Was the prospect of working with Julie Andrews daunting?
There's no question she has legendary status. But she was a wonderful team leader in an old-fashioned sort of way. You know, rallying the troops and keeping spirits high, reminding us to keep our backs straight.
The film addresses Anglo-American tensions and differences. Were there any on set?
It's funny, I do find that American actors tend to be irrationally in awe of English actors and the whole English tradition. And we envy American actors for their ease in front of the camera. I think, certainly in the press, there's a sort of self-loathing for our own cinema at the moment, but that's not how it's perceived abroad. The Americans all perceive us to be highly trained and to have this theatrical discipline, some sort of substance which they lack, which I don't think is really true to be honest. So generally there's no tension. If anything, there's a tremendous mutual respect, probably slightly baseless.
You're in the middle of Bridget Jones' Diary. Is it refreshing not to be doing a costume drama?
Everything's a costume drama really. It's all an artificial world you're creating, and in some ways it feels far more artificial trying to re-create the present day. It's very odd, you get bogged down in far more difficult detail when you do modern stuff than when you're doing period. If you're playing Mr Darcy [in Pride And Prejudice] you just say he'd wear one of those sorts of frocks and it would probably be blue, whereas with the modern stuff you really get caught up in some tricky decisions—what kind of trainers would he wear, etc. The audience knows what the reference points are.
You, Colin Firth, actually feature as Bridget Jones' fantasy in the book. Does that make things complicated?
No, thankfully they've dispensed with all references to me in the film.
You did actually meet Helen Fielding, though, didn't you?
Yes, the interview she does in the second book, I was part of the contrivance. It was a sort of performed conversation we had, which was very funny. I don't know how conscious she was, but she sort of went into "Bridget" mode, which was rather different from her.
Does that mean you had to go into Colin mode?
Well I did a bit. I tried to be a bit more serious, and less patient.
There are also rumours that you're going to play Tony Blair.
This often happens: I read what I'm going to do in the papers, but no one's told me about it.
Did you entertain the prospect for a while?
Well, it depends, it's very hard for those things to work when they are so contemporary. It's better to wait 10 years or so to get a perspective on it, but by that time I'll be old enough to do the Enoch Powell story or something.
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