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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 October, 2003, 09:02 GMT 10:02 UK
Firth warned off Mr Darcy role
Colin Firth as Mr Darcy
Firth played Mr Darcy in a BBC adaptation
Actor Colin Firth has told how his female friends warned him not to take the role of Mr Darcy fearing he would "ruin" the romantic character.

Firth emerging from a lake wearing wet breeches in an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice has become a screen classic. But friends told him "'you'll ruin it forever, Colin. Mr Darcy is supposed to be sexy'."

"I don't look like a heart-throb to most people I know, to be honest," he told W magazine.

But Firth's portrayal of Mr Darcy in the BBC adaptation has gone down in screen history, catapulting Firth into widespread fame and landing him a spot in People magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People list.

A recent poll revealed Mr Darcy as the fictional character women would most love to date, ahead of James Bond and Superman.

Firth said he still receives fan mail addressed to the fictional hero, created by author Jane Austen.

Prancing about

"Most people write very carefully worded, Jane Austen-esque letters, no filthy, perverted stuff and no nude pictures, which I find very sad," he joked.

He added: "Most of the time, as an actor, you're just prancing about in a frock, and it's no good to anybody.

"It's just a load of overpaid self-gratification. But occasionally you might just hit the spot with somebody."

Firth has become one of Britain's most popular actors, collecting more fans with his role as the gallant lawyer in Bridget Jones's Diary, and is due to begin filming the sequel The Edge of Reason.

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