The highly anticipated third installment of the Bridget Jones franchise, Bridget Jones’s Baby, finds the forty-something and single again Bridget (Renée Zellweger) in a very unexpected situation. After deciding to focus on her job and surround herself with friends, Bridget thinks she has everything completely under control, until she finds herself torn between her longtime love Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) and dashing American Jack Qwant (Patrick Dempsey), not knowing which one is the father of her unborn child.
While at the press junket in London, Oscar-winning actor Colin Firth got on the phone with Collider for this exclusive interview about the journey to finally making a third Bridget Jones movie, shooting multiple endings, the joy of working with Emma Thompson, who is hilarious in the film, and why he wanted to see Renée Zellweger in this role again. He also talked about his mysterious return in Kingsman: The Golden Circle, taking on the Thomas Vinterberg film Kursk next, and why he wanted to get into producing films.
Collider: Because there was so much talk, over the years, that never quite panned out, when and how did you learn that you would actually be returning to this character?
COLIN FIRTH: It went through so many stages. If I were to write a book about the progress of getting to a third film, it would be a long one. I can’t even remember dates now, but it was going to happen a few years ago. It even went into production, and then it didn’t happen, for all kinds of reasons, many of which I can’t remember. I’ve spoken to at least three potential directors. I had conversations with (book author) Helen Fielding, quite a number of years ago, about what a third film might look like, long before she wrote her third book. Mark Darcy died, and there was no Hugh Grant. There were all kinds of moments where I thought, “I suppose that’s it, then.” But Working Title and (producer) Eric Fellner had this determination to find the story, and then a momentum kicked in. I really, really, really wanted to see Renée [Zellweger] in this role again. I think that’s how we all felt. That was motivation and incentive, in itself. And Emma Thompson getting involved, as a writer, was a key moment. I think that took it forward.
Suddenly, there was a momentum and many of the key people wanted to come back. There seemed to be more of an appetite for this film than there had been. Ten years ago, there was probably a little bit of skepticism about this, as a franchise and as a sequel, just because there generally is about sequels. But, the fact that so much time has passed has added a layer of interest. In fact, I remember saying, back around the time of the second film, “I think maybe it would be far more interesting to see what these people are like at a difference age, and maybe see what the years have done to them.” What’s interesting, and it didn’t quite fully occur to me until now, is that what adds resonance to that is that the audience have aged, inevitably, with us. It doesn’t mean they’re all old, but everyone has 15 years in common since the first one.
How did you feel about shooting multiple endings for this movie, and when did you learn which ending was ultimately chosen?
FIRTH: I’m not even convinced now, which ending was chosen. They were all hedging their bets. No one was going to do this out of any particular loyalty or affection for anybody. This is a romantic comedy. It’s basically an escapist film, which tends to delight people and deliver an ending they will want. I think there was some sense that they wanted to gain responses before they committed. So, I’ll take whichever ending delivers that. If I’d been consulted, I probably would have over-complicated things. I would have been like, “Why don’t we make it his baby, but he’s the one that marries her?” No. I think the abiding feeling is that people are happy with the way it turned out.
Some of the best and funniest moments in the film are the ones with Emma Thompson, who’s just so terrific in this. Did you have trouble getting through those scenes without laughing?
FIRTH: She’s in the best moments of any movie. It’s funny how often the answer to that question is no, when people ask about that. There’s an adage about it famously being a serious business. It makes everyone neurotic because, if you try to examine a joke, suddenly it’s not funny, and that’s what shooting comedy is like. It’s not often that something the audience laughs at is something that’s fun for us, 50 times. Emma is an exception, and it was true when I worked with her on Nanny McPhee, as well. It’s very rare that there is anybody that makes me so debilitated with laughter. She doesn’t give the impression of trying to be funny, at all. I had a wonderful time shooting this movie, but the days that Emma was there were definitely a highlight. She’s a great friend, as well. She is bold, she’s outrageous and she’s fearless in what she does. I’ve worked with her three times, with Love, Actually, where she didn’t have a particularly funny role, but she tends to be a highlight in anything she shows up in.
What have you most enjoyed about being a part of this Bridget Jones world and sharing this experience with Renée Zellweger?
FIRTH: One of the greatest incentives for doing this again was to see Renée in the role again. I’ve played Mr. Darcy enough times. I enjoy playing Mr. Darcy, but I’m not hungry to play Mark Darcy again. It’s not an ambition. But, it is something of an ambition to see Renée inhabit that role again because I think it’s one of the best characters ever created. So, once I saw a script that was really worthy of her, I was very excited about doing it and I really wasn’t disappointed. Personally, I don’t think I’ve ever seen her do it better. This is the best it’s been. It’s so alive. One of the great things about doing this film was just watching her. It was very moving, seeing everybody together again. I don’t think we’ve all thought about it endlessly over 15 years, but it has 15 years of history for all of us. So, to actually see everybody show up again and see those combinations put together gave everybody a buzz. Seeing her play this role gives people a lift.
We now know that you’ll also be in the Kingsman sequel, but when and how did you find out that you’d be returning?
FIRTH: Well, it’s still my duty to be cryptic about that, so forgive me in being creative in how I dodge that question. It’s no secret that I’m involved, somewhere and somehow. From what I’ve been able to gather, it’s not going to feel like a conventional sequel. It’s going to be something that feels very much its own thing. I’m very optimistic about it.
People are definitely excited that you’ll be back, in whatever capacity that turns out to be.
FIRTH: I can’t give too much away about in what capacity I’m back. A lot of people have speculated and a lot of people have come to the wrong conclusions about it. I want to keep the surprise alive, a little longer. I think they’re going to be surprised again.
Do you know what’s next for you?
FIRTH: I’m going to be shooting a film with Thomas Vinterberg, who did The Celebration, Far From the Madding Crowd and The Hunt, and he’s one of my favorite directors. It’s a film called Kursk, which is a true story about a submarine disaster. There was an accident on board a Russian submarine in the year 2000, and it stranded a large number of sailors. That’s next.
You’ve played a lot of different types of roles, in various genres. Is there a role you’d still love to play, but it either hasn’t been right yet, or you just haven’t gotten the opportunity to do it?
FIRTH: I don’t think that way, really. I forage and see what’s available, and try to pick up what I find. I’ve gotten involved in producing now, so the kinds of things that are more my own choice are more possible in that field because I don’t have to be castable. I can actually get involved in getting stories off the ground that no one would ask me to be in because I’m the wrong age, the wrong sex, the wrong nationality, or whatever. I’ve found it quite exhilarating to have that freedom to tell the stories that aren’t just about middle-aged white English guys.
Is that how Loving came about?
FIRTH: Yes. I didn’t do it because it ticked boxes. That actually was something that captivated me quite some time before I even contemplated producing films. That was introduced to me by Nancy Buirski, who made The Loving Story documentary, a couple of years ago. I met Nancy when I was filming in North Carolina. She was presiding over the Full Frame Festival in Durham. She was passionate about this story, and that passion was infectious. I thought it had to be more widely told. It has enormous importance today, in all sorts of areas. I was absolutely determined to tell it. And then, when I formed the production company with Ged Doherty, it was the first project I told Ged about, and he responded immediately. It was enormously satisfying, and I just felt incredibly liberated that it didn’t depend on me being in it. There just simply wasn’t a role for me. That was purely a passion project, and I’m very, very pleased with the way it’s turned out.
Bridget Jones’s Baby is now in theaters.