The true story behind Mr. Darcy’s infamous hand flex.
Perhaps one of Austen fans’ favorite moments on film comes from an early scene in the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. It comes before any kisses or declarations: it’s when Mr. Darcy holds Elizabeth Bennett’s hand as he helps her into a carriage—and then, walking away, he flexes his hand. An attempt to shake off the powerful moment? An attempt to remember it? A reflex to the pleasure of that connection? You decide:
The moment’s taken on a life of its own, even becoming a popular internet meme. (And if you want, take a walk through the comments on that YouTube clip: yearning Janeites really respond to this scene.) But in an interview with NPR, Matthew Macfadyen (Mr. Darcy) revealed the iconic moment wasn’t planned: Macfadyen did it reflexively, and director Joe Wright knew it was gold.
It’s credit to Joe, because he doesn’t miss a trick and he’s so alive to things, and he saw me do it in a rehearsal take and I remember him just going, “Get that!” So they just did an extra shot on the hand.
Yes—this is the power of a bold acting choice and a thoughtful actor! Shaping the course of the movie (and Austen fans’ erotic imaginations for years to come): it’s something Macfadyen didn’t expect when he first started working on the movie, when he was afraid of not measuring up to the Darcy Austen wrote. “I didn’t feel I was dishy enough and sort of brooding enough,” Macfadyen told NPR. “In your mind’s eye, as an actor, you always want to be a little more of this and a little more that and my confidence wasn’t great . . . I sort of decided that he was like a tortured adolescent, Mr. Darcy, which, in a way, he was. He’s grieving his parents. He’s inherited this vast estate and responsibility and he’s all conflicted and torn up, and so I thought, oh, that’ll be my way into him.”