This weekend, audiences will once again be able to see Colin Firth reprise his role as Mark Darcy, with the third Bridget Jones movie - Bridget Jones's Baby - arriving in theaters. The actor has walked a 15 year road with the character, first playing the part in 2001's Bridget Jones's Diary... but it may surprise you to learn that he originally turned the part down.
I recently had the pleasure of jumping on the phone with Colin Firth to talk about his part in Bridget Jones's Baby, and during the interview the actor explained why he initially had no interest in the character of Mark Darcy. I asked him about the franchise's roots in the work of Jane Austen, and if Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice was still an influence on his approach, and Firth used it as a jumping off point to talk about the particular inaccessibility of Mr. Darcy and why didn't want to make Bridget Jones's Diary at first. Said the Oscar winner,
I started off thinking there was no way in with that character. I originally turned it down, because I didn't think... how do you play this guy who doesn't do anything really? He just sort of stands around and scowls and looks imperious. And I thought, 'Well, sure, I can do that, but will anyone give a damn? It's not appealing!'
If that rejection had been the final word, the Bridget Jones movies as we know them would potentially be very different -- but Colin Firth wasn't entirely able to let the idea of playing Mark Darcy go after he first said "no." He continued to consider the part, and eventually realized that what he didn't like about the characterization actually made him appealing from a performance angle. Firth explained,
Then I thought, 'Well, maybe there's something fun in that. You don't have to be charming. You just have to be incredibly distant and dislikable.' And I thought, 'That's pretty liberating!' So that was an incentive.
Taking that into consideration along with the fact that Jane Austen never wrote from the perspective of men, Colin Firth found an opportunity to really craft the inner-workings of the character himself -- ultimately playing him as he felt the role should be played:
[Jane Austen] did not presume to write what men think, it seems. So, what you've got is a kind of external view of the guy, so I kind of made it up. I thought, 'What if he's highly sexed and passionate and actually pretty wild on the inside, but doesn't play any of it, never shows it.' This apparently emotionless man is all a mask. It's all going on inside. So every time I played him - and each time has been a different writer - you to confer with them a little bit to make sure that it feels like the same guy.
Given how successful the Bridget Jones franchise has been, Firth's decision to change his mind about Mark Darcy is surely one that he's happy with -- which is perfectly evident in the fact that a new sequel is coming out this week. You can see Bridget Jones's Baby in theaters this Friday, and be sure to stay tuned for more from my interview with Colin Firth!