“I would rather five people knew my work and thought it was good work than five million knew me and were indifferent”—Colin Firth
Colin Firth is a multi-award-winning British actor who is known for his roles the 1995 TV adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, as well as acclaimed films like The King’s Speech and Love Actually. His movies have grossed over $3 billion worldwide and he has garnered many accolades for his performances. Below are 42 facts about the versatile actor.
42. Taking Notice
In the fall of 1981, a play opened at a fringe theatre in Greenwich, England that would change Firth’s life forever. The play was Another Country, and in 1983, Firth took over the role of gay high-schooler Guy Bennett. In 1984, the play was adapted to film, where Rupert Everett reprised his original role as Bennett, and Firth played his friend Tommy Judd. The role definitely got him noticed, and played a big part in launching his film career.
41. British Brat Pack
In 1987, a journalist coined the term “Brit Pack” to describe a young group of British actors who resembled the American “Brat Pack” of the same period. Colin Firth, along with Rupert Everett, Miranda Richardson, Daniel Day-Lewis and Gary Oldman were all members, but aside from achieving success around the same time, they shared little in common with their American counterparts. The concept of the “teen movie” didn’t exist in England as it did in America, and they rarely starred in movies together or were seen together as a group. The term is still used today to describe the next generation of young, British actors, but nothing can quite match the talent of the originals.
40. A Sobbing Mess
Colin Firth is not ashamed to admit what makes him cry. According to a People Magazine profile, the thing that really chokes him up is a scene from Disney’s Dumbo. He says that whenever it comes to the scene where Dumbo’s mom is locked in a cage, he tears up every time!
39. Italian Connection
With his heartthrob status, it isn’t surprising that Firth is off the market. For the past 21 years, he’s been married to the Italian director Livia Giuggioli and the pair share two sons together. Because of his Italian wife, Firth also maintains an Italian citizenship and he even speaks fluent Italian. Mamma Mia!
38. They Didn’t See It
When BBC was casting the role of Fitzwilliam Darcy in the 1995 Pride and Prejudice series, producer Sue Birtwistle really wanted Colin Firth for the role. However, the rest of the execs weren’t convinced and told her that he wasn’t good looking enough. Writer Andrew Davis was also doubtful about Firth because of his “gingerish hair,” and later admitted that he never saw him in the role. Ironic, considering that the show was a huge hit and he ended up being voted Britain’s best-looking man.
37. Totally Clueless
When Firth was first approached for the role of Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, he nearly turned it down. Firth had never read any Jane Austen growing up because of his own prejudice. He largely thought that the books were for girls and was afraid of being labeled a sissy in school. Imagine his surprise when he found out that Darcy was pretty much every woman’s dream!
36. Gather Round
In addition to being a great storyteller on screen, Firth was also quite the storyteller off screen. As a child, he would get up on a soapbox at recess and captivate his peers with his stories.
35. A Big, Fat, Juicy Burger
His favorite food isn’t the traditional British fare like bangers and mash or fish and chips. Firth admits to loving a real American hamburger. A barbeque burger with bacon and cheese is his biggest indulgence. He says: “If I’m going to eat a burger, I’m not going to hold back. It’s heaven!”
34. Tiny Talent
Colin Firth was just a wee thing when he got bitten by the acting bug. While attending primary school, he delivered a chilly performance as Jack Frost in the school pantomime (a type of British musical/comedy). Lucky for him, he didn’t freeze up on stage!
33. Not Right for the Bear
Firth was originally cast to be the voice of Paddington Bear in the film Paddington, but according to director Paul King, the decision was made in post-production to replace him because Paddington “does not have the voice of a very handsome older man, who has the most beautiful voice on the planet.”
Even Britain’s sexiest man is not immune to a crush. In 2011, then 87-year-old Doris Day received a phone call from Colin Firth confessing that he’d had a huge crush on her when he was a kid. He said that he’d been completely in love with her, and wanted to meet someone just like her. Day thought it was especially cute because she had absolutely no idea who he was. She must not watch too many movies.
31. Telling the Untold Story
In 2016, Firth took himself out of the limelight and jumped into the producer’s chair of the film Loving, with the goal of telling the little-known story of the Lovings, an interracial couple who fought in the Supreme Court in 1967 for the right to get married. Firth is known for his strong belief in social justice and this was a story that he firmly wanted told. At one point, Firth even considered directing it and attempted to write a few pages, but he thinks it was “a great blessing” that he took a different route. He can’t be good at everything.
30. Holed Up in Canada
Around the same time that Firth was making a name for himself in London, he met and fell for Canadian actress Meg Tilly, with whom he shares a son. Much to the disappointment of his multitudes of female fans, he moved to the Canadian province of British Columbia with Tilly, and ended up living in a cabin in the woods making furniture and raising their son. Eventually, he had to make a choice between the isolation of the cabin and working, and it’s pretty obvious which choice he made.
29. Harder than Hollywood
Despite having a fairly stellar resume, Firth had a great deal of trouble getting any work in Vancouver’s theater community when he lived in Canada. In a 2004 interview with Canadian magazine Famous, he said he found it “much, much easier getting into Hollywood than getting into the Vancouver theater system.” No matter where he went, he kept encountering closed doors. As it turned out, it was a pretty dumb move on their part. After all, who would want to be the one who refused to cast Colin Firth?
