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Bridget Jones is a franchise based on the fictional character with the same name. English writer Helen Fielding started her Bridget Jones's Diary column in The Independent in 1995, while chronicling the life of Bridget Jones as a thirtysomething single woman in London as she tries to make sense of life and love with the help of a surrogate "urban family" of friends in the 1990s. The column lampooned the obsession of women with women's magazines such as Cosmopolitan and wider social trends in Britain at the time. Helen Fielding published the novelisation of the column in 1996, followed by a sequel in 1999 called Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. Both novels were adapted for the big screen in 2001 and 2004, starring Renée Zellweger as Bridget Jones, and Hugh Grant and Colin Firth as the men in her life: Daniel Cleaver and Mark Darcy. After Fielding had ceased to work for The Daily Telegraph in late 1998, the feature began again in The Independent on 4 August 2005 and finished in June 2006. Helen Fielding released a third novel in 2013, "Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy" set 20 years later.
Bridget Jones graduated from Bangor University. She is a single, thirty-two-year-old woman whose life is a satirised version of the stereotypical single London thirty-something in the nineties trying to go out there and look for love. She has some bad habits - smoking and drinking too much - but she annually writes her New Year's resolutions in her diary, determined to stop smoking, drink no more than fourteen alcohol units a week, and eat more pulses and try her best to lose weight. In the two novels and screen adaptations, Bridget's mother is bored with her life as a housewife in the country and leaves Bridget's father. Bridget repeatedly flirts with her boss, Daniel Cleaver. A successful barrister named Mark Darcy also keeps popping into Bridget's life, being extremely awkward, and sometimes coming off a bit rude. After Bridget and Mark reach an understanding of each other and find a sort of happiness together, she gains some self-esteem and cuts down on her cigarette consumption. However, Bridget's obsession with self-help books plus several misunderstandings cannot keep the couple together forever.
The new Independent column was set in the then-present day of 2005 and 2006, with references being made to events such as River Thames whale, and has dropped some of the motifs of the original diary, particularly the alcohol unit and calorie counts. Despite the time advance, Cleaver and Darcy were still the two men in Jones' life ("I'm not sleeping with them both at once," she explains later to her friend Shaz. "I accidentally slept with each of them separately"), and the plotline launched into a pregnancy. As author Helen Fielding said, "she's heading in a different direction." The column is continued into 2006. In the last entry, Bridget Jones gave birth to a baby boy, fathered by Daniel Cleaver. She moved in with Daniel. However, Mark was not entirely out of the picture, as he previously suggested that he would like to adopt the child. The column finished with the note, "Bridget is giving every attention to the care of her newborn son – and is too busy to keep up her Diary for the time being."
In the mid-nineties, Charles Leadbeater, at the time the features editor of the English newspaper The Independent, offered Helen Fielding, then a journalist on The Independent on Sunday, a weekly column about urban life in London designed to appeal to young professional women. Fielding accepted and Bridget Jones was born on 28 February 1995. The instantaneous popularity of the columns led to publication of the first book, Bridget Jones's Diary, in 1996.
The column appeared regularly every Wednesday on the pages of The Independent for almost three years: the last one was published on 10 September 1997. A couple of months later, on 15 November 1997, Helen Fielding resumed her weekly diary on The Daily Telegraph. Fielding ceased to work for The Daily Telegraph on 19 December 1998.
The column was made into a novel in 1996, Bridget Jones's Diary. The plot is loosely based on Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. The second book, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, was published on 1998, and was based on the plot of another of Austen's novels, Persuasion.
Fielding named the character of Mark Darcy after the Pride and Prejudice character Fitzwilliam Darcy and described him exactly like Colin Firth, who played Mr Darcy in the 1995 BBC adaptation. Mark Darcy was also partly modelled after a friend of Helen Fielding, Mark Muller, a barrister with chambers in Gray's Inn Square and the Kurdish revolutionary leader that Darcy defends in the movie was inspired by a real case of Muller's. The character of Shazzer was reportedly based on Sharon Maguire, who is a friend of Helen Fielding and would become director of the film.
A third book was confirmed to October 2013, named "Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy". The novel is set in present-day London; Bridget is 51; she is still keeping a diary, but she is also immersed in texting and experimenting with social media, with an accent on “social.”. Also in the book it is revealed that Mark Darcy had died five years earlier.
The feature began again in The Independent on 4 August 2005 with a "Sunday 31 July" entry. A book containing all of the original columns was given away with the paper the following Saturday. This relaunch of the column is also printed in the Irish Independent. The International Herald Tribune reviewed the new column rather favourably, commenting that Fielding's satire was in good form. The Daily Mail reviewed it less favourably, saying it lacked the genuine quality of the first two novels.
Helen Fielding (as Bridget Jones) wrote of her love of the 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice in her Bridget Jones's Diary column during the original British broadcast, mentioning her "simple human need for Darcy to get off with Elizabeth" and regarding the couple as her "chosen representatives in the field of shagging, or rather courtship". Fielding loosely reworked the plot of Pride And Prejudice in her 1996 novelisation of the column, naming Bridget's uptight love interest "Mark Darcy" and describing him exactly like Colin Firth. Following a first meeting with Firth during his filming of Fever Pitch in 1996, Fielding asked Firth to collaborate in what would become an eight-page interview between Bridget Jones and Firth in her 1999 sequel novel, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. Conducting the real interview with Firth in Rome, Fielding lapsed into Bridget Jones mode and obsessed over Darcy in his wet shirt. Firth participated in the following editing process of what critics would consider "one of the funniest sequences in the diary's sequel". Both novels make various other references to the BBC serial.
Pride and Prejudice screenwriter Andrew Davies collaborated on the screenplays for the 2001 and 2004 Bridget Jones films, which would show Crispin Bonham-Carter (Mr Bingley in Pride and Prejudice) and Lucy Robinson (Mrs Hurst) in minor roles. The self-referential in-joke between the projects intrigued Colin Firth to accept the role of Mark Darcy, as it gave him an opportunity to ridicule and liberate himself from his Pride and Prejudice character. Film critic James Berardinelli would later state that Firth "plays this part [of Mark Darcy] exactly as he played the earlier role, making it evident that the two Darcys are essentially the same". The producers never found a solution to incorporate the Jones-Firth interview in the second film, but shot a spoof interview with Firth as himself and Renée Zellweger staying in-character as Bridget Jones after a day's wrap. The scene is available as a deleted scene on DVD.
The first novel was turned into a movie of the same name in 2001, directed by Sharon Maguire. The movie starred Renée Zellweger as Bridget, Hugh Grant as Daniel Cleaver, and Colin Firth as Mark Darcy. Before the film was released, a considerable amount of controversy surrounded the casting of the American Zellweger as what some saw as a quintessentially British heroine: however, her performance is widely considered to be of a high standard, including a perfect English accent, and garnered Zellweger an Academy Award nomination. A second movie was released in 2004, directed by Beeban Kidron. There are many differences between the books and the films. The production company Working Title has confirmed that a third movie is in the early stages of production and is provisionally titled Bridget Jones's Baby.
The third film will be titled "Mad About The Boy" the same title as the third book released in October 2013.
A musical adaptation of the franchise is currently in Workshop productions in London, featuring Sheridan Smith in the title role. The show is due to open in London's West End in 2012, although no date has been officially confirmed.