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Colin Firth nearly turned down the part that won him a best actor Bafta

Colin Firth thanked the man who mended his fridge after winning best actor at the Baftas this evening and said he only took the role because of him.

The actor, who won for his performance of a gay academic in A Single Man, said he had been about to turn down the part in the film directed by Tom Ford, the American fashion designer.

On accepting the award at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden he told the audience: "What Tom Ford doesn't know is I have the email in my outbox telling him I could not possibly do this.

"I was about to send this when a man came to repair my fridge... I don't know what's best for me so I would like to thank the fridge guy."

Firth, 49, also thanked Ford who "knows what's best for me. An encounter with Tom Ford is to come away feeling resuscitated, a little more worldly, better groomed, more fragrant, and more nominated than one has ever been before.

"I have worked with a lot of great directors and he's up there with the best of them.

"All I know is don't ever press 'send' until you have had your fridge repaired."

He added backstage: "The fridge is still not fixed. You could say he did a better job in terms of really directing my particular destiny than the fridge."

Of his Oscar chances, he said: "My chances were one in five before and they're probably one in five at best now. I think the competition is pretty terrifying, quite frankly."

Asked why he had originally wanted to turn down A Single Man, he said: "It was self doubt really... I didn't know if I was in the right frame of mind, if my imagination was firing enough".

Meanwhile Carey Mulligan, 24, said after winning best actress for An Education: "I really didn't expect this at all so I didn't think of anything to say. I wish I could do a speech like Colin Firth and talk about fridges but I can't."

"I didn't think I'd get one," she said. "It's mad. I'll leave it at my parents' house, my parents' living room, that's the safest place for it.

"I lose things. Not that I would ever lose a Bafta."

She also said that she had forgotten to thank the film's director.

"I was so unbelievably nervous my brain was going so fast. I got halfway through the speech and thought I'd been talking for ten minutes so I've got to get off stage."

© Telegraph.co.uk