CHIANGRAI TIMES – The Oscar winning actor plays one of tens of thousands of Allied prisoners of war forced to work on the construction of the Burma Railway, also known as the “Death Railway”, during the Second World War.
Firth’s part is based on the true story of British Army officer Eric Lomax, who was sent to a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp in 1942. The film will shed light on the horrific living and working conditions on the railway – it is estimated that around half of the 180,000 Asian labourers and about 16,000 Allied prisoners died during the construction.
The most famous portion of the railway is Bridge 277, which was famously the subject of David Lean’s classic 1052 war film The Bridge Over The River Kwai.
The Railway Man will focus on Lomax’s relationship with his wife Patti, played by Nicole Kidman, who he met years later when he was still haunted by memories of the torture.
Shooting begins on April 30 in Scotland, where Lomax was from, and will later move to Thailand and Queensland, Australia.
Firth has met Eric and Patti Lomax twice, and said the meetings helped prepare him for the role.
He said: “They are both incredibly engaging and made me feel very welcome.
“I found them both a delight, though I did feel at times a little overwhelmed by the enormity of the story.
“It was important to me to meet them, it focused me and it was something that was very sobering, but also the story is such a big one and about a generation prior to my own, it can feel a bit abstract, a little bit out of reach, but to meet Eric personalised it and humanised it.”
Firth suggested the character is a man who does not know where he is going as he deals with the emotional fall-out of his wartime experience.
He said: “He is looking for a way home that might be represented by Patti.”
Kidman is “polishing” her English accent to take on the role of Patti, who is English, and plans to meet her during shooting as she has not yet done so.
The Oscar winner is looking forward to rediscovering Scotland and Edinburgh during the shoot, having visited the country as a teenager.
She said: “I did a road trip with a boyfriend when I was 18, so it has been a while, but I went all the way up to Ullapool.
The film also features War Horse star Jeremy Irvine, Stellan Skarsgard, of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, and Japanese star Hiroyuki Sanada.
Asked how he felt to play the young Colin Firth in the film, Irvine replied: “You find yourself looking in the mirror going ‘Am I quite up to that?’ It is a great privilege to be working with actors like this.
“I’m so early in all this and still desperately trying to learn and use these people as role models.”
Shooting will take place at locations including Edinburgh and North Berwick.
Director Jonathan Teplitzky said it was important to film in Scotland.
“We are all captured by the story and Eric’s journey, and I think it’s a story that began here and, to a certain extent, we just wanted to honour that and capture the story of his journey.” –Telegraph