Pride and Prejudice Interviews

The New Mr Darcy (Nov 2005)

The New Mr. Darcy

by Evan Henerson (LA Daily News, 25 november 2005)

The new Mr. Darcy
Matthew Macfadyen takes a bow in latest film adaptation
By Evan Henerson, Staff Writer

Lizzie Bennet has been inspiring universal "You go, girl!" encouragement from women of all ages for going on 200 years, but it's the filthy-rich, handsome and misunderstood Mr. Darcy who frequently leaves those same women fluttering their handkerchiefs.

Film and TV adaptations of Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" have boasted a formidable lineup of past Darcys. And good things seem to happen to the actors tapped to play the lord of the manor. Provided, that is, that they can eclipse the image of the last guy who played the lord of the manor.

The collar of Laurence Olivier, who took on Darcy to Greer Garson's Lizzie in the 1940 film, has long been a tough one to out-starch. But a shirtless Colin Firth in the 1995 BBC miniseries was enough to make author Helen Fielding write the performance into her "Bridget Jones' Diaries," which led to Firth playing the modern equivalent of Darcy in the two "Bridget Jones" movies.

Current "P&P" director Joe Wright hadn't seen either Olivier or Firth in the role. He cast Matthew Macfadyen purely because he felt there could be nobody better for the part.

"I met some film stars and I considered them, but in the end I came back to Matthew," says Wright who pairs Macfadyen opposite the Lizzie of Keira Knightley.

"Matthew was the right age" - 29 at shooting - "and he's a big, proper, manly man. I didn't want a little pretty boy, and I knew he wouldn't come to the role with any vanity. He would come to the role as an actor in search of a character."

"I was kind of aware of this whole Darcy thing," returns Macfadyen who, like Wright, had not seen earlier versions of the character when he took the role. "I couldn't worry too much about trying to be different. But I was aware of the place that 'Pride and Prejudice' holds in the UK,how it's very proprietary among ladies of a certain age. I kind of just jumped in."

Proprietary? You might say. A Jane Austen Mafia may not actually exist, but Macfadyen quickly got the sense that if this "P&P" went wrong, he'd incur the wrath of the Austen faithful.

"Joe has had this as well. It does feel like this undercurrent of, 'Don't (expletive) this up otherwise we'll find you and kill you,' " he says. "If you started worrying about that, you'd just be paralyzed with fear."

Darcy, as Austen readers and watchers well know, initially appears as a bit of a cold fish. Arrogant, dismissive and every bit a snob, he delivers one of literature's great demeaning marriage proposals to Lizzie, only to be rejected. He later proves to be something much different.

Any actor who plays the character figures to face the inevitable questions about tapping his own inner Darcy to make the performance believable.

Can Macfadyen relate to being rich and above it all?

"I'm sure I recognize Darcy in myself," he says. "I'm very sort of relaxed and laid back to the point of coldness, when inside I'm (expletive) myself to give the appearance of calm. I like that image of the shy boy at a popular event who is terrified of saying the wrong thing, terrified of being foolish."

And collaborating with Knightley? "Delightful to work with. Easy-peasy," says Macfadyen. "She's a proper actress, but she makes me feel old, and I'm only 30."

A well-established face on the London stage, Macfadyen trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts before performing with England's Cheek by Jowl and the Royal Shakespeare Company. He played Prince Hal in parts 1 and 2 of Shakespeare's "Henry IV" for National Theatre artistic director Nicholas Hytner.

Macfadyen, who is married to fellow "Spooks" star Keeley Hawes, performed in plays throughout his schooling. His mother and grandfather were both amateur theater directors, and Macfadyen just sort of took to the footlights.

"I'm just happiest when I'm doing it," he says. "I secretly applied to drama school my last year, and to my amazement, I won a place at RADA. I had found my audience."

This "Pride" does Austen Proud (USA Today) (Nov 2005)


This 'Pride' does Austen proud

Who would have guessed that the world needed another remake of Pride and Prejudice? Yet despite multiple previous incarnations and the cries of protest from diehard Colin Firth fans, this Pride & Prejudice is a stellar adaptation, bewitching the viewer completely and incandescently with an exquisite blend of emotion and wit.

Though some threads of Jane Austen's intricate 1813 novel had to be excised to winnow the story down to a two-hour movie, director Joe Wright and screenwriter Deborah Moggach extract the essence of Austen's clever dialogue, fashioning a supremely entertaining saga of amorous adventures.

Interview: Matthew Macfadyen (Pride and Prejudice) (Nov 2005)


By Devin Faraci

One of the cool things about seeing movies early is that sometimes you walk in not knowing much about it. That was the case with Pride & Prejudice. All I knew was that it starred Keira Knightey and that it was based on the Jane Austen novel. So when the film’s Mr. Darcy was introduced, I got psyched - it was Tom Quinn from MI-5!

Or Spooks, as it was known in the UK. I like to imagine the title was changed for the US version because of perceived racial insensitivity, but most likely it was because A&E thought people would assume it was a show about ghosts, and not a very realistic show about spies.

Matthew MacFadyen is the star of MI-5/Spooks, and he’s awesome. And he’s awesome as Mr. Darcy as well. He really walks the line with this character, coming awfully close to being unlikable at times. In fact, that was my first question for him.

Q: One of the things that is difficult about Darcy is that if he’s played wrong, he’s just a dick. He never gets likable. How did you approach that to make sure your Darcy wasn’t just a dick?

JANE'S ADDICTION: Matthew MacFadyen (Nov 2005)

JANE'S ADDICTION.(Matthew MacFadyen)

Source: WWD
Publication Date: 10-NOV-05

Byline: Nandini D'Souza

NEW YORK -- Blaspheme! That was the collective reaction of Colin Firth fans to news that Matthew MacFadyen was taking on the role Mr. Darcy to Knightley's Elizabeth Bennet in a big-screen adaptation of Jane Austen's evergreen "Pride & Prejudice," opening Friday. Firth, of course, spawned a global base of ardent and, let's face it, slightly scary fans -- including Bridget Jones -- when he played the romantic hero in the BBC's seminal 1995 version.

"People are very proprietary about Darcy," says MacFadyen, 31. "They're like, `you will not f--- this up."' But MacFadyen, who brings a broodier beefcake appeal to the character, is unfazed by the comparisons. As if he's been living under an Austen rock, he claims to have never read the book or seen Firth's series before taking on the role. "I was an Austen virgin," he admits. Since filming, he has read the book -- "It's glorious," is his review -- but hasn't seen the flick.

Neither is he one of the tortured thespians who must immerse themselves in a character. "People ask how I prepared and want me to say, `I came to set on a horse and ate roast pheasant all day.' That's bollocks. You learn your lines, show up and then go home to have a fight with your wife."

While MacFadyen missed Firth's star-making vehicle, he did catch Firth's performance in 1989's "Tumbledown." MacFadyen, who was barely a teenager at the time, said it helped push him down the acting path. "I remember seeing Colin and thinking I'd like to do some of that."

Well-known in his native England, MacFadyen has starred in the hit television series "MI-5," and such movies as "In My Father's Den." But now, he's searching for a project that is more "smiley," as he puts it, having noticed that his resume is padded with dour dramas, including his next film "Middletown," a religious story set in Ireland. The trend started with his very first television gig: "Wuthering Heights" in 1998. "Oh yeah. That's another broody one," he muses. "Oh, the moors, oh Cathy. Oh bugger, lighten up."

But he admits Austen's deft satire and classic caricatures offered a a little levity. So, too, did shooting the film. The reality of the sweeping, tear-inspiring climactic scene -- when Darcy does his best Byronic stride across a misty field toward his true love Lizzie -- was anything but romantic gravitas, he says. "I'm shortsighted, so I couldn't see Keira and the director was waving his red jacket, screaming, `Left! Turn left,"' MacFadyen recalls. "The audience is weeping for Darcy and I'm actually looking at a North Face puffer."

Caption(s): Matthew MacFadyen

Movie interviews Joe Wright (2005)

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