Colin Firth & Matthew Macfadyen agree: Mr. Darcy is grumpy because he’s afraid

Operation Mincemeat is currently available on Netflix. It’s the true story of a British intelligence scheme during World War II. The scheme involved planting false intelligence on a corpse and lots of hijinks. This film is also pretty special because director John Madden cast the Two Darcys, Colin Firth and Matthew Macfadyen. Firth played Mr. Darcy in the BBC’s Pride & Prejudice miniseries in the 1990s. Macfadyen played Mr. Darcy in the wonderful 2005 film. Both are completely valid Darcys, bringing different energies to the Darcy table. I know everyone has their favorite Darcy but I like them both!! Anyway, Vanity Fair recently did a joint interview with the two Darcys and they actually compared notes for a moment about the Darcy character and I was so delighted when I got to that part.

Did they compare notes on playing Darcy, though? “I don’t think we did that,” says Macfadyen. “I remember saying there is this sort of weird pressure that comes with playing stuff like that. I think we touched on that briefly, but we didn’t talk about it.”

At this point, Firth interjects to point out that theirs isn’t some massively unique shared experience. “Maybe we both played Mercutio at some point at drama school or something. It’s not as if we’re the only two people who played it.” That being said, Firth takes a moment to commend his colleague for managing to encapsulate Darcy’s entire story arc in a two-hour movie.

“It’s much more challenging to do it as a feature film. Because if you do a six-parter, you’ve got six hours to put it all in and let it unfold at a pace which is closer to that of a book. I think what was masterful about Matthew’s interpretation was that he did manage to tell that whole story in a more condensed form. And I think that’s very difficult because it’s so dependent on a slow reveal. You think he’s one thing, and gradually, we’ve lived with the doubt about that, and the perceptions gradually and slowly change.”

Firth also gets a little misty-eyed thinking about TV programming in 1995. “That was back in pre-streaming days, when you really did have to wait for next Sunday to see the next part,” he points out. “So it unfolded very slowly. I think it was a huge achievement that that story was told [in that short time], and that Matthew managed to span the arc of that character.”

Macfadyen, who has confessed that Firth was an inspiration for him becoming an actor, looks down, uncomfortable with the praise. “I played him like a sort of grumpy adolescent, probably because I felt quite grumpy because I was scared,” says Macfadyen.

Firth looks surprised to hear this. “I think I did too, actually.”

Says Macfadyen, “He is, isn’t he?”

“He’s scared,” agrees Firth. “‘This place isn’t good enough. I’m not dancing in a place like this.’ It’s because he’s afraid to dance.”

“Exactly,” says Macfadyen. “It’s all fear. It’s all based on fear.”

[From Vanity Fair]

RIGHT??? Isn’t this amazing?? I could watch Firth and Macfadyen sit around for two hours, talking about how Darcy is a grumpy, scared adolescent terrified of dancing. I loved that they had that minor bond over the character! As for what Firth says about how he thinks it’s easier to do a miniseries and let the story unfold at its own pace… I get that. That’s why I’ll always have so much love for the Firth-led series, because it’s so authentic to the book and you get to see the subplots develop and all of that. What’s great about the 2005 film is that you don’t waste a ton of time on the Wickham plot. Wickham is there, we get the gist of it, we understand what a POS he is and that’s it. That being said, I do feel like the film didn’t do enough to develop Jane and Charles’s romance in the early stages.

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, BBC and the 2005 ‘P&P’.

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