Another Pride and Prejudice Film in the Works, and the Immortal Appeal of Jane Austen

Colin Firth in Pride and Prejudice © 1995 BBC
Colin Firth in Pride and Prejudice © 1995 BBC

Are you ready for another Pride and Prejudice movie? No, not the long-awaited version with zombies in it. Author Jo Baker’s yet-to-be-released novel, Longbourn, which explores Austen's story from the point of view of the servants in the Bennet household, has been optioned to be turned into a film by Focus Features and Random House Studio Films.

Jo Baker grew up idolizing Austen’s literature. In rereading the classic novels, Baker realized that by her own social standing, she wasn’t as much of a Bennet at all. “I began to become aware that if I'd been living at the time, I wouldn't have got to go to the ball; I would have been stuck at home with the sewing,” she told The Hollywood Reporter. “Aware of that English class thing, Pride and Prejudice begins to read a little differently." With that came an idea for a behind-the-scenes view of the Bennet's wealthy existence. Bringing background characters to the forefront, the servants become the focus as they watch the family twitter around the house and prepare for royal balls and incoming guests. The servants' own stories will be just as richly developed as Austen’s own material, promising nothing short of romance and tragedy.

The tale of Elizabeth Bennet’s push-and-pull affections toward Mr. Darcy have been endlessly imitated, adapted, modernized, and satirized. There have been three film adaptations, seven miniseries adaptations, a play, and even a Broadway musical. In 2009, Austen’s famous heroine fought against a zombie war in Seth Grahame-Smith’s mash-up novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (an adaptation has been in the works since the novel was released, attaching three different directors to the project and spawning a long list of leading ladies who could play the lead). Helen Fielding used the basic story to pen Bridget Jones’s Diary, a successful novel that spawned an equally successful film and a sequel to both (a third, in both film and novel formats, has long been in the works). You could even say the long, drawn-out romance of Carrie Bradshaw and Mr. Big on "Sex and the City" has hints of a Bennet/Darcy tension. Nora Ephron’s 1998 film "You’ve Got Mail" has similar themes in the relationship between Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks starring as business competitors. Unbeknownst to them, they’ve been anonymously emailing each other love letters after meeting in a chat room. Ryan even quotes Pride and Prejudice as her favorite novel and brings a copy with her when the pair plans to meet on a blind date. The story even translated over to a Bollywood film called "Bride and Prejudice." More recently, Elizabeth Bennet has been brought into the twenty-first century in a video blog called "The Lizzie Bennet Diaries." The series consists of five-minute episodes featuring “Lizzie” as a grad student and Darcy as CEO of the company she’s interning at. The web series has inspired a string of companion video blogs, along with Twitter and Tumblr accounts for each character.

Endless versions of Pride and Prejudice aside, not a single book of hers hasn’t been adapted into a film, and furthermore, all of them have been adapted multiple times. Beyond that, countless filmmakers have used her basic material and modernized it. Whit Stillman’s 1990 film, "Metropolitan," was a loosely adapted modern-day version of Mansfield Park. "Clueless," Amy Heckerling’s 1995 film, is really just a Beverly Hills teenager revamp of Emma. Jane Austen’s work will always be relevant, because it’s still relatable, even if you end up relating more to one of the servant characters in the background.