.
CF No, no. Now. Can we talk about something which isn't to do with Mr Darcy?
BJ Yes. (PAUSE, RUSTLING PAPERS) If you had to play another character in a historical novel apart from Nostradamus - who would you choose?
CF Apart from Nostradamus?
CF You see, Nostradamus is a historical character. Nostromo, however, isn't.
CF Nostromo is a fictional character invented by Joseph Conrad and I didn't actually play him. I played someone else in the story called Charles Gould but, um, he's not historical either. I don't know if I've ever actually played a historical character.
BJ (SHOCKED) Apart from Mr Darcy.
CF Apart from Mr Darcy, yes. He's the only actual true-life real-existing historical character I've actually played.
BJ What did you have to wear when you were Nostromo?
CF Well, I wore jodhpurs and a tweed jacket and... boots and things.
BJ Leather boots?
CF They were leather, yes.
BJ Quite high ones?
CF They were up to the knee.
CF Fairly tight. I mean I was able to get them on and off. But, um, they were tight enough. They were for riding and um, and, er... and that's about it, really. They... it was, er... Yes. That's about it.
BJ You know the dance you just mentioned in Pride and Prejudice?
CF (SIGHS) Yes.
BJ Was it quite, you know... sexy... in real life?
CF Well. It's actually quite difficult to do acting and dancing at the same time and I think one, er, stress factor of making sure that you've reached the right place to say your next line is that, the eroticism isn't the first thing in your mind necessarily.
BJ Do you think it was quite an erotic series?
CF Well, some people have found it to be so. I think it's a very erotic book.
BJ Do you think the word erotic is quite an erotic word?
CF Quite an erotic word, yes.
CF Yes. So. Now where were we?
BJ Are you still going out with your girlfriend?
BJ Oh. (LONG PAUSE)
CF Is everything all right?
BJ (ALMOST INAUDIBLE) Do you think small British movies are the way forward?
CF I can't hear.
BJ (MISERABLY) Do you think small British movies are the way forward?
CF The way forward to... (ENCOURAGINGLY)... to what?
BJ (VERY LONG THOUGHTFUL PAUSE) The future.
CF Right. They seem to be getting us along step by step, I think. I quite like small movies but I do also like big movies and it would be nice if we made more of those as well.
BJ But don't you find it a problem her being Italian and everything?
CF No. (VERY LONG SILENCE)
BJ (SULKILY) Do you think that Mr Darcy has a political dimension?
CF I did speculate on what his politics might be, if he had any. And I don't think that they would be very appealing to a reader of The Independent. It's that pre-Victorian or Victorian idea of being the rich social benefactor, which would be very 'Thatcherite probably. I mean, the thought of socialism obviously hadn't entered the...
CF ... entered his sphere. And it is clearly stated by way of showing what a nice chap he is that he is very nice towards his tenants. But I think that he'd be closer to a sort of Nietzschian figure, a...
BJ What is neacher?
CF You know, the idea of the, er, human being as superman.
CF Not Superman himself, no. No (SLIGHT GROANING NOISE). I don't think he wore his underpants over his breeches, no. Look, I'd really like to get off this subject now.
BJ What will be your next project?
CF It's called The World of Moss (note by Colin Firth 24/7: later on this title has been changed to "My Life So Far").
BJ Is it a nature programme?
CF No, no. It's, umn, it's er, about an eccentric family in the thirties, the father of which owns a moss factory.
BJ Doesn't moss grow naturally?
CF Well, no, he makes something called Sphagnum moss which was used to dress World War I wounds and, er, it's er, quite a light, er, comic...
BJ (VERY UNCONVINCINGLY) It sounds very good.
CF I very much hope it will be.
BJ Could I just check something about the shirt?
BJ How many times altogether exactly did you have to take it off and put it on again?
CF Precisely... I don't know. Um. Let me see... there was the bit where I was walking towards Pemberley. That was shot once. One take. Then there was the bit where I give my horse to somebody... I think there was a change.
BJ (BRIGHTENING) There was a change?
CF (STRICTLY) There was. One change.
BJ So it was mainly just the one wet shirt, though?
CF The one wet shirt which they kept respraying, yes. All right?
BJ Yes. What is your favourite colour?
CF We've had that.
BJ Um. (PAPER RUSTLING) Do you think the film Fever Pitch was in reality all about emotional Fuckwittage?
CF Emotional what?
BJ Fuckwittage. You know: men being mad, alcoholic, commitment phobics and just being interested in football all the time.
