The curse of Mr Darcy: did Colin Firth's beloved performance really damage his career?

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The actor has claimed that his famous role in Pride and Prejudice 25 years ago left him typecast and narrowed his acting horizons

Name: Mr Darcy.

Age: 207, 28, 35, 25, depending on how you look at it, really.

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World news | The Guardian

Name: Mr Darcy.

Age: 207, 28, 35, 25, depending on how you look at it, really.

Eh? Well, Pride and Prejudice was published in 1813, so you could say Fitzwilliam Darcy, Jane Austen’s romantic hero, was born 207 years ago. Or that he’s “eight and twenty”, as the character is, in the novel.

35 and 25? Well, who is your Mr Darcy?

Duh! Colin Firth, obviously. Emerging from the water in a clingy, wet white shirt ... All right, calm down. But yes, and not just you; it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman, married woman, man, anyone really, in possession of a pulse, must be in want of Colin Firth in a lake. He was 35 when he played him in that BBC adaptation, 25 years ago.

It set Firth, relatively unknown until then, on his way, no? Well, yes. And no. He told Good Housekeeping magazine that, while he’s grateful for the part, it has – ahem – prejudiced his career.

Because he disappeared afterwards. Oh, apart from The English Patient, Mark Darcy in the Bridget Jones films, Love Actually and The King’s Speech, of course, for which he won an Oscar. Then there are all the other awards, not to mention a few quid … Yeah, I see what you mean, totally tanked. He reckons he became typecast, after that scene in particular, which isn’t even in the novel. “It tended to create this image that can restrict what kind of roles you are going to be able to find.”

Global sex symbol, the poor lamb. “Looking good and strutting around is very boring. I wanted to do other things as an actor,” he said.

Maybe he wanted to play more East End gangsters, rappers, goblins … Maybe. He’s glad he got to show off his range in A Single Man, in which he played a depressed, older university lecturer.

What about others who have played the role? Are we calling it the curse of Darcy? Well, there’s Matthew Macfadyen, who most recently has been the “coughing major”, Charles Ingram, in ITV’s Quiz. But also was in the brilliant Succession. Matthew Rhys went on to The Americans, among other things. Laurence Olivier … I don’t know what happened to him, sank without trace.

No curse then? Not of Darcy, just of the wet white shirt. Maybe.

Do say: “A lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment,” as Darcy says, slyly, to Caroline Bingley.

Don’t say: “Phwoar, Colin, phwoar. Back in the lake!”


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