''I know I'm known for playing stiff English guys in romantic comedies,'' says Firth, 49. Yet his most romantic work to date may be in A Single Man, director Tom Ford's moving study of a weary, witty college professor grieving the death of his longtime male lover. Here, Firth discusses four key roles of the heart.
A Single Man (2009)
Firth has already earned a Golden Globe nomination for his performance, and he's set to rack up an Oscar nod as well. ''It's not every day this happens in any actor's life. Certainly not in mine. We shot in 21 days, with a very small unit of people, working mostly at night. I've been in an environment like that before where it feels like you're doing something very personal, and it feels very special to us, but it doesn't feel special to anybody else. To have people get it is an overwhelmingly wonderful feeling.''
Mamma Mia! (2008)
''Mamma Mia! was an experience in just lightening everybody up. I think frivolity is a very, very valuable commodity in our cultural world. I like Polish cinema, too, but I would not want to spend my life doing achingly serious movies. I almost depend on the light stuff, and it doesn't get much more feel-good than this.'' What was it like to work with his costar Meryl Streep? ''I think there is no finer living actor. I know that's a helluva gush, but I really think it's true.''
Bridget Jones's Diary and Bridge Jones: The Edge of Reason (2001, 2004)
''If you can't beat them, join them!'' says the actor. The Bridget Jones movies, he admits, ''kept me in the game and got me employable enough to do films I really wanted to do.''
BBC'S Pride and Prejudice (1995)
Firth accepts the fact that he may forever be known for the scene in which he strides out of a pond in a pair of white jodhpurs. ''I did the job,'' the actor says pleasantly. ''I walked off the set in 1994 and got on with my life. The role made my mark, and I can't begrudge that. It's wonderful, really, and I probably owe a great deal to it.''