The iconic scene in Pride and Prejudice where Darcy emerges from the lake dripping wet in his white shirt was never meant to be a sexy scene. When the director filmed the scene, he pictured it being a funny scene about an ordinary man finding himself in an awkward and uncomfortable situation. Little did he know that it would work exactly in the reverse and make Firth a heartthrob for women everywhere.
27. A Plot Paradox
When filming Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, the producers had a bit of a conundrum. The real Colin Firth was a big part of the book’s storyline, but Firth was already playing Mark Darcy in the movie. They ended up leaving the entire plotline out the movie since Firth couldn’t very well play himself and Darcy.
26. Eaten Alive
The lake scene in Love Actually where Firth and Lucia Moniz are swimming was filmed in water that was only 18 inches deep. Firth and Moniz had to kneel down to pretend that they were swimming. Unfortunately, the water was also host to a crazy number of mosquitoes and Firth was nearly eaten alive. He was so badly bitten that his elbow swelled up and he needed medical attention. Calamine lotion wasn’t going to cut it in this case.
25. Playful Rivals
Hugh Grant and Colin Firth starred as rivals for Renee Zellweger’s affection in Bridget Jones’ Diary, and they also have a real-life playful rivalry. In the commentary for Love Actually, in which they also both starred, Grant mocks Firth’s looks, age, and talent, and encourages his co-stars to do the same. Firth took the comments in jest and joked that he and Grant had a Bette Davis-Joan Crawford kind of relationship, without the cat fighting.
24. Austen Connection
For a guy who had never read any Austen before appearing in Pride and Prejudice, Firth doesn’t seem to be able to escape her in his professional life. In addition to playing Fitzwilliam Darcy, his Austen-inspired Bridget Jones character was also named Darcy, and his character in What a Girl Wants was named Henry Dashwood, after the character in Sense and Sensibility.
23. Man of the World
Growing up, Colin Firth and his siblings moved around to follow his parents’ careers. His parents were both educators, and his father became an Education officer for the Nigerian Government. As a result, Firth lived in Nigeria from the time he was a baby until he was four years old.
22. Concentrated Effort
When Firth is preparing for a role, he becomes an avid student. As preparation for his role in The Girl with the Pearl Earring, he studied Vermeer’s paintings in great detail. This led his co-star Scarlett Johannsen to quip “Colin probably thinks he painted all the paintings himself.”
21. Doubting the Author
In the BBC movie Nostromo, Firth played Charles Gould—a character who moves with his bride to a fictional South African republic in hopes of re-opening a long-neglected silver mine. Firth noted that what drew him to the role was curiosity. He felt like the character was more complex than he seemed and that he found himself doubting author Joseph Conrad’s statement that he had no sense of irony. Too bad Conrad wasn’t around to ask.
Colin Firth was not the first choice to play King George VI in the movie The King’s Speech. The role was written for Paul Bettany, but Bettany declined. Firth was cast in the role instead, and it ended up netting him his first Oscar. He also won the Golden Globe, the BAFTA, the Critic’s Choice Award and the Screen Actor’s Guild Award for the role in the same year. No wonder Bettany regretted turning it down!
19. Distant and Dislikable
When Firth was offered the role of Darcy in Bridget Jones’ Diary, his first instinct was to turn it down. He said he started off thinking that there was no way to make anyone care about such an unappealing character, but changed his mind when he thought about it some more. It occurred to him that there could be something very liberating and fun about playing a guy who didn’t have to be in the least bit charming, and he ran with it. Do you think he realizes that he was still pretty charming?
18. Taking a Toll
On three different occasions, Firth has played a character with a stammer. As the actor explained in an interview, it had a major effect on his body each time. Learning to stammer and then playing someone trying not to stammer caused him headaches, and even put his left arm to sleep, causing a semi-paralysis. Thankfully it went away shortly after, but no one can say he doesn’t suffer for his craft!
Firth has revealed that he has a hidden talent. When he was in school, he discovered that he was good at archery and could hit the target “better than most.” While he’s probably not in the league of Katniss Everdeen, he does have a bow and arrow at his home in Italy and finds shooting very relaxing.
16. Love at First Sight
Firth has been married to Italian director/producer Livia Giuggioli since 1997, and he describes the first moment he saw her as “a bolt to the heart.” It turns out that he’s not only a romantic hero on screen, but he’s got a romantic side off-screen as well!
15. Fitting In
There’s very little that’s more important to a kid than fitting in at school, and Firth was no exception. When Firth started attending a school near his home in Hampshire, England, he adopted the rough accent of his classmates and pretended to dislike school in order to avoid being bullied.
14. Oscar Gold
When it comes to Oscar-winning movies, Colin Firth is a good luck charm. Out of the three films that he’s been in that were nominated for Best Picture Oscars, all three have won. Clearly he has a Midas touch!
13. Not for Grownups
Firth has admitted that he still hasn’t figured out what he wants to do when he grows up. In his mind, acting isn’t a job for grownups, and he’s not sure that he would still make the choice to do it if he’d started later in life. Meanwhile, he does think that age has made acting more interesting and says it’s “given everything a new lease on life.” Basically, he’s like a fine wine—he just gets better with age.
12. No Pain, No Gain
To prepare for his role in Kingsman: The Secret Service, Firth worked out for about 6 months to get into top shape. Though Firth might have made it look easy, he remembers hardly being able to do as much as a squat when he started. After a lot of pain, progress was made, and Firth was transformed into the impressive action star seen on screen.
11. Can you Twinkle?
During the filming of the original Bridget Jones, Richard Curtis, the movie’s co-writer, thought Darcy was “ferocious and unfriendly” and would send back messages asking if Firth could “twinkle a bit more.” Finally, Firth looked directly at the camera and said: “Someone tell Richard Curtis that is my f______ twinkle?” Curtis now admits that Firth was right and that the toughness was required for the character.
10. An Unusual Thank You
Firth’s BAFTA acceptance speech for A Single Man included an unusual thank you. Firth gave a shout out to his refrigerator repairman, who was inadvertently responsible for him taking the role. Firth says that he was in the midst of sending an e-mail to director Tom Ford turning down the part when the repairman arrived. The disruption gave him time to reconsider, and it became one of his more memorable roles.
9. Literary Pursuits
In 2000, Firth added writer to his impressive list of credits when he published his first short story in the collection Speaking with the Angel, which was edited by Nick Hornby. The collection was published to benefit the Treehouse Trust, an organization that runs a school for children with autism. While writing has not been as serious a pursuit as acting for him, it is a hobby that Firth enjoys and is, as he describes it, a way of “continuing his lackluster education by more enjoyable means.”
8. Not His Cup of Tea
When pushed for an opinion on the British royal family during a CNN interview, Firth stated that he believed people should choose their rulers. While he thought that the royals “seem nice” and praised Prince Charles for his environmental activism, “unelected bodies” are definitely problematic. Voting, however, is one of his favorite activities, so he definitely doesn’t need a reminder come election time!
7. Public Feud
Unlike the playful rivalry between Hugh Grant and Colin Firth, Rupert Everett and Firth were involved in a real feud that spanned nearly two decades. The trouble began on the set of Another Country where Everett publicly called Firth “boring” and “a ghastly guitar playing socialist.” Firth has stated in interviews that they didn’t get along well and speculated that it was because Everett was threatened. In his 2006 biography, Everett confessed to being both attracted to and threatened by Firth. While nobody would call the pair friends today, Firth says they have “both mellowed.”
6. Secrets on Set
During the filming of Pride and Prejudice, Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, who played OTP couple Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, actually started dating in real life. They managed to keep it a secret from the media, and dated for about a year. It was only when they broke up that the public found out about the tryst.
5. Not Quite as Sexy
In 2013, Firth’s image was transformed into a gigantic 12-foot fiberglass sculpture, depicting his iconic wet shirt scene from Pride and Prejudice. The statue was initially placed in the Serpentine, a lake in London’s Hyde Park, and then toured several other locations before being permanently installed in Lyme Park. According to some fans, the sex appeal didn’t quite translate to fiberglass, and some even found it creepy and unsettling. But the more important question is, what would Lizzie Bennet think?
4. A Dweeb or a Poet
As a teen, Firth wasn’t exactly the sex symbol he is now. He kept his hair long in an effort to develop what he called a “hippie look,” explaining that he could either “be a dweeb” or “cast myself as a poet.” Today, he tries to keep fit by swimming and running and is not at all concerned about not looking like Brad Pitt. Neither is anyone else, it seems, since he was voted one of People magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful People” in 2001.
3. Stalker Scandal
In 2018, a story broke that Firth was being harassed and frightened by a persistent stalker, and Firth took legal action against him. However, that’s not where the story ends: leaked court documents showed that the stalker, Marco Brancaccia, allegedly had an affair with Firth’s wife Livia Giuggioli. Firth’s rep later clarified that husband and wife decided to separate a few years before, and that the “affair” happened during this separation. When the pair reconciled, the affair reportedly ended, and Brancaccia proceeded to threaten Firth. Brancaccia largely denies these accusations, and says that Giuggioli wanted to leave Firth for him.
2. Lending his Voice
With a boom in the popularity of audiobooks, several A-list actors signed on to be narrators of classic novels. In 2012, Colin Firth recorded the audio version of Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair, which was made available on the popular audiobook download site Audible. As the site’s founder Donald Katz quipped, “”Colin Firth could read me the back of a Marmite jar and I would listen…” Katz was not alone in that sentiment, as Firth won the Audiobook of the Year award at the Audie Awards for his rendition. Given the chance, wouldn’t you want Firth reading you a story?
1. Guitar Fetish
One of Firth’s favorite hobbies is playing his guitar, but his love for his guitar goes way beyond that. He loves guitars and confesses that he takes great comfort in “cuddling” them. He also admits that he loves them so much that he “fetishizes” them and playing is just an excuse to hold one. He even played for real while singing the song “Our Last Summer” in Mamma Mia! Is there anything he can’t do?