‘I had to ring up Colin Firth
and tell him he was dead’
Helen Fielding in conversation with Miranda Sawyer at the Royal Exchange Theatre.
Photo: Esmé Clifford Astbury
13th October fans of Bridget Jones flocked to the Royal Exchange Theatre
to listen to comic novelist and screenwriter Helen Fielding talk to
broadcaster and journalist Miranda Sawyer about her latest novel,
opened the event with the question that has been on everyone’s lips:
Why did Helen Fielding kill Mark Darcy? “You know, I’ve never heard
that question before,” Fielding joked.
news of Mark Darcy’s death, revealed in an extract published in
confessed that she was astonished that the death of a fictional
character could cause such a stir. The whole country, it seemed, was in
mourning, with fans flocking to express their dismay on Facebook and
Twitter. One man, Fielding told the audience, even ran up to her and
yelled: “You killed Mark Darcy!” “I was amazed by the fact that
people cared so much,” she said.
is it really so surprising? Since she first appeared in a column in
on the success of the column, Fielding wrote
the books were highly successful, it was the film adaptations, starring
Renée Zellweger, Colin Firth and Hugh Grant, that skyrocketed Bridget
Jones – and Fielding – to stardom.
wrote the screenplay for the films and had a hand in the casting. It is
no secret that she created the character of Mark Darcy with Colin Firth
in mind, not least because of his role as Mr Darcy in the 1995 BBC
adaptation of Jane Austen’s
Jones has become somewhat of an icon for single women everywhere, and by
extension so has her creator. Fielding told the audience that she is
regularly approached by girls eager to tell her their stories. “It’s
almost like I am the pope or something,” she joked.
have accused Bridget Jones of not being a feminist, and Sawyer asked
Fielding what she thought of that. “She’s just a person… and she
laughs at things,” responded Fielding. “If we can’t laugh about
ourselves as women, then we haven’t gotten very far as far as equality
is concerned,” she continued. What endears Bridget Jones (the enormous
panty-wearing, chardonnay swilling mess that she is) to us is her
humanity and her ability to laugh at her own frailties. “She’s not
the secretary of state for women,” Fielding joked.
was also keen to challenge stereotypes about older women. “The idea
that you hit 45 and start knitting is ridiculous,” exclaimed Fielding.
“Life doesn’t stop,” she said. In the latest instalment in the
Bridget Jones series, Bridget Jones is in her 50s and a single mother of
two. Fielding explained that she killed off Mark Darcy so that she could
depict Bridget Jones as a single mother. “I had to ring up Colin Firth
and tell him he was dead,” she said. “He took it like the gentleman
that he is,” she added.
the setbacks, Bridget Jones is still reading self-help books and looking
for love, Fielding assured the audience. “Bridget’s motto is KBO,
keep buggering on,” she said.
Fielding, also a mother of two, is keen to distance herself from her
character, it is clear that she is writing about what she knows.
“Everything comes from something that happened to me or someone I
know,” she told the audience. “My best lines come from my mum,”
she said. Fielding told the story of how her mum once responded to
someone who was giving her a hard time on the phone by saying:
Colin Firth was the inspiration for Mark Darcy, Fielding revealed that
Bridget Jones’ latest love interest, Mr Wallaker, is more of a Daniel
Craig, “with a bit of Captain Von Trap,” she added gleefully. More
surprising still, Mr Wallaker was based on a teacher at her son’s
school. Fielding told the audience that she had to phone him while he
was bug hunting in the New Forest to ask if he minded her using his name
in the book. He thought it was funny and gave her permission. What is
the real Mr Walliker (Fielding only changed his name by a letter) like,
asked Sawyer. “He is exactly like Daniel Craig,” Fielding responded.
the event came to a close, Sawyer asked Fielding if she had another book
in the works. “I won’t write another book unless I really have
something to talk about,” Fielding responded. “But it would be fun
to write about the Dalai Llama’s publicist,” she mused.