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