View Comments
Nature of torture for Firth
Actor Colin Firth. Picture: AP Photo/Evan Agostini.

Gently spoken and unassuming Oscar-winner Colin Firth has been coming to terms with the "profoundly intimate" nature of torture.

The English actor says his latest role as a tortured prisoner of war was one of the most challenging of his career.

The fact that his starring role in The Railway Man was being filmed in the beauty of the Gold Coast hinterland made the task of getting inside the mind of a torture victim even more difficult.

"We are all in love with the Gold Coast, it's hard to get inside the mind of a tortured person, surrounded by paradise and relaxed and chilled people," he said after wrapping up his three days of filming in Queensland.

"It's been bliss, it's hard to go to work and work yourself up into a state of torment."

Firth said trying to find forgiveness for something which is arguably unforgivable was a complicated journey. Torture, he has come to realise, is closely linked to a feeling of shame on the part of the victim.

"It's profoundly intimate in a very traumatic way," he said. "You're very exposed, it involves humiliation, and those are very hard things to get beyond."

It is clear Firth has a deep respect for Eric Lomax, a World War II prisoner of the Japanese who survived the horrors of the Burma-Thailand Railway and late in his life told his story in the best-selling book The Railway Man, the basis for this film.

"I think the people who do manage to share it in some way are sometimes the lucky ones - those who manage somehow to find a voice by whatever conduit have done something really quite powerful," Firth said. "The experience is quite beyond our comprehension really."

Co-star Hiroyuki Sanada (The Last Samurai, 47 Ronin) hopes his role of a brutal torturer will educate young Japanese people who have been taught nothing of the horrors Imperial troops inflicted on their prisoners in Burma and Thailand.

"When I read the script the first time I felt shocked, I was moved and I cried," he said. "I thought this role must be played by a Japanese-born actor and we should tell the story for our generation."

He said filming at Hellfire Pass in Thailand where so many prisoners of war died was a very spiritual experience but after filming the "deep" torture scene on the Gold Coast he said the ocean views and relaxed beach walks provided a welcome emotional balance.

Firth said he had no idea how he was going to approach the torture scenes until he saw how his co-star was doing it.

"That opened everything up and transformed it and I found it an extraordinarily powerful experience," he said.

He was also full of praise for Nicole Kidman, who plays his wife. "Some things are just easy," he said, laughing.

"An awful lot of this movie I just had to imagine how things were possible but that I did not have to imagine, she did the most beautiful job."

Filming for The Railway Man will continue for three more weeks at the set of a POW camp built in the Numinbah Valley, behind the Gold Coast, and at the old railway yards in Ipswich. <div class="endnote">

AAP </div>