Saturday, June 18, 2011

Richard Armitage is my Rochester!

There seems to be a BBC miniseries of almost every good piece of literature ever written. Or at least, that's what I thought as I went searching for a screen adaption of Charlotte Bronte's Shirley, the newest book I've found an interest in. Imagine my surprise then, when it turns out that there's no adaptation to be found! I was quite shocked, but at the same time I understand because Shirley isn't the most popular of novels.

However, the absence of a screen adaption of Shirley got me thinking. As we all know, I love to discuss the casting of characters in screen versions of Jane Eyre, and I always run into the dilemna that none of the cast seems perfectly right for ME. Therefore, for the next week I'm going to choose some of my favorite pieces of Lit and pick a cast that I would personally imagine. I mentally cast movies in my head all the time, and I think it would be pretty fun to share the ideas that have been running through my brain to see what you guys think. I plan to do this for (of course) Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, Shirley, and maybe even others.

I planned on starting this new adventure out with Shirley, but I'm actually having a really hard time finding someone I think would be right as the titular character. Therefore, I'm going to start with Jane Eyre because I've had a mental cast in my head for this novel ever since I read it for the first time 3 years ago.

Jane Eyre 2011 Directed by Bonnie C.

Jane Eyre
Of course, we start with the titular character, Miss Jane Eyre herself. This role is probably the hardest to cast because you have to find a young girl who can pull off the plainess as well as the intensity of Jane. I always tried to stay in the range of eighteen to twenty two years old when thinking of who I would cast. It was extremely hard to find an actress to live up to my mental picture of Jane. I ended up realizing that for some reason, there were two different ways that I could possibly imagine her. So here are the two actresses I found that best suited those two ways.

The first actress that came to my mind was Anna Popplewell (aka Susan from Chronicles of Narnia)

Grant it, Anna may be too old. She's 22 and a little mature. However, she's only 5'3 which works in her favor as a Jane because it may be able to give her a younger look and who knows what hair and makeup can do to her? Anna sings to me as Jane because she isn't naturally pretty and she's also used to playing strong characters. For some reason I can see her playing a naturally independent, yet rather subtle Jane. However, I like my second choice better. And that choice is:

Rachel Hurd-Wood:
I had to give two pictures of Rachel for a particular reason. The first was to show her with Brown hair, just so the Janian quality might come out a bit more. The second was the picture that drew me to her as Jane. That picture has a straight-forward quality which made it easy for me to picture her with Jane's knot, AND to me it just wreaks of Jane's "pixie-like" quality. This girl has these large, searching eyes and her face has this youthful understated beauty that can be made to look appropriately plain. Rachel is also only twenty years old and has a pretty good load of acting experience. I rather liked her in Dorian Gray. The downside is that she has blue eyes and she's around 5'6, so she isn't necessarily "small." However, the Rochester I chose is 6'2, so she would probably look appropriately small next to him. Speaking of the man himself, let's move on to Rochester.

There's only one man I've ever pictured as my perfect Rochester, and that is Richard Armitage.

I'm sorry, but how has this man NOT been casted as Rochester yet? Sure, he's really good looking, but so were numerous other Rochesters that filmakers successfully uglied up enough. Richard Armitage is 39 years old, 6'2, broad chested, athletically built, and naturally dark haired. Not only that but he has the "grim" thin-lipped mouth, as well as the piercing eyes and bad-boy ruggedness. Add a dark and menacing voice with a natural Northern English accent, and you have all the physical qualities of a great Rochester. However, he also has the internal qualities in abundance. Richard played an equally gloomy and rather sardonic Lit hero in BBC's adaptation of "North and South" and he played it AMAZINGLY. He knows how to emote anger, frustration, and all throughout the miniseries I kept thinking "why is this man NOT Rochester?". Of course, I've focused on Rochester's bad sides, but Richard is also equally capable of carrying out Rochester's passion the same way he did in North and South. Does it help any that he completely owned his role in that miniseries based on the book by Elizabeth Gaskell who was one of the BEST friends of Charlotte Bronte and wrote similar stories? It's almost as if he was fated to play Rochester for me! Match him with Rachel who I imagined playing Jane, and together it's the perfect age gap.

St. John
It's such a shame that Jude Law is too old, because for some reason I always thought he was a great fit to St. John. St. John is by far the hardest character in the novel to cast. You'd think it'd be easy, but to me St. John isn't just your regular pretty boy. Sure, he's supposed to be handsome, but there's rigid and unattractiveness within him that Jane can't stand. You have to find an actor that can successfully portray that coldness.

I came up with Aaron Johnson.

He's a little young for the part, but he can pull it off. He's about to play Vronsky in Anna Karenina, so he's used to big shoes that need to be filled. This guy has a lot of talent and he molds characters very well. He's like a cameleon. Whatever type of character you want, he can be. So why can't he be St. John? He can deliver the coldness and the sexyness. And for once, we may find that St. John is suitable competition like he was in the novel.

Mrs. Fairfax
She's not all that hard of a person to cast. I liked a good deal of the previous Fairfaxes and I can't really find one that I didn't like. Dame Judi Dench nailed her performance and thus defined the role for me, but just for the sake of doing something different, why don't we try Brenda Blethyn?

To me, Brenda is right up there in the caliber of actresses that include Dame Judi. I haven't seen a movie where she hasn't played her role solidly and so why not give her a try as Fairfax? I don't think it's really possible for you to go wrong with Brenda any more than it is with Judi Dench.

Mrs. Reed
She's not TOO much of an important player, so I would cast her with a solid actress who can pull of the sweet and cruel. And no actress does that better than Tilda Swinton.

As she so aptly displayed in the Chronicles of Narnia, Tilda is rather good and playing evil characters with the outward appearance of a sweet woman. It seems like she would fit the role of Mrs. Reed rather well.

What do you guys think so far?


  1. You had me at "Richard Armitage is my Rochester!" ;)

    Jane and St John I'm not sure about, but Blethyn could make a great Mrs. F and your choice of Swinton as Mrs. Reed is just INSPIRED, although Mrs. Reed is supposed to be of a quite robust build, and Swinton is more willowy.

    Armitage as Rochester - can't believe he hasn't been already. It's a perfect fit, aside from him technically being too tall for Rochester. But thinking about how he seems to like playing conflicted characters with many layers, Rochester would be perfect, a dream come true. Maybe it's just as well he's not been Rochester, because I'm not sure I could take that level of pure awesomeness! ♥

  2. Yes, I'm not even sure about Jane myself. I tore through lists of young british actresses and it was really hard to find one that really sang out to me. I had also considered Karen Gillan and Freya Mavor. Jane is by far the hardest person to cast and I don't think it really helps that I'm not too acquainted with many British actresses.

    As for Armitage, I never had any doubt about him. Rochester seems like his rightful role. It pains me to my core to think that he might never get the chance to play him when now would have been the perfect time. I should start a petition or something lol.

    Yes, Mrs. Reed is supposed to be a bit more robust, but I always imagined Tilda as having her natural spirit. As for St. John, he's almost as hard to cast as Jane herself! Any suggestions?

  3. I agree that Richard would have made a great Rochester. Too good-looking, of course, but since when did they cast a truly ugly Rochester? Lol.
    The problem with casting Jane is that there is a dearth of actresses of the right age (18-19) who have the maturity and capability of carrying such a role. By the time they have proved their proficiency, they are too old!

  4. @Supergran: I must admit that when I think of Rochester, I don't necessarily think of someone really ugly. I try to remind myself that the book was written in the 19th century where people thought that delicate blonde-haired, blue-eyed men were handsome. Their idea of what was attractive was rather different from what we might deem appealing today. I like to imagine that in today's standards Rochester might not look too bad. When Jane describes him in the book I get the picture of someone that might not be a fair-haired angel but rather a ruggedly handsome kind of fellow. Maybe I'm just cheeting myself because I don't want to acknowledge the fact that my favorite lit hero was kind of ugly, I don't really know.

