- Colin Andrew Firth
September 10, 1960 (age 61)
- Actor, Film Producer, Screenwriter
- Livia Giuggioli
- David Norman Lewis Firth, Shirley Firth
Colin Andrew Firth, CBE (born 10 September 1960) is an English film, television, and theatre actor. His films have earned more than $936 million from 42 releases worldwide. He has received an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, a BAFTA and the Screen Actors Guild Award, as well as the Volpi Cup. His most notable and acclaimed role to date has been his 2010 portrayal of King George VI in The King's Speech, a performance that gained him an Oscar and many other worldwide best actor awards. It went on to gross $414,211,549 worldwide.
Identified in the late 1980s with the 'Brit Pack' of new young British actors headed by Gary Oldman, Firth's rise to stardom progressed at a slower pace than many of his contemporaries. It was not until his portrayal of Mr. Darcy in the 1995 television adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice that Firth became a household name. The show was a hit in the UK and USA and established him as a light comic leading man. This led to roles in films such as The English Patient, Bridget Jones's Diary (for which he was nominated for a BAFTA), Shakespeare in Love and Love Actually. In 2009 he received widespread critical acclaim for his leading role in A Single Man, for which Firth gained his first Academy Award nomination, and won a BAFTA Award.
In 2011, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was also selected as one of The Time 100. He was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Winchester in 2007, and was made a Freeman of the City of London in 2012. Firth has campaigned for the rights of indigenous tribal peoples and is a member of Survival International. He has also campaigned on issues of asylum seekers and refugees' rights and the environment. Firth commissioned and is credited as a co-author on a scientific paper on a study into the differences in brain structure between people of differing political orientations.
Firth was born in Grayshott, Hampshire, to parents who were both academics and teachers. His mother, Shirley Jean (née Rolles), was a comparative religion lecturer at King Alfred's College, Winchester (now the University of Winchester), and his father, David Norman Lewis Firth, was a history lecturer (also at King Alfred's) and education officer for the Nigerian Government. Firth has a younger sister, Kate, and a younger brother, Jonathan, who is also an actor. Firth's parents were raised in India, because his maternal grandparents, Congregationalist ministers, and his paternal grandfather, an Anglican priest, performed overseas missionary work.
As a child, Firth travelled a lot due to his parents' work, spending some years in Nigeria. He also lived in St. Louis, Missouri when he was 11. Firth described this as a difficult time, and he struggled to fit in. On returning to the UK he attended the Montgomery of Alamein Secondary School (now Kings' School), which at the time was a state comprehensive school in Winchester, Hampshire. He was still an outsider and was the target of bullying. To counter this he adopted the local working class Hampshire accent, and affected a disinterest in schoolwork. By the time he was fourteen, Firth had already decided he wanted to be a professional actor, having attended drama workshops from the age of ten. Until further education, he was not academically inclined, later saying in an interview "I didn't like school. I just thought it was boring and mediocre and nothing they taught me seemed to be of any interest at all." However, at Barton Peveril Sixth Form College in Eastleigh he became instilled with a love of English literature thanks to an enthusiastic teacher, Penny Edwards, and has said that "My two years at Barton Peveril were among the two happiest years of my life".
After his sixth form years, Firth moved to London and joined the National Youth Theatre, where he made many contacts in the acting world, from which he got a job in the wardrobe department at the National Theatre. From there he went on to study at London's Drama Centre.
Playing Hamlet in the Drama Centre end of year production, Firth was spotted by playwright Julian Mitchell, who cast him as the gay, ambitious public schoolboy Guy Bennett in the 1983 West End production of Another Country. In 1984, Firth made his film debut in the role of Tommy Judd, Guy Bennett's straight, Marxist school friend in the screen adaptation of the play (opposite Rupert Everett as Guy Bennett). This was the start of a longstanding public feud between Firth and Everett, which was later resolved. He starred with Sir Laurence Olivier in Lost Empires (1986), a TV adaptation of J. B. Priestley's novel.
It was through his role as the aloof and haughty aristocrat Mr Darcy in the 1995 BBC television adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice that Firth finally became a household name. He was producer Sue Birtwistle's first choice for the part, eventually being persuaded to take it, despite initial reluctance as he was unfamiliar with Austen's writing. Firth and co-star Jennifer Ehle began a romantic relationship during the filming of the series, which only received media attention after the couple's separation.
Sheila Johnston wrote that Firth's approach to the part "lent Darcy complex shades of coldness, even caddishness, in the early episodes." The serial was a major international success, and unexpectedly elevated Firth to stardom, in some part due to an iconic scene in which he emerged in a wet shirt after swimming. Although Firth did not mind being recognised as "a romantic idol as a Darcy with smouldering sex appeal" in a role that "officially turned him into a heart-throb", he expressed the wish not to be associated with Pride and Prejudice forever. He was therefore reluctant to accept similar roles and risk becoming typecast. For a time it did seem as if Mr Darcy would overshadow the rest of his career, and there were humorous allusions to the role in his next five movies. The most notable of these was the casting of Firth as love interest Mark Darcy in the film adaptation of Bridget Jones's Diary, itself a modern day retelling of Pride and Prejudice. Firth accepted the part as he saw it as an opportunity to lampoon his Mr Darcy character. The film was very successful and critically well liked. A sequel in 2004 was mostly panned by critics but was still financially successful.
Firth lives in Chiswick, London. In 1989, he entered into a romantic relationship with actress Meg Tilly, his co-star in Valmont. In 1990, they had a son, William "Will" Joseph Firth, and moved to the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, Canada. Firth's acting career slowed down until they broke up in 1994, and his return to the UK. Firth remains in contact with Will and with Tilly's two other children. In 1997, Firth married Italian film producer and director Livia Firth (born Giuggioli). The couple now live in both London and Italy. They have two sons, Luca (born March 2001) and Matteo (born August 2003). Firth started to learn Italian when he and Giuggioli began to date and now he is fluent in the language. Firth is a supporter of Arsenal F.C.
Firth was awarded an honorary degree on 19 October 2007 from the University of Winchester. On 13 January 2011, he was presented with the 2,429th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In April 2011,Time magazine included Firth in its list of the world's 100 Most Influential People. Firth was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2011 Birthday Honours for services to drama, and made a Freeman of the City of London on 8 March 2012.