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Oscars: Colin Firth's keys to discipline

February 22, 2011 |  9:30 am

Firth rush 
During a recent interview together, Colin Firth was telling his “King’s Speech” co-star Geoffrey Rush about the time when he was 5 and a teacher slapped him “very hard across the face” for innocently using the word “bugger.”

The story reminded Rush of seeing English actor Stephen Fry perform a one-man show recently in Australia.

“At one point, he asked, ‘Who’s under 40?’ And two-thirds of the audience raised their hands,” Rush remembers. “And he said, ‘You’re the first generation in the history of the planet who has not been beaten.’ And I went, ‘Wow. That’s absolutely true.’ Because anyone older than that has probably been on the receiving end of someone waving a cane.”

“Oh, I was beaten with all sorts of objects,” Firth relates. “I went to school for a year in St. Louis. Missouri is an absolutely heavenly state to visit, but it was also the only state to allow corporal punishment in schools in 1972. In England, we had the cane and the ruler. In Missouri, they had the paddle, a fiberglass model with holes. It hurt.”

Firth also remembers one teacher who had his own creative ideas when it came to discipline.

“If he didn’t like what you were doing, he’d hurl his car keys straight at you,” Firth says. “Expert aim. We actually thought he was cool because he aimed so well. He’d be standing with his back to you and he’d hear you whisper and he’d be around in a second, whizzing them straight at the side of your head.”

“What’s funny,” Firth adds, “is that, at the time, you would never think that’s abusive. Now, you still can’t say ‘bugger’ in England, but I seriously doubt anyone is throwing their car keys in Missouri at the present time.”

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-- Glenn Whipp

Photo: Geoffrey Rush and Colin Firth. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times 

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