Last week HeyUGuys were invited to attend the Alfred Dunhill BAFTA A Life in Pictures event and in an extended interview on stage at BAFTA Headquarters along with critic, writer and broadcaster Francine Stock, was BAFTA Award Winner and Academy Award Nominee Colin Firth. Greeted with rapturous applause, Firth’s appearance had the audience on tenterhooks as we were privy to a thoroughly engaging evening dedicated to one of Britain’s most respected, versatile and beloved actors.

Having appeared in a variety of critically-acclaimed television, film and theatre productions, Firth’s career shows no signs of slowing down at the age of 50. Much like a fine wine, his body of work just keeps on getting better and better. From his humble family roots in Grayshott, Hampshire, Firth’s journey into acting began as a sprightly 5 year old, whose determination to act was made touchingly clear by his penchant for playing dress-up and performing in school pantomimes. Fascinated by storytelling as a child, Firth’s ambition to become an actor was fully realised at 14 years old.

Encouraged by a certain teacher with whom he disclosed as having a crush on, the newly liberated and inspired teenage public school boy set his sights on an acting career. Born into a family of academics, Firth’s early years were spent living in Nigeria and mid-west America. He soon returned to Britain aged 11 and spent the best part of his secondary school years focusing on his theatre and drama studies, a departure from his missionary/teaching parents. After enrolling into the London Drama Centre, Firth admitted he felt more cut out for the avant garde than he did about getting into film work, thus focusing on more cutting edge experimental theatre instead.

Some of his earlier notable TV and film appearances ranging from ‘Lost Empires’ and ‘Tumbledown’, to ‘Valmont’ and ‘Circle of Friends’ were well received, but it wasn’t until he went onto star in the BBC’s hugely successful Jane Austen adaptation of ‘Pride And Prejudice’ that Firth was really thrust into the mainstream. Unenthused by the predictability of the character of Mr Darcy or the prospect of a costume drama being a hit, Firth turned down the role that made him a household name… several times. Taking a further two months to reconsider, Firth admitted that he only agreed to accept the part of Mr Darcy because he didn’t want it to go to anyone else and welcomed the prospect of it propelling him into mainstream acclaim. And what a sound decision that was!

Not only did ‘Pride and Prejudice’ go onto become an award-winning period piece for the BBC, it catapulted Firth into international heart-throb status. Darcy’s legacy has continued to follow him around ever since.  When asked about the longevity of Mr Darcy’s popularity among fans (self-dubbed “a national phenomenon”), he admitted his continued surprise and astonishment of it all. Known for playing extremely intense, repressed characters, the fear of being typecast did not dissuade him from pursuing his other infamous Mr Darcy character, in Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary. Accepting this role, which was coincidentally created and inspired by his Pride and Prejudice’s Darcy counterpart, is further proof of his highly commendable good humour. Never more clear than in this delightful interview conducted by Bridget Jones herself!! You really should check it out – it’s a fabulous treat for Firth and Bridget fans alike.

Continuing with the light-hearted theme, Firth reminisced about his experiences of working on the worldwide smash hit movie ‘Mamma Mia!’. Openly unapologetic about his pleasure in seeing critics and sceptics won over by this undeniably fun flick, Firth emphasised his disdain for karaoke, but admitted that he loved the feel-good fun factor of this project.

We were then treated to a snippet from the 2005 film, ‘Where the Truth Lies’, which co-stars Kevin Bacon. Based on the acclaimed novel by Rupert Holmes, Firth described it as, “a film about extraordinary guilt and bizarre tension between life off and on stage”. When asked by Stock about his particular interest in performing desperate roles onscreen, Firth went onto say that he’s “fascinated by the way people hide their true nature, their desperate and anxious sides”. And that as an actor, he’s especially drawn to those qualities, as seen in his stunning portrayal of Professor George Falconer in ‘A Single Man’.

‘A Single Man’ earned Firth his first ever BAFTA win as best actor and could not have been more well deserved. His strikingly moving performance is truly unforgettable, as was the experience of filming it, apparently. Taking 21 days to shoot, Firth described how lonely it made him feel filming so much of it on his own. Although it gave him an enormous sense of freedom, he emphasised how much he loved the experience of working with director Tom Ford and co-star Julianne Moore, even though they only filmed together for a short three days. It would be impossible to summarise this heart-breakingly beautiful and stylish film into just a few short sentences, so you can read Jon’s review of A Single Man here instead. It’s a quality piece of work, and will stick with you long after you’ve seen it.

 Firth’s filmography continues to please critics and audiences alike, and more so than ever in the upcoming release of highly anticipated ‘The King’s Speech’. With an exquisite acting ensemble, The King’s Speech is an epic true story based on the relationship between King George VI and Lionel Logue (his speech therapist). In the years leading up to his rise as King, George VI is forced to painfully confront his speech impediment in order to fulfill his public speaking duties.

A huge hit at the Toronto and London Film Festivals this year, The King’s Speech continues to reign triumphant winning the Best British Independent Film, Best Actor for Colin Firth, Best Supporting Actor and Actress for Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter, and David Seidler for his screenplay at last week’s British Independent Film Awards. Speaking candidly with Stock, Firth’s interest in this role was piqued by the psychology of stammering. Initially mortified by director Tom Hooper’s suggestion that almost every line be delivered with a stammer, he was worried that the audience would be unable to deal with the fatigue of it all.

Ultimately, it appears that this was an unnecessary concern as all eyes are firmly set on the upcoming Oscars as The King’s Speech continues to generate huge early Oscar buzz. It’s hotly tipped to scoop the Best Picture and Best Actor awards, after having already achieved a “must-see” status. Heralded as a masterpiece and film of the year by many movie critics, the countdown to the Oscars is on.

Our special thanks to BAFTA  for a truly unforgettable evening with one of Britain’s finest actors. Firth is an extremely charming and charismatic man and embodies the idea of a true English gentleman. His body of work is incredibly interesting and diverse and his international success is a credit to the UK Film industry. We wish him all the very best at the Oscars next year. The King’s Speech is released in the UK on Friday 7th January, 2011.