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"Woman's Day"
(Australia) April 1996

Darcy Broke My Heart by Gerard Evans

His brooding performance is taking the country (Australia) by storm, but for one woman, it's just a sad reminder of a lost love.

As TV's proud but irresistible Mr Darcy, he has every woman longing to fall into his arms. But for actress Meg Tilly, Pride And Prejudice hunk Colin Firth was the true love who slipped from her grasp. For six years, dashing Colin captivated petite, almond-eyed Meg's heart and they shared an idyllic life in wilderness country where they produced an adored son. The couple seemed assured an ending as happy as that of the characters in the BBC production of Jane Austen's classic love story.

But today, the 36-year-old star of The Big Chill can still barely bring herself to discuss how their blissful love affair fell apart two years ago, under the strain of conflicting career schedules. Since parting from her true love, Meg admits she has failed to find any man to soothe the pain. Instead, she has abandoned dating and retreated to a lonely cabin existence in Canada. Meanwhile, Colin has remained unattached and admits to friends he is still "badly bruised" by the break-up.

0scar nominee Meg, sister of actress Jennifer Tilly, puts on a brave face when saying she is "happily alone" and not interested in dating. "I just don't feel like it. 1 have a lot of male friends. That's good. But that's all I want right now. Keep that sort of thing away from me," she laughs hollowly.

When asked about Colin, who's enjoying huge acclaim as Darcy in the adaptation. Meg is polite but reserved. "He's one of my best friends," she says. "We just couldn't make it work with him having to live in England for his career, and me here. There was too much separation."

But friends of Meg, who has the pale, delicate beauty of a real-life Elizabeth Bennet, says the Golden Globe winner was "crushed" when Colin quietly told her their relationship was over. They say she had broken her own golden rule of never getting involved with her leading men, when she fell for his charms as another dashing romantic figure, in the movie Valmont.

Nowadays, Colin is an "involved father" says Meg, who gave birth to their son, Will, five years ago. Colin is an infrequent visitor to her remote Vancouver home but she allows Will to visit his dad in England.

Meg admits Single Motherhood has had its share of ups and downs. "There we times when everybody in the house has the flu. You're cleaning up vomit and it's two in the morning, and you're wishing there was somebody else there to help you," she says. But on the whole, motherhood definitely agrees with Meg, who has two more children, Emily, 10, and David, 8, from her marriage to Tim Zinnemann - son of director Fred Zinnemann.

"It helps when 1 can send the children off to their fathers so 1 can support my new book with a national publicity tour," adds Meg, who tried to forget the pain of her break-up by plunging herself into writing a harrowing first novel about child abuse. Meg's novel, titled Singing Songs, was published last year and tells the story of a young girl's journey to adulthood as she grows up in an abusive family in the Pacific Northwest. It has received critical praise, and a film adaptation is in the works, with Meg at the helm as writer/director. "I started writing the. book when my daughter was five. It took me almost four years," says Meg.

Meg and Colin met in 1989 on the set of Valmont, the acclaimed Miles Forman version of Dangerous Liaisons. In it she played Madame De Tourval - the role filled by Michelle Pfeiffer in the other version - who falls for the predatory Lothario Comte de Valmont, played by Colin. Filmed in a romantic chateau in France and featuring several steamy bedroom scenes, Colin and Meg's film passion soon caught fire off-screen too.

Colin was attracted to her because Meg has a characteristic uncommon in most actresses - she dislikes talking about herself and is a good listener. When she met Colin, Meg was divorced from Tim Zinnemann and splitting her time between a Brentwood home and a country retreat in her native Canada. Colin joined her and settled down to domestic bliss.

When baby Will arrived, friends expected a marriage, but Meg, who comes from a family of six brothers and sisters, explains sadly: "For a marriage to work, for a relationship to work, it requires commitment and a lot of work. "There are times when it's not so great, and times when it is. But there has to be more better times than worse. In Canada, I'm the only one of my friends not married. In Los Angeles, I'm a success story. I've had two long relationships. And I'm okay".

During her heady romance with Colin, Meg all but abandoned acting to become a full-time mum. Only recently has she ventured back to Hollywood. Last year she starred in the comedy-romance, Sleep With Me, with Eric Stoltz and Craig Sheffer. "I know that in order to be considered successful, you're supposed to do two or three movies a year," Meg explains. "I only work once every year-and-a-half, sometimes two years. I have children to raise."

Meg's "house in the woods" in British Columbia doesn't even have a television. It was this modest lifestyle that attracted Colin, who is known for his love of privacy. "If you meet people who have been successful in Hollywood, or look a their photographs, you see a haunted look in their eyes, you sense a trapped feeling," he says.

It is the reluctance to leave her remote forest cabin however, that may have finally exhausted Colin. According to one friend: "It was just too difficult for them to be together. Colin has always wanted to live in England. He feels at home there and Meg understood his work was there."

For a long time they worked hard at seeing each other, but everyone has their limits and Colin reached his. Early in her career, Meg starred in the film Agnes Of God, with Jane Fonda and Anne Bancroft. "I really enjoy acting." she says. "At home I can't even finish a sentence, and here I am reading these wonderful lines. I think it must be every housewife's dream, to be an actress part-time."

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