It’s the role of a lifetime – the chance to steam up the screen as Regency heart-throb Mr. Darcy in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. We’ve seen many Darcys over the years, but who was the best? Now you get to decide.
Yesterday was the bicentenary of the publication of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. There’s no need to be scandalised by our blatant objectification of these leading men, we did the literary appreciation and analysis part yesterday, so now we can get to the really important matter – who was the hottest Mr. Darcy? Ladies and gentlemen, get your votes ready.
First, straight to the source. What did Austen have to say about Darcy in Pride and Prejudice?
The gentlemen pronounced him to be a fine figure of a man, the ladies declared he was much handsomer than Mr. Bingley, and he was looked at with great admiration for about half the evening, till his manners gave a disgust which turned the tide of his popularity; for he was discovered to be proud, to be above his company, and above being pleased; and not all his large estate in Derbyshire could then save him from having a most forbidding, disagreeable countenance, and being unworthy to be compared with his friend.”
Laurence Olivier in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ (1940)
Honestly, we can’t imagine Olivier is going to swing the vote, but we had to start at the beginning. This 1940 film starred Olivier as our leading man, opposite Greer Garson as Elizabeth Bennet. He looks slightly older, and more serious than the Darcys we have come to know in recent adaptations, but he was the first person to play the role in a prominent adaptation. Anyway, just look at that jawline, it certainly deserves some votes. And everyone always looks better in black and white.
Colin Firth in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ (1995)
Firth is going to be difficult to beat, we imagine. What else can be said, the man jumps into a lake in a white shirt and emerges totally soaked, oh my. He was brooding and sexy on screen, in a way that made it very clear that he thought he was better than everyone else – how very Mr. Darcy. Firth left most of the female population (and we dare say, a lot of the males as well) swooning in front of their televisions, as he tried to win over Jennifer Ehle as the lovely Miss Bennet. Well, he certainly won us over.
Martin Henderson in ‘Bride and Prejudice’ (2005)
Martin Henderson had his turn at Fitzwilliam Darcy in the somewhat questionable Bollywood adaptation of Pride and Prejudice,
not so wittily titled Bride and Prejudice. The fairly loose adaptation of Austen’s plot, and the modern day setting allowed Darcy to be somewhat more relaxed than in other versions – showing a different side to his character which many audience members responded to. Some fans may miss the usual English accent, but at least we get to see Darcy’s version of Bollywood dancing.
Matthew Macfadyen in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ (2005)
Matthew Macfadyen brought Jane Austen to a whole new generation in Joe Wright’s 2005 film, which also starred Keira Knightley. He gave us a slightly younger and softer Darcy – we would really buy that he wasn’t (only) prejudiced, he was also super shy. He may not have jumped into a lake, but he did walk through the pouring rain (luckily for us, without an umbrella), and then had that beautiful stroll through the morning fog – and both scenes did wonders to endear him to the audience (and us).
Elliot Cowan in ‘Lost in Austen’ (2008)
Cowan played the brooding and meddling Darcy in this twisted take on Pride and Prejudice, navigating the disasters that ensued when a modern-day girl found herself inside the novel. This incredibly meta version of Pride and Prejudice only became more so when Cowan’s Darcy was encouraged into a lake to recreate the scene made famous by Firth’s Darcy, in his 1995 adaptation. Not that we disliked this, in fact we’d be highly encouraging of all future Darcys recreating this scene. For, you know, reasons.
Daniel Gordh in ‘The Lizzie Bennet Diaries’ (2012-2013)
The newest entrance to the Darcy Club is a hipster’s dream come true. Gordh appears in the web series opposite Ashley Clements, adorned in all the bowties and suspenders we could want. His Darcy is exceedingly awkward and almost cripplingly shy. Of course it’s difficult to judge a Darcy who hasn’t had his ‘jump in the lake/walk through the fog/propose in the rain’ moment yet, but judging from the hysteria sparked by his first appearance in Darcy Day, he’s well on his way to becoming many fans’ favorite.