Mr Darcy comes to town (Dec 2005)

Mr Darcy comes to town

The News Letter (Belfast, N. Ireland) December 23, 2005

MATTHEW MacFadyen plays Keira Knightley's prospective husband Mr Darcy in this autumn's movie version of Pride and Prejudice.

The hard-working English actor, who got his mainstream break in MI5 TV drama Spooks, is happy to be filming in Ulster for new feature film Middletown, as another boost is given to the local movie industry, supported by Northern Ireland Film and Television Commission.

Matthew's keen to get finished today and get home for Christmas, with a top present for wife Keeley Hawes:

"Yes, I've adored being in Northern Ireland, but I can't wait to see Keeley.

"I need to give her something really lovely this year because I bought her a disgusting necklace last year, which I thought was ok, but I never saw it again after Christmas Day."

And baby Maggie, born in November 2004, is looking forward to her first 'real' Christmas too, according to Matthew.

"Maggie will be playing with all the boxes that everything comes in and she might even take her first steps over Christmas.

"She's doing that swaying thing on her feet now, just ready to go - It'll be lovely to see them both."

The 31-year-old star met Keeley on the set of Spooks in 2002.

Now Middletown, the first feature film by Armagh playwright Daragh Carville, is Matthew's new challenge.

"I play a Protestant minister, Gabriel Hunter, who comes back to a little Bible-belt village to take over the parish.

"My character is a little over zealous, but he's convinced that he was chosen by God to do His work. There may be some echoes of famous Ulster- Scots preachers, but I'll leave that up to others to judge.

"My father in Middletown is played by Tyrone actor Gerry McSorley. Everything seems great at first but then it all starts falling apart, with a bit of rivalry with my brother."

Although Middletown may make us think of the Co Armagh village, no filming has been done in the Orchard County location on the border.

Filming has been ongoing at the Ulster Folk Museum, Maysfield, Black Mountain and Glaslough in the Republic.

Matthew won't give away too much, but runs a few lines in an excellent Ulster accent, before revealing a little of the plot.

"I do some ad hoc preaching while my father's garage is going up in flames in this small village with a pub, a shop and a garage."

I learn that there is also a tragedy, which I won't reveal, but I have to ask Matthew how he feels about the international acclaim that Pride and Prejudice brought.

He sounds absolutely honest when he says: "Mercifully, it's over! It was a sweet film but we had to do a huge amount of publicity for it and that's always tiring."

And as for the New Year, he jokes that it's completely free: "No, I don't have a job. "Obviously, I'm now being thrown onto the scrapheap! Like any actor, I'm just waiting to see what turns up."