This interview was published in issue no. 15 of 8/4/2006 and we propose it again today to retrace the changes of which Vanity has been the protagonist in the last 20. Here are all the articles we are republishing
It is rare to find a foreigner who has something to say about Italy other than “how much I love spaghetti.” An English actor, of course. Instead, Colin Firth knows (and appreciates) Giuseppe Piccioni’s films and is able to scroll through the newspapers, realizing not only certain political anomalies in our country, but also the great difference that separates the “giornalese” from spoken Italian. He even tried to read Ocean sea by Alessandro Baricco. What makes him do it? The love! A bit like what happened to his character in the film Love Actually – Love reallythe guy who learned Portuguese because he was in love with a girl from those parts.
In life, Colin fell in love with a very pretty, dark-haired Italian, the producer Livia Giuggioli, with whom he has been married for eight years and with whom he has two children: Luca, 4, and Matteo, 2 (he also has a third, Will , 15 years old, had a relationship with the actress Meg Tilly). Those who frequent him say that Firth speaks Italian better than he would have you believe, but we do the interview in English, with only a few small lexical incursions, such as “stoned”, because, says Colin, it has no equivalent in his language mother.
We are in Rome, at the bar of the Hotel de Russie. Colin arrives punctually, in jeans and a blue jacket. In real life he is taller and sexier than in the cinema. He has a subtle sense of irony that emerges, surprisingly, in the most serious conversations. He makes you think of those anonymous classmates who, years later, turn out to be geniuses.
There are two of his films at the cinema at the moment, very different from each other: the children’s story Nanny McPhee – Nanny Matilda (already released) and the morbid, gripping, nightmare for adults False truths by Atom Egoyan, in theaters this weekend. For fans of Mark Darcy’s Bridget Joneshealthy bearer of seductive clumsiness, False truths it can be a shock. There’s even a bisexual orgy scene, where Colin jumps on Kevin Bacon. In the film the two actors play two entertainers from the 1950s, rich, famous and debauched. Their characters are loosely inspired by Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis and the film tells of that world, when television was in its infancy, celebrity was stardom and Las Vegas was Las Vegas.
How annoying is it to shoot a sex scene, especially a gay one, not being gay?
«I wasn’t really comfortable. But you never are in sex scenes. There is a terrible moment when you have to undress, in front of lots of people, maybe at seven in the morning, immediately after having had breakfast. But there is worse in life. The important thing is the relationship with the person who has to shoot the scene with you. In this case, it made it easier for us that there was no tension or attraction between me and Kevin Bacon. The public has a lot of fantasies about sex performed in cinema, but, for me, it is much more difficult to interpret scenes of violence. Especially if you’re the one doing the hitting, it’s really embarrassing. When you get them it’s better. You have little plastic capsules in your mouth that make fake blood come out and you feel like a hero. Once, on the set of Hostages, a television production, I took a lot of beatings. At the end of the scene, my “torturers”, who were not professional actors, were very worried. They repeated: “Are you sure you’re okay?”
In the book of the same name from which it is based False truths (by Rupert Holmes, Fandango publisher, ed) there is this phrase: «Never bite the hand that applauds you». It defines the ambiguity of fame: you want it, but then you suffer the consequences. What relationship do you have with celebrity?
«Don’t worry, because my career has progressed in small steps, with happy moments and other disappointing ones. In general, I think that there is not a single actor in the world who cannot walk out here, on Via del Corso, without being disturbed. It depends on how you approach it. Of course, if one moves with a procession of bodyguards in tow, with a pair of sunglasses, ready to be photographed…”.
Don’t you happen to be recognized?
«Yes, even at the supermarket. So there’s always someone spying on you, she gets on her cell phone and tells her friend what’s in my cart. I swear it happened.”
And what was in the cart?
“I do not remember. Probably some toilet paper rolls. Great scoop!
The film talks about Telethon and actors who do charity work. In her life, she is involved in various initiatives for Africa, for fair trade, for civil rights. There are many of you actors who do this. Why?
«It’s true that, looking at it from the outside, it seems like a trend. And it is true that there is something hypocritical in the fact that privileged people like us take to the stage and say what should or should not be done. I started because I was tired of reading newspapers and just shaking my head. After that, if you seriously believe it, you can never go back. The humanitarian associations, who know you by now, call to ask for help and it’s not like you can say: “Sorry, I’m not interested in world hunger this week, I have other things to do”.
Bob Geldof has practically stopped being a musician to dedicate himself to humanitarian causes. Could she do something like that?
«No, I’m too selfish. However, believe me, this type of commitment today brings more criticism than advantages. Many: the most cynical think that it is done out of vanity and exhibitionism. Of course it is paradoxical to have a beautiful house, live as well as I do and then go and visit coffee farmers in Ethiopia. But you can’t use celebrity just to get the best table in a restaurant or travel first class.”
What happens, concretely, when someone like you goes to Africa?
«That the locals are happy to see me and know that I am taking an interest in them. Even though they know very well that none of my initiatives can radically change their situation, much less free the world from its tragedies. However, solidarity is not something that can be measured, entering into a logic such as “Today I saved a refugee”, “I, however, saved two”. Otherwise, it really is no longer of any use.”
Excuse me for telling you, but you seem too articulate to be an actor.
“Thanks for the compliment. But she would be amazed to discover how many intelligent actors there are around.”
And why do we tend to think the opposite?
«Because, if we look at a pianist playing Rachmaninoff, we are enchanted by his skill. Let’s think: I wouldn’t be able to fralo. Instead, acting seems like something within everyone’s reach. But it’s not.”
Explain to me.
“Forget it. There is nothing more boring than an actor talking about his work.”
Source: Vanity Fair
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