WHERE WERE YOU WHEN: Mr Darcy emerged from the lake

Pride and Prejudice screenwriter Andrew Davies is thrilled we’re still talking about it.

Mr Darcy

Pride and Prejudice has been a favourite novel of mine ever since I read it at school when I was 15, so I was very excited when I got the job to adapt it for the BBC in the early 90s.

The lake scene with Mr Darcy (played by Colin Firth) wasn’t in the original novel because Jane Austen would never allow herself to write any scenes where a man was on his own or where two men were talking as she said she wouldn’t know what they were like. But in the adaptation I wanted viewers to get to know Darcy, so I showed him in private moments – fencing, in the bath. I suppose a lot of them were occasions when he’s got his kit off!

At this particular point, he’s returning from London where he’s been with a lot of very stuffy people and he’s got this interval of time on his own. It’s a hot day, he’s passing his lake and he thinks, ‘I’ll just dive in.’ I’d always imagined he’d dive in naked, but it would have been too time-consuming to have an undressing scene. We just thought it would be amusing to show him having a polite conversation with Elizabeth Bennet (played by Jennifer Ehle), with neither referring to the fact that he’s dripping wet.

I knew it had made an impression after it was broadcast, when I’d go round to friends’ houses and a lot of women had that picture of Colin Firth stuck up in their kitchens. I’ve only spoken to Colin about it in a jokey way – I apologised that he was never going to get away from people’s image of him being Mr Darcy in that wet shirt. But I think he’s quite happy with it.

I’m thrilled we’re still talking about it. New versions of Pride and Prejudice come out and, while I wish them well, I always secretly hope that people are going to say, yes, it’s all right, but it’s nothing like the 1995 version!

Also that month…

Photo by PictureLux / The Hollywood Archive / Alamy Stock Photo
  • O J Simpson was found not guilty of the murders of his former wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goodman.
  • Novelist Kingsley Amis died.
  • Simply Red’s single ‘Fairground’ hit number one in the charts.
  • The Disney film Pocahontas was released in the UK.