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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Netflix’s Lovesick and TNT’s Good Behavior have been the best possible postelection escapist TV.

Along with half of the country, I took ill in early November with a particularly virulent case of despondence and malaise. For this ailment, well-tried cure-alls proved to be of little use. Sleeping—the deep, catatonic, blot-out-the-world kind—helped a little, if one could manage it. Chicken soup proved to be far less effective than pizza. Even the notorious sick-day treat of lying on the couch and watching television all day didn’t help.

We are still figuring out how best to live with this chronic illness, but in the meantime, I have discovered a temporary symptom alleviator that works for about an hour or two at a time: charming, nontragic romances. One such soother is Netflix’s Lovesick, formerly known as Scrotal Recall.  Despite its previous name’s suggestion that Continue reading

Johnny Flynn sings “Wayne Rooney”

Some know Johnny Flynn as the Chlamydia-challenged character  “Dylan” from the BBC (now Netflix) television series Lovesick (retitled from the hilarious Scrotal Recall) Flynn is also a brilliant musician, singer and performer of British folk-influenced music. “Wayne Rooney” is an original song from his debut 2008 album, “A Larum.”

Flynn as “Dylan,” awaiting a blood test result in Lovesickjohnnyflynn_lovesick