This year has seen a number of high profile film remakes emerge, with fans of the source material longing to see their favourite stories come to life on the big screen once more.
Perhaps the most highly anticipated of these is the forthcoming Pride & Prejudice, a modern take on the beloved Jane Austen novel.
If you’re a massive fan of Austen’s work and have been waiting years for a decent adaptation, then rejoice: the makers of Pride & Prejudice have something truly special up their sleeves.
While it’s always exciting to see iconic stories brought to life on big-screen adaptations, it’s not always a good idea to remade something so personal. And in the case of Pride & Prejudice, it’s a bit of a dice roll as to whether this particular story will work for modern audiences or not.
The novel, which centers on the Elizabeth Bennet family and is regarded as one of the best-loved English literature stories, was first published in 1813 and follows the relationship between Elizabeth and Bingley, two of Austen’s most beloved characters. In the original story, Elizabeth finds her romantic inclinations repressed by her strict father. But as the years pass, she is eventually persuaded to marry an ambitious man named Wickham, who is only a few years her senior.
Pride & Prejudice wasn’t the first Austen novel to be adapted for the big screen. In 1971, a British television series called “Pride & Prejudice” was released, starring Katherine Jenkins and Robert Powell. While this was a faithful adaptation, it was nonetheless a somewhat odd fit for the big screen, which at the time, was mostly dominated by superhero movies.
But then J.M. WESTON’s 1996 directorial debut, Elizabethtown, arrived and changed everything.
Starring Nicole Kidman and Chris O’Donnell, Elizabethtown is a coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of the 1995 Los Angeles riots. It’s here that we see a grown-up Elizabeth Bennet (Kidman) for the first time, a woman who has suppressed her romantic feelings in order to appease her father and become a well-respected lawyer. She is aided in her quest for independence by her loyal companion and sidekick, Abby (O’Donnell).
Kidman has talked about how her experience of making the film inspired the role, remarking: “I think being an actor is like being a doctor or a lawyer or a teacher — you never know what kind of person you’ll meet along the way. And for me, that was true. I met so many wonderful people who became like family. Also, the crew and the cast were so welcoming and made me feel like I belonged there from the beginning.”
But while Kidman and O’Donnell’s portrayals remain as strong as ever, it’s not necessarily fair to say that this was an altogether easy gig. O’Donnell, who spent 10 hours a day filming in front of a green screen (the actors were given motion-capture suits so their body movements could be traced), recalls how challenging it was to embody Abby: “It was incredibly uncomfortable for me. I didn’t feel like myself. I didn’t feel like a teenager, so it was hard to find that balance. I had to keep asking myself: ‘Is this how a 16-year-old would act?”’ And when I found the answer, it was like: ‘Okay, that’s how I’ll play it.'”
It’s clear that Kidman and O’Donnell had to go through an extensive training process in order to embody these iconic characters.
But aside from Kidman and O’Donnell, the film also stars Robert Pattinson, who is set to play the much sought-after Mr. Darcy. Like many other celebrities who have been linked to this adaptation, Pattinson had to put in some training in order to embody this iconic English aristocrat.
Pattinson, who has called the role of Darcy “the most challenging I’ve ever had,” spent a lot of time sparring with director J.M. WESTON (the film’s producer), debating the finer points of Pronounciation and stressing the importance of delivering a flawless performance. Apparently, Mr. Darcy’s steely exterior is a lot like Pattinson’s: “I studied him really carefully, and he’s such a complex character because he’s so focused on his pride and his prejudices,” he says. “And then, there’s this mask that he wears, this façade of cold indifference, which is impossible to pull off.”
But as challenging as playing the quintessential English snob might sound, Pattinson, who has spoken about how much he enjoys playing “bad boys,” says that he has no plans to change gears once the cameras start rolling.
“I’m really enjoying prancing around in a suit. It’s great to look at, and it feels amazing to wear, but it’s not like anything I’ve done before,” he says. “I’ve never really played a role like this; it’s part-comedian, part-royal, part role model, all Mr. Darcy. It’s a lot to take in.”
Ultimately, it’s not so much the remaking of classic stories that worries us, as it is the idea of seeing beloved characters reimagined for a modern audience. But given the undeniable allure that these remakes hold, we might begrudgingly have to admit that sometimes it’s unavoidable.