Over the years, there have been many adaptations to Jane Austen's beloved classic Pride and Prejudice, and 2016 is no exception – with the release of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, an adaptation with its own spin, this is an interesting moment to explore the many faces of a classic romance hero.
Mr. Darcy is a complex character whose prideful views and self-importance make him appear snobbish and prejudiced to Austen's heroine, Elizabeth Bennet. He has to be played by a man whose serious facade can go from extremely upsetting to extremely endearing.
Who are the men that have played this role? Let's start with the current Mr. Darcy.
1. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)
Actor: Sam Riley
For the current adaptation, Sam Riley plays Colonel Darcy. His portrayal is interesting, he is as prideful as always, but he is also strong and softens when he falls in love with Lily Jame's wonderful Elizabeth Bennet.
A wonderful addition to Mr. Darcy's character in this adaptation is the action packed zombie killing skills displayed by the actor. Sam Riley manages to look handsome, strong and extremely capable as a warrior fighting the undead.
2. Pride and Prejudice (2005)
Actor: Matthew MacFadyen
My favorite Mr. Darcy, in one of my favorite adaptations. This is not only because the basics of the novel are all there, but because the romance and tension of the lingering feelings between the characters is palpable. Surely because of the immense chemistry between MacFadyen and Keira Knightley who took on the role of Elizabeth Bennet.
One thing I loved from this Mr. Darcy, is his deep gaze and soft smile. I love how MacFadyen's expression changes when he finally realizes his feelings, and tries to make amends to win the affection of the woman he loves.
3. Bride & Prejudice (2004)
Actor: Martin Henderson
Bollywood took its turn to adapt Austen's masterpiece into a colorful musical with all the inspiration derived from Indian culture. With rehearsed choreography and modernized dialog, this adaptation still keeps the basic logic of the novel – and it worked.
It is not my favorite adaptation of Austen's work, but this Mr. Darcy does a fair job. Played by Martin Henderson, this Darcy seems more weighed down by the precarious economic needs of his rich family than during other adaptations.
4. Pride and Prejudice (1940)
Actor: Laurence Olivier
This, the first adaptation of the novel in the 1940s, has a young Laurence Olivier as the proud Mr. Darcy. His portrayal was quite enjoyable and entertaining if you think about the time this film was made. I do consider him a better Darcy than the one portrayed in the Bollywood adaptation. Cheers for this Mr. Darcy.
Now, let's proceed to the two most acclaimed television adaptations.
The BBC in the UK has taken Austen's work to miniseries multiple times, it has also been adapted in Italian and Dutch by other networks, but by far the two biggest adaptations by the BBC are the 1980 and 1995 versions.
5. Pride and Prejudice (1980)
Actor: David Rintoul
Austen's work adapted into the '80s classic produced a fair and decent heroine with Elizabeth Garvie as Elizabeth, but this post is not to discuss the eloquence and strength in Lizzy's character and the actresses that have given life to her, but to discuss the men that have played Mr. Darcy.
The '80s Mr. Darcy was a good character, but Mr. Rintoul's performance was somewhat flat but it does the job. From that adaptation I give my kudos to Elizabeth.
Pride and Prejudice (1995)
Actor: Colin Firth
Say "Hello" to an iconic Mr. Darcy. This was the adaptation that changed the face of the proud and snobbish man whose prejudice clouded his judgment. Played by Colin Firth, this performance is loved by Austen's fans, not only because the dialog was quite faithful to the original prose, but also because Firth and Ehle acting was wonderful.
This Mr. Darcy was properly introduced across the multiple episodes of the series. The adaptation displayed more of the little moments that make Mr. Darcy endearing and highlight how he fell in love with Elizabeth Bennet just by noticing her wit and charm. He is also the first Darcy that shows the Regency era could be more sensual than how it was portrayed before.
With an exclusive change to the original story, the BBC 1995 adaptation had a scene in which Mr. Darcy comes back home and takes a swim in his private lake (above) only to discover that Elizabeth Bennet is visiting the property. When he finds her wandering the woods he's dressed to the basics and dripping water from his swim. A very innocent moment by today's standards, but by far a more sensual scene that Austen might conjured up!
Now, if you are heading to the theater to catch Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, then you are in for a ride. Even whilst not my favorite, Sam Riley does a very great job selling the idea that in the apocalypse men have to fight for love and survival, and he wins them both.
Which Darcy was your favorite?