Movieline, November 1997, by Anna Wolf
The Patient

He played Kristin Scott Thomas's adoring, betrayed husband in the 1996 Oscar winner, The English Patient, and this year he's back in another high-prestige picture, A Thousand Acres. Actually this is what English actor Colin Firth's been doing all along—he's turned in a decade of strong, intelligent performances in lit pics like Milos Forman's Valmont (1989) and the A&E/BBC production of Pride and Prejudice, which aired in this country last year.

In A Thousand Acres, Firth plays out the drama of adultery again, but this time around he gets the gal. Both gals, actually—Michelle Pfeiffer and Jessica Lange, sisters who are struggling with an overbearing father who's obsessed with divvying up the inheritance of his Iowa farmland. "It's about the burden that one generation leaves on another," says Firth. As Jess, Firth is a Midwestern farmer who's more interested in passion than cabbages—or commitment. "I break up both their marriages," he explains. "It's not even your regular weepy tearjerker. I don't think it pulls any punches. I think that makes some people nervous."

As the ravishing agrarian of A Thousand Acres, Firth is one of an increasing number of romantic actors coming out of England now—Rufus Sewell, Jeremy Northam, Jude Law, and so on. What is it with all these British thesps who have such smoldering charm? Is there a new course at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts? Firth thinks it has little to do with English acting technique. "It's a strange by-product of having dark hair," he claims. "Only dark-haired people smolder. If you scowl a lot and you've got blonde hair, usually you're petulant."

Firth has a young son (with his former girlfriend and Valmont costar, Meg Tilly) who keeps him coming back to L.A., but he's got a new bride in Europe—27-year-old Livia Giuggioli—and he's dubious about the high-stakes game he'd be in if he relocated here. "There's too much money in the business here. It makes people nervous, checking and double-checking. It stifles creativity and it stifles fun," says the 36-year-old. "I don't see this as a step up. Why would I? People forget how big London is. It's bigger than L.A."

Photo by Howard Rosenberg

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