CF No, I don't really. I think in some ways Paul is much more at ease with his emotions and has much more liberty with them than his girlfriend. I think that, in fact, in the final analysis, is what's so appealing about what Nick Hornby's trying to say on his behalf: that, in a rather mundane, everyday world, he has found something where you have access to emotional experiences, which...
BJ Excuse me.
CF (SIGHS) Yes?
BJ Is your girlfriend coming to the première of Fever Pitch?
CF Yes (Note by Colin Firth 24/7: they're talking about Livia here. Who was still his girlfriend when this interview was taken).
BJ But won't she have trouble understanding it, being foreign?
CF Well she speaks very good English.
BJ But don't you think you'd be better off with someone who was English and more your own age?
CF We seem to be doing alright.
BJ Humph. (DARKLY) So far. Do you ever prefer doing the theatre?
CF Um. I don't subscribe to the view that the theatre's where the real acting is, that film's not really acting. But I find I do prefer the theatre when I'm doing it, yes.
BJ But don't you think the theatre's a bit unrealistic and embarrassing and, also, you have to sit through the acting for hours before you have anything to eat and you can't talk or...
CF Unrealistic? Embarrassing and Unrealistic?
CF Do you mean unrealistic in the sense that it... ?
BJ... you can tell it isn't real.
CF... that sort of unrealistic, yes. (SLIGHT MOANING SOUND) Um. I think it shouldn't be if it's good. It's much more... it feels more artificial to make a film.
BJ Does it? I suppose it doesn't go all the way through, does it?
CF Well no it doesn't. No. Yes. A film doesn't go all the way through. It's shot in little bits and pieces. (LOUDER GROANING NOISE) Little bits and pieces.
BJ Has it been detrimental to your career being called Colin?
CF (LAUGHS) Well, I did ask my mother why she plumped for that particular name and she said, "Well, we couldn't call you Andrew because of your cousin."
BJ Oh. Do you think Mr Darcy would have slept with Elizabeth Bennet before the wedding?
CF Yes, I do think he might have.
BJ Do you?
CF Yes. I think it's entirely possible. Yes.
BJ (BREATHLESSLY) Really?
CF I think it's possible, yes.
BJ How would it be possible?
CF Don't know if Jane Austen would agree with me on this, but...
BJ We can't know because she's dead.
CF NO, we can't... but I think Andrew Davies's Mr Darcy would have done.
BJ Why do you think that, though? Why? Why?
CF Because I think it was very important to Andrew Davies that Mr Darcy had the most enormous sex drive.
BJ (GASPS) And, um... I think that came across, really, really well with the acting. I really think it did.
CF Thank you. At one point, Andrew even wrote as a stage direction: "Imagine that Darcy has an erection".
(V LARGE CRASHING NOISE)
BJ Which bit was that?
CF It's when she's been walking across the country and bumps into him in the grounds in the early stages.
BJ The bit where she's all muddy?
CF... and dishevelled
BJ... and sweaty?
BJ Was that a difficult bit to act?
CF You mean the erection?
BJ (AWED WHISPER) Yes.
CF UM, well, Andrew also wrote that I don't propose that we should focus on it, and, therefore, no acting required in that department at least.
BJ Mmmmm. (LONG PAUSE)
CF Yes. (MORE PAUSE)
CF Is that it, then?
BJ No. What was it like with your friends when you started being Mr Darcy?
CF There were a lot of jokes about it: growling, "Mr Darcy" over breakfast and so on. There was a brief period when they had to work quite hard to hide their knowledge of who I really was and...
BJ Hide it from who?
CF Well, from anyone who suspected that perhaps I was like Mr Darcy.
BJ But do you think you're not like Mr Darcy?
CF I do think I'm not like Mr Darcy, yes.
BJ I think you're exactly like Mr Darcy.
CF In what way?
BJ You talk the same way as him.
CF Oh do I?
BJ You look exactly like him, and I, oh, oh...
PROTRACTED CRASHING NOISES FOLLOWED BY SOUNDS OF STRUGGLE
(Editor's note. Bridget Jones has been sacked).
Colin Firth commented on this "interview" in a Times article, May 2000:
We basically had lunch as Colin and Helen (Fielding) and then she stuck the tape recorder on and went into Bridget and I did Mr Darcy, a rather serious actor who just wants to get on with the interview. And it was very funny.
And now there's the movie version of Bridget Jones's Diary in which Firth has agreed to play Mark Darcy, the smooth object of Bridget's desire. "There's a certain inevitability about it. I think it's healthy for me to do it.":
Bridget Jones interview with Colin Firth as it appeared in the movie: