The iconic lake scene from BBC1's Pride And Prejudice that kick-started Colin Firth's career was partially faked, it has emerged.

In the famous scene from the Jane Austen adaptation, first broadcast in 1995, Firth's Mr Darcy is shown plunging into a lake before swimming underwater and climbing out with his white cotton shirt clinging to his skin.

Thirteen years on, the miniseries' director Simon Langton has revealed that a stuntman made the actual dive that made Firth, now 47, a household name.

"It was a stuntman," Langton told the Daily Mail, revealing that Firth's underwater scenes were shot at west London's Ealing Studios and not Lyme Park in Cheshire.

Langton said insurance and health concerns necessitated the decision, but insisted it was Firth who emerged dripping from the water.

"We didn't want our leading man to catch Weil's disease, which can be caught from rat urine in water."

On the impact of the scene, which takes place just before Mr Darcy meets Elizabeth Bennet, the director added: "Nobody had the slightest inkling that Colin Firth, wearing a lightweight cotton voile shirt with his nipples showing underneath, would have such an effect."

29/12/2008 12:15:23