The new TV adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma starring Romola Garai and Jonny Lee Miller, and adapted by Sandy Welch (Jane Eyre, The Turn of the Screw), was shown in the Autumn in the UK and has just been airing in the US.
On paper, this ought to have been A Good Thing, since the last adaptations of any note were made in 1996 (Douglas McGrath’s film version starring Gwyneth Paltrow in the title role and Jeremy Northam as Mr Knightley, and a tv version for the BBC scripted by Andrew Davies and starring Kate Beckinsale and Mark Strong). The BBC have reputedly decided to scale down their “bonnets” and the classic literature period drama genre is also out of fashion in cinema so this may well be one of the last Emma’s we see for some considerable time.
However, the new adaptation does not seem to have gone down well with the viewing public in either country and the main stumbling block seems to be Mr Knightley! Here’s a selection of the many similar comments from Twitter which will explain the problem:
@booksandmovies I love Knightley – especially as played by Jeremy Northam!
@minneapolisnice I can’t help it. Jeremy Northam has spoiled me for anyone else as Knightley. I even visualize him whenever I reread Emma.
@IDreamofIndia Mr. Knightley… Can’t quite warm to him yet. There’s none better than Jeremy Northam
Poor Jonny Lee Miller! A decent enough actor, and a decent stab at the role too, but unfortunately, it is a truth universally acknowledged (sorry, couldn’t help myself!) that Jeremy Northam made this role his own in the 1996 film version and anyone who has seen his Knightley holds it in a special place in their hearts. Northam gives a charismatic, flirty, witty and downright sexy turn as Knightley, personifying most women’s dream man (and some!). To be fair, Jonny’s not ugly, but mention his name and you will not get the almost universal sigh of appreciation women give when you mention Jeremy Northam’s Mr Knightley. Northam’s chastisement of Paltrow’s Emma after her rudeness to Miss Bates makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. And the proposal scene (if you’ve seen it you are smiling and getting soppy already) which Northam handles with such disarming charm has been the benchmark for marriage proposals that many poor men have been measured unfavourably against. It’s not only Emma who falls in love with him, we all do.
Jonny did his best, but Jeremy Northam will always be MY Mr Knightley.
Jeremy Northam is about to be seen on US tv screens every week in Miami Medical, as Dr Matt Proctor, to air on CBS from April 2, 2010. The promos can be seen at http://www.cbs.com/primetime/miami_medical/
To meet other fans, get the latest news and chat about Jeremy’s work (a warm welcome is assured), please visit: http://www.jeremynorthaminfo.com