Compiled by: Jack Foley
Q. The use of locations is stunning in the film. How
did you come to choose them and was the decision to use proper
venues made to add to the authenticity of the film?
A: The decision really came from Jane Austen herself.
I hadn’t read the book before being sent the script, and
I was shocked by how acutely observed the novel was, and how much
it felt like a piece of British realism.
So the idea to shoot in real locations came from that. We wanted
to create 360 degree worlds in which the characters could perform.
Q. Did you strive to make the characters more relevant
to viewers today?
A: You just have to ignore the fact that it’s a
historical drama. We really got involved with the emotions and
the realities of the characters, and that’s what’s
important in any story whether it’s set in 2005 or 1797.
We also questioned why it is that in period dramas you always
see carriages pull up beside big houses, you’d have the
wide shots of the houses and big wide shots of the rooms simply
because you’re in a nice location. You wouldn’t do
that if you were filming in some semi-detached house in Bromley.
So it was really to ignore the fact that it was a period drama,
and yet at the same time look at the detail of the period as much
as possible. We enjoyed researching what ladies would do when
they wanted to go to the toilet at a ball, when there were 500
ladies and not enough chamber pots.
They’d take diuretics all day beforehand. And if they did
need to go to the toilet, they’d have to go home. It was
those kind of period details that we enjoyed. It’s that
real life that we brought into question.
Rosamund Pike: We discovered that was why people
kept fainting. Not because the corsets were too tight but because
they’d dehydrated themselves so much during the day, so
that when they got really hot dancing they passed out.
Q. Do you think viewers today will have a different opinion
of the characters and their motivations, as opposed to those who
first read the novel?
A: I think that the Bennets were seen very sympathetically
at the time. The book was published anonymously, and the readership
were immediately clamouring to find out who the author was, all
the copies were sold out and they immediately had to reprint.
I think the Bennets were meant to be as sympathetic then as they
Q. Do you think modern viewers will view Darcy differently?
A: Maybe. I think Darcy is a young man who is given this
huge responsibility and that can be experienced by young men now.
The shock of Lydia eloping with Wickham, at the age of 15, is
as shocking to us now as I’m sure it was then. I don’t
think it’s changed that much.
Matthew Macfadyen: I think looking at it now,
Darcy would seem much more snobbish in our understanding of the
word than he would then. To somebody like Darcy, it would have
been a big deal for him to get over this difference in their status,
and to be able to say to Lizzie that he loved her.
We would think it was incredibly snobbish and elitist, but it
wasn’t for him. It would have been a big admission, and
he would have found it very vulgar. It’s a bigger divide
than it would have been then is what I’m saying.
Q. Did you choose to set story in the 1790s because the
costumes were more flattering?
A: Austen wrote the first draft of the story in 1797,
and it wasn’t published until 1811. I felt that the earlier
period looked more interesting, it was a more interesting period
socially and therefore those social changes were reflected in
everything, including costumes.
The Empire Lines were just coming in, so high society such as
Caroline Bingley, would be wearing an Empire Line dress. Whereas
the Bennet girls might not be, so the waistlines could be a little
And it’s true, I thought the Empire Line dresses, especially
when they’re made of muslin, they would make you blow out
like a balloon and looked quite unflattering. But really it was
a decision made on the basis of the social changes at the time.
Brenda’s character, Mrs Bennet, was wearing a costume from
the 1770s really. Lady Catherine, Judi’s character, is wearing
a costume from earlier.
I imagined it was like now, where the Queen Mother might have
looked like she was wearing clothes out of the 60s and 70s, with
the younger generation a little bit more up-to-date with their
Q. How did you come to cast
Donald Sutherland and Tom Hollander? And did you ever have to
rein them in, particularly Tom Hollander?
A: I prefer actors who go over the top to those that
don’t go far enough, because you can always rein actors
in – it’s more difficult to bring it out of actors.
It was quite easy to tell Tom he was going too far, and to pull
it back a bit.
We met a number of actors for Mr Collins and each played it in
a different way. One actor came in and played him as Tony Blair!
Tom came in and you always want someone to surprise you, to not
play it as you specifically imagined.
He came in and played him as this weird little guy who couldn’t
quite manage to communicate in the way that he wanted to, and
couldn’t understand why not everyone respected him as much
as he respected himself.
They didn’t take him seriously and he’d tried all
his life to be taken seriously, and I thought that was exciting
and something I hadn’t seen. It surprised me, and I liked
to be surprised.
And Donald, I cast him because I’d always been a huge fan
of Donald’s work in the 70s. I used to act, and I appeared
in a film he was in called Revolution. We used to joke that between
us we had brought down the British film industry. And then I liked
the idea of Mr Bennet being slightly older.
He would have inherited the house in his 40s and then been able
to marry, and met this younger wife, rather fancied her –
I imagined her to be a little bit like Lydia – and he thought
that maybe she might grow up to be a more sensible woman. Unfortunately,
he was wrong.
Then I saw him in Cold Mountain.
In that, he reminded me a bit of my own dad, and he made me cry.
He’s got a really big heart, he’s a proper man, a
proper patriarchal figure and yet he’s got a very open heart.
I wanted an actor to be able to deliver that last scene in the
way that Donald does. That was why I cast him. But he took some
Q. How did you persuade him?
A: He wanted to know that it was going to be done [properly].
He’s done 120 films in his career, so he doesn’t want
to waste time. We had long e-mail discussions about the history
of agriculture and farming in the late 18th Century, and we discussed
facial hair and what kind of beard he might have.
Also the fact that he doesn’t like smoking within 200 yards
of him. We long e-mail discussions, but in the end he agreed,
he got on a plane and was greeted by five Bennet girls and his
wife. He was a very happy man, to be fussed over.
Q. How did you choose the Reading locations? And are
there any more Jane Austen books you'd be interested in directing?
A: Never say never, but I don’t foresee myself
doing another Austen adaptation.
Basildon Park was a house we just came across; we spent about
four or five months looking for locations as we were developing
the script. Basildon Park is such an accurate piece of modern
architecture for that time, we were surprised to find it in such
It was also one that didn’t feel particularly homely. We
were looking for somewhere that felt like it could be rented accommodation,
it was rented by the Bingleys. So it was less of a homely environment,
and more of a clean, cool environment.
Rosamund Pike: We kept getting kicked out of
it doing that ball scene, because the carbon dioxide levels were
rising where there were so many people breathing in there. We
kept getting banished, sent out and having to wait outside.
Q. Is it your ultimate ambition to hava a modern audience
take something from it?
A: I think so, I took something from it when I read the
book. I tried to remember that - to hold on to that feeling I
had when I first read it. And if it’s true to me I don’t
see why it shouldn’t be true to others as it was to Jane
Austen. It’s a true story.
It’s also a bit of a how-to guide, I think that Jane was
writing it for her contemporaries and for her friends, her small
community. So I think there is an element of the how-to guide
there as well. It’s a cautionary tale as well.
Related stories: Read
Keira Knightley interview
Matthew Macfadyen interview
Brenda Blethyn interview
Pride and Prejudice
feature (Keira Knightley)
Special feature: The
challenge of casting and shooting
Watch clips from the film