It’s been 25 years since Colin Firth set audiences’ hearts aflutter with his role as Mr. Darcy in the TV miniseries Pride & Prejudice. First wasn’t exactly an unknown actor at the time he signed on the Jane Austen adaptation, and since then he’s worked on a wide range of projects, from art-house flicks to big-budget action movies. He’s also been nominated twice for an Academy Award, winning in 2011 for The King’s Speech.
Yet for many, Firth will always be Mr. Darcy. But the actor says that the iconic role may not have actually done his career any favors.
Colin Firth says playing Mr. Darcy wasn’t ‘helpful’ for his career
For many Austen fans, Andrew Davies’ 1995 miniseries is the definitive on-screen version of her 1813 novel. Firth plays the fabulously wealthy super-snob Mr. Darcy, while Jennifer Ehle plays the clever but not-very-rich Elizabeth Bennet. The two clash when they first meet (she thinks he’s a stuck-up bore, while he dismisses her as no more than “tolerable”). But dislike gradually turns to love.
In an April 2020 interview with Good Housekeeping, Firth, now 59, said he enjoyed working on the miniseries, but that he felt pigeonholed afterward.
“This was a great role and it was a major event in my career, certainly,” he told the magazine, according to Tatler. ‘But I don’t think it was all that helpful, because it tended to create this image that can restrict what kind of roles you are going to be able to find.”
“Looking good and strutting around is very boring,” the star of A Single Man added. “I wanted to do other things as an actor.”
Firth played Mr. Darcy in another movie
Playing Mr. Darcy turned Firth into something of a sex symbol (you can blame the show’s famous wet shirt scene for that), which the actor apparently found a bit limiting. But he didn’t completely turn away from romantic roles.
In 2001, he played Mark Darcy in Bridget Jones’s Diary. The movie is loosely based on Pride & Prejudice, with Firth again playing the role of a standoffish guy who eventually falls for the leading lady (Renée Zellweger).
Firth played the romantic lead again in 2002’s The Importance of Being Earnest, an adaptation of the Oscar Wilde comedy. He also appeared in the rom-com Love Actually as a writer who falls for his Portuguese maid and 2003’s Hope Springs, where he plays a man who falls in love with a nursing home employee played by Heather Graham.
Firth says ‘A Single Man’ with changing how people saw him
It wasn’t until more than a decade after Pride & Prejudice that Firth landed the role that he says changed the public’s perception of him as an actor. In 2009, he starred Tom Ford’s directorial debut A Single Man. He played a college professor living in Southern California in the early 1960s and mourning the recent death of his partner Jim.
“I was playing an older, sadder kind of figure and suddenly you’re seen in a different way,” Firth told Good Housekeeping.
Firth will be seen next in The Secret Garden, due out on August 14, 2020.