Dressed in a crisp-white shirt and wearing an impeccably cut, bespoke suit, Colin Firth was the epitome of British style and gentlemanly aesthetic in 20th Century Fox's action flick, Kingsman: The Golden Circle. And in just a few weeks, his Harry Hart is rumored to be back from the dead to educate us on the importance of "oxfords not brogues."
Judging by the final moments of the official trailer — despite being shot in the face at point-blank rage in The Secret Service — Eggsy's Obi-Wan Kenobi has undergone some kind of miraculous resurrection at the hands of director Matthew Vaughn:
And with the uplifting news that the slick agent will be making a swift return in an as yet unknown capacity, fans can't wait to grant Firth another license to poke fun at the spirit of 007 and to shake up the spy genre once more.
That's because, for a man who has been in the limelight for a quarter of a century, and with a career spanning theatre, TV and film, Colin Firth's everlasting appeal fails to wain. Here's why he continues to be the brightest spark on the Hollywood scene and why our global love affair with the suave star continues well beyond the time he wobbled out of that pond in a wet, white t-shirt as Mr. Darcy.
"He's So Good At Communicating What Is Hidden"
During an interview back in 2010, Colin Firth once lamented not being offered a big role in a action blockbuster, saying:
The big action movie really hasn’t come my way. They’re not bombarding me with offers, although the ones that have come along have been too preposterous to contemplate, so it’s not as if I spend every day resisting $20 million pay cheques.
Fast forward a few years, and his quintessential British charm made him the perfect match for the tailored suits of the The Secret Service, where he was a vision of British propriety with his clean-cut style and well-mannered diligence. This knowing role allowed Firth the opportunity to somehow both transcend and embrace the type of characters he's often offered.
That's because it's no secret that while Colin Firth has countless roles under his belt, he does excel at playing a certain type — perhaps men with an impressive demeanor and eloquent speech. Or, as many of his previous parts suggest, an outwardly silent type that wins our hearts after blossoming into a heroic man of action.
Speaking of his friend, the director of Love Actually once put it perfectly when describing the type of character that Firth so expertly brings to the table. Referring to his "magic ingredient" that wins over audiences, Richard Curtis said:
[It's his] dark, scary side that means he can play romantic figures who are unfriendly, scary and a bit damaged. He is so good at communicating what is hidden, and that’s important for a British drama, because so much of it is about hiding things – that’s why we do spy stories so well, as opposed to America, which is really the country of the Western.
Ultimately, Colin's appeal is that he has the overwhelming ability to hold back, all the while wearing his heart on his sleeve. It's a characteristic that makes him an ideal candidate for 20th Century Fox's series, but also for a host of other parts in projects on both sides of the pond.
"Mr Darcy Will Be Alive And Well For The Rest Of My Life"
Despite reinventing himself as an unlikely action star with the Kingsman, Firth is still first-and-foremost adored by fans as the true, flesh-and-blood embodiment of Jane Austen's most respected hero, Mr. Darcy. Yet, while many actors — after rising through the ranks of the entertainment world to achieve superstardom — attempt to move away from being typecast as the character that got them started, Firth, at 56-years-old, only continues to embrace the role thrust him permanently into the limelight in 1995.
In an interview back in 2011, Firth set the record straight about his feelings toward embodying the most iconic character from BBC's TV adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, saying:
I think Mr Darcy will be alive and well for the rest of my life. Mr Darcy will be put to rest when he is buried at a crossroads at midnight with a stake through his heart. [...] I'd be rather sad to see him go. There's a bit of a misperception that I'm disgruntled about the Darcy thing and I'm not remotely bothered by it. I would hate to see that tag leave me so I'm very happy for it to follow me around as long as people want it to do so.
Ultimately, it warms the heart to find Colin — who has been recognized for his outstanding work at various award ceremonies — still continues to regard his major break-out role with such a deep sense of gratitude and sincerity. He's come to terms with the fact he'll always be likened to the brooding Darcy and to use his own words in a 2001 interview with The Guardian, "It's all right, it's fine. I don't mind it at all."
For Every A Single Man, There's A Mamma Mia!
This attitude is essentially what makes Firth so attractive to audiences, and his reluctance to take himself seriously is incredibly infectious. Despite the fact that he often brings to life individuals with that characteristic British stiffness and sense of decorum, it's actually not what he's about at all. As his career has shown, you never actually know what you're going to get with Colin.
Yes, there were years of trudging tirelessly through a series of questionable projects (as all budding actors do) with My Life So Far, Secret Laughter of Women and Relative Values. But decades on, after reaching pinnacle of the acting world with an Academy Award graciously positioned on his London-home's mantelpiece, Firth's main criteria for accepting a role is essentially the fun that comes with it. He's previously said:
I work with the options I have in front of me and my reasons for choosing a job can vary enormously depending on the circumstances. Sometimes I take a job because it’s a group of people I’m dying to work with, and sometimes it can be a desire to shake things up a bit and not to take myself too seriously.
For every The English Patient, Tom Ford's A Single Man, Cold War political drama Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The King's Speech, there's a Nanna McPhee, Mamma Mia!, St. Trinian's or a Bridget Jones movie lurking somewhere in-between. As a result, Colin Firth's undying appeal is that he reaches out to audiences from every demographic and age group, a fact that keeps him current and relatable. And his kick-ass role in 20th Century Fox's Kingsman series only cements this.
Ultimately, Firth is an actor who can take on the challenges of rousing an entire post-World War nation as a monarch with a crippling speech impediment, but also one that relishes the opportunity to croon a song in The Importance Of Being Earnest or belt out an ABBA banger on a Greek island with Meryl Streep. Never a one-trick pony, his appeal is that fans never know which roles he'll be up for next. Unlike many wildly successful artists in the industry, he'll be the first to share amusing anecdotes about his experiences — notably, he once recalled the moment his kids accidentally stumbled upon their dad rolling around his back yard practicing his Kingsman moves.
In 2017, it is refreshing to see an actor of his calibre still laughing at himself — and his words after sweeping up the highly-coveted golden gong for his portrayal of King George VI are testament to this:
I think gravitas is hugely over-rated and I just would like to do something that amuses me now. I think it's time to continue my long tradition of making a fool of myself.
"A Life Of Very, Very Serious, Po-faced Films Would Drive Me Nuts"
Although Colin Firth may be heralded as one of the best British actors of his generation and has been granted a CBE (The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) by her Majesty the Queen, it hasn't given him a dizzying sense of self-importance. Firth has stepped up to the podium to receive an Oscar, a Golden Globe, two BAFTA awards and three SAGs, but it hasn't deterred him from taking on a vibrant kaleidoscope of roles. He once said:
A life of very, very serious, po-faced films would drive me nuts. I need – and I’m fortunate to have – a fairly varied menu in that respect.
It is this ability to stay grounded and try new things that sets Firth above the rest, allowing him to exude an everlasting appeal that few of his contemporaries can match. And just like our favorite Kingsman Galahad — who, let's face it, is hopefully still alive and kicking — we can't wait to see what Britain's finest talent has in store for us in the years to come.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle hits US theatres on September 22, 2017.