Colin Firth's Road to Oscar Paved by Two Women

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"He absolutely adores Will, but he had to choose between family life in an isolated log cabin, and working. Colin's a city person who needs his friends -- people he's been close to since he was at school," his sister Kate was quoted as saying in London's Daily Mail.

Five years after they began seeing each other, Firth and Tilly split for good. Ironically, Firth finally found the success he had been seeking. He was cast as Mr. Darcy in a BBC production of "Pride And Prejudice" and was elevated to heartthrob status.

Then, in 1996, while filming the television mini-series "Nostromo," Firth met Giuggioli. He was the star and she was a production assistant.

They married a year later on a hillside in Tuscany, and today, with their sons, ages nine and seven, they divide their time between homes in London and Italy.

Colin Firth with wife Livia Giuggioli.

"The fact that he's a happily married man makes him more appealing to women," said Wilson from The Hollywood Reporter. "And he's married to an Italian woman. He's obviously a very soulful person."

Firth credits Giuggioli with his success.

"I want to thank everybody that has accompanied me on this extraordinary journey, but probably more than anybody I could ever imagine, Livia, who has walked every step of this with me joyfully and truthfully," he said last month when he received a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame. "When I look down there at that star, it's her name I see."

Indeed, since his marriage to Giuggioli, Firth's star has been rising. After his Mr. Darcy served as inspiration for the love interest Darcy in the "Bridget Jones" novels, Firth played Darcy opposite Renee Zellweger in the film versions in 2001 and 2004.

Colin Firth as Darcy in 'Bridget Jones' Diary.'

His star turn opposite Meryl Streep in the musical "Mama Mia!" earned him new fans. His role as a closeted gay professor in 2009's "A Single Man" turned him into an international star while getting him his first Oscar nod.

"He's had a slow and quiet climb," Wilson said. "He didn't peak too early."

Now he's becoming a household name.

Tilly, meanwhile, retired from acting in 1990 and turned to writing. She has published two novels, based on her experience of childhood sexual abuse, and, like her third husband, Don Calame, writes young adult fiction.

She took umbrage at the Daily Mail's characterization of her, however, describing herself in her blog last week as "wee bit of grey…not stout…pretty jolly…a matron (sure, but it's not a bad thing)."

And their son Will? The Daily Mail says he is quietly following in his parents' footsteps to become an actor.

Colin Firth with Will, his son by actress Meg Tilly.
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