Colin Firth, The King speaks Tuscan
About his love of Tuscany and much more. The famous actor tells himself
The true king’s speech is the one given by Colin Firth on the Academy Awards night. And his voice didn’t shake once although, in those 45 seconds, his whole career, his whole life sparkled with a new light. You have to be strong when certain critics tell you that your audience will be made up only of romantic Englishwomen getting on in years. Because you’re not the bad boy type, but a composed, well-built man with the straight look in the eye of someone incapable of lying.
I wonder, in those 45 seconds, what passed before this strong Englishman who grew up all over the world, from Africa to Missouri, before the actor wearing that embarrassing reindeer sweater the first time he met Bridget Jones and standing stiff and stern, side by side with confident and self-assured Hugh Grant. Colin Firth, the Arsenal fan in Fever Pitch, Jan Vermeer painting The Girl with a Pearl Earring, a style icon, the impeccable George Falconer in the wonderful A Single Man by Tom Ford and, now, an incomparable George VI in The King’s Speech, the stammering King, who challenges himself and his fears to talk about dignity and freedom in the fight against Hitler.
A few days before the Oscar show, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, between Charlie Chaplin and John Ford. Then came the Academy Award. During the most important speech of his life, he devoted most of those 45 seconds to his Anglo-Italian-American-Canadian wife, Livia Giuggioli.
“I hold her responsible - he said- for everything good that’s happened to me since I met her. I owe her everything”. Even his relationship with Italy, in particular with Tuscany. It was Livia, of Tuscan origins (her father is from Siena), film producer, actively involved in environmental, social and civil rights campaigns, whom Firth married in 1997, who introduced him to Tuscany. Among other things, Livia supports the fight against the use of sodium thiopental in the United States to execute prisoners by lethal injection. Colin and Livia have two children together: Luca, ten years old, and Matteo, seven. They also own a house in Italy, in Umbria. Last summer, Colin saw the Palio of Siena for the first time, as a guest of the Nicchio contrada. However, by talking with him, we discovered that his presence in Italy is not occasional.
Mr. Firth, how much time do you really spend in Italy?
Apart from some short trips to London, I would enjoy living in Italy. Anyway, I come as often as I can, and usually all through school holidays.
What do you love about Italy?
I know Italy too well to be naively romantic. I loved Italian art, fashion and cooking long before I ever came here. Above all, I love Italian literature that I didn’t know before.
As a boy, I read Calvino, Primo Levi, Pirandello. But I wasn’t familiar with Italian literature. We British know more about Italian art, fashion, cars, cooking. By coming to Italy, I discovered the extraordinary world of Italian literature and I fell in love with it.
How did you learn Italian so well?
I could not speak to my wife only in English! And now my two sons are Italian as well. So, I’m a bit Italian myself!
What do like about Florence?
I never come to Florence without stopping at the Accademia museum, not only for the David, but also for Michelangelo’s Prigioni. One of the world’s most interesting things also because, or just because, they are unfinished. What I enjoy the most is roaming aimlessly, having a coffee, wandering with no specific destination. That’s what I do in Florence: wandering about the narrow streets, discovering restaurants.
What restaurants have you discovered?
A wonderful one, near the merry-go-round in Piazza della Repubblica, I don’t remember the name.
Would you like to work with an Italian film director?
Yes! I’m very much interested in Giuseppe Tornatore and Giuseppe Piccioni. I tried to work with Liliana Cavani, and I hope I will one day. I’m also a fan of Marco Tullio Giordana and Matteo Garrone, I would like to work with them.
Speaking about illustrious Englishmen living in Tuscany, have you ever been to Sting’s villa Il Palagio?
No, he has not invited me yet! He laughs.
And Tony Blair, do you ever see him when he’s spending his holidays in Tuscany?
Tony Blair? No, thank you, I’d rather not.