Jane Austen’s literary works have inspired many successful film and television adaptations, including the 2005 iteration of Pride & Prejudice.
Pride & Prejudice closely follows Austen’s 1818 novel of the same name, where bookish Elizabeth Bennet (Keira Knightley) faces her dear mother’s mounting pressures to marry her — and her four sisters — off to wealthy gentlemen in town. Her elder sister Jane (Rosamund Pike), to their mother’s delight, found an instant connection with Charles Bingley (Simon Woods). However, Bingley’s pursuit of Jane meant that Elizabeth would be spending more time with the uptight Fitzwilliam Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen), who finds her “barely tolerable” to be around.
The 2005 adaptation, penned by Deborah Moggach and Emma Thompson, was directed by Joe Wright.
“Pride & Prejudice was so amazing because I’d been so obsessed with it since I was about 8,” Knightley gushed during a January 2019 interview with BBC Radio 1. “So, like, doing that, and also it was the first time I worked or been around a load of people around my own age, who were all interested in the same thing because I’d left school early [to pursue acting].”
The Love Actually star added: “So, I think that was really fun because it was this group of girls that were all together and that was amazing!”
2005’s iteration was hardly the first time an adaptation of Pride & Prejudice had been mounted. Sir Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson were the first stars to portray Darcy and Elizabeth, respectively, in the 1940 movie. The BBC later adapted Pride & Prejudice for television in 1995, starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth as the eventual couple. Wright, who directed the 2005 production, was intrigued to remake Austen’s classic again, decades later.
“There hadn’t been a film version of Pride and Prejudice for about 65 years. So it felt like it was time to be made again,” the Atonement filmmaker told IndieWire in November 2005. “Also, I don’t really make work in the context of what’s been made before. Certain ideas just get their hooks in me.”
He continued at the time: “It was just a good script. Like myself, actors are drawn to the quality of the script. Initially, I thought Keira was probably too beautiful for the role. And when I met her I discovered this scruffy kind of little tomboy character and discovered she had incredible wit and intelligence and a very strong personality, those qualities made me think that she doesn’t fit into the kind of preconceived ideas of what a girl should be, [which] made me think she’d be perfect for Elizabeth.”
Since the film’s release, it has remained a pinnacle for regency romances with devoted fans often cooing over Darcy’s now-infamous “hand flex,” in which Macfadyen’s hand gently grazes Knightley’s in passing during one scene.
“It’s credit to Joe [Wright] because he’s — I think, he doesn’t miss a trick, and he’s so alive to things, and he saw me do it in a rehearsal take and I remember him just going, ‘Get that!’ So they just did an extra shot on the hand,” the Succession star told NPR in June 2022, noting how intimidated he felt to portray the iconic leading man. “I didn’t feel I was dishy enough and sort of brooding enough. … It was a brilliant adaptation. Joe was great [and] Keira was great. It was a lovely thing to be a part of.”
Scroll below to see what the Pride and Prejudice cast has been up to years after their time in Meryton: