Jane Austen On-Screen: From Sci-Fi to Zombies and Living Like the Writer Herself
Like Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, Jane Austen's Emma is continuously revisited. Director Autumn de Wilde is bringing the story of the 1800s matchmaker to the big screen, starring Anna Taylor-Joy in the title role, with Anglo favorites Miranda Hart and Bill Nighy stepping in to support.
There is a plethora of Jane Austen adaptations and inspired-by projects to binge on. We've put together a sampling of what's available:
1. Lost in Austen
While not a straight adaptation, but definitely inspired by Austen, this four-part miniseries is a hybrid of sci-fi and period genres. A young woman (Jemima Rooper) living in modern-day London is transported back to 1797, swapping lives with Austen's fictional Elizabeth Bennet.
2. Sense and Sensibility
Emma Thompson not only stars in 1995's Sense and Sensibility, she also wrote the screenplay. She takes on the role of Elinor Dashwood. When her father passes away, her mother is left with little money and three daughters to raise.
3. Pride and Prejudice
No matter what role Colin Firth plays, he will always be remembered for Mr. Darcy in the Pride and Prejudice miniseries. The scene where he comes out of the pond in a soaked button down shirt is iconic. He plays a suitor to Elizabeth Bennet (Jennifer Ehle), who has a few men courting her.
4. Death Comes to Pemberley
Matthew Rhys takes on the role of Mr. Darcy in the TV adaptation of P.D. James' 2011 novel by the same name. His story follows up Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, picking up six years after Darcy married Elizabeth, played by Anna Maxwell Martin. Doctor Who’s Jenna Coleman takes on the role of Elizabeth’s sister Lydia, who shows up to the Pemberley estate unexpectedly, throwing things off kilter.
5. Mansfield Park
In Mansfield Park, a young Fanny Price goes to live with her aunt and uncle. In the 1999 movie, we see how her life progresses from 10 to teenage to adulthood. She is deemed clever, studious and a strong writer... did Austen put herself in this novel? Possibly.
1995's Clueless is a modern adaptation of Emma, set in a Beverly Hills high school. Alicia Silverstone takes the lead, matchmaking teachers, classmates, even her step-brother (Paul Rudd).... until she realizes she's left one person out. She left her own love life on the shelf.
While Clueless is a bit of fun, 1996's Emma was a straight adaptation of the novel. Before there was this year's Emma. (yes, there is meant to be a period on the end) Gwyneth Paltrow played the good-natured nosey body. Not everyone can do it, but Paltrow pulled off a faux British accent.
In 2013, Keri Russell played a young woman obsessed with everything Jane Austen-related. She even traveled to a Jane Austen theme park to find love. But, things were not as she expected. We're sort of picking on a theme here... that Austen's stories aren't all that predictable.
9. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Doctor Who's Matt Smith stepped into a Jane Austen adaption in 2016... sort of. We already went over the synopsis of Pride and Prejudice above. It's Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley), Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James) and Mr. Collins (Smith) fighting zombies. We love a good genre hybrid.
In 2019, Sanditon was brought to the screen by PBS. The eight-part series revolves around Charlotte Heywood (Rose Williams), who moves from her rural home to a fishing village, that's on the verge of becoming a seaside resort. Austen's novel was unfinished, but we trust PBS to carry on the story.
Shall we have a Jane Austen marathon this weekend? Who's in!?