Colin Firth & Matthew Macfadyen agree: Mr. Darcy is grumpy because he’s afraid

Operation Mincemeat is currently available on Netflix. It’s the true story of a British intelligence scheme during World War II. The scheme involved planting false intelligence on a corpse and lots of hijinks. This film is also pretty special because director John Madden cast the Two Darcys, Colin Firth and Matthew Macfadyen. Firth played Mr. Darcy in the BBC’s Pride & Prejudice miniseries in the 1990s. Macfadyen played Mr. Darcy in the wonderful 2005 film. Both are completely valid Darcys, bringing different energies to the Darcy table. I know everyone has their favorite Darcy but I like them both!! Anyway, Vanity Fair recently did a joint interview with the two Darcys and they actually compared notes for a moment about the Darcy character and I was so delighted when I got to that part.

Did they compare notes on playing Darcy, though? “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.”

At this point, Firth interjects to point out that theirs isn’t some massively unique shared experience. “Maybe we both played Mercutio at some point at drama school or something. It’s not as if we’re the only two people who played it.” That being said, Firth takes a moment to commend his colleague for managing to encapsulate Darcy’s entire story arc in a two-hour movie.

“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. 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. You think he’s one thing, and gradually, we’ve lived with the doubt about that, and the perceptions gradually and slowly change.”

Firth also gets a little misty-eyed thinking about TV programming in 1995. “That was back in pre-streaming days, when you really did have to wait for next Sunday to see the next part,” he points out. “So it unfolded very slowly. 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.”

Macfadyen, who has confessed that Firth was an inspiration for him becoming an actor, looks down, uncomfortable with the praise. “I played him like a sort of grumpy adolescent, probably because I felt quite grumpy because I was scared,” says Macfadyen.

Firth looks surprised to hear this. “I think I did too, actually.”

Says Macfadyen, “He is, isn’t he?”

“He’s scared,” agrees Firth. “‘This place isn’t good enough. I’m not dancing in a place like this.’ It’s because he’s afraid to dance.”

“Exactly,” says Macfadyen. “It’s all fear. It’s all based on fear.”

[From Vanity Fair]

RIGHT??? Isn’t this amazing?? I could watch Firth and Macfadyen sit around for two hours, talking about how Darcy is a grumpy, scared adolescent terrified of dancing. I loved that they had that minor bond over the character! As for what Firth says about how he thinks it’s easier to do a miniseries and let the story unfold at its own pace… I get that. That’s why I’ll always have so much love for the Firth-led series, because it’s so authentic to the book and you get to see the subplots develop and all of that. What’s great about the 2005 film is that you don’t waste a ton of time on the Wickham plot. Wickham is there, we get the gist of it, we understand what a POS he is and that’s it. That being said, I do feel like the film didn’t do enough to develop Jane and Charles’s romance in the early stages.

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, BBC and the 2005 ‘P&P’.

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30 Responses to “Colin Firth & Matthew Macfadyen agree: Mr. Darcy is grumpy because he’s afraid”

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  1. CommentingBunny says:

    Colin Firth is forever my Darcy.

    I mean they were both great in the role. But Colin Firth *sigh* 😍

    • Gina says:


    • AMA1977 says:

      Colin Firth 4-EVA, both as Fitzwilliam and Mark. Mmmmm. He’s my Forever Darcy.

      I watch Bridget Jones’ Diary every time my husband goes out of town, and I’m overdue for a re-re-rewatch of the BBC miniseries. Perhaps I start this weekend!

  2. ThatsNotOkay says:

    But when we get to Bridget Jones, after romanticizing Mark Darcy for damn near twenty years, I’ve come to realize Daniel is so much more FUN. But neither is marriage material.

  3. Becks1 says:

    Colin Firth is the best Darcy!!!!

    We watched Operation Mincemeat last weekend and it was much better than I had anticipated. I knew McFadyen was in it but didn’t realize which character he was for a minute bc I didn’t recognize him, lol. But it was very good, surprisingly funny at parts, and even knowing how it ended, it was very suspenseful.

    I just read the Rose Code by Kate Quinn which is about Bletchley Park and codebreaking so it actually kind of went with parts of Mincemeat and the invasion of Sicily (there’s also a cameo in the book from Kate Middleton’s grandmother, which made me roll my eyes but whatever.) I recommend the book and the movie (although the book is not about OM, its just about codebreakers and betrayal and traitors during WW2 lol.)

  4. K says:

    Operation Mincemeat was ok, but I will watch anything with Matthew McFadyen. Homeboy can, like, get it.

  5. Laalaa says:

    Both are great, and both adaptations are amazing, pure art.
    I agree he’s scared – I met a guy like that. Always grumpy, always meh, always negative. And years later he said he was afraid, of everything and everyone.
    I knew because he could never look me in the eye. But still was surprised by his admission.

  6. L84Tea says:

    I often feel like I’m in the minority in this debate. I love both of them, both are fantastic as Mr. Darcy. But Matthew McFayden’s version of Darcy literally makes my heart speed up. He nailed the mix of arrogance, shyness, and romance so perfectly.

