Monday, September 1, 2014

If Jane Austen Lived Now, Mr. Darcy Would Have Ruined Her Life Part I

Jane Austen lives present day. Her lawyer and manager, Carol, writes her about the current state of her affairs. Jane lives in Beverly Hills with her third husband, Barry.

Dear Jane:
First let me thank you for enclosing your proposed Christmas Card picture as posed on your estate in Beverley Hills, shown below. How clever of your sister and secretary Cassandra to reproduce the look of her earlier sketch of you and combine it with the ultimate in Hollywood style and glamor! I am sure all of your friends will love it. I notice you are not using your husband Barry in this year's card so I assume that your relationship with him is still not working out. I had hoped that when I sent you two to my own psychiatrist in Bel Air that things might improve.

I am reducing to writing the many conversations we've had over the last few weeks over the many decisions you have to make regarding your legal affairs. Most of these stem from your continuing turn-down problems with Darcy from "Pride & Prejudice" but we have also needed to address your family and estate law issues. Let's have an in person meeting after you have a chance to mull over this letter.

Our first concern is the many offers you have on the table for film, tv and book sequels to Darcy in P&P. I know you have repeatedly told me that you detest sequels "because they compromise your artistic integrity." Unfortunately, no one else seems to have any integrity and my desk is overflowing with proposals for zombie, werewolf, vampire, end of the world, etc., Fitzwilliam Darcys. I've turned them all down per your instructions but I think the other claims being made upon you, discussed below, might change your mind.

I have had to take on an extra assistant to read all of these and the average quality is terrible. Your letting P.D. James do "Death Comes to Pemberley" seems to be the only quality project to come across this desk in the last five years. I strongly urge you to reconsider this "no sequel" decision. Shown below is Death Comes to Pemberley, with Matthew Rhys, 2013. Matthew Rhys's manager is in touch with me and he is very eager to work with you if you yourself are willing to write the next project. He is very hot after this miniseries and his tv work on The Americans. I would not continue to brush him off as you have been doing.

And your objection that he is Welsh instead of English really doesn't bother anyone but you. I'm afraid the rest of the world thinks of everyone in the UK as being UKers and these distinctions between a Welshman and an Englishman only matter to you as far as "only using Englishmen to play Darcy". Please don't bite my head off for this. I know we've argued in the past but no one in North America or Asia even understands this point when I bring it up to them!

Next, the estate of Laurence Olivier has also been in touch. It would like to use Larry's likeness in some Darcy art posters for art house cinema lobbies. There are a number of these theaters opening world wide and both you and Larry's estate might do very well on granting these limited rights. I know you've said "You don't do posters," and further hate this version because Greer's costumes are wrong for the era. However, Larry's heirs are eager to get some more cash flowing into the estate and they beg you to reconsider. We think we can minimize Greer in the posters. You too may come to appreciate the extra cash, as more fully discussed below. Shown below is 1940's Pride & Prejudice, starring Larry.

I know you hate the 1980 miniseries of P&P, currently showing on Netflix and other venues, shown below, but Jane, there is no way we can get an injunction to prevent its distribution. You sold off those rights back then and there is no use screaming at me that I should have anticipated the coming of the internet when you did so. We both thought the series would fade into oblivion and the fact that the internet revived it and that places like Netflix now exist to screen it, was not foreseeable. I have seen the series and it is actually ok. It is not the best version but you do not need to take out ads disowning it as you have in the past in the Hollywood Reporter and Variety. Those ads cost a fortune and I do not think it is a wise outlay of your money, especially when there are so many other financial claims upon you.

Thankfully you are not displeased with Colin Firth's version made in 1995 below. It is unfortunate this is the version you want to grant further rights because I am sorry to say that Mr. Firth has no interest in pursuing any venture regarding him as Mr. Darcy. He has since won the Oscar for The King's Speech and an Oscar nomination for A Single Man and he considers his tv miniseries of Darcy something he'd rather forget. His wife's relatives in Italy make fun of him for being "a heart throb" back in England and this comes up again and again in his tv interviews.

Firth also played the modern incarnation of Darcy twice in Bridget Jones which you okayed last decade. Neither of you were terribly crazy about the idea of a modern Darcy but you both needed the money at that time. And indeed you both did very well on those two films but he's had it. His career has taken a very prestigious upswing and he's not going to jeopardize his increased status in the film world. His people won't even return my calls as he's instructed them that there are to be no more Darcys. He is now in his 50s and is quite right when he says he is too old for the part.

As to your other favorite version, made in 2005 with Matthew Macfadyen below, I am not having any luck there either. He never thought he could pull off Darcy in the first place and is very thankful he managed to do it. As you recall, you had many fights with both him and the director as they had to substantially change the language to make it work with Matthew Macfadyen. Everyone was surprised when the final film worked, not least you yourself. He is back on tv playing an early cop. He was also quite popular playing a spy on MI5. He now wants to stay on tv plus he still smarts from those fights the two of you had over his more emotive and silent interpretation of Darcy. He is also now a decade older and had to struggle with being attractive enough for the role ten years ago and wasn't crazy about the fact that you were the one who brought this physical lack up the most to him. His people are also not returning my phone calls as I try to engage their interest anew. I think you are going to have to forget him along with Mr. Firth.

I know you were unhappy about the Indian (Bollywood) version of P&P, see below, but actually it did well both critically and commercially. I wish I had some other foreign money on the table for other foreign versions for you but there are no such proposals before me.  The international market has become very important to everyone in media entertainment and we can't really afford to look down on say Japan's maybe next wanting to make its own version. So please keep an open mind on this should another country enter with a proposal.

Part II of this entry appears on Wednesday.

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