A Personal Diary of the Pride & Prejudice World Premiere
At the Odeon Cinema, Leicester Square, London on Monday 5th September 2005
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|Early on Monday
morning, I travelled the 120 miles from my home in the Midlands to Britain's
capital city, London. I had purchased tickets to the World Premiere of
Working Title and Universal Pictures' production of Pride & Prejudice,
to be held at the Odeon Cinema in Leicester Square. And besides, after
two years of reporting daily on the lady's career, I thought it about time
I saw Keira 'in the flesh'.
On arrival I jumped in a taxi and headed straight for the studios of BBC Radio 1, as they had kindly sent me an email on Friday to tell me Keira would be a guest on Jo Whiley's morning show. With press photographers already gathered and their forest of zoom lenses, I felt rather inadequate with my small digital camera ! Robbie Williams had been Jo's first guest, but had already left when I arrived. Keira, along with the rest of the Pride and Prejudice cast while in town, were staying at the Dorchester Hotel, paid for by the film company. Heavy traffic forced Keira to arrive later than scheduled at about 12.10 in the second of two cars. Wearing shades and hair extensions, she entered the building without stopping for photographs. She left at about 12.30 politely saying 'thank you' to photographers, more by way of letting her get to her car than being grateful for the photos, I'd imagine. She was carrying two presents given to her by two of Jo Whiley's smitten staff - a DVD of Keira's beloved West Ham football team in action, and a set of pencils, personally inscribed with her name. (See my first photo of the day, top right).
I then decided to walk down Regent Street, across the famous Piccadilly Circus and into Leicester Square, where I had a bite to eat. I later took some photographs of the billboards adorning the front of the Odeon Cinema, where the premiere would later take place. Although only 1.30 by this time, crowds were already seated on the floor, claiming their place at the front of the barriers in time for when they would be erected.
With a few hours to kill, I visited the National Portrait Gallery, just round the corner from Leicester Square, which is currently holding an exhibition of the World's Most Photographed, including rare or never-before-seen images of icons such as Queen Victoria, John F Kennedy, Elvis Presley and my favourite actress Audrey Hepburn. I later visited Trafalgar Square where I took the photograph above of Nelson looking down from his Column over a bus plastered with a Pride and Prejudice advertisement.
When I returned to Leicester Square at around 5pm, it was already being closed off and barriers were starting to be put in place. MTV UK presenter Alex Zane was in front of the cinema recording pieces for that evening's TRL show.
At 5.45, with Keira due at 6, excitement was beginning to grow among the approximately 200 fans who had now gathered. The pedestrian area in front of the Odeon is not very large, and with the press pack on the opposite side, as well as the photo agencies, this left little room for the public, and it was a shame to see so few people. The red carpet then arrived, along with lots of security people. Keira arrived shortly after at about 6 o' clock, accompanied by her brother Caleb and agent Lindy King, and immediately started talking to the long line of press and TV crews. She was still wearing her hair extensions, which beautifully complemented a purple and silver Matthew Williamson design dress.
I met up with my friend Su and had to wait behind a security cordon until 6.15 when our bags were searched and we were allowed onto the red carpet and inside the cinema. I never expected public and celebrity to be allowed too close together, and that certainly turned out to be the case, although I tried my best to upset the protocol ! With Keira slowly working her way down the line of TV networks towards the cinema entrance, I hung around tagged onto the end of the press line for as long as I could, ignoring the security people who were trying to get me inside. The photos on the right are the product of my fight ! I had no idea when my snapshots would be halted, hence Keira's gradual closeness in the photographs as she worked the press. Keira was just one TV camera away from me when I couldn't ignore the security any more and I was escorted away. So near, and yet so far. But that was not to be the last time I saw Keira.
We took our seats on the front row of the cinema theatre and a live feed from outside was showing what was going on on the red carpet. Only now were the rest of the guests arriving, being photographed, interviewed by ITV's Jenni Falconer and being ushered upstairs to the hospitality suite. Soon the screen went blank and the curtains were closed. The manager of the Odeon cinema appeared on the small stage in front of the screen and welcomed us to the premiere. He then introduced to the stage the chairmen of Working Title Films, Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner. They spoke about the challenge of making a movie like Pride & Prejudice which lead to their introduction of the movie's director Joe Wright, to enormous applause. He talked about the screenplay and the talents of the cast. He then introduced Mrs. Bennet, actress Brenda Blethyn, to even greater applause. She is a patron of the children's charity Barnardo's, for whom the proceeds of the evening benefitted, and thanked everyone for their patronage. Finally, Joe Wright retook the microphone and pulled out of his pocket a piece of paper. We were soon to find out it was a running order of the entire cast, and one by one they walked onstage. We could not have been better positioned to witness such a line-up ! (See photo right - not everyone is shown, and Dame Judi Dench did not attend the premiere).
After the stars had left the stage the curtains reopened and the full theatrical trailer was shown. We were then treated to a short film of the stars on the set at various locations talking about what it was like to work with the other actors. It was a charming and funny prelude to the movie and will no doubt appear as a 'featurette' on the DVD. This was followed by the movie itself. I must admit to having never read the novel or seen any of the previous adaptations, so I was in the fortunate position of being totally objective and unable to make comparisons. I loved it, and will go to see it again when on general release. As my friends know, I am the most cynical critic of movies - sometimes even Keira's - but I was bowled over by the richness and 'warm glow' factor this movie provided. The cinematography was simply breathtaking (at least from the front row!), and was beautifully shot and edited. The simple piano score complimented every scene wonderfully - reminding me of Keira's Doctor Zhivago in places. The acting was first class from everyone, especially Keira and Brenda Blethyn. Of the sisters I felt Talulah Riley and Carey Mulligan were rather under-used. I would liked to have seen them in more scenes. But the overriding memory of the movie was the humour. Was Pride & Prejudice meant to be a comedy ? No idea. Perhaps the director wanted to emphasise that, despite the virtual poverty in which the Bennets lived compared to the Darcys and deBourghs, that was no reason not to 'look on the bright side' of life. It was a very funny movie, and Keira had her fair share of laughs, although most belonged to Tom Hollander as Mr. Collins, with Brenda Blethyn a close second. At the end of the movie, everyone applauded (something which only happens at premieres in UK cinemas) and we left the cinema while the stars continued to party upstairs.
Although I had still not spoken to Keira, I returned to Euston station and caught the last train home, very tired, but extremely satisfied with a wonderful day. Go see the film - if I liked it, you'll love it !
(c) Paul Fisher
Captions in bold refer to photographs taken by me.
Above: Scans of both sides of the premiere
admission ticket. A London double decker bus featuring the P&P poster,
with Nelson's Column behind.
1. Keira and Radio 1 DJ Jo Whiley. (c)
3 & 4. The Odeon Cinema, dressed
for the occasion.
5 to 12. Keira walks the Press line. (c) Paul Fisher
13. Keira and cast members appear on stage. (c) Paul Fisher
14 & 15. Keira from the fan enclosure. (c) Alex Gisby.
16 to 19. Images from waytoblue.com
Links to other photo galleries.