Mr. Wickham is described by Jane Austen this way: “His appearance was greatly in his favour; he had all the best part of beauty, a fine countenance, a good figure, and very pleasing address.” and “when Mr. Wickham walked into the room, Elizabeth felt that she had neither been seeing him before, nor thinking of him since, with the smallest degree of unreasonable admiration. The officers of the ̶ shire were in general a very creditable, genetlemanlike set, and the best of them were of the present party; but Mr. Wickham was as far beyond them all in person, countenance, air, and walk, as they were superior to the broadfaced, stuffy uncle Philips.”Going by this description, Wickham should be a very handsome man, actually striking in appearance, someone who speaks in such a pleasing manner that a person would naturally trust him from the beginning of their acquaintance. Based on these observations, I have rated the portrayal of five of the actors that have played him accordingly:
1980 - Peter Settelen - He looks so deceptive and untrustworthy in his portrayal of Wickham, it comes across like a joke. This makes it impossible to believe that this is the guy that sharp Lizzy Bennet is suppose to be taken in by. Everytime I see this version, I keep expecting Wickham to look at the camera with a wink as if to say “I don’t believe what I’m saying and I know you watching don’t believe what I’m saying either” like they do in those silly satires that blatantly exaggerate the characters well-known personality. And there’s also the fact that Peter Settelen is not the striking man that Wickham is suppose to be. For these reasons, it is my opinion this is the worst portrayal of Wickham.
Bride and Prejudice - Daniel Gillies - If Daniel Gillies wasn’t as handsome as he is, he and Peter Settelen would have been tied as the worst. The problem I have with him is, like Peter, he doesn’t look or act trustworthy in the least. Wickham is suppose to be a charmer, but instead Daniel comes across more like a harmer (pardon my use of rhyme here). Having his first appearance be coming out of the water on the beach could be some poke at the 1995 BBC A&E version, I don’t know, but in that scene he walks and looks like a wet monkey rather than the man described as being ‘far beyond other men in countenance and walk.’ So my own opinion is, he makes the next worst Wickham.2005 - Rupert Friend - Definitely has the looks, and based on his performances in other movies, he would have been a great Mr. Wickham had he been given the chance. In the scene where he informs Lizzy about his past with Darcy, he comes across like a pouty brat, definitely not someone strong-willed who Elizabeth would be attracted to. Throw in the scene at the shop with the Bennet girls looking for ribbons and that is all we see of him. It is a real shame that so little is done with his character in this version, and for that reason, I can’t see how he would be anyone’s best Wickham, though he very easily could have been.
1995 - Adrian Lukis - Handles the pleasing address well, although, he is so not attractive - I would say at best he could be described as plain ̶ he doesn’t even come close to fitting the description of Wickham. I wonder if the producers didn’t want Colin Firth to have his rival be a rival in appearance. Whatever the case, in choosing him for Wickham, the producers of this version ignored a dynamic of the book that would have made this one so much better. Not the best Wickham.
1940 - Edward Ashley - This older version has so many good things about it. As Mr. Wickham, Ashley Is dashingly handsome and very charming in his address. Without question, he plays the best Wickham. It is clear that the producers, and/or Laurence Olivier had no qualms about using someone that could compete for best-looking man on set. Yes, he is older than the real Wickham is suppose to be, as is the rest of this cast, but that’s the way it was for movies back then, unless your name was Shirley Temple. All in all, Edward Ashley is the embodiment of Wickham as described in Pride and Prejudice in any of the variations so far.