Updating 'Pride' for 2005

When Joe Wright set out to film the umpteenth screen adaptation of Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice," his goal was simple: "Make it youthful and fresh and not so stiff." The Monitor sat down to chat with Wright about the movie during a recent press tour.

Whose idea was it to turn "Pride and Prejudice" into a film again?

It was Working Title's idea - the production company. They realized that "Pride and Prejudice" hadn't been made as a film since 1940. A lot of their films have kind of been based on "Pride and Prejudice" - "Bridget Jones's Diary" and such.

What was your reaction when you were approached to direct the film?

I thought that "Pride & Prejudice" and Jane Austen was really for girls, and I thought that I was a bit more cool than that. I took the script to the pub one Sunday afternoon, and as I read it, I found myself weeping.... I found it very moving, and I was laughing out loud as well. And so that quite surprised me, so I went and read the novel and was shocked to find the novel as fresh and as lively as it is.... I cast away my prejudices and dived in.

What kind of an actress were you looking for when you cast the role of the heroine, Elizabeth Bennet?

I wasn't initially looking for someone as beautiful as Keira [Knightley]. I thought that Elizabeth Bennet should be slightly plainer ... you know, Darcy's attracted to her for the liveliness of her mind, rather than her physical attributes. But when I met Keira, I discovered her to be an extraordinary scruffy tomboy who didn't say what she thought you wanted to hear, said exactly what she believed, and has a wonderful lightness of humor. [She has] an incredible independence of spirit and a very quick wit. All of those qualities to me summed up the spirit of Elizabeth Bennet, so that's why I cast her.

This film is set in 1797. Do you think it's difficult for today's modern audience to identify with the film?

I don't think it is difficult to identify with the film because what one's dealing with are fairly elemental emotions, and that's what I find fascinating. And I think that the enduring appeal of the novel is dealing with two characters [who] have preconceived notions of each other and are prideful and resistant to what their hearts are telling them. I think that's as common today as it was in 1797.

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