To commemorate today's 10th year anniversary of Joe Wright's Pride & Prejudice (2005) movie, my P&P Blog's frequent contributors/guest bloggers, wonderful friends, and fellow P&P movie fans: best-selling novelists and Austen Authors' Regina Jeffers and Sharon Lathan, Natasha Shubrick, and I (Jeane) started here a Movie Rountable discussing all about the Pride & Prejudice (2005) movie. In the first part of our 4-part roundtable movie discussions here, we discussed about our reactions on the first time we heard about this P&P movie being made and the casting of Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet & Matthew Macfadyen as Mr. Darcy.
Read our Pride & Prejudice (2005) movie discussion (part 1) below...
Working Title was making a film adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic: Pride and Prejudice?
Jeane: I was actually glad to hear that there was a film version of P&P in the works back in 2004 because the first P&P adaptation I ever saw was the 1995 mini-series. When I saw the 1995 version, I was either in Middle School or High school. I can't remember exactly now as I was not a P&P fan back then as I am after the 2005 movie was released. I did not really pay attention to the 1995 version that much at the time, especially, when my Literature class was reading the book and we watched the mini-series for a few days or so and had about 50 P&P Study Guide questions to answer afterwards. I honestly couldn't get into the mini-series nor quite understood the old English language of the book while reading it either (I skimmed through it...I know! How dare I?!...and could never finished the book...).
The P&P novel and mini-series just didn't appeal nor interest me back then. I don't know why, but I was bored with both. I wasn't the only one though, as everyone in my Literature class, from what I remember, seemed to be in the same mind as I was about P&P (book & mini-series). It was interesting how I managed to answer and did quite well with my P&P study guide questions. So when I heard about Working Title's announcement of the 2005 movie version several years later, I was glad and was interested because I wanted to give P&P another try and fully understand it. Sure enough it was the 2005 movie that made me love and became a huge fan of Jane Austen's P&P story as it made me go back and re-read the book (and actually finished reading it as I couldn't finished reading it years before) and re-watched the 1995 TV mini-series as well as seen all the other TV versions and film variations made.
Regina Jeffers: I watched the 1995 series starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, but, in truth, I missed sections of it during the initial broadcast and watched much of it on a VHS tape I set for the programs. At the time I was a 50 year old mother of three - one in college, one at a tech school, and the last but 11 years of age. I was also the wife of a career Army officer. Although I loved the BBC series, I was not one of the fanatics that clung to every word. I simply did not possess the time to analyze each turn of a phrase, and at the time I was working in a middle school classroom. I could not even discuss the program with my students.
By 2005, I was living alone in North Carolina. I could name my comings and goings, and I was back in an English classroom with advanced placement classes. I was ready to revisit one of my favorite stories and welcomed the announcement.
Sharon Lathan: I’m not sure I heard much about it until right before it was released. I hadn’t read the novel — *insert gasp here* — or seen the 1995 miniseries — *insert several gasps here* — so other than references to Colin Firth in a sexy wet shirt, and the general idea that it was a romance I was practically clueless. All I knew was that, 1) I love period novels, 2) I love happily-ever-after love stories, 3) I had enjoyed the other Jane Austen movies I’d seen, and 4) Pride and Prejudice was reported as one of the greatest love stories every written by one of the greatest English novelist of all time starring the greatest hero and heroine ever. The perfect chick flick! Therefore, I was excited to see the movie with my daughter and bestie, but did not walk into the theater with huge expectations.
Natasha Shubrick: Actually I was unaware of any pre-production activity or the filming of the movie. I was already an Austen fan, had seen most, if not all of the 90’s adaptations, and I love period drama. Once I saw the trailer I was delighted with what I saw and made a mental note to see this version. Subsequently when I saw HBO First Look, I knew it was definitely not to be missed. It was settled, I was going to be at somebody’s theater with popcorn in hand in its opening weekend. Working Title is responsible for some of my all-time favorite films (The Matchmaker, Notting Hill, Bridget Jones Diary, and Love Actually) they had a great track record of producing popular and critically acclaimed work, so I felt the story was in competent hands. How could I have known that 10 years later this film would not only become my favorite adaptation, but would amplify my interest in all things Austen!
