Colin Firth at the Berlin film festival: ‘If someone wants me to wear a mankini in a film, I will’

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Star of Genius, Michael Grandages biopic about literary editor Maxwell Perkins, says hes ready to shed his repressed image and burst out of a cake

Colin Firth, master of quiet repression on screen, is ready to wear a mankini.

If someone wants me to wear one in a film, I will, joked the actor at the Berlin film festival press conference for his new film, Genius. Im ready to burst out of a cake.

Respoding to a question about his tendency to play well-dressed, withdrawn characters, Firth said we live in an era of rampant exhibitionism and that his Genius character, Maxwell Perkins the unassuming editor who was credited with honing the work of Thomas Wolfe, Ernest Hemingway and F Scott Fitzgerald into classic literature stood in relief to that. The star of the biopic, which premieres at the Berlin film festival, said social media has shepherded us into an era when were all clamouring to be visible.

Perhaps it was ever thus, said Firth, speaking at the films press conference. But we now have to tools to do it. He joked that his profession qualified him to diagnose the self-regarding nature of our modern age: Im an actor, so I know what Im talking about.

Genius is the first film by celebrated theatre director Michael Grandage. Alongside Firth, it stars Jude Law as Thomas Wolfe, the prolific author of Look Homeward, Angel and Of Time and The River, Guy Pearce as Fitzgerald and Laura Linney as Perkins wife, Louise. The film charts Perkins and Wolfes friendship, which was formed during constant arguments over how to cut Wolfes gargantuan manuscripts into novels.

Based on the book, Maxwell Perkins: Editor of Genius by A Scott Berg, the script was written by John Logan, screenwriter of the last two Bond films.

Wolfe is on the verge of being forgotten, said Logan. So if we remind a few people that there is a great writer to be rediscovered, weve done our job well.

Law, who plays Wolfe as exuberant in life as he wrote on the page, said that he and Firth had been eager to capture the speed of thought that Perkins and Wolfe possessed. They were fighting to find honesty at all costs, he said.

Wolfe, who died of miliary tuberculosis at the age of 37, was a North Carolina native who drew heavily on his own life to write his poetic prose. When asked if hed had to suffer to learn the North Carolina accent, Law said: I didnt have to suffer greatly. We did, joked Firth.

Asked if hed learned anything new about the American writers of the 1920s, Firth said making Genius had made him reassess F Scott Fitzgeralds legacy.

I misjudged Fitzgerald as a young man, he said. I thought that like many of his contemporaries he was just writing about the party scene: about wealth and fame. In fact, he was writing about something more ambitious about the shallowness of it. So I fell in love with Fitzgerald again. It helped that I was partly in love with Guy Pearce.

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