For almost 20 years, Colin Firth has kept women enthralled as Jane Austen’s romantic hero, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. His is the face that launched a thousand fantasies, fanfics and even Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’ Diary. Plus, almost no one can wear a white shirt having emerged from a lake quite as well. However, a new contender is set to challenge Firth for the crown as it was announced this week that Brothers & Sisters star, Matthew Rhys, would be putting on the breeches and taking on the role in a new BBC drama.
Rhys has joined the cast of Death Comes To Pemberley, an adaptation of PD James’ best-selling murder mystery. The story takes place six years after Pride and Prejudice’s double wedding of Fitzwilliam Darcy to Elizabeth Bennet and Charles Bingley to Jane Bennet. Things are going well in the lives of the main protagonists until on the eve of the Darcy’s autumn ball, Elizabeth’s younger sister Lydia Wickham arrives screaming that her husband, the villainous George Wickham, has been murdered. So begins a murder mystery involving Darcy, Elizabeth and Lydia.
Anna Maxwell Martin (Bleak House, Becoming Jane) will play Elizabeth and Matthew Goode (Match Point, A Single Man) has been cast as Wickham.
Rhys is not the first to follow in Firth’s footsteps as Matthew MacFadyen took on the role in the 2005 film version with Keira Knightley. He generally received good reviews for his portrayal, but for some Firth is the embodiment of Darcy.
In taking on the role, Rhys (currently starring in The Americans) said he was aware that there was no way he would escape comparisons with Firth’s much-loved performance from the 1995 BBC adaptation. In speaking with the BBC, he said, “Exciting as it is, one of the challenges of a part such as Darcy are the comparisons that will be drawn to those who’ve institutionalised him in the past”.
One advantage for Rhys is that this is a sequel to Pride and Prejudice so it’s an older, married and quite different Darcy to the one from P&P. Rhys agrees saying, “The beauty of Pemberley is that it is an entirely new and different Darcy six years on”. And in reference to that iconic lake scene, he adds “And also, I don’t have to appear from a lake in a white shirt and breeches”.
The book has been adapted for the screen by Juliette Towhidi, the writer of Calendar Girls. Filming is set to begin in June on location in Yorkshire with the adaptation airing at Christmas.
Do you think Rhys will be a good Darcy or is Firth your Darcy of choice? Perhaps you prefer the darker version that MacFadyen portrayed? Let us know below.