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Colin Firth ‘consciously uncouples’ from Paddington Bear movie

Actor Colin Firth in August, 2013.

Jenna Marie Wakani/The Globe and Mail

There are certain acting roles simply beneath the station of an Oscar-winner. Voicing a stuffed bear might just be one of them.

British actor Colin Firth, best known for his Oscar-winning role in The King's Speech, has walked away from providing the voice of Paddington Bear in the live-action film titled Paddington midway through production.

In a statement issued to Entertainment Weekly, the 53-year-old actor said, "After a period of denial, we've chosen 'conscious uncoupling'."

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The studios co-producing Paddington – StudioCanal and Heyday Films – have already released a trailer for the film, which is slated for release in North America this Christmas Day.

Based on the series of bestselling children's books, Paddington also stars Nicole Kidman, Julie Walters and Downton Abbey's Hugh Bonneville. Most principal scenes in the feature, in which an animated version of Paddington boldly interacts with actors, have already been filmed.

Then again, it's not unprecedented for a voice actor to leave a movie late into production.

Cases in point: Scarlett Johansson replaced Samantha Morton as the voice of the artificial intelligence program that captures Joaquin Phoenix's affection in the Spike Jonze film Her.

In the early stages of the recent comedy Mr. Peabody & Sherman, Robert Downey Jr. was supposed to be the voice of the high-functioning canine Mr. Peabody. In the end, Modern Family's Ty Burrell provided the talking dog's dulcet tones.

And few people realize that Albert Brooks wasn't the initial actor to voice the protective father in the 2003 animated feature Finding Nemo. William H. Macy was originally cast.

Since Paddington is a British production, it's somehow appropriate that everyone is terribly civilized in their parting of ways. In his statement, Firth says the split was a mutual decision.

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"It's been bittersweet to see this delightful creature take shape and come to the sad realization that he simply doesn't have my voice," said the actor in his statement. "I've had the joy of seeing most of the film and it's going to be quite wonderful."

Adds Firth: "I still feel rather protective of this bear and I'm pestering them all with suggestions for finding a voice worthy of him."

Similar civility was expressed by Paddington director Paul King, who issued his own prepared statement insisting the split was on friendly terms.

"I cannot thank [Firth] enough for his contribution to Paddington. We love the voice and we love the bear, but as our young bear came into being we agreed that the two didn't seem to fit. So with somewhat heavy hearts we decided to part ways."

King also promised that the bear's new voice will ensure Paddington's "big screen debut is magnificent."

Of course, it's worth noting that the brief Paddington trailer doesn't actually feature the bear speaking, so replacing Firth in the film should be a simple matter of an actor going into a recording studio and reading the dialogue. All that's required is a believable British accent.

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And if the agents for Hugh Grant, Ralph Fiennes, Benedict Cumberbatch and Hugh Laurie aren't already chasing the role for their clients they should probably find a new vocation.

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