P&P 200: Pride and Prejudice (1940) and Pride & Prejudice (2005) films
P&P Adaptations trivia
Did you know? There are many TV and Film adaptations made for Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, but there were only two feature films made that were widely known and universally acknowledged: Pride and Prejudice 1940 (starring Sir Olivier Lawrence & Greer Garson) and Pride & Prejudice 2005 (starring Keira Knightley & Matthew Macfadyen) films. They were 65 years apart! Both Oscar nominated films (the 1940 won its only Oscar nomination for Best Art Direction - Black and White, while the 2005 movie earned 4 Oscar nominations including Best Actress for Keira Knightley).
Here's Pride & Prejudice movie's production notes (a very interesting read, if you haven't read it already...lots of production details) from 2005 film via Focus Feature's P&P page that mentions this interesting info about both films...
Although dramatized for television several times (in 1938, 1952, 1967, 1980, and 1995), Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice has been a feature film only once before, in 1940, directed by Robert Z. Leonard and starring Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson. Now, Pride & Prejudice makes its triumphant return as big-screen entertainment and a passion project for Working Title Films, Europe’s leading film production company.
Working Title co-chairs and Pride & Prejudice producers Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner reflect, “People remember the two most recent television adaptations, but the only other film version, from 1940, emphasized romantic comedy. Over the decades, Jane Austen’s central depiction of Lizzie and Darcy has been appropriated as the core of many other films – including a couple of our productions. We felt that it was time to bring Austen’s original story, concentrating on Lizzie, back in all its glory to the big screen for audiences everywhere to enjoy.”
Producer Paul Webster concurs, noting, “Pride and Prejudice has provided the template to so many romantic comedy movies that it comes as a surprise that no film proper has been made for 65 years. The two BBC versions are seminal -- the second one was the most successful BBC drama ever – but we were intent on making a big-screen version, one that doesn’t conform to the television drama stereotypes of a perfect clean Regency world.”
Bevan and Fellner comment, “Director Joe Wright’s previous work, including Charles II: The Power & the Passion [aired in the U.S. as The Last King], had really impressed us. We met with him, and his vision of how to make the film and tell the classic Austen story was in tune with ours. For all of us there was no point in reinventing the story, as it is such a worldwide favorite. But we wanted to present the story as it was written, casting actors at the ages Jane Austen indicated, and giving them a depiction which avoided the ‘chocolate box’ presentations that television veers towards. Joe is a true romantic, yet he also shoots the story in a modern way and without subverting it.”
The BAFTA Award-winning director’s unique approach was understandable since, as he admits, “I had never read Pride and Prejudice, nor seen a television version. I come from a background of television social realist drama, and so I suppose I was a bit prejudiced against this material, regarding it as posh. But as I read the script adaptation, I became emotionally involved and by the end I was weeping. So I read the book, and discovered that what Jane Austen had written was a very acute character study of a particular social group. I saw that she was one of the first British realists. She had read the gothic literature which was fashionable at the time, and she turned away from that, and started writing what she knew, thereby inventing a new genre.
“I got excited about new ways to film the story which I don’t believe have been done before. I wanted to treat it as a piece of British realism rather than going with the picturesque tradition, which tends to depict an idealized version of English heritage as some kind of Heaven on Earth. I wanted to make Pride & Prejudice real and gritty – and be as honest as possible. Austen’s characters are young people – Lizzie is 20, Darcy 28, Lydia 15. The emotions they experience are those of young people falling in love for the first time. I was moved by that and sought to convey it.” Read the full Pride & Prejudice: The Production here.