Although born in Hampshire, he spent the first four years of his life Nigeria, where his parents worked as teachers.

More travelling followed in his teenage years when, after moving back to England, his parents relocated to the United States, where young Colin fell in love with rock music and dreamt of being a singer himself (he can still play a mean guitar today).

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Sister Kate says that although her brother saves his tears for acting — he has admitted to finding it impossible to cry in his personal life — he was extremely troubled.

Separating from Will was, Firth says, the most painful moment of his life, even though he knew that he would see the boy again.

He took care to stay in touch with Will and Tilly’s other children, with visits to Canada and frequent phone calls.

Every bedtime, he would call Will and his half-siblings to read them a bedtime story.

They were married on a hillside in Tuscany in 1997 and settled in his small flat in Hackney before moving to a grander house in Barnsbury, North London, where they had children Luca and Matteo.

There were hit British films Bridget Jones, Mamma Mia and Fever Pitch.

­Zinnemann proposed marriage after Tilly was cast in the film Amadeus, as he didn’t want her to go to Czechoslovakia to film without making the commitment to him. Though the Amadeus role fell through, more ­followed: alongside Glenn Close and Jeff Goldblum in The Big Chill and a starring role in Agnes Of God with Jane Fonda.

After her Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress, Tilly was hailed as one of Hollywood’s most exciting talents. Six months after the collapse of her marriage, Tilly returned to acting in Valmont — a period drama based on the French novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses.

Helena Bonham-Carter is convinced her co-star Colin Firth will win this year’s Oscar for Best Actor.