When asked to list quintessential English gentlemen, for many, Colin Firth immediately comes to mind.
In his recent film, Kingsman: The Secret Service, the 54-year-old actor appears as elegant and lethal superspy Harry Hart, wearing double-breasted suits, oxford shoes and square-frame glasses. One minute he’s composed and polite, and then in the next he’s skillfully violent and aggressive. For example, in one scene he says, “Manners maketh a man”, before severely beating up a group of villains. Firth brings out the perfect mix of typical British style and humor through this performance.
Firth began appearing on English TV in the early 1990s, but it wasn’t until he played Mr Darcy, a brooding, aloof and charming upper class character from Jane Austen’s famous novel “Pride and Prejudice”, that Firth’s career really took off. His portrayal of the perfect fictional gentleman conquered millions of hearts, especially females’.
In many fans and critics’ eyes, Firth has British good looks, British charm, and a gift for characters with a British sense of being reserved. Movie reviewer Jason O’Bryan described Firth as “always befitting the calm and stiff-upper-lip British gentlemen character”.
However Firth doesn’t consider himself the authority on gentlemen. “I don’t necessarily approach every challenge like a perfect English gentleman spy. There are many aspects in my personality that are not consistent with someone like Harry Hart,” he said to Dialogue, an English-language show on CCTV News.
But let’s just take his words as another gentlemanly quality – modesty. After all, who might expect an Oscar-winning actor over 50 years old to learn to fight for his debut action movie?
To prepare for Kingsman, Firth had 10 professional combat masters train him for three hours every day over six months. He broke a tooth and got bruised everywhere, but took the damage as a symbol of his accomplishments. “I thought it would be too painful, too embarrassing. In fact I found it quite boring to go back to acting.”
In Dialogue, Firth said he had many other sides – he’s passionate about literature and literary research. However, to many of his movie fans, he is indeed a gentleman and elite actor above all else.