January 28, 2023, marks the 210th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in 1813, so we thought we’d celebrate by honoring Mr. Darcy and the actors who have played him.
HOW OLD IS MR. DARCY?
In Pride and Prejudice, Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley, Derbyshire, is 28 years old. But as a beloved immortal character from classic literature, 2023 makes him 210 years old – in book years, that is.
WHO PLAYED MR. DARCY?
Several actors over the past 100 years have played Mr. Darcy onscreen, the aloof but lovable romantic hero of Pride and Prejudice.
But playing opposite the quick-witted Elizabeth Bennet is no easy feat. These Mr. Darcy actors, however, got Jane Austen’s iconic character just right.
THE BEST MR. DARCY ACTORS, RANKED
(With Fun Facts About Each Mr. Darcy Actor)
1. Colin Firth in Pride and Prejudice (1995)
Colin Firth’s aunt pleaded with him not to play the part in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. She didn’t want to ruin how she imagined Mr. Darcy since she was a young girl.
While he may have spoiled Mr. Darcy for one person, Colin Firth went on to portray the most popular interpretation.
2. Matthew Macfadyen in Pride and Prejudice (2005)
Matthew never saw the BBC adaptation with Colin Firth, so he chose not to worry about who played the part before and just got “on with it,” playing the role in Pride & Prejudice as he imagined.
Thankfully, because of his chemistry with Keira Knightley, the almost-kiss scene in the rain was added, giving a new swoony layer to Mr. Darcy.
3. Sir Laurence Olivier in Pride and Prejudice (1940)
Here is an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice with controversial creative choices such as Victorian costumes and a rom-com writing style. Initially, the film was meant to star Clark Gable, but after he turned it down, Sir Laurence Olivier took over the role.
His passionate and groundbreaking performance went on to influence future Mr. Darcy actors, including Colin Firth. Olivier also wanted his soon-to-be wife, Vivien Leigh, to play Elizabeth, but Greer Garson got the part instead, much to his frustration.
4. David Rintoul in Pride and Prejudice (1980)
He’s the only Scottish actor on the list to play the brooding Mr. Darcy and remains a fan favorite due to his accurate, stuffy portrayal.
Rintoul continues to act on both the stage and screen, including a new part in The Crown.
5. Colin Firth in Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)
Based loosely on Pride and Prejudice, Helen Fielding formed the character of Mark Darcy with Colin Firth in mind. For fun, he agreed to play Mr. Darcy yet again.
“I’d never played out a bit of self-referential popular culture mischief before,” Firth said in an interview, further intertwining himself with the classic character even more. He has played Mr. Darcy four different times.
And then there was that hilarious bit for Comic Relief with Miranda Hart and Colin Firth!
6. Matthew Rhys in Death Comes to Pemberley (2013)
When he got the role in this continuation, Rhys worried about upsetting Austen fans with specific ideas about who Mr. Darcy is.
To prepare for the part in Death Comes to Pemberley, he decided to watch Colin Firth and copy him as best he could. Fair to say, he succeeded!
7. Elliot Cowan in Lost in Austen (2008)
For anyone who’s ever dreamed of marrying their own Mr. Darcy, Lost in Austen is the perfect Austen adaptation. Elliot Cowan broods with precision while also paying tribute to Firth.
He successfully recreated the famous lake scene, wearing a white shirt and all. Cowan admits he did the real thing while Firth used a stand-in. And yes, it was “very cold.”
8. DANIEL VINCENT GORDH IN THE LIZZIE BENNET DIARIES (2012)
He appears in only 12 of the 100 episodes of the award-winning Web series. But his authentic modern portrayal of Mr. Darcy made an impression, and the Streamy Awards nominated him for Best Actor.
9. Martin Henderson in Bride & Prejudice (2004)
Martin Henderson wanted to do this Jane Austen variation because “it was such a fresh and new idea.” To prepare, Mr. Henderson studied the Pride and Prejudice novel as well as the BBC version so he could honor the original material.
He believed the final movie demonstrated the right balance between western and eastern film styles. His co-star, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, agreed, calling it a “groundbreaking” opportunity that increased the standard for diversity.
10. Sam Riley in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)
Pride and Prejudice is his mother’s favorite book, so she was thrilled when he got the part in this excellent fantasy version of the story. For research, she convinced him to watch the “only” adaptation – the 1995 production.
His intent for the character in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies then became a mix “of Colin Firth, Alex from A Clockwork Orange, Sean Connery in Dr. No and the voice of James Mason.”
No matter who your Mr. Darcy is, let’s celebrate all that’s great about Fitzwilliam Darcy. And remember, never judge based on first impressions because you might find a new Mr. Darcy to enjoy.
Who is your favorite Mr. Darcy actor? Discuss in the comments below!
Featured image credit: Pride & Prejudice 2005 (StudioCanal/Focus Features), Pride and Prejudice 1995 (BBC), and Death Comes to Pemberley (Origin Pictures/Masterpiece/BBC).
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“Aishwariya Rai & Martin Henderson Talk ‘Pride & Prejudice’.” 2019. RAJ GIRN. June 12, 2019. https://www.rajgirn.com/aishwariya-rai-and-martin-henderson/.
Branch, Chris. 2015. “Colin Firth: ‘I’ve Never Owned’ Mr. Darcy Role.” HuffPost. HuffPost. February 10, 2015. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/colin-firth-mr-darcy_n_6653984.
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“Interview with Elliot Cowan.” 2010. Jane Austen Today. November 16, 2010. http://janitesonthejames.blogspot.com/2010/11/interview-with-elliot-cowan.html.
“Interview with the Cast of Pride & Prejudice.” 2005. Daily Mail Online. Associated Newspapers. September 9, 2005. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-361640/Interview-cast-Pride–Prejudice.html.
“Interview: Matthew Macfadyen (Pride and Prejudice) (Nov 2005).” 2012. Darcylicious. December 22, 2012. http://www.darcylicious.com/drupal/node/114.
Looser, Devoney. 2015. “Mr Darcy through the Ages.” The Independent. Independent Digital News and Media. October 13, 2015. https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/features/mr-darcy-through-the-ages-in-early-portrayals-of-jane-austens-hero-he-wasnt-always-quite-so-hot-a6692781.html.
Looser, Devoney. 2019. The Making of Jane Austen. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
“Movies – Interview – Matthew MacFadyen.” n.d. BBC. BBC. Accessed January 28, 2020. http://www.bbc.co.uk/films/2005/09/14/matthew_macfadyen_pride_and_prejudice_interview.shtml.
Nemiroff, Perri. 2019. “’Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’: Sam Riley Reveals His Zombie Outbreak Survival Plan.” Collider. September 24, 2019. https://collider.com/pride-and-prejudice-and-zombies-sam-riley-interview/.
“Pride & Prejudice.” n.d. IMDb. IMDb.com. Accessed January 28, 2020. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0414387/trivia?ref_=tt_trv_trv.
Riley, Jenelle. 2012. “Keira Knightley On Almost Being Beaten By Mr. Darcy.” Backstage. Backstage. November 20, 2012. https://www.backstage.com/magazine/article/keira-knightley-almost-beaten-mr-darcy-50725/.