Despite their portrayals being a decade apart and via two separate screen mediums, Colin Firth and Matthew Macfadyen say they both played their iconically proud and arrogant Pride and Prejudice character Mr. Darcy as a “grumpy adolescent.”
Speaking to Vanity Fair in a joint interview promoting their new Netflix movie Mincemeat, which sees the duo portraying two British Intelligence offers who hatch an outlandish plan to trick the Nazis that alters the course of World War II, the two discussed their individual experiences portraying one of literature’s most famous men.
Macfadyen, who admitted Firth was an inspiration for his own acting career, told the magazine, “I played him like a sort of grumpy adolescent, probably because I felt quite grumpy because I was scared.”
Firth, in his own surprise, confirmed he had done the same. “I think I did too, actually,” he said. “He’s scared. ‘This place isn’t good enough. I’m not dancing in a place like this.’ It’s because he’s afraid to dance.”
“Exactly,” Macfadyen responded. “It’s all fear. It’s all based on fear.”
The two also spoke about whether they compared notes on their past performances while filming the Netflix project and what was unique about portraying Darcy on the big versus small screen. Firth acknowledged that “it’s not as if we’re the only two people who played it,” while Macfadyen denied that the two spent any time discussing it at length.
“I don’t think we did that,” says Macfadyen. “I remember saying there is this sort of weird pressure that comes with playing stuff like that. I think we touched on that briefly, but we didn’t talk about it.”
Firth, who played the character most notably in the 1995 six-episode BBC series, also admitted that he was impressed by Macfadyen’s work on the 2005 movie opposite Kiera Knightly.
“It’s much more challenging to do it as a feature film. Because if you do a six-parter, you’ve got six hours to put it all in and let it unfold at a pace, which is closer to that of a book,” Firth said. “I think what was masterful about Matthew’s interpretation was that he did manage to tell that whole story in a more condensed form. And I think that’s very difficult because it’s so dependent on a slow reveal.”
“That was back in pre-streaming days when you really did have to wait for next Sunday to see the next part,” Firth added about his own turn as Mr. Darcy. “I think it was a huge achievement that that story was told [in that short time], and that Matthew managed to span the arc of that character.”