In his latest movie The Secret Garden, which is released in the U.S. via video on demand today (August 7), Colin Firth plays a sorrowful widower who’s too emotionally repressed – at first, anyway – to care for his recently orphaned niece. It’s a subtle, slow-burning role which he’ll surely play with his usual unshowy charm. To whet your appetite, here’s a reminder of some of the many reasons why the Oscar-winning actor is such a flawless gent.
1. He helped longtime friend Rupert Everett to get his passion project made.
When Everett was promoting his 2018 Oscar Wilde biopic The Happy Prince, which he wrote, directed, and starred in, he revealed that Firth’s supporting role as Wilde’s loyal friend Reggie Turner was vital to its funding. “Colin has done me the greatest act of friendship – without him the film would never have happened. He stood by it all the way through,” Everett told the Daily Mail. “He signed on but it took years and years to get the money together. And he was the deal. It was about him taking part. So in a sense I owe the whole thing to him – as well as Emily Watson and Tom Wilkinson and everybody in the movie. But Colin was the person that everybody fixed on. If he had dropped out, then my film would have collapsed. Which is a big responsibility for someone to have.”
2. His Oscars speech was a self-deprecating delight.
When he won Best Actor in 2011 for portraying King George VI in The King’s Speech, Firth said amusingly: “I have a feeling my career has just peaked. My deepest thanks to the Academy. I’m afraid I have to warn you that I’m experiencing stirrings, somewhere in the upper abdominals, which are threatening to form themselves into dance moves which, joyous as they may be for me, it would be extremely problematic if they make it to my legs before I get offstage. So I’m going to do my best to be brief with my gratitude.”
3. He doesn’t take too much credit for his dapper dress sense.
Asked about the effort he puts into grooming and dressing for public appearances, Firth told The Talks in 2012: “Well, it’s been easy so far because I have someone who has dressed me right down to my socks. I think if you know you are going to get photographed, you put some thought into it, but as much as possible I like to leave the decision to someone else… So then when the events come along, if there is somebody out there who can say, ‘I’ve got a suit for you. Don’t worry, I know your measurements.’ I know it sounds awfully spoiled, but I’ll take that.”
4. He can laugh at his less illustrious early roles.
During an appearance on a U.K. chat show, Firth was shown a clip of his first ever TV role – playing an upstanding young police officer in an episode of ’80s daytime legal drama Crown Court. “That was me bursting on the scene,” Firth said drolly. “Looking at that sense of civic pride oozing off me… You can see why I wasn’t getting the bad guy roles!”
5. And he’ll gladly send himself up too.
In this deleted scene from Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, Renee Zellweger‘s title character interviews Firth – who’s playing a grumpier version of himself – and can’t seem to get past his iconic role in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. It’s a very funny scene, but was presumably cut from the movie because it’s a little too meta and potentially confusing – had it been left in, Firth would have ended up appearing as Bridget’s love interest Mark Darcy and as himself.
6. He’s always happy to chat to a fan.
“People coming up and saying something nice is always welcome,” he told People in 2015. “But when you’re being secretly photographed, that’s not so nice. I would rather shake hands with someone and exchange a few words than take a selfie.”
7. He was completely gracious when he decided to bow out of the Paddington movie.
Firth was originally on board to provide the furry title character’s voice, but left the project in 2014 and was later replaced by Ben Whishaw. “After a period of denial, we’ve chosen ‘conscious uncoupling,’” he told Entertainment Weekly at the time. “It’s been bittersweet to see this delightful creature take shape and come to the sad realization that he simply doesn’t have my voice. I’ve had the joy of seeing most of the film and it’s going to be quite wonderful. I still feel rather protective of this bear and I’m pestering them all with suggestions for finding a voice worthy of him.”
8. He’s known to write a thank-you note.
When he was filming 2014’s The Railway Man in Berwick, the northernmost town in England, local hotel owner Elizabeth Middlemiss sent Firth a cake to welcome him to the area. According to The Lady, Firth promptly sent her a handwritten thank-you letter saying: “Dear Elizabeth, thank you so much for the beautiful cake, which is a masterpiece. Sorry not to have made it this time to Sallyport [her hotel] but please accept my gratitude for this gesture and a delicious cake.”
9. He has impeccable manners – as this adorable moment from the 2012 BAFTA Film Awards shows.
Firth is on hand to present Meryl Streep with her Best Actress award for The Iron Lady, and when she loses her shoe on the way to the stage, he comes to the rescue in the most charming way possible. Fast forward to the three-minute mark to see how.
10. And finally, he summed up the true meaning of being a gentleman in this Kingsman: The Secret Service interview.
“To me, it’s a bit less about your suit,” he said. “I don’t think you can call yourself a gentleman unless there’s some kindness involved – I think it’s probably that.”
Well said, Mr Firth!
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