Pride and Prejudice - Matthew Macfadyen interview (2005)

Pride and Prejudice - Matthew Macfadyen interview

Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q. Presumably such great costumes and locations helped in terms of preparation and performance?
The costumes are great because they kind of tell you how to move, how to walk. You can’t sit in britches like I’m sitting in now, for instance. [Well you could, but it would be quite uncomfortable].
And being in the locations themselves is great, it’s less of a leap of the imagination if you’re standing on the balcony at Chatsworth than if you’re in an aircraft hangar somewhere.

Q. How did you go about approaching the character of Darcy?
I find Darcy very sympathetic, I find it heartbreaking that he’s seen as very haughty and proud – and he is those things – but he’s a young man who is still grieving for his parents.
He’s from an ancient family and has this huge responsibility, but it seemed to me that he’s still trying to work out who he is and how to be in the world. I found that very interesting, and I found him very sympathetic.

Q. Did you go back to novel?
I hadn’t read the novel before we shot the film. He is based on the script.

Q. Do you think modern viewers will view Darcy differently?
Maybe. I think Darcy is a young man who is given this huge responsibility and that can be experienced by young men now. The shock of Lydia eloping with Wickham, at the age of 15, is as shocking to us now as I’m sure it was then. I don’t think it’s changed that much.
Matthew Macfadyen: I think looking at it now, Darcy would seem much more snobbish in our understanding of the word than he would then. To somebody like Darcy, it would have been a big deal for him to get over this difference in their status, and to be able to say to Lizzie that he loved her.
We would think it was incredibly snobbish and elitist, but it wasn’t for him. It would have been a big admission, and he would have found it very vulgar. It’s a bigger divide than it would have been then is what I’m saying.

Q. Do you think that's because that sense of duty is alien to us now but not then?

Q. Are you conscious of the Darcy effect, given the iconic place he holds in literature and, of course, the effect it had on Colin Firth's career?
I don’t know, I don’t know what to expect.
Joe Wright [director]: I think we made this film without considering previous adaptations. The television version was made ten years ago now, and the film version was made in 1946.
We really did make the film in a little bubble of our own, and I don’t think we were really thinking about anything outside of what we were doing each day. Maybe now it will start.

Q. When taking on a role like this, do you feel a responsibility to a classic?
I sort of approached Darcy as I would any other part. You’d never play Hamlet, for example, if you started worrying about who’s played it before you. The same with a lot of parts. That’s the nature of it, you just get on with it. It’s a wonderful part.

Q. You inject a lot of humour into the character of Darcy. Was it a fine line making sure that the balance was just right?
I don’t know. Looking back I can’t remember, I can’t analyse it like that. There is something of the ridiculous in Darcy because he thinks very deeply and seriously about things, and he takes himself very seriously. As young men tend to do I suppose. So there is a bit of darkness, which Lizzie punctures so cleverly. I just had a bash and hoped for the best.
Brenda Blethyn: The only scenes I saw Darcy play were the ones that I was in with him, I didn’t see the ones that I wasn’t in until I saw it at the cinema quite recently. I thought it was wonderful the way the audience warmed to Darcy in the same way that Lizzie did.
They awakened to him, there was something more going on there. One feels the aloofness of this man coming into that dance hall. And totally warming in the same way that she did. It was lovely.

Q. How was the horse-riding?
There wasn’t that much horse riding!
Joe Wright: It’s another period convention, just because it’s a period film everyone has to be seen on a horse. But at the time walking was very popular, it was seen as an outdoor pursuit.
Macfadyen: Obviously I’m brilliant at riding horses, I was born in the saddle. [laughs]

Q. Did you get to keep the bust of Darcy?
I’m waiting to be offered it. I don’t know where it is.
Wright: Actually the Duchess of Devonshire got it. it’s on display at Chatsworth.

Q. Did it seem like Joe’s first feature to the cast?
Not at all.
Brenda Blethyn: From the early frames we knew we were in very good hands, we could see the way he’d set up the shot, inhabited the shot, so right from the very earliest scenes we knew were in very, very inspired hands.
Macfadyen: Joe is an actor’s director. There are plenty of directors who aren’t that interested, but Joe likes actors I think, he’s interested in the process of it. So it was a treat, it really was.
Rosamund Pike: You can get quite self-conscious at times, there’s this business of your close up coming up, but in that big ball scene he put three cameras on it. And in lots of the dinner scenes too, so you wouldn’t actually know when your moment was coming.
That’s why it’s got that lovely unaware quality to it, you really did feel it’s being observed. I think it’s because people didn’t know they were being watched really, that’s what you get, this window on life.
Joe Wright: We had two weeks rehearsal, so we kind of got to know each other quite well. We’d all kind of spent a lot of time together before we started.