Women who are intimately associated with Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, particularly the BBC Production which cast Colin Firth in the role of Mr Darcy, will understand the context, subtext and wildly amusing humour of this excerpt. An interesting piece of trivia is that this is the actual transcript of a real-life interview that Helen Fielding conducted on Colin Firth – where she took on the garb of Bridget Jones, or should I say, borrowed her mind for the duration.
Now, for those who do not know of the BBC Production of Pride and Prejudice, this will be difficult to explain. I was made aquainted with it through my sister, who got hooked onto a college cult following of the “wet t-shirt” scene… and when I enquired as to the reason behind all the fuss, she replied that she herself could not understand it at first, but her friends told her one would have to see BBC’s Pride and Prejudice 10 times before they realised that the wet t-shirt scene is one of the sexiest scenes imaginable for a woman.
Me, being who I am, always a curious fellow, and always willing to put myself into the strangest of shoes or the strangest of situations, I did actually sit down to watch Pride and Prejudice – and fully allowed myself to immerse myself in it – giving it the benefit of the doubt, in order to understand it (as far as I could muster) through the mind of a woman. I cannot say I got it completely, but I do admit, I have a better idea now. In any case, this transcript is an ingenius tribute to Darcy by the author of Bridget Jones. Enjoy…
Due to insuperable technical difficulties it has been necessary to print Bridget Jones’s interview with Colin Firth as a direct transcript of the recording.
BJ: Right. I’m going to start the interview now.
CF: (Slightly hysterical sounding) Good, good.
(Very long pause)
BJ: What is your favourite colour?
CF: I’m sorry?
BJ: What is your favourite colour?
BJ: What is your favourite pudding?
CF: Er. Crème brulee.
BJ: You know the oncoming film Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby?
CF: I do know it, yes.
BJ: (Pause. Rustling paper) Do… Oh. (More rustling paper) Do you think the book of Fever Pitch has spored a confessional gender?
CF: Excuse me?
BJ: Has. Spored. A. Confessional. Gender.
CF: Spored a confessional gender?
CF: Well. Certainly Nick Hornby’s style has been very much imitated and I think it’s a very appealing, er, gender whether or not he actually, um… spored it.
BJ: You know in the BBC Pride and Prejudice?
CF: I do know it, yes.
BJ: When you had to dive into the lake?
BJ: When they had to do another take, did you have to take the wet shirt off and then put a dry one on?
CF: Yes, I, I probably did have to, yes. Scusi. Ha vinto. E troppo forte. Si grazie.
BJ: (Breathing unsteadily) How many takes diving into the lake did you have to do?
CF: (Coughs) Well. The underwater shots were taken in Ealing Studios.
BJ: Oh no.
CF: I’m afraid so. The, um, moment of being airborne – extremely brief, was a stuntman.
BJ: But it looked like Mr Darcy.
CF: That was because he had stuck on sideburns and a Mr Darcy outfit on top of a wet suit, which actually made him look like Elvis as you last saw him. He could only do it once for insurance reasons and then he had to be checked for abrasions for about six weeks afterwards. All the other wet-shirt shots were me.
BJ: And did the shirt have to keep being re-wet?
CF: Yes. They’d sprayed it down. They’d sprayed it down and then…
BJ: What with?
CF: I’m sorry?
BJ: What with?
CF: A squirter thing. Look can we…?
BJ: Yes, but what I mean is did you ever have to take the shirt off and… put another one on?
BJ: To be wet again?
BJ: (Pause) You know the oncoming film Fever Pitch?
BJ: What do you see as the main differences and similarities between the character Paul from Fever Pitch and…?
BJ: (Sheepishly) Mr Darcy.
CF: No one’s ever asked me that.
BJ: Haven’t they?
CF: No. I think the main differences are…
BJ: Do you mean it’s a really obvious question?
CF: No. I mean no one’s ever asked me that.
BJ: Don’t people ask you that all the time?
CF: No, no. I can assure you.
BJ: So it’s a…
CF: It’s a totally brand new, new-born question, yes.
BJ: Oh goody.
CF: Shall we get on now?
CF: Mr Darcy’s not an Arsenal supporter.
CF: He’s not a schoolteacher.
CF: He lived nearly two hundred years ago.
CF: Paul in Fever Pitch loves being in a football crowd.
CF: Whereas Mr Darcy can’t even tolerate a country dance. Now. Can we talk about something that isn’t to do with Mr Darcy?
(Pause. Rustling papers)
BJ: Are you still going out with your girlfriend?
CF: Is everything all right?
BJ: (Almost inaudible) Do you think small British movies are the way forward?
CF: I can’t hear.
BJ: (Miserably) Do you think small British movies are the way forward?
CF: The way forward to… (Encouragingly)… to what?
BJ: (Very long thoughtful pause) The future.
CF: Right. They seem to be getting us along step by step, I think. I quite like small movies but I do also like big movies and it would be nice if we made more of those as well.
BJ: But don’t you find it a problem her being Italian and everything?
(Very long silence)
BJ: (Sulkily) Do you think that Mr Darcy has a political dimension?
CF: I did speculate on what his politics might be, if he had any. And I don’t think that they would be very appealing to a reader of the Independent. It’s that pre-Victorian or Victorian idea of being the rich social benefactor, which would be very Thatcherite probably. I mean the thought of socialism obviously hadn’t entered the…
CF:…entered his sphere. And it is clearly stated by way of showing what a good chap he is that he is very nice towards his tenants. But I think that he’d be closer to a sort of Nietzschean figure, a…
BJ: What is neacher?
