A/V Room









Pride and Prejudice - Brenda Blethyn interview

Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q. Presumably such great costumes and locations helped in terms of preparation and performance?
We actually had the luxury - Joe had the brilliant idea of having the Bennet family go down to Groombridge Place before we started shooting so that we would absolutely know the house inside out before starting to work. So we wouldn’t have to stop and think ‘which way is the kitchen’ – we’d know.
We knew every nook and cranny of that house even before we started to film there. It was great.

Q. How was your corset experience?
Mine was really, really comfortable. I’m quite used to wearing them because I’ve done a lot of costume drama at the National Theatre. But these were so comfortable.
Mine was a longer one [than Keira's] that came over the stomach as well. It wasn’t terribly elegant, you had to sit with your knees apart to allow the centre point to hit the chair.
But with the big skirts you couldn’t see that she was sitting in that way. So it was very, very comfortable.
There’s a scene in the film where she runs like a horse down the drive after her daughter, and it felt just like running normally. They were so beautifully made, the costumes all together were handmade, as they would have been by Sands in Rotherhithe. Ridiculously, beautifully made.
And mine, because the design was from an earlier period, even had repairs in it to make it really, really authentic, with pieces of fabric that the girls would have had. It was beautifully made.

Q. Was there a danger of Mrs Bennet being too shrill? And how was your relationship with Donald Sutherland?
He was very easy to work with, it was a great company atmosphere. For a couple of the girls, it was their first job. To start with Joe created such a wonderful environment for us to work in. When I told people I was playing this part, they’d say ‘oh she’s a wonderful cartoon character, you’ll have great fun’.
And I said ‘excuse me, no she’s not. She’s got a problem to be dealt with and it seems to me that she’s the only one taking the problem seriously’.
The father isn’t, the daughters don’t seem terribly concerned, and I would say that it’s okay for the father because he’s got a roof over his head all the time he’s alive, it’s when he goes that the problem sets in. She mentions that in one of the scenes.
Donald and I would have a lot of fun talking about their history, their background and the way he teases her all the time. She is a pain, but you can’t not let her be a pain. She’s embarrassing, but all our mothers are embarrassing at one time or another.
When they boast about their children – at the party, she was in her element. Of course, she’s having a good time at the party.
Joe Wright: The performance in the way Brenda plays her is completely based on her love for her children. And I think you would forgive her anything, because it shows how much she loves her daughters.

Rosamund Pike: And also Joe said at the beginning of the filming process that this book is so adamantly through the eyes of a child; it’s a child’s version of her parents, therefore Mrs Bennet is embarrassing not because she is an atrociously embarrassing character but because this is your 18-year-old perception of your mother. That’s such an amazing insight into the book.
Another funny story about Donald and Brenda’s relationship; he was absolutely mortified, shocked and couldn’t deal with it when Joe said that Mr and Mrs Bennet would have separate bedrooms.
This caused huge consternation to Donald who said that was absolutely outrageous, and there was no way he wouldn’t sleep in the same room as his wife.
Joe Wright: Like he’d be knocking on the door going ‘oh Mrs Bennet!’. They still fancied each other, which was good.

Q. When taking on a role like this, do you feel a responsibility to a classic?
Honesty, to what’s put in front of you, to the text, to it. You can’t bring other productions into play if they’re from a different garden.
This is our garden and this is where we want to grow………. these particular actors playing these characters bring totally different insights to other productions, other gardens, as nice as other gardens might be. This is our garden, and this is how we fertilise.

Q. The interaction between the Bennet family on screen seems natural, especially in terms of your relationship with Donald Sutherland? How was working with him?
We ate with him nearly every night. When we weren’t working we’d spend time together, he’s a wonderful man.

Q. Is it rare to connect with fellow actors like that?
To that extent, yeah. We were working away from home, so we weren’t changing out of our costumes and going home at the end of the day, we were on location and that is more conducive to that. But it was a pleasure.
Rosamun Pike: We took him to a party one night.
Blethyn: Yes we did.
Knightley: We did but he was wearing a mask, because he can’t be around cigarettes but felt anyone who wanted to smoke could, so he came with a little mask that he wore.

Related stories: Read our review

Keira Knightley interview

Matthew Macfadyen interview

Joe Wright (director) interview

Pride and Prejudice feature (Keira Knightley)

Special feature: The challenge of casting and shooting

Watch clips from the film

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