Dirty Dames and Mr. Darcy for X-mas (2005)

Pride & Prejudice

Lisa Hope King

Issue date: 12/7/05 Section: Inside Beat

Dirty Dames and Mr. Darcy for X-mas
Thursday, December 8, 2005

Having a significant other meet the parents during the holidays is a benchmark for any couple. Take this: cut to class-conscious England near the close of the 18th century, and you've got Jane Austen's Mrs. Bennet and Mr. Darcy from her novel, Pride And Prejudice.

Mrs. Bennet, played by Brenda Bleythn (Secrets And Lies) is the eager parent of five daughters waiting to meet the eligible and rich bachelor Mr. Darcy, (Matthew MacFayden, MI-5).

Though the movie boasts an esteemed cast consisting of Donald Sutherland, an Officer of the Order of Canada, Dame Judi Dench, Keira Knightley, Hollywood Film Award for Best Breakthrough Actress in 2005 and Brenda Blyethn, two time Academy Award nominee and an Officer of the Order of Britain, inside beat picked up on some surprising facts from MacFayden and Blyethn about the actors - especially of the Dame.

Matthew MacFayden is no stranger to strong romantic roles. In 1998, he played Hareton Earnshaw in the UK television version of Wuthering Heights. Having never read Pride And Prejudice or seen the BBC movie version, MacFayden had a clean slate to work with in his role as Mr. Darcy.

"I think there's a little bit of Darcy in everyone," he admitted. "I find him very sympathetic and I find it kind of heartbreaking at times. Nobody's just arrogant and cold without reason. He was a young man who had to grow up to find out who he was."

MacFayden's Darcy had a love-hate relationship with Bleythn's on-screen daughter, Lizzie, played by Keira Knightley.

"It's terribly attractive when your pomposity is noticed and then punctured in public," he says. "It's infuriating and embarrassing and you hate that person [but Darcy] found it incredibly funny. It's one of those things where he goes home afterwards, locks all the doors and laughs hysterically into the pillows."

When asked if there were any women in his life who tortured him like Lizzie, he laughed and replied, "my wife."

Off set, MacFayden and Knightley would chat, but more often than not he said she made him feel old. Like Darcy, MacFayden said he also felt left out and was jealous of the Bennets. Knowing what the Bennet family did to prepare for their roles, his jealousy was warranted.

Bleythn said Joe Wright, the director, got the Bennet family together a few weeks before filming and began to create a family atmosphere among the actors playing members of the Bennet household.

"There was a wood burning fire, candle lit and dusty, and we played hide and seek in that big house," Bleythn says. "We bought big bags of cherries from a roadside vendor and hung them over our ears and put cherry juice on our cheeks as blush, like children. We just gravitated together. It was just all really lovely."

Blyethn's character in the movie was the annoying mother, but Blyethn says she could easily relate.

"People would say, 'Oh, she's such a silly character, she's such a silly woman,' and I would say no, she's not silly, she's seriously thinking about the predicament her family's going to be in once Mr. Bennet dies," she says. "This is a teenage daughter talking about her mum. My mum embarrassed me, all of our mums did it at some stage, whether it's telling you off or praising you in public."

As for how she felt being married to screen legend Donald Sutherland, who plays Mr. Bennet, Blyethn smiled. "Donald ? what a peach. He's wonderful. When it was over I felt like we got divorced."

Blyethn is a mother herself but she said she felt more like a teenager when filming the movie. She bought all the girls shoulder bags from a nearby farm made of homespun wool. The girls carried it around on set and put little charms inside them.

Dame Judi Dench, who had a supporting role in the film as Catherine de Bourg, had more time off set and was often found embroidering pillows.

"She makes these beautifully intricate needlepoint pieces and you kind of seeing these words materialize during the shoot like 'You're a fucking shit,' or 'You're a cunt,'" MacFayden laughs. "This is the absolute gospel! They do anything to relieve the boredom. They're not staid in any way."

Apparently, the Dame has many of these at home and gives them out as presents.

Tickets to see Pride And Prejudice this holiday season would make great stocking stuffers too.