Colin Firth as Mr Darcy
Twenty years ago next month, the BBC adaptation of Pride & Prejudice burst onto our screens and launched the Oscar-winning career of Colin Firth, who played the austere aristocrat, Mr Darcy. Firth transformed the character readers have always loved to hate into a worldwide sex symbol, and was almost single-handedly responsible for the resurgence of interest in Austen’s body of work. That famous white shirt scene made TV history. Matthew Macfadyen did a superb follow-up in the 2005 film version and deserved an Oscar nomination far more than Keira Knightley’s Elizabeth Bennett.
Michael Fassbender as Mr Rochester
He didn’t cause quite the earthquake Firth did (in fairness there were no wet shirt opportunities in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, although he pulls of a Regency night shirt pretty well), but Michael Fassbender made the dark and brooding owner of Thornfield Hall less cruel and more likeable, but without sacrificing the essence of this taciturn character. Following in the footsteps of actors such as (the amazing) Orson Welles and Timothy Dalton, Fassbender was less of a “wronged and fettered wild beast” than Welles, and more of a passionate enigma.
Johnny Lee Miller as Mr Knightley
The 2009 version of Jane Austen’s Emma is less well known than its cinematic rival starring Gwyneth Paltrow, but we think Lee Miller had the edge over Jeremy Northam in his portrayal of the endearing landowner Mr Knightley. Of course, he had prior form, having played Edmund Bertram in the 1999 version of Mansfield Park. Knightley’s internal struggle with his feelings for Emma is portrayed by the Elementary actor with beautifully nuanced inflections and expressions. And, he looks so good in a top hat and tails.
To find out which literary lady you’re most like, pick up the September issue of IMAGE Magazine, out now.