Jane Austen’s most famous 19th-century novel, Pride and Prejudice, deals with English upbringing, morality, education, and marriage. Sony’s latest onscreen adaptation keeps the same ideas alive. Or rather, it keeps them undead.
Author Seth Grahame-Smith’s 2012 novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies reimagines Austen’s story by adding a few zombies to the mix. This Friday, the movie based on his book opens in theaters. Grahame-Smith's version parallels Austen's. It follows Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James) and Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley) during their torrid love affair. But there’s a difference: Miss Bennet is a fully trained fighter — she even trained in Japan — so she doesn’t need a man to save her. Oh, and zombies roam the countryside.
In mid-January, three stars of the film visited Miami as part of a promotional tour. There was Lily James, who appeared in four seasons of Downton Abbey and plays the film's lead character, Elizabeth Bennett; Matt Smith, the eleventh Doctor in Doctor Who, who plays Elizabeth’s cousin Parson Collins; and Douglas Booth, a BBC actor who plays Mr. Bingley.
The three sat next to each other in a meeting room at the Ritz-Carlton South Beach. All agreed that if Austen were alive today, she’d want to direct this film. “That’d be so cool — imagine being directed by Jane Austen!” exclaimed James, a brown-eyed blonde wearing a big smile and a formfitting cream-colored dress.
She had read the classic Austen novel but had never heard of the novel the film is based on before filming. In fact, she said she was “slightly horrified” when she read a copy of the script for the first time. Her initial reaction made the project more exciting. “After reading [Grahame-Smith’s] book, I realized how great the story is and how the two worlds work really well combined together.”
James recalled one scene in particular where she felt the internal conflict between Miss Bennett and Mr. Darcy was externalized. There's a moment when Darcy confesses his feelings for Bennett. She denies him because he was the cause of her sister’s unhappiness. The two then begin a brawl.
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“In this version [of the story], their sexual frustration and their longing was really brought out in this physical fight... the scene heightened the story arc, and it felt very dramatic and passionate,” James said.
New Times enticed the cast to play a little game of six degrees of separation. Because the actors are tied to some notable series, we adjusted the rules a bit. Watch as they try to connect Downton Abbey with Sherlock, Harry Potter with Star Wars, and Game of Thrones with Harry Potter using at least one of their costars.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Open in theaters Friday, February 5.