Rosamund Pike, Keira Knightley, Jena Malone and Carey Mulligan Pride Girls

It is rare for several careers to take off after a movie, but there have been some films that famously launched many careers or established stars in a new light. Mean Girls and Love Actually are two movies people frequently cite where many cast members went onto greater fame. With Gone Girl and The Hunger Games series, the actresses who played four of the Bennett girls (Rosamund Pike, Keira Knightley, Jena Malone and Carey Mulligan) in the 2005 Pride and Prejudice film are all attracting attention a decade later.

For those not fans of Elizabeth Bennett and her sisters, they are the young ladies featured in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Joe Wright’s 2005 version sported a stellar cast of young actresses as the five Bennett girls.

In the book, Jane is the eldest and most beautiful daughter. Reviews of Pike’s portrayal of the reserved, demure looker were good.

However, Knightley as Elizabeth or Lizzie is the heart of the film. As the New York Times phrased it, “Her radiance so suffuses the film that it’s foolish to imagine Elizabeth would be anyone’s second choice.” But, perhaps the reviewer missed the idea that this Bennett girl is sharp-tongued and sharp-minded, which would turn off lesser suitors than Fitzwilliam Darcy.

While Knightley started acting as a child (and even was Natalie Portman’s handmaiden in Star Wars: Episode One, she first drew global attention in Bend It Like Beckham. The actress was born in 1985 in London, the daughter of an actor and a playwright. She grew up immersed in the profession and got her first agent at 6 years old. Knightley has starred in many movies since appearing at the feisty Lizzy Bennett, including the first three Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

The beautiful Pike is well cast as the beautiful eldest daughter Jane. Pike was born in London in 1979 to an opera singer and a violinist and spent years traveling through Europe with them before finishing school and graduating from Oxford. The actress first drew attention as a Bond babe in Die Another Day, but the current Gone Girl is her first international leading lady role. (She had a supporting part in Mulligan’s first star turn, An Education.)

Born in 1984 in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, Malone received great reviews as flirty, flighty Lydia Bennett, but had already drawn attention and raves as a young teen in numerous films, including Bastard Out of Carolina, Step Mom and For Love of the Game. She had a jaw-popping scene in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and is sure to be watchable in the last two films in the series. 

Pride was Mulligan’s first paid acting job. The London-born (1985) actress had met actor/writer Julian Fellowes (Downton Abbey, Gosford Park and The Young Victoria), when he spoke at her school. Fellowes paved the way for her to be cast as giggling young Kitty Bennett. Besides appearing with Pike twice, Mulligan also worked again with Knightley (who is actually her age, but played several years older in Pride) in Never Let Me Go.

The one Bennett actress who has not become that well-known, but does continue to perform is Talulah Riley. Riley had the role of Mary Bennett, the singing, piano playing serious daughter. In real life, she is married to Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors and co-founder of PayPal.

Jane Austen’s novel, Pride and Prejudice, has been made into countless movies and television productions featuring the original 18th century England as well as contemporary versions (Bridget Jones Diary, Bride and Prejudice, and even an Israeli version set in the high-tech industry). There have been stage dramas and a couple of musicals, too. While some featured Colin Firth or Laurence Olivier, no other was buoyed by the stellar cast of girls destined for future films that were featured in the 2005 Pride movie: Rosamund Pike, Keira Knightley, Jena Malone and Carey Mulligan.

By Dyanne Weiss

New York Times
Boston Globe

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