One of my greatest pleasures is to re-create a scene that is in a book,” said Andrew Davies, the screenwriter of “Pride and Prejudice,” “Sense and Sensibility,” “Emma,” “Northanger Abbey” and “Bridget Jones’s Diary.”
Davies grew up “unlike most boys,” finishing all of Austen’s novels by the age of 18, after starting them at 15.
“I re-read them fairly regularly,” he added.
“Pride and Prejudice” is Davies’ favorite Austen novel.
“It is beautifully plotted,” he said. “Elizabeth Bennett is most delightful.”
The goal for Davies as a screenwriter is to “make characters come out as real breathing humans with hormones,” he said.
Davies did not change a lot about the book, but he added scenes involving characters that needed more depth in the movie. Any character that was “neglected” in the novel was added in an extra scene, Davies said.
One of these characters that Davies felt deserved extra screen time was Mr. Darcy, the wealthy, arrogant counterpart for headstrong protagonist Elizabeth.
Colin Firth, who plays Mr. Darcy in the film adaptation, is “absolutely perfect,” said Davies. “He was exactly what I wanted.”
“‘Pride and Prejudice’ has a perfect plot,” said Davies.
This plot is mirrored in a modern-day script as well that Davies worked on, Helen Fielding’s “Bridget Jones’s Diary.”
“It was very funny, but it didn’t seem to know what kind of movie it was,” he said on joining the project. “We turned it into a full-blood romantic comedy.”
“Persuasion” is Davies second favorite novel.
“It is so moving, it can make you cry,” he said. “It is so satisfactory when it turns around at the end.”
The most interesting aspect about “Persuasion,” as well as other Austen novels, is the subplots, said Davies.
“People often ignore subplots and back stories,” he said. “People think of Jane Austen being prissy because of this,” he added.
It is the subjects in Austen’s novels that are ignored that attract Davies the most.
“It was kind of a Lolita-like plot,” said Davies on the two main character’s romantic relationship at the end of the novel. Emma is younger than Mr. Knightley, her friend since childhood whom she eventually realizes is the only man that can satisfy her as far as witty conversation and social class.
“Emma is such a fool, and gets things so spectacularly wrong,” said Davies. “She doesn’t respect people as real human beings.”
Frank Churchill is a character, which interested Davies. Churchill shows interest in both Emma and Jane Fairfax.
“Churchill is bamboozling both of them,” said Davies.
At the end, Churchill suggests the prospect of a threesome with Jane and Emma, he said.
“I want to send people back to the book,” said Davies. “I want to make them think about if they agree with my version,” he added.
Masterpiece Theatre, a program on PBS, will start to broadcast “The Complete Jane Austen” on January 13, 2008. This will include “Northanger Abbey,” “Pride and Prejudice,” “Emma” and “Sense and Sensibility,”
The show is the “perfect vehicle to include younger viewers,” said Rebecca Eaton, executive producer of Masterpiece Theatre and WGBH’s Mystery!
The films are “full of gorgeous young British actors and actresses,” she added.
The first Austen movie showcased on Masterpiece Theatre will be “Persuasion.”