Colin Firth: The Thinking Ladies' Leading Man

Colin Firth in 'Shakespeare in Love'
Miramax Films / Everett

Shakespeare in Love
Quite the opposite of the Pride and Prejudice role that ignited Darcy fever in the U.K., Firth's character in this Oscar-winning drama, Earl Wessex, is an insufferable aristocrat with no wealth but with grand arrogance. His desire to marry Lady Viola is out of convenience, as her dowry would help his mounting debts. Of his approach to playing a man like Wessex, Firth says, "Whenever you take on playing a villain, he has to cease to be a villain to you. If you judge this man by his time, he's doing very little wrong."

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