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Sue Birtwistle has a confession to make: Pride and Prejudice "is simply the sexiest book ever written.

Sue Birtwistle "By that I mean that Darcy staring at Elizabeth across a room is exciting, and Darcy and Elizabeth touching hands the first time they dance is erotic. I don't mean naked bedroom scenes," she explains.

Even after the year of hard work getting the series to the screen, she says: "it still remains one of my favorite novels. I must have read it, oh, hundreds of times. And I'm still finding new things in it. Jane Austen doesn't waste a word.

Sue Birtwistle. Not a sentence is superfluous." Sue first encountered the Bennet family when she was fifteen and, years later, was sitting in a screening room with Andrew Davies. "We were watching a version of Northanger Abbey" she recalls, "and after the credits had rolled and the lights went up, I said to Andrew "We simply have to make Pride and Prejudice...and we shook hands on it there and then. That was seven years ago. We both knew that it was the other's favorite book."

In Colin Firth, Sue believes that "we have the definitive Darcy. He's just perfect in every regard."In pitching the idea to a top television executive -- initially it was offered to ITV -- Sue says she and Andrew told him it was the story of five young women seeking husbands, and their pushy mum. "We made it sound very modern, very contemporary. He was beside himself and asked if we'd secure the rights to the book! We assured him that we had -- and he was totally taken aback when we told him that it was Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice that we'd been talking about!" But even after commissioning the first three scripts, ITV thought that it was probably too soon after the BBC's most recent version of the story to do it again. So we brought the project to the BBC, and everything went ahead."



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