x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Colin Firth takes a funny turn in Gambit

The star of the new release Gambit, Colin Firth sits down with The National and discusses rising to the challenge of a comic role.

The actor Colin Firth has turned his hand to comedy. Matt Carr / Getty Images / AFP
The actor Colin Firth has turned his hand to comedy. Matt Carr / Getty Images / AFP

Audiences will see a very different side to the Oscar-winning British actor Colin Firth in his new comedy, Gambit. Based on a 1966 film starring Michael Caine, the Coen brothers-written remake stars Firth as a put-upon art curator who decides to get revenge on his boss (Alan Rickman) by conning him into buying a fake masterpiece, enlisting the help of a rowdy Texan named PJ (Cameron Diaz). Comedy is a very different genre for the actor, who is better known for dramas such as The King's Speech and Pride and Prejudice.

Did making this film give you a new respect for comic actors?

Not a new respect no, because I already knew it was going to be difficult, because comedy is difficult. It's something that I think is vastly underrated, the ability to be funny, and it's a genre that I think a lot of actors avoid intentionally. I've been lucky enough to work with some performers, such as Cameron, who really have a sixth sense for comedy, and that's a wonderful thing to observe. I suppose others will judge how I fared, but it was a wonderful challenge.

How did it compare to your more dramatic roles?

It's like working a different muscle, really. I suppose the biggest challenge was trying to make a moment humorous on film. Because of the way a film is shot, you have to keep that level of spontaneity fresh over several different takes. Mostly it was just making sure what was written on the page by the Coen brothers translated onto the screen and preserved as something that would make people laugh.

You and Cameron Diaz don't look like an obvious choice for an on-screen pairing.

Yes, well, comedy is founded on odd couples. If you look at a lot of the successful films of this type, they feature two characters that are perhaps ill-suited, and it's the same for the characters in this film. Harry is a rather exaggerated portrayal of a repressed, frustrated Englishman, whereas Cameron's character is this unabashed, rodeo-riding Texan; everything Harry isn't. The comedy comes in those culture clashes, and of course in the skill of the cast, which in this case meant I was very fortunate to have Cameron to work with.

And you had some hilarious scenes with Alan Rickman, who plays Harry's nightmare boss. Did he remind you of any bosses you've had?

Well, not really, because while there have been people in my life who have made me as frustrated as Harry feels, none of them were as intelligent as Alan's character. That's what makes his performance so amusing - this man who is monstrous to Harry is charming to Cameron's character. But in a wider sense, yes, I think everyone has had a superior who has made their lives miserable.

Were you worried how your film would compare to the original?

I wasn't opposed to the idea of remaking a film, but for me, the film is so very different to the original that it doesn't really merit comparison. The films are both funny and entertaining in their own ways, but those ways are so different. Really, the only similarities are names and the central idea of the film. And certainly what drew me to it was the idea of making a comedy, rather than remaking that particular film.

You have two rather tricky scenes in Gambit: filming with a lion and walking through a hotel with your trousers down. Which was the more terrifying?

They were different kinds of terror. [laughs] Filming with the lion was perfectly safe but you're still very aware there's this beast a few feet from you perfectly capable of tearing you limb from limb. I don't think terror is the right word to describe walking with your trousers down, just utter embarrassment really. The hotel was open to the public while we were filming and several guests walked in to find me in this predicament and wondered what on Earth was going on.

Gambit opens across UAE cinemas today

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