In Retrospect: Keira Knightley confirmed to star as Elizabeth Bennet in Pride & Prejudice (2005) film on this day 2 decades ago!

On this day, 20 years ago (June 8, 2004), Keira Knightley was confirmed to star in the lead as Elizabeth Bennet (in which she received both a Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for Best Actress in the role) in Joe Wright's first feature film, Pride & Prejudice (2005). Also, the first of many Joe Wright and Keira Knightley films (Atonement and Anna Karenina) and Chanel TV commercials collaborations together.
As I've previously compiled here a few Joe Wright past P&P-era interviews on his casting Keira as Elizabeth Bennet in his P&P directed film. Also, I've included a few old articles of press/media announcements of KK's P&P casting (thanks to Paul's KeiraWeb's detailed P&P promo page archive for saving those articles as they're nowhere or rather hard to find nowadays because it's been a decade and the web has changed over the years. The P&P 2005 movie's official website, for instance, no longer exist. The link still exist, but will direct you to Universal Studios Entertainment website. Also, a lot of old articles from various entertainment websites from 2004 are either moved or removed, gone or deleted).

Read more on Keira's Elizabeth Bennet casting below...
Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet
From Rope of Silicon Joe Wright Interview:
Question: I read you initially did not want to cast Keira Knightley?
Joe Wright: I wouldn't say that I didn't want to cast her, I didn't go to anyone else before Keira but I felt perhaps that she was too beautiful to play Elizabeth Bennet. So I met her anyway, and she was the right age and I was very keen to cast people that were the right age. So I met Keira very late one night in a hotel bar in Montreal and discovered this scruffy little kid who's a tomboy really, sort of spiky knees and elbows, and suddenly it occurred to me that was perfect for Elizabeth. Elizabeth Bennet is a tomboy and she refuses to conform to the feminine ideals of the period. Then I started talking to Keira and discovered her to be incredibly bright, incredibly funny, independently spirited, very strong young woman who doesn't say what she thinks you want to hear, but says exactly what she thinks. All of those qualities made me think that Keira was perfect for Elizabeth Bennet.

"When I met Keira, I realized that she asks questions of herself and other people, and is really a tomboy. She has a lively mind and a great sense of humor. During shooting, she kept on surprising me. What does one look for in an actor? Originality of thought; somebody who is able and willing to give their heart to what they are doing, and is able to really listen to the other actors. Keira did all of that, and was a hard worker." (Joe Wright)
"The next decision was to cast the actors according to their characters' ages in the bookA young cast for the story about first love. The hunt for Elizabeth became easy once Tim (Bevan) said "Go to Montreal and meet Keira. If you like her and she likes you, you have a movie." We went, we loved her, Keira said "yes," and we had a movie.(Paul Webster, P&P producer from P&P Companion Book
Read more: An Interview with Joe Wright | Pride & Prejudice or Joe Wright On Casting P&P '05 Actors
Keira Knightley on being cast as Elizabeth Bennet:
“I was terrified to the point where I begged my agents not to put me up for it because I’ve been so obsessed by the book. When I was seven, I had all of the Austen novels on book tape and I’d listen to them on the loop. Then I saw the BBC version and I was obsessed with that. Elizabeth Bennet is one of my favorite characters in English literature. I absolutely adore her. When one of my agents went, `Alright, you’re going to read for Elizabeth Bennet´. I said, `No don’t, I’m going to fuck it up. Please don’t do it. I couldn’t bear it if I ruined her.´ I was so terrified that I learned the entire script, my character and everybody else’s by heart before I started.”From another interview...
“I’ve been obsessed by Pride and Prejudice since I was seven when my mum got me a tape of the book and I used to listen to it on a loop. Then I got two dolls houses: the small one was called Longbourn [the Bennet family home] and the big one which my mum still has is called Pemberley [Mr Darcy’s palatial estate] and I had all the characters from the book. When the TV version [starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth] came out when I was nine I watched it solidly for two years, and I was obsessed again. The TV version was such a hit and I thought there’s no way I can do it because nobody will buy me as Elizabeth Bennet. But luckily my agent and family forced me into going to meet Joe Wright and I’m very glad that I did.”  (Keira Knightley)
Casting Announcements article archive via KeiraWeb...

