Jane Austen: The Dream Cast
Unless you’ve been solely focused on the National Football League or the latest budget crisis, you probably know that it is the 200th anniversary of the release of “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen. Jane Austen is my favorite author ever. Pride and Prejudice is my favorite book ever.
I feel it is my literary duty to comment on this momentous occasion.
The disclaimer: I consider myself a huge Austen fan, but I haven’t read every one of Jane Austen’s letters to her sister. I don’t know where she was born or the names of her siblings. While I know her birthdate, I am uncertain of the time of her death. Because of this, some of you will not consider me a true Austenphile. So, you are given permission to treat this blog lightly and dismiss all my opinions as the work of an amateur.
With that in mind, I want to talk about movies.
There are “Pride and Prejudice” movies that follow the book closely. There are movies based off the book. There are movies about people who love the book.
One gem I ran into a few years ago is a Bollywood rendition called “Bride and Prejudice.” It’s set in modern-day India and the United States with lots of colorful costumes and singing. My family makes fun of me, but I love this version. The Elizabeth character is stunning and the adaptation is very clever. Fast-forward the parts that get too long or inappropriate (a guy dancing in his Speedo), but enjoy the story. You will laugh really hard when the gospel choir appears on the beach.
The oldest version of “Pride and Prejudice” I have been able to find was made in 1940 and stars Greer Garson and Lawrence Olivier. Greer Garson is a lovely Elizabeth and Olivier is okay, but the story is mangled and, at least to me, disappointing.
The Keira Knightley version is richly filmed, but I felt as if the entire movie was done double time. It was as if the characters were dancing faster, walking faster, and delivering lines faster just to fit everything in. I am not a Knightley fan, but Mr. Darcy was good and Dame Judy Dench is always a treat.
I liked the 1980 BBC version of “Pride and Prejudice” because it was the first version that actually spent some time developing the story and trying to get it right. Elizabeth in this one is perfectly cast.
And, of course, there is the later BBC version. Not only was it superbly written, it catapulted Colin Firth to stardom. Yep, he was a perfect Mr. Darcy. He looked the part, spoke the part, acted the part. Now, if they had only taken greater care in casting Edward in Twilight…
Here is my list of people, taken from all these different movies, who I think would make the perfect cast for the last and best “Pride and Prejudice” movie.
Mr. Darcy: Colin Firth
Elizabeth Bennet: Toss up between Jennifer Ehle–She oozes intelligence onscreen–or Greer Garson–a classic beauty.
Jane and Bingley: Rosamund Pike and Simon Woods. The red-haired Mr. Bingley and lovely Jane from the Keira Knightley version are so completely endearing.
Mr. and Mrs. Bennet: Alison Steadman and Benjamin Whitrow (Colin Firth version)
Mr. Collins: Tom Hollander (Keira Knightley version). He’s so deliciously short.
Mr. Wickham: Rupert Friend (Keira Knightley version). I didn’t love him until I saw him in “The Young Victoria.” Now I’m a fan.
I’d love to hear your opinions.