Blond ambition: the rise and rise of Johnny Flynn, a man for all seasons

He’s already a star of folk music, stage and film, and now the actor is bringing a blond – and nude – Mr Knightley to cinemas in a new take on Emma

Being a fictional hero was once a more straightforward business. You were handsome, you were honourable and brave: you were in. Colin Firth only had to dampen his white shirt a little to update Jane Austen’s most famous romantic lead, Mr Darcy, in the hit 1995 television adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

But changing times call for a fresh approach. And so the portrayal of Mr Knightley, hero of the latest big-screen version of Austen’s Emma, has been the subject of much speculation ahead of the film’s opening on 14 February.

Johnny Flynn, actor, musician and renaissance man, has the tricky job of measuring up to every Austen fan’s dreams of George Knightley, the wise and kindly figure who has always rivalled the more austere Darcy in readers’ affections.

Newspaper headlines so far have inevitably focused on a scene in which Flynn appears nude. “Move over Mr Darcy!” cried the Daily Mail.

Flynn as George Knightley in director Autumn de Wilde’s Emma.
 Flynn as George Knightley in director Autumn de Wilde’s Emma. Photograph: Focus Features

If Flynn, who will also appear on screen this year as David Bowie

in Stardust, as well as in British film The Dig, already looks familiar, it is because of his recent role in the BBC serialisation of Les Misérables, or as the dependable William Dobbin in ITV’s Vanity Fair. Yet the actor, 36, says he knew from the start that he had to handle Knightley with especial care. Quite apart from the line in the novel where his character admits to having loved Emma Woodhouse, 16 years his junior, since she was 13 years old, Knightley also does a fair amount of moral lecturing. Something the director, Autumn de Wilde, admits can read today like “mansplaining”.

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First look at Mackenzie Crook in Worzel Gummidge adaptation

The Detectorists actor will star as the scarecrow formerly portrayed by Doctor Who’s Jon Pertwee

Mackenzie Crook is a turnip-headed scarecrow in a first look at his new BBC1 adaptation of the classic children’s Worzel Gummidge books.

The Detectorists star has written two hour-long films based around the talking scarecrow, who was originally portrayed by Doctor Who actor Jon Pertwee in an ITV series that aired between 1979-81 (and was later revived for a New Zealand spin-off in 1987-89).

Source: First look at Mackenzie Crook in Worzel Gummidge adaptation

The Beautiful Simplicity of Detectorists

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Towards the end of Detectorists, the president of the Danebury Metal Detecting Club (DMDC) digs up a small artifact. He waves to his wife who is sitting and reading nearby, and calls out proudly that it is a button from the Welsh guard. Though it is a small find, he tears up a little, perhaps both from happiness (he is a button collector), but also out of a grateful acknowledgement towards his understanding wife. That balance of sweetness and sly humor is what makes the quiet loveliness of Detectorists such a Peak TV treasure.

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Busy Johnny Flynn performs “Detectorists” theme

Hobbledehoy perennial favorite Johnny Flynn has been a very busy man over these past several months, starring in his popular Netflix comedy series Lovesick as well as in critically-acclaimed film Beast (recently released in the US.) Johnny also found time to perform on the Broadway stage in Martin McDonaugh’s latest play The Hangman.

As for his music, Johnny and his band The Sussex Wit are to be performing at Barclaycard British Summer Time 2018 in London, UK. (opening for and then supporting headliner Paul Simon on July 15th).

So – what have you been doing lately?

Here’s our Johnny singing the theme song of the wonderful Brit tv series Detectorists.