VENICE, Italy — Best Actor Oscar winner Colin Firth says he was all too happy to step aside and take a supporting actor role for his “meaty” new part in “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.”

“It was great to have something that was meaty enough to get my teeth into, but let other people do the heavy lifting,” Firth told journalists at the Venice Film Festival Monday.

“It’s basically all I did last year and it suited me very well.”

Firth – who won the Oscar for his role in “The King’s Speech” and was nominated for the same award for “A Single Man” – plays the calm, collected intelligence agent Bill Haydon, a counterpoint character to the film’s lead Gary Oldman, playing the main character, retired spy George Smiley.

“Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” directed by Tomas Alfredson – the Swedish director of 2008 vampire film “Let the Right One In” – is among entries vying for the top “Golden Lion” prize at the festival’s conclusion this Saturday.

Alfredson’s interpretation of the John Le Carre Cold War spy yarn is a slow-brewing, elegant retelling of the classic novel.

But will audiences fall for a subtly paced spy drama that unravels to reveal betrayal and retribution without the sexy antics of a James Bond film, or the action packed scenes of a “Bourne Identity?”

“There is a tendency to underestimate audiences,” Firth said at a news conference.

“People don’t just want ‘slash and burn’ – so I am optimistic about (the film) having an enormous audience.”

Yankee stars step up to the plate as actors

NEW YORK — Instead of guarding the lines, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez got to say them.

The New York Yankees stars took a little time off from the pennant race to make guest appearances as themselves on the next-to-last episode of the HBO Comedy “Entourage,” which aired for the first time Sunday night. This is one time players didn’t mind being accused of acting.

“I’m not going to quit my day job,” Teixeira said with a laugh before Monday’s game against the Baltimore Orioles.

In the episode, Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) calls Teixeira during batting practice at Yankee Stadium and asks him to double his investment to $500,000 for a planned Los Angeles-area branch of Don Peppe, an Italian restaurant in New York.

Teixeira turns him down, complaining about the cost of sending three kids to private school in Greenwich, Conn. A-Rod places a separate call during which he tells Turtle to stop pestering Teixeira.

Four chaotic months later, Strauss-Kahn back in France

PARIS — Dominique Strauss-Kahn returned home to a mixed welcome in France on Sunday, for the first time since attempted rape accusations by a New York hotel maid unleashed an international scandal that dashed his chances for the French presidency.

New York prosecutors later dropped their case against Strauss-Kahn, former head of the International Monetary Fund, because of questions about the maid’s credibility.

But it cost Strauss-Kahn his job at the helm of the IMF, stained his image and left the French divided over what he should do next.

He arrived at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport a different man from the one who, just four months ago, had been the pollsters’ favorite to beat President Nicolas Sarkozy in next year’s presidential elections.

Few expect Strauss-Kahn to return to French politics soon.