Firth Among Equals
George had already been cast when Ford bumped into Firth at the premiere of Mamma Mia!, and Ford instantly knew he’d missed an opportunity, reportedly exclaiming: “Goddamn it, goddamn it, goddamn it. I need Colin Firth.”
Fate intervened when the actor in place dropped out, and Ford asked Mamma Mia producer Tom Hanks – yes, that Tom Hanks – for Firth’s email. This is what celebrities do.
“He just sent me an email,” Colin Firth recounted to The Daily Telegraph. “And I was struck by the eloquence and sensitivity of what he wrote. Also, the choice of material interested me because it wasn’t what I expected.
"I mean, if one lazily thinks of what a fashion designer might do if he’s going to conquer cinema next, it would be taking the opportunity to display his fashion sensibilities. Choosing the life of a lonely professor in despair in 1962 doesn’t really seem like an opportunity to show your spring collection.”
When Ford followed-up with a face-to-face pitch, Firth signed on - telling W magazine, “If I had any doubts about this fashion designer’s vanity project, they were pretty much gone then. I thought, this just can’t possibly be a banal choice."
For the role of Charley, the fag-hag friend who holds a torch for George that will never be lit, Ford only had one choice – as Julianne Moore explains.
“I’d run into Tom at the Met ball.” (This is what celebrities do.) “I was like, ‘Hey, Tom, how’s it going with your movie? Are you getting it going?’ And he said, ‘Oh, funny you should mention it.’” Next thing she knew, she was sent a script with her name on it and a part written especially for her.
Rounding out the core human cast were Matthew Goode, seen in flashback as George’s lover, and Skins star Nicholas Hoult as a student who takes a shine to George, in a role once touted for Jamie Bell.
But it’s worth noting the fifth and final member of the ensemble: the film’s exquisite period setting, practically a character in its own right. These days, the go-to guys for anything 1960s is the team behind TV’s Mad Men. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ford borrowed Dan Bishop and Amy Wells, respectively that show’s Production Designer and Set Decorator.
With cast and crew in place, it was simply a matter of filming – and then funding fell through...