Press Article
June 8, 2004

U feels Austen powers 

Knightley taking 'Pride' in retelling of lit classic 

Keira Knightley is set to star in "Pride and Prejudice," an adaptation of the Jane Austen classic for Working Title and Universal. 

Joe Wright, who helmed the BBC miniseries "Charles II," is directing a script originally penned by Deborah Moggach ("Tulip Fever") and rewritten by Lee Hall ("Billy Elliot"). Filming begins in July. 

Knightley will play Elizabeth Bennet, the second of five sisters in a British family ruled by a mother determined to marry her daughters into money.

Working Title partners Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner will produce with Paul Webster. The film is the second Working Title pic for Knightley, who was part of the "Love Actually" ensemble. 

"We are glad to be bringing this classic back to audiences everywhere," Bevan said.

The Austen novel has been turned into films dating back to the 1940 pic that starred Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier. It is also being transformed into the Gurinder Chadha-directed Bollywood musical "Bride and Prejudice," which is in the can for Pathe U.K. and Miramax. The Working Title adaptation, faithful to the setting and period of the original novel, will be distributed either by Universal or Focus Features.

The UTA-repped Knightley just wrapped "The Jacket" for Warner Bros. and Mandalay, and she plays Guinevere in the Antoine Fuqua-directed "King Arthur," which Disney opens July 7. Knightley is also expected to reprise her role in the back-to-back sequels to Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean." has the following article dated from, April 27th 2004:
Knightley to star in Working Title's Pride And Prejudice 
Adam Minns in London 27 April 2004

Keira Knightley is in advanced negotiations to star in Working Title Films’ Jane Austen adaptation Pride And Prejudice.

The UK star is to start shooting mid-August, according to UK press reports, although Working Title is still to cast the role of Darcy.

The production means Knightley will be moving from a book by Deborah Moggach to a script by the same writer. Moggach wrote the original Pride And Prejudice screenplay – with Lee Hall coming on board later – while Knightley was to star this year opposite Jude Law in Tulip Fever, adapted from Moggach’s novel.

That production had to be postponed following the government clamp down on tax funds on Feb 10. Tulip Fever producer Alison Owen had aimed to re-start the production this autumn, although it is unclear whether that will clash with Knightley’s work on Pride And Prejudice. 

Director Joe Wright, whose credits include BBC TV mini-series Charles II and Nature Boy, makes his feature debut on Pride And Prejudice. Paul Webster is producing for Working Title.
In January had this:
"Pride and Prejudice" is looking good to go in 2004 for Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner's Working Title Films, now that the Universal-owned company has signed up rookie helmer Joe Wright to direct its version of Jane Austen's classic 19th century romance. Wright previously directed two acclaimed BBC mini-series --- the historical biog "Charles II" and contempo drama "Nature Boy." 

Novelist Deborah Moggach ("Tulip Fever") wrote the first draft of the "Pride and Prejudice" script, and "Billy Elliot" scribe Lee Hall is now buffing it up. "We're trying to do something that pleases the enthusiasts and the Austen fans, that's a faithful adaptation but with a bit more muscle," says one WT insider. Pic is not yet greenlit, but is expected to shoot this summer. and ScreenDaily/ScreenInternational are the only two reliable sources for movie signing information, and 'advanced negotiations' would suggest she has been cast and her management are only securing her final fees. Earlier this month The Evening Standard reported actress Romola Garai was top of the list to play the lead, Elizabeth Bennet, although this role would not be finalised 'until Mr. Darcy had been cast'. The article above now seems to contradict this. I've not seen this reported in the press, so I'm unsure which sources ScreenDaily are referring to.

Additional info. via KeiraWeb... 
[Keira and Romola last went head-to-head in 2002 when Zhivago was broadcast on ITV at virtually the same time as Romola's Daniel Deronda on the BBC. 

(Note: in 2007Keira and Romola Garai played sisters Celia and Briony Tallis in Atonement, directed by Joe Wright)

Working Title are the producers behind Love Actually and Bridget Jones's Diary, so it's perhaps no surprise they'd want Keira again.

A big-budget production of P & P was made in 1995 by the BBC with Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth and Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, but this will be the first cinema version since 1940, which starred Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier.

At the moment, this is still not confirmed, but its source seems to make it more of a certainty than any of the current rash of rumours.]

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