Since emerging, dripping wet, as Mr Darcy in the 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride And Prejudice, Colin Firth has been much in demand for romantic dramas and comedies. His role in Bridget Jones's Diary was the ultimate in-joke, as his character was inspired by his earlier Austen role. But now the 44-year-old Englishman shows signs of breaking free from the limitations of such unimaginative casting, with recent roles in Girl With A Pearl Earring, award-winning TV drama Conspiracy, and Brit psychological thriller Trauma.
Trauma might seem to be a departure from what you've done lately, but it's the kind of thing you did early in your career isn't it...
It sounds a bit cheesy but it did feel a bit like a homecoming. I've really enjoyed stuff that's happened over the last few years, but it was hard to find anyone who'd put me in that sort of material again, and I really had a hankering for it.
It's a bold movie to emerge from the British film industry...
It is, and I think [director] Marc Evans would appreciate the comment. I think Marc is not your typical British filmmaker, he's one of the most unexploited resources that we have. I'm tired of this incredibly facile harmonising about the limits of the British film industry. It makes people sound edgy when they say it, they stand up at film festivals and bang on about it, and people describe them as guerrilla filmmakers. What we should do is shut up about that and try and play to our strengths. It's not perceived as a shabby industry outside the UK at all. People very often approach you and say they wish they were British because we make such good stuff.
Is the old adage about comedy being harder than drama true?
Light stuff is definitely harder. That's why people need to give someone like Hugh Grant a few more points for his acting skills, because, of my generation, I think he is the master of something that very few people can do at all. Certainly all that heavy stuff is much easier for an actor.
Talking of Hugh, you're on screen together again in Bridget Jones: Edge Of Reason - was that an easy film to commit to?
I don't remember making the decision. It somehow felt like a bit of an inevitability. I said to Hugh "Do you remember saying yes to this film", and he couldn't remember either. The only time one could have said no was ages ago, before there was really a script and before anybody had that much invested. But the script kept getting better, and at a certain point it would have become a very big deal not to do it.
The difficulty for an actor is that success can begin to limit the range of things you're offered. Would you say that was true?
Success creates a current and you can get swept along with it, certainly. At the same time, if you do want to take control over your career you have to resist certain things that are offered. I've never been that staunch in refusing to do something because it has a similarity to what I did before. I wanted to do the work on its own merits, but making Trauma has intoxicated me enough to want to go down a different route now.