The King speaks. Often in motion pictures, in point of fact. Colin Firth has been a mainstay in British and Hollywood cinema since his terrific debut opposite Rupert Everett in the boy's school classic Another Country (1984). But it's not all stiff homoerotic upper-class Brit movies (though there's a fair share of that). He seems to have no ego whatsoever working in large ensembles, occasionally headlining, and (we assume) gets along with everyone given how often he returns to the same co-stars and directors (multiple films with Kidman and Everett and Egoyan and more). This year US audiences are getting not one not two but SIX Colin Firth films: Gambit (released a couple of years ago in the UK), Atom Egoyan's Devils Knot, Woody Allen's Magic in the Moonlight, and three (!!!) with Nicole Kidman: Paddington (he's the voice of the bear), the thriller Before I Sleep and the post-war drama The Railway Man which is in theaters now after a quiet festival bow last year.
In the new film he plays a troubled WWII vet suffering from PTSD before there was a name for it. Jeremy Irvine plays Firth as a young man in his POW days and Nicole Kidman provides tough-love wifely support. Still, this is Firth's show through and through. He's quite good in it though I'll admit that the movie was a little tentative and basic for my tastes.
A temporary projection glitch in the screening at TIFF I attended (strangely the only film I didn't write about that I saw there) stopped the image just as Nicole Kidman entered in one of her only forceful scenes. A flock of gentlemen turned around to look at her and were then paralyzed for several minutes gawking at her. Which is exactly what happens to me whenever Nicole Kidman enters a movie. I haven't seen it acted out so literally since Ewan MacGregor and the patrons of the Moulin Rouge went slack-jawed in unison when she descended from the ceiling singing "Diamonds".
But I digress.
We're here to talk Colin Firth. So anticlimactic now, right? Apologies to Mr Firth! How many of his movies have you seen? (Please tell me you've seen Another Country)
Stunning Debut (1984-1988)
He was also doing TV at this point but Another Country made both him and Rupert Everett instant stars and at first it was only leading roles. Apartment Zero was fantastically creepy and gayish as I recall.
Trying to Find His Place (1989-1995)
Doing any kind of movie whatsoever, high or low. Valmont had the misfortune of coming out after Dangerous Liaisons was a big deal and since its the same story audiences didn't turn out. But it's a very interesting counterpoint, much different in performance and tone in some ways and he's definitely more believable as a great seducer than Malkovich. The leading man thing wasn't happening 100% though in that the films weren't taking off. At the end of this period came Mr Darcy on TV in Pride & Prejudice (1995) which won him a hugely devoted fanbase.
His Standard Groove (1996-2008)
Weathering massive hits and regular flops in all kinds of genres with the same kind of just-keeps-on-working unfazed ease. But it's worth noting that he was never THE star of the hits, but only a frequent MVP in support.
The Career Peak? (2009-now)
Still in demand as he's always been for all sorts of projects. Well, he's either "in demand" or he just says Yes to any kind of offer. The one-two punch of consecutive Oscar favor in A Single Man and The King's Speech, films which he completely owned marked a real breakthrough for this charming ensemblist. He, not a co-star, was finally in the spotlight.
Trivia Note: It is not at all common for actors to be in more than one Best Picture winner in their lives. Colin Firth has already been in three (The English Patient, Shakespeare in Love, and The King's Speech)
HOW MANY HAVE YOU SEEN?