Sunday, March 23, 2014

Colin Firth, Rupert Everett & Julian Mitchell - 'Rupert Everett was a complete b*****d to me'

ADAM JACQUES  Author Biography   Sunday 23 March 2014

Julian Mitchell, 78

Mitchell is a screenwriter and playwright, whose work includes the award-winning 1981 production, 'Another Country', which was subsequently adapted into a film starring Colin Firth. He lives in west London

Another Country had been running for more than a year when Colin started in it. It was set in a 1930s boarding school [loosely based on the early life of Cambridge spy Guy Burgess] and we were recasting the play for a third time. I was looking for the two main characters: a flamboyant gay pupil, Guy Bennett [based on Burgess] and a dour Communist one, Tommy Judd. The part of the gay character was played by Rupert Everett initially, then Daniel Day-Lewis – a hard act to follow.

Colin had been playing Hamlet at the London Drama School when he came to audition. He was quite reserved, quiet in himself, though I liked him at once. We cast him as Bennett, and though he was not obviously flamboyant, you don't have to be the part you're playing. He gave a fantastic performance and I felt he could be one of the most talented actors one of his generation.

When it came to making the [1983] film version, Kenneth Branagh, who had played the part of Judd in the stage production, had gone off to Australia to do TV, so I decided to give the part to Colin – he was the only actor ever to play both roles. As a naturally reserved person, I think Colin had less difficulty playing that role, while Rupert returned to play Bennett. At that time, Rupert could be very difficult, and he was not friendly to Colin, so it was not easy for Colin. Though actually, not long ago over lunch [while Firth was filming the comedy St Trinian's co-starring Everett], Colin said to me, "Rupert and I: I think we're supposed to be best friends now!"

Colin Firth, 53

Firth's big break came in the 1983 West End production of 'Another Country'. He has since won 48 awards, including a Best Actor Academy Award for 'The King's Speech'. He lives in west London with his wife

I was at drama school when Another Country was on in the West End, and it was one of those shows that was talked about. I didn't see Rupert Everett in the role [as Guy Bennett] but my fellow students were saying the dialogue was dazzling, and the reviews were fantastic.

When it came to the point of recasting it for the third time, I got my foot in the door for a cattle-market audition. Julian was the first writer I ever met: it was for my second audition, at his home in Chelsea, and it felt like meeting the Wizard of Oz. I wondered whether he'd come in like a tortured maestro – I've met those – but I found him delightful; he wasn't imperious, he twinkled, and he tried to put me at my ease. He probably thought I was awfully serious, because I was just terrified of a living-room audition.

The rehearsal period was haphazard, as the director only showed up twice a week, so the [producers] got Julian to direct us the other days. As the creator, he was able to give us his own experiences, as it was partly based on his time at Winchester College. I was in awe of him but I liked how he was happy to engage about the play. I once disagreed with him about what a moment was about, and flippantly said "I don't think you understand the play!" He laughed. Being in the role felt meteoric – the play was showered with awards – but they were such wonderfully conceived characters that they flattered any actor.

I always thought after [playing Bennett] that if I was going to be typecast, it would be as a loquacious, outrageous character. But then Julian cast me as Tommy in the film, with Rupert playing Bennett.


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