Firth Impressions: The cult of Colin and his rise to Oscar glory
Published: Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Updated: Saturday, February 12, 2011 14:02
I have never had a taste for the conventional hero; my childhood loves were always slightly more alternative. At the age of three, I unceremoniously told my father that he had to make way for the new love of my life: Dan Rather. Other early crushes included Pat Sajak, the host of the iconic game show "Wheel of Fortune," President John F. Kennedy (no explanation needed), Lord Craven, the hunchback uncle in Frances Hodgson Burnett's "The Secret Garden," and Richard Dean Anderson, action hero and star of "MacGyver." None of my friends had any idea what I was talking about—indeed, I wonder whether I actually had friends at thatw point—and my half-hearted attempts to fit in ("I guess, if I had to choose one of them, I'd go with…Lance Bass?") were only further proof of my divergent attitudes towards men.
Thus, when I discovered the glory that is Colin Andrew Firth at age 11, I was more than prepared for the usual barrage of condemnations that came with my choice: "He's like, 85!" "What's he wearing? I think he's got tights on!" I sat through all 100 minutes of "What a Girl Wants" waiting for Firth to appear, while surrounded by girls my age and younger who were all gazing at Amanda Bynes's boyfriend. I did not even attempt to make my friends watch the (glorious) 300-minute 1995 miniseries version of "Pride and Prejudice," because I knew I would be laughed out of the room. And possibly left out of a few birthday parties. But I knew, from my very first exposure to his haughty mien and wet t-shirt, that he would be a part of my life for a very long time. And he has never let me down: he combined my love of literary figures (Darcy), historical stalwarts (Bertie in "The King's Speech"), stuffy romantic leads (Mark Darcy in "Bridget Jones's Diary") and campy icons (the loveable Harry in "Mamma Mia!").
Over the years, I met others who shared my passion, and as my friends entered adolescence, even they had to admit his attraction. I am no longer the only Firth fangirl, but rather one among an angry, obsessed throng, all of whom rejoiced when Firth was tapped to win his first Academy Award for his brilliant portrayal of King George VI, the wartime monarch and serial stutterer, in "The King's Speech." This is his second nominated performance in two years—last year he was nominated for his performance as George Falconer, a gay professor contemplating suicide, in "A Single Man."
There seems something extra-special about Firth's position as heir apparent to the Oscar throne. It's personal for his fangirls. And I am loving every minute of it. In honor of Firth's recent recognition, I explored the reasons behind my personal reaction to his nominations. Here's what I came up with:
1. He's Mr. Darcy. There, I've said it: Mr. Darcy wins an Oscar. Olivier (the Darcy of the 1940 "Pride and Prejudice") did it. Is Firth next? What could be better than seeing Darcy in a tux gaining the recognition he deserves? Colin can't escape it—he played Darcy in two movies. (The other, Mark Darcy, appeared in "Bridget Jones's Diary." As if you didn't know.) He's even tried to rid himself of the stereotype; he heartlessly ran over a dog in one film. A dog named Darcy. But Mr. Darcy made him and he knows it. In an interview with the French Magazine "Madame Figaro," Firth declared the most important women in his life to be, "Ma mère, ma femme et Jane Austen" ("My mother, my wife and Jane Austen").
2. That stare. He's just beautiful. Tall, unassuming and well built, with nice hair. All good? Then he looks at you. Go watch the beginning of episode four of "Pride and Prejudice," when Elizabeth saves Georgiana from hurtful remarks. Or about 70-75 minutes into "Bridget Jones," during the birthday party scene. He goes from boy-next-door to dead gorgeous in seconds.
3. He's proved himself a very, VERY good actor. (I'm pointedly ignoring the "St. Trinian's" films and "Mamma Mia," the latter of which was AWESOME, contrary to popular belief.) In his last few performances in particular, he's shown that he's much more than a pretty face. Which leads me to my next point…
4. I feel vindicated. Firth's nomination somehow seems to justify every single time I've dragged an unwilling party to see "Bridget Jones's Diary 2: The Edge of Reason," "Love Actually," "Girl With A Pearl Earring" or "Nanny McPhee." Just because he made some of those interesting career choices doesn't mean that he can't make up for it with an Oscar victory.
5. He just seems like a genuinely nice guy. In interviews, acceptance speeches and on talk shows, he's always so down to earth. It feels like he'd like you just as you are!