  5. You make a good point. Ideas of beauty were as much subject to the vagaries of fashion then as now. It hadn't been TOO many years since the "fop" was in vogue!
    In Jane Eyre, St John is likened to Apollo and his "Grecian profile" is put forward as the epitome of male beauty, whereas Rochester is compared to rugged Vulcan.
    Jane initially describes Rochester as "grim" and her reply to his "do you think me handsome?" is an honest one. Indeed, Rochester tells Jane that Celine and her lover discussed Edward's physical "deformities". But as Jane grows to love the man within, he becomes less ugly in her eyes as she becomes beautiful in his.

  6. I agree. But still, it's rather hard to portray Rochester's transformation through Jane's eyes on the screen, which is why some Rochesters were just miserably unattractive and others were absolutely gorgeous.

  7. Ha ha! It's quite amusing how many people include Richard A. in their dream casts! ;-)

  8. The best St. John I've ever seen was in the Timothy Dalton version. Austerely handsome and absolutely as described in the novel - well acted too. The scene outdoors where they quarrel and she tries to apologize rang very true.

  9. I agree wholeheartedly with you about Richard Armitage! He can play cold and austere so well (I loved him in the BBC's 'Robin Hood'), but also emotional and romantic - he played Dawn French's husband in 'The Vicar of Dibley' and was such a spunk! My sister thinks that he could play Mr Darcy, but I certainly disagree. Mr Rochester is the role that he was born for!

    1. Richard Armitage is a sexy beast :)

  10. I LOVE these choices! I used to be in a Bronte discussion group and we could spend HOURS talking about the definitive JE miniseries. My favorite candidate for Rochester at the time was John Lynch, but figure he is too old now. Richard would be an incredible Rochester. My only fear is that the combination of my favorite imaginary guy and one of my favorite actors would make me spontaneously combust in my seat.

    1. Wow...John Lynch would have been a great Rochester in his younger days. Now that I actually think about him, I could definitely see him pulling off the character. His large, gloomy eyes and heavy eyebrows are so fitting. Is he the Rochester you had in mind when you were writing your book? Welcome back, by the way. I was just rereading "Jane Eyre's Husband" a few days ago strangely enough. I know you must be busy, but I'd love for you to perhaps do a guest post if you ever felt like it. I hope it's not too much to ask, I'm just convinced that as an author who has dedicated so much time to writing about the life of Edward Rochester, you must have great ideas to share that other lit lovers would love to see.

  11. That would be the best cast ever in the history of time! If they were going to pick a Jane in-between the 2 they should go with Anna because Richard would make Rachel look more like a little girl and then it Rochester look like a pedophile in the movie. And Anna looks eighteen by herself but playing next to Richard would make her a perfect candidate. I think Tilda would be a perfect reed. She looks cold and is none for playing cold characters. And her and Anna have movie history as enemies. Richard looks old enough to be rochester's actual age and with Anna beside him, perfection. I've never seen any movies from that Brenda woman, but she looks like a good fairfax, a bit on the younger side, but she looks like and sounds like she could pull it off. That Aaron guy doesn't really look too young. St. John is supposed to be young and handsome, that's why Rochester is so jelous towards the end. The best question to ask is: Who's gonna play Adelè?

    1. Sadly, Adele has yet to be cast. I've been searching high and low and I haven't been struck by any child who would really portray her well. Perhaps you should do a post! I'd love to publish your thoughts.

  12. WHY have I never thought of Richard as Rochester? YES! Fantastic idea. Though...he is so perfectly Thornton, that I am not sure I could handle the crossover.
    Thanks for the post, fun thoughts!

  13. You know what? Your dream cast has proven to be better than the 2011 adaptation! Fassbender to me was just all wrong for the role! So is Mia and Jamie Bell. Yes Aaron would've been perfect as I saw him with blonde hair in Anna Karenina and he was just gorgeous. But I also thought of Sam Claflin in the role, too, cause he had those "perfect" good looks.

    And I agree wholeheartedly on Richard Armitage as Rochester. I thought of him after having seen North and South before. He just had that "look" to me and he really came off Rochester. Rachel Hurd-Wood could've been also the more believable choice than Mia who I found too pleasing to the eye to buy her Jane. I've been so far been disappointed with the latest adaptation.