CF: You know, the idea of the, er, human being as superhuman.
CF: Not Superman himself, no. No. (Slightly groaning noise) I don’t think he wore his underpants over his breeches, no. Look I’d really like to get off this subject now.
BJ: What will be your next project?
CF: It’s called The World of Moss.
BJ: Is it a nature programme?
CF: No. No, no. No. It’s um, it’s, er, about an eccentric family in the 30’s, the father of which owns a moss factory.
BJ: Doesn’t moss grow naturally?
CF: Well, no, he makes something called Sphagnum moss, which was used to dress World War One wounds and, er, it’s, er, quite a light, er, comic…
BJ: (Very unconvincingly) It sounds very good.
CF: I very much hope it will be.
BJ: Could I just check something about the shirt?
BJ: How many times altogether exactly did you have to take it off and put it on again?
CF: Precisely… I don’t know. Um. Let me see…there was the bit where I was walking towards Pemberley. That was shot once. One take. Then there was the bit where I give my horse to somebody…I think there was a change.
BJ: (Brightening) There was a change?
CF: (Strictly) There was. One change.
BJ: So it was mainly just the one wet shirt, though?
CF: The one wet shirt, which they kept respraying, yes. All right?
BJ: Yes. What is your favourite colour?
CF: We’ve had that.
BJ: Um. (Paper rustling) Do you think that the film Fever Pitch was in reality all about emotional fuckwittage?
CF: Emotional what?
BJ: Fuckwittage. You know: men being mad alcoholic commitment phobics and just being interested in football all the time.
CF: No, I don’t really. I think in some ways Paul is much more at ease with his emotions and has much more liberty with them than his girlfriend. I think that, in fact, in the final analysis, is what’s so appealing about what Nick Hornby’s trying to say on his behalf: that, in a rather mundane, everyday world he has found something where you have access to emotional experiences that…
BJ: Excuse me.
CF: (Sighs) Yes?
BJ: Don’t you find the language barrier a problem with your girlfriend?
CF: Well, she speaks very good English.
BJ: But you don’t think you’d be better off with someone who was English and more your own age?
CF: We seem to be doing all right.
BJ: Humph. (Darkly) So far. Do you ever prefer doing the theatre?
CF: Um. I don’t subscribe to the view that the theatre’s where the real acting is, that film’s not really acting. But I find I do prefer the theatre when I’m doing it, yes.
BJ: But don’t you think the theatre’s a bit unrealistic and embarrassing and also you have to sit through the acting for hours before you have anything to eat and you can’t talk or…
CF: Unrealistic? Embarrassing and unrealistic?
CF: Do you mean unrealistic in the sense that it…?
BJ: You can tell it isn’t real.
CF: That sort of unrealistic, yes. (Slight moaning sound) Um. I think it shouldn’t be if it’s good. It’s much more…It feels more artificial to make a film.
BJ: Does it? I suppose it doesn’t go all the way through, does it?
CF: Well, no. It doesn’t. Yes. A film doesn’t go all the way through. It’s shot in little bits and pieces. (Louder groaning noise) Little bits and pieces.
BJ: I see. Do you think Mr Darcy would have slept with Elizabeth Bennet before the wedding?
CF: Yes, I do think they might have.
BJ: Do you?
CF: Yes. I think it’s entirely possible. Yes.
BJ: (Breathlessly) Really?
CF: I think it’s possible, yes.
BJ: How would it be possible?
CF: Don’t know if Jane Austen would agree with me on this but…
BJ: We can’t know because she’s dead.
CF: No, we can’t…but I think Andrew Davies’s Mr Darcy would have done.
BJ: Why do you think that, though? Why? Why?
CF: Because I think it was very important to Andrew Davies that Mr Darcy had the most enormous sex drive.
CF: And, um…
BJ: I think that came across really, really well with the acting. I really think it did.
CF: Thank you. At one point Andrew even wrote as a stage direction: “Imagine that Darcy has an erection.”
(V. large crashing noise)
BJ: Which bit was that?
CF: It’s when Elizabeth’s been walking across the country and bumps into him in the grounds in the early stages.
BJ: The bit where she’s all muddy?
CF: And dishevelled.
BJ: And sweaty?
BJ: Was that a difficult bit to act?
CF: You mean the erection?
BJ: (Awed whisper) Yes.
CF: Um, well, Andrew also wrote that I don’t propose that we should focus on it, and therefore no acting required in that department at least.
CF: Is that it, then?
BJ: No. What was it like with your friends when you started being Mr Darcy?
CF: There were a lot of jokes about it: growling, “Mr Darcy” over breakfast and so on. There was a brief period when they had to work quite hard to hide their knowledge of who I really was and…
BJ: Hide it from who?
CF: Well, from anyone who suspected that perhaps I was like Mr Darcy.
BJ: But do you think you’re not like Mr Darcy?
CF: I do think I’m not like Mr Darcy, yes.
BJ: I think you’re exactly like Mr Darcy.
CF: In what way?
BJ: You talk the same way as him.
CF: Oh, do I?
BJ: You look exactly like him, and I, oh, oh…
(Protracted crashing noises followed by sounds of struggle)
– An Excerpt from Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason.