Firth delighted millions of female British viewers when he played the JANE AUSTEN hero in a 1995 TV dramatisation, and he is grateful for the exposure the part gave him. He hopes the new film adaptation will help McFadyen's career in a similar way.
The 45-year-old says, "I hear Matthew is fantastic. I knew he would be. That role was fantastic to me 10 years ago but I think it's other people, not me, who have found it weird that someone else should play it.
"I played HAMLET once and I've seen others play that too. I don't own the Darcy role and never wanted to. I'm very happy to let as brilliant an actor as Matthew take on the mantle."