(photo by Getty Images)
As for Matthew Macfadyen's casting, I have never heard of him nor seen his TV or film work when he was cast as Mr. Darcy. It was interesting that I didn't think of him much nor have an opinion, expectations, nor impressions of his casting as Mr. Darcy. Back in 2004, I was not a P&P fan nor cared about Darcy's character, at least not until after the 2005 movie was released. So, when MM was cast as Darcy, I thought he seems okay, but I don't know if he looks the part. I didn't know about his acting either, so I decided I'll just simply wait for the movie to be released and see how he portrays the iconic Darcy role. Glad he was cast as Darcy because I thought he was perfect in the role. He not only looked very convincing in the part, his acting was superb too. In my opinion, he was and still is the best actor to have played Mr. Darcy. After seeing him in P&P movie, I became a big fan of him and seen most of his TV and film work. He's a superb character actor too.
Regina: I saw Keira in movies such as “Bend It Like Beckman,” “Pirates of the Caribbean,” and “Love Actually” and I knew she could bring the “physical” element to Elizabeth’s character, but I wondered how she would compare on the screen to whomever Joe Wright chose to play Jane Bennet. One of the issues I had with the 1995 series was Jennifer Ehle was too mature looking for Elizabeth Bennet, and Susannah Harker certainly did not outshine “Elizabeth” in her portrayal of Jane Bennet. Keira was but 20 at the time, and that was a positive point in her favor, and the casting of the beautiful Rosamund Pike as Jane solved the disparity issue.
As to the casting of Matthew Macfadyen, I was ecstatic. I first saw Macfadyen in the role of Hareton Earnshaw in 1998’s “Wuthering Heights.” I used the film in my class at school as part of the media literacy component of the curriculum. I recall the first time I looked at the screen and saw Macfadyen in the role. I thought, “Who is this man? And what else has he been in?” Ironically, “Wuthering Heights” was Macfadyen’s first major film role, and so I had not missed his rise. I started following his career. Fortunately, I possess a few friends in England who recorded some of his TV roles and mailed me DVDs so I could watch his progress. The announcement of Macfadyen as Darcy had me lined up at the theatre early to purchase tickets when they went on sale.
Sharon: Keira was familiar to me, of course, but I had never heard of Matthew Macfadyen. And, as noted already, I had zero knowledge of the characters.
Watching Keira as Elizabeth Bennet perfectly fit. I loved her youth, her vibrancy, and her wit. She is beautiful, yet with slightly odd features and a physique not overtly feminine and certainly not lush. Honestly, a few more curves on the poor girl would be nice! But, in a way the fact that Keira isn’t voluptuous meant the force of her personality had a strong impact. I felt it. And that made me fully believe that Darcy would feel it too.
Matthew was a total revelation for me. I fell in love with Mr. Darcy (and by extension Matthew) gradually, right along with Elizabeth. Handsome? Oh sure, but lots of actors are handsome. It was the power of Darcy’s transformation, acted so subtly and brilliantly by Matthew — in quite honestly very limited screen time over all — that won me over. Completely.
Natasha: Prior to her role as Elizabeth Bennet I had only seen Keira in Bend It Like Beckham and Love Actually. I knew that her popularity had risen because of the success of The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, so I speculated that her star power played a role in her casting. Although, as I previously mentioned Working Title productions are top notch, so they must have determined that she had the acting chops the performance required and could shoulder the responsibility associated with such a revered literary heroine.
Make no mistake about it, if the BBC/A&E mini-series is known as Colin Firth’s Pride and Prejudice, then the intention was that this version was to be known as Keira Knightley's Pride & Prejudice. Like the book, the action is being seen from Elizabeth’s perspective. This was Elizabeth’s story, unlike the mini-series that was made to be both Elizabeth’s and Darcy’s story. I thought Keira did a splendid job. She was spunky and refreshing; a bubbly mixture of passion, intelligence, defiance and vulnerability. Apparently others were impressed by her performance as the conflicted heroine, winning her Golden Globe and Oscar nominations, and deservedly so.
Matthew Macfadyen was a revelation!!! When I saw the trailer I really didn’t have any preconceived notions about him one way or another. When I saw HBO First Look, what first caught my attention was “that” voice and then I had a niggling feeling that I had seen him before, later I realized that had seen him in MI-5/Spooks. Matthew imbued his Darcy with a humanity that had not been seen before, which gave the character so much more weight. Darcy's inward struggle of wills is delicately portrayed with only fleeting glimpses of his utter agony amid the expected reserve of his class. With limited screen time he bought a sense of hidden sensitivity to the role. He spoke volumes with only a look or a gesture. You not only see his faults, but his vulnerabilities; a perfect blend of self-consciousness, snobbery and righteous indignation. His performance sold me on Darcy’s internal journey. By the end of the movie he completely stole my heart and I haven’t been the same ever since. Keira and Matthew both breathed new life into the characters of Elizabeth and Darcy!
To be continued with Part 2 coming up soon!