    • K says:


    • mathpint says:

      I’m joining you in this minority. Both are absolutely fantastic, but McFayden’s is **swoon.**

    • mia girl says:

      I’m at your table too!

      I loved Collin Firth as Darcy, but then Matthew came along and brought a difference sort of nuance to Darcy along with some smoldering heat. He was perfection.

      He is such a good actor because when I’m watching him in other roles, Succession specifically, I can hardly believe it’s the same actor.

      • k says:

        Right? He is def one of those actors who can disappear into a role. It took me several episodes of Succession to realize he was Mr. Darcey and Oblonsky from Anna Karenina.

    • Danbury says:

      He’s my Darcy choice too!

    • Becks1 says:

      I liked Matthew McFadyen as Darcy, but I admit I’m not the biggest fan of Keira Knightley as an actress (no issues with her as a person AFAIK lol, but her acting is always very one-note to me. She’s always Elizabeth Swann, and even then she wasn’t very good lol) so I didn’t love that version of P&P as a result.

      Jennifer Ehle is the perfect Elizabeth Bennet for me.

  7. Abby says:

    I love both P&P, but the 2005 one was just…life changing. I used elements of it in my wedding, 5 years later. 😆

    This conversation between them about Mr. Darcy is just delightful. Thank you for sharing. I wish they’d talk more about it!

    • L84Tea says:

      Ooh, I’m curious now. What elements did you add to your wedding??

      • Abby says:

        We had the quote “You have bewitched me, body and soul, and I never wish to be parted from you, from this day forward…” on the front of our ceremony program.

        And I walked down the aisle to the score from the dawn proposal scene. That sounds so cheesy, but it really really meant a lot to me!

      • L84Tea says:

        Not cheesy at all. That sounds so lovely!

        If it makes you feel any better, the introduction music we picked for our reception introduction was Dick Dale’s “Miserlou”–we all have our things!

    • Babz says:

      Your wedding sounds lovely! Congratulations! While I adore both actors, Matthew is my Mr. Darcy, I think. The biggest reason the 2005 version resonates with me is the music. Lush, evocative, melodic…I watch it over and over, and the music gets me every time. The scene where Lizzie stands on the cliff, and the music swells, is my favorite, but the proposal scene is a very close second. I love that you chose the proposal scene’s music for your processional. I’m sure it was stunning!

      • Bayley says:

        I listened to the Dawn music on repeat giving birth and in the hospital cuddling my newborn!

  8. Sasha says:

    I don’t have a favourite! They both brought something uniquely charismatic to their roles. But that photo MM walking through the mist… *swoon*… I feel like he was maybe a slightly grittier Darcy and I love his speech to Keira Knightley at the end where he says he’s been ‘bewitched’. Ahh………..

  9. Cait says:

    True story, in 1995, I was finally asked out by my high school crush after we awkwardly pined for one another for three years. He asked me to grab coffee on a Sunday night, and I was like, “Nope, sorry, Pride & Prejudice is on A&E.”

    (We’re still friends. He came to my wedding 13 years ago.)

    I love them both for their nuanced takes on an odd literary hero. And sweet baby Tebow, do they both have magnificent voices!

  10. Miranda says:

    I have a friend who grew up in an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist family. She was homeschooled and her parents were very strict about what she and her sisters were allowed to read and watch, but Jane Austen was approved. They watched the 1995 P&P when they were in their early teens, and it became a firm favorite. My friend’s father apparently had no clue why his wife and daughters enjoyed it so much. She has since described the pond scene as the closest thing she knew to porn until she was in her 20s. I can’t think of P&P without thinking of that story.

    (Just to reassure everybody, my friend and her sisters all escaped the IFB. They eventually went to secular universities and got real educations and are safe and happy now.)

  11. Saba says:

    I love both Darcys!

    Firth’s was funnier as there was room to ham it up – like obsessively staring and creeping on Lizzie at that party.

    Whereas McFadyen got to portray how seriously painful it is to have a crush while suffering with social anxiety.

  12. Beech says:

    I remember it well, Saturday night the premiere of the first episode of P & P. I cleaned, did laundry, put fresh sheets on the bed, took a leisurely bubble bath and donned a flannel nightgown, looked like fucking Heidi. I made hot cocoa with a dash of Kahlua. The weather was glorious, cold, windy, rainy and thundering, so rare for the desert. All these years later and now Firth looks like Mr Frederickson from Up,lol. He has skinny legs, saw him at Telluride. That said my heart belongs with MacFayden. That’s all.

  13. Lucía says:

    I don’t even care if this movie is good or bad, I’m just over the moon about the fact that someone decided to cast them both together in it. They’re both lovely.

  14. Nic919 says:

    Macfayden was always the best part of the P and P movie but I didn’t like KK that much as Elizabeth Bennett and they tossed in elements from Brontë, especially at the end, which just was not the point of an Austen book. No one was wandering in the morning mist half dressed in an Austen book and that was a total Hollywood type change by a director who never understood Austen at all.