Colin Firth: Singled Out

Can the gay community still take pride in A Single Man? Star Colin Firth weighs in on the controversial “de-gaying” of Tom Ford’s film debut and costar Matthew Goode's good kissing.




There’s been some controversy over the “de-gaying” by the Weinstein Co. of the film’s new one-sheets and trailers, which focus less on the gay love story and more on the platonic relationship between George and Julianne Moore’s character, Charley. Do you think that does a disservice to the film?
Yes, I do. It is deceptive. I don’t think they should do that because there’s nothing to sanitize. It’s a beautiful story of love between two men and I see no point in hiding that. People should see it for what it is.

Has anyone ever encouraged you to steer focus away from the film’s central gay content when speaking to the press?
No, I haven’t had that yet. I’m sure I will at some point, but if I do, it won’t come from Tom.

Whether you’re flirting at a bar or just reading together on the sofa, you appear so comfortable on-screen with Matthew Goode, who plays George’s partner, Jim, in flashbacks. Because you don’t share the same sexual experiences with men in real life, is it any more challenging to achieve that truthful level of intimacy with a man than it is with a woman?
No, I didn’t find it difficult. Matthew’s a good kisser, for a start, but there’s not that much of a difference, quite frankly. If you really dislike or aren’t attracted to your acting partner anyway, it doesn’t make much difference if it’s a man or a woman. I’m still channeling something that comes from myself about what it is to ache for somebody or want to have sex with somebody, so you use your imagination regardless.

You’ve since played gay or bisexual characters in films as varied as Where the Truth Lies, Relative Values, and Mamma Mia! but your first professional role was gay student Guy Bennett in Another Country on London’s West End in 1983. Did you have any hesitations in taking a gay part so early in your career?
It didn’t cross my mind for a second — no more so than if the role had been French or a waiter. I’ll play anything. I’ve had the most extraordinary, rarefied, exciting training anyone could have at a place called the Drama Centre, where almost all my tutors were gay men. They opened up my world to such an enormous degree that I came out with a new center of gravity to my life and a view on sexuality that was so much wider and more complex than when I came in at 19. But I’ve grown up all around the world, and a lot of friends from my early childhood would fall into the category of one minority or another. I’ve had the great blessing of growing up fairly color-blind and without prejudices, so that’s the world I want to see — not the world where militant voices have to stay militant.

On a lighter note, I couldn’t help but notice that you’re in terrific shape for a man of 49. Are you always that fit, or did you spend extra time in the gym once you saw that Tom’s screenplay required nudity?
Oh, I spent a little extra time. [Laughs] It ebbs and flows the older I get, but gravity is increasingly the enemy. Tom’s probably done me a favor there, so I’ve tried to keep it up.

Tags: film