BBC Movies Pride and Prejudice Matthew Macfadyen Interview (Sep 2005)

Matthew Macfadyen

Pride and Prejudice

Interviewed by Alana Lee

“ You'd never play Hamlet if you started worrying about who's played it before you ”

Matthew MacFadyen made his name playing an MI5 agent in Spooks, and attracted good reviews for his understated performance in New Zealand drama In My Father's Den earlier this year. Happily alternating between stage and screen, MacFadyen gets his biggest movie role playing arsy Mr Darcy opposite Keira Knightley in Pride & Prejudice...

You shot Pride & Prejudice entirely on location. How useful was that, and how comfortable were you in 18th century attire?

The costumes are great because they tell you how to move, how to walk. You can't sit in breeches like I'm sitting 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 House than if you're in an aircraft hangar somewhere.

What was your approach to the character of Darcy?

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.

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 [Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet] 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.

Did you feel any responsibility to a classic?

I 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.

Were you deliberately looking to inject some humour into your character?

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.

This was Joe Wright's first feature as director. Did that ever manifest itself in any way?

Not at all. Joe is an actor's director. There are plenty of directors who aren't that interested, but Joe likes actors, he's interested in the process of it. So it was a treat, it really was.

Pride & Prejudice is released in UK cinemas on Friday 16th September 2005.