As Cool As A Fruitstand

…and maybe as strange. A movie blog.

The Casting Couch: Mr. Rochester

Posted by Hedwig on May 10, 2008

In an attempt to revive the blog: new feature! I don’t like posting all the inane casting news here, but sometimes it does spark my imagination. So in this feature, I’ll try to cast roles that haven’t been announced yet. These aren’t people I think will get the role, but people who I think would be an interesting choice. And I’ll try not to pick too similar options.

To start with, it was announced last week that Ellen Page is going to play Jane Eyre in the nth film version of that great example of gothic literature. A Mr. Rochester, however, hasn’t been found that. While I don’t really see the need for yet another version (I think the Joan Fontaine/Orson Welles one is pretty good, to no-one’s surprise, and I rather liked the miniseries the BBC made two years ago), Mr. Rochester is a great character, and as Ellen Page will probably give a more modern interpretation of mousy Jane, who will be the dark broody master she falls for.

Richard Armitage as Guy

Mt top suggestion is without a question Richard Armitage. He plays Guy of Gisborne, henchmen to the Sheriff of Nottingham in the new BBC Robin Hood series, and he’s great: glowering, broody, conflicted, hopelessly in love with Maid Marian and making every female viewer eager to redeem him, despite his evil deeds. If that weren’t enough, I recently saw the miniseries North and South, where he plays a Darcy-esque character to the hilt: he’s haughty, superior, but it doesn’t take that much to breach his armor and making him wholly dependent on the woman who managed to do it.

But I also have some less predictable choices…see for yourself, after the jump.

What, you say? Jeff Bridges? The dude himself? To which I reply, yes, the dude himself. The drawback is that here, the age difference would definitely be icky (if he were ten, fifteen years younger it would be perfect), but neglecting that part, I have two arguments. One is that he was definitely sexy ten, fifteen years ago (see The Fabulous Baker Boys for evidence). But my main argument is simple: Obadiah Stone. It showed once more just how well he can immerse himself into a character, and that he doesn’t always need to look shabby. Give him a dark haircut, some good clothes, tell him not to do the lip smacking thing, and you just might have yourself the perfect Rochester. But if you thought this choice was unusual…wait for the next one.

Vince Vaughn

Vince Vaughn. Yes, that Vince Vaughn. The jokester, the lunk, that guy. Because

whenever I watch him, I suspect he has demons. Something that always gives his comedy a slightly desperate touch. Something hidden in the attic, metaphorically speaking. He’s played a dark character before (Norman Bates), but what if he played a dark character with a soft spot? I have to admit this pick is a little dodgy, but admit it: you’d love to see if it works. And it might prevent Fred Claus II

As for the aforementioned secret hidden in the attic, considering she’s supposed to be (in some reading, at least) the manifestation of Jane’s repressed desires, a kind of dark version of her, may I suggest Lindsay Lohan? She’s too young, but hasn’t looked it recently. Or maybe Halle Berry: I always feel like giving her something to do that isn’t Catwoman or Gothica. But I have to admit this part is much harder to cast, as few actresses come to mind who could be fierce enough.

As for Helen, I have but one request: please. Please. Not Dakota Fanning.

Have some thoughts about who could fill these roles? Let me know! And let’s see who the casting directors will go for. Who knows, they might go for Robert Downey Jr. now that he’s been certified bankable, and I wouldn’t protest that. But I have a dark suspicion they will go much more mainstream.

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25 Responses to “The Casting Couch: Mr. Rochester”

  1. Very interesting casting suggestions. I’m guessing you already know you’re asking for trouble from the faithful, but I like your style.

    Plus, you nail something essential about Vince Vaughn. Underneath all of his bravado, there is some damage. It’s like he’s afraid if he stops chattering for 2 seconds, you’ll see through him and he knows it. At least on screen. Maybe he’s not like that in his private life.

  2. sarcastig said

    You know me, I love trouble 😉 Though I’d argue Richard Armitage is a pretty “classic” choice for the part. And British, which is one thing he has over Ellen Page.

    I don’t know, Rochester is one of my big literary crushes. I hope they do him justice.

  3. Daniel said

    I shamefully don’t know the story well enough to have a lot of input about these suggestions, but I love the new feature. Interesting about Jeff Bridges – the guy proved himself to be a pretty serious dramatic actor for a good part of the 90’s (Fearless) before Lebowski, but that’s he most known for now. Like you, I was pretty happy with his work in IM.

    Dunno about VV. I just don’t know what he wants out of his career. Like is he just working for paychecks or does he actually enjoy acting? He made that documentary last year about stand up comics and I thought I read that he was hoping to do more stuff like that. Guess we’ll see.

  4. Lanchka said

    I do love me some Gizzy, but I gotta go with Ralph Fiennes here!!! Though it may come out of left field, I could see Johnny Depp as Rochester too. Among the lesser-knowns, maybe James Purefoy (this suggestion is based solely on appearance as I’ve only seen him in A Knight’s Tale)?

  5. sarcastig said

    Ralph Fiennes? I like! He has the dark, broody thing down, and the potential for evil (especially now that most kids associate him with Voldemort first of all. James Purefoy might also do it (though I often find him a bit bland), but Johnny Depp? I love Johnny, but he’s probably a little too eccentric for the role, not burly enough. Although his slightly feminine features might be useful for the gypsy scene.

  6. Lanchka said

    I can’t think of Jane Eyre without also having Wide Sargasso Sea on the brain — I read WSS before JE, and although I’m not a fan of Jean Rhys her novel continues to intrigue me much more than Bronte’s. Soooo, slightly off-topic, but in WSS Depp & Bonham-Carter as Rochester & Bertha/Antoinette would be my cast of choice.

  7. Renee said

    Hey! I just finished reading this book before work this morning and googled Mr. Rochester in the middle of researching my fraud risk assessment project (because Jane’s life was so much more interesting than mine — I will so I will miss checking in every day!!!). The only one of the above recommendations that makes any sense is Vince Vaughn because Mr. Rochester was NOT attractive! (Ralph Fiennes? I don’t know about you but he doesn’t make my “unattractive people” list!!!!) Vince Vaughn – ick. Not sure he could be that serious/dark?! I kept picturing Colonel Wentworth from “Persuasion” – hang on… this guy: http://www.imdb.com/media/rm2580387328/nm0001354. Actually it occurs to me that Amanda Root from that same movie was exactly how I pictured Jane too. But too old now. THis guy is DEFINITELY St. John (I kept hearing his voice when I read St. John’s lines, it was frankly somewhat annoying!!!) http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0005273/. Wait! I’ll second the James Purefoy idea – although he isn’t going to make any ugly list either.

    Great blog – I’ll be back!!!

  8. lsbth said

    Vaughn is a pretty good choice I really like the idea, and Bridges is interesting, but probably it’d be another catastrophic Hurt-type Rochester. Definitely no to Richard Armitage. He’s a poor actor

  9. sarcastig said

    Thanks for visiting, Renee and Lsbth (short for Elisabeth?).

    Rochester, indeed, is not meant to be handsome, just like Jane Eyre is supposed to be plain. But we all know Hollywood, and let’s face it, Ellen Page might be tiny and not your typical sex symbol, but plain she is absolutely not.

    I thought the recent BBC adaptation handled it quite well. Both leads were attractive, but in quite unconventional ways. Purefoy would probably fall on the “too pretty” side of the equation. Ciáran Hinds, however… now that’s an interesting idea. He’s been so good in so many supporting roles of late, and he made a great Ceasar, so I definitely could see him as Rochester, making his breakthrough at last.

    I actually haven’t seen the William Hurt version. I probably should, and I love Charlotte Gainsbourg, but I’ve only heard bad things about it. You’re right that Hurt and Bridges are similar types (it’s not for nothing that they both play baddies opposite superheroes this summer), but I think Bridges has a bit more range, is a little more versatile. I can’t see Hurt playing the Dude, for example. As for Armitage being a terrible actor… You actually might be right. I was probably too distracted by his attractive brooding to notice.

  10. marina said

    all are pretty insane choices! I think Mr. Rochester has to be british, it is enough that Ellen Page is not.
    I am not sure about Armitage (never heard or seen before).
    I have just recently watched Toby Stephens in 2006 BBC remake miniseries of Jane Eyre. He is incredible, if not way too handsome for the role. My favorite would be a cross between William Hurt (in terms of looks) and Toby Stephens (his passionate acting style).

  11. jerryjeff said

    I’ve read Jane Eyre so many times it’s ridiculous I know. I would love to see James McAvoy as Mr. Rochester. Mr. Rochester is a highly intelligent, complicated, sometimes-melancholy man who, like Jane Eyre, becomes better looking as he loves and is loved. McAvoy’s unconventional, scratchy good looks would be perfect for this. McAvoy also has the ability to look like he’s having a very intelligent conversation – extremely important for the startling conversations that take place between Jane and Mr. Rochester. And he has that little touch of melancholy, so essential in depicting Rochester. Also, Mr. Rochester is not a strapping, lumbering guy like Ciaran Hinds – he is of average height, but extremely energetic and athletic, like McAvoy.

  12. Margaret Verver said

    My vote goes to Richard Armitage – must praise you for your acumen in making him your top pick. He can dial his attractiveness up or down quite a bit, has a subtle mobility and a wide emotional range to him, and the vast depository of intensity you need for Rochester. The right age too, not to mention a devoted international fan base.

    Toby was great, but I was rather tired of their dumbing down and shortening their verbal rapier-play and mutual intellectual exploration. I sincerely hope this one would be different. Interestingly enough, Timothy Dalton did a credible job – the script left the book alone a bit more, and even his beauty did not detract too much from the substance, since he succeeded in looking quite bitter and disagreeable in the midst of his Grecian profile (more St. John, like someone else said).

  13. tauntonlake said

    I’m sorry if I misunderstood some of the above thread .. but, Ciaran Hinds has already done Rochester ! 😀 Have you not seen the A & E version with Samantha Morton ?

    http://www.amazon.com/Jane-Eyre-Deborah-Findlay/dp/0767003357

    I agree that Toby Stephens is tooo handsome to play Rochester, and Ruth Wilson far too pretty, but I guess that’s how television goes. Don’t want to put off the viewers with unconventional looks.

    I can’t see James McAvoy as Mr. Rochester. Tall, dark, and ugly, he is not. Even with make-up.
    Technically, he might be able to pull it off, but he isn’t the embodiement. 😀

  14. Renee said

    Tauntonlake: Have not seen it BUT WILL. Thanks! Was ole Col. Wentworth a believable Rochester?

    Sarcastig: Any news on who was actually chosen yet? Literary crushes (off topic, okay I hope?): I have to confess that I saw the movie before I read the book which sort of ruins forming your own images, but I LOVE Sense & Sensibility with Hugh Grant and Alan Rickman. My absolute all-time favorite. I’ve seen it fifty bazillion times and I STILL cry at the end EVERY SINGLE TIME. I LOVE Colonel Brandon!!!

  15. tauntonlake said

    I guess he does, but he’s no Toby 😀 Nothing to look at, but if you ‘like’ him, he does do a good job.

    In this version though, it seemed like there was zero chemistry between his R. and