A/V Room









Girl With a Pearl Earring - Colin Firth Q&A

Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q. How did you create a convincing portrayal of this famous, yet mysterious figure, Johannes Vermeer?
The secret was in the mystery. What you have in terms of historical understanding is mystery, and what Tracy Chevalier wrote was also mystery, and I was perpetuating that interpretation. It was a balancing act - fleshing him out without revealing too much. We weren't trying to do Amadeus, preserving the enigma of the figure had to be handled delicately and, ultimately, I was the final frontier of keeping that going.

Q. Was there a feeling that you were underplaying it, given the lack of dialogue?
I think I can speak for a lot of actors that dialogue is often very limiting, particularly if it's anything other than excellent. Mediocre dialogue is utterly crippling to the process and brilliant dialogue is a free ride, but no dialogue is a very liberating and inspiring thing to do, as long as you've got the confidence of a great director.
There's nothing more dispiriting than having a lot of ideas of what your tacet performance is going to be, if no one at the other end of the camera has the same ones. I've got this complex view of this woman and am going to have to do it all with my eyes.
It gave as an added sense of responsibility. Someone implied it reduced the role of the scriptwriter, but it's the contrary - the confidence and the skill to be able to use this type of cinema shows confidence in your writing and is unusual. It requires great maturity.

Q. Have you learned the hard way - were you counting your lines early in your career?
You learn that quite quickly. There are adages around, about actors with no lines stealing scenes, but I think past the first year of drama school you're not counting your lines.
Scarlett Johansson: I used to count my lines! [Laughs]
A: But she's only young.
Peter Webber: She hasn't been to drama school yet!

Q. Have you ever refused to say a bad line in a previous film? And is there any one line you can particularly remember as being atrocious?
A: [Laughs]
I once insisted that someone else's line was cut, because I refused to be in the same room with it. It was "You played me, Ross, You played me, and I'm not even a piano".

Q. Can you paint?
I've played around, but anything I can do with a paint brush would be utterly useless!

Q. Was there any hilarity involving Colin's wig?
Scarlett Johansson:
I can say a few things about the Vermeer wig.
Colin Firth: She nearly pulled out because of my wig! The wig was ‘ah’, it was a lovely script, and if you read a script like this, you know that if you accept this part, a wig awaits you, it can be an alarming prospect. Had it been anyone other than Jenny Shircore, who is well known for being brilliant, it would have been the kiss of death. My fear was that the rest of the world would react to my wig the way Scarlett did.
Scarlett Johansson: It was only the first few days, until it fit properly. Okay, it was very much a sort of Fabio wig!
Colin Firth: I'm doing what I think is a sexy, smouldering look and she's giving me, ‘I can't believe it's not butter’. [Laughs]

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