Christmas Television: Tackling Pride and Prejudice - from a Bus; It's Not Easy to Imagine Mr Darcy Working on Public Transport, but You Can See It for Yourself in Donovan Quick. Graham Keal Talks to Colin Firth

The Birmingham Post (England), December 23, 2000 | Go to article overview

Christmas Television: Tackling Pride and Prejudice - from a Bus; It's Not Easy to Imagine Mr Darcy Working on Public Transport, but You Can See It for Yourself in Donovan Quick. Graham Keal Talks to Colin Firth


Byline: ..Graham Keal

Talking to Colin Firth about his BBC1 Christmas film Donovan Quick had a slightly surreal quality. Here he is the actor who, as Mr Darcy, wrapped his manly thighs around a gleaming chestnut horse with more pride and purpose than any TV hero had mustered in years, and we're discussing the finer points of bus driving.

Firth, despite a long, varied and often distinguished career as one of our most thoughtful and intelligent actors, will be forever remembered as the dashing Darcy, haughtiest of heart-throbs, in the BBC's triumphant Pride and Prejudice.

But now he's taking the title role in this BBC Scotland film from the inventive word processor of Donna Franceschild. Donovan Quick is a funny, moving, engaging modern fable translating the chivalrous 17th-century adventures of Don Quixote into a story of bus wars in a fictitious Scottish town.

No wonder he'd never seen a script like it before: 'It was utterly unique. . . And one of the things that appealed to me most was the contrast between the banality of a transport problem and this chivalrous, heroic tale of gallantry. There's something comical in that as well,' says Firth.

'I mean, you don't pitch a movie in Hollywood by saying you're going to make a movie about public transport.'

Don Quixote, literary types will know, was a misguided would-be knight who defended the weak, rescued maidens and tilted at windmills because he thought they were dragons.

Donovan Quick is a mystery man who moves into 'Port Clyde' (most of it was filmed in Glasgow) to take a tilt at the home of giant bus and train company Windmill Transport. See Windmill, think 'well-known coach company', and you may not be far wrong.

He takes a dingy room with a seemingly shrewish landlady (Katy Murphy in great form) driven to drink by disappointments in love and by the burden of looking after her half-dressed, near-demented gran (The Royle Family's Liz Smith), her slow-witted brother Sandy (David Brown) and her tearaway son (Paul Doonan).

When Windmill axes the service that takes Sandy to his day centre, Donovan buys a 40-year-old bus, promotes Sandy to conductor and gran to booking clerk and hits Windmill Transport where it hurts: in their own backyard.

It's a noble cause, but not quite what we expect of Colin Firth. So did he take to driving a bus as easily as he took to riding a horse?

'Oh no, I found it shockingly difficult really - all the elements - judging width, speed, braking time. I mean it was all completely new.

'Judging the width across on the left side with those wing mirrors is very, very deceptive, and reversing is particularly difficult. It's very easy to misjudge and you need a lot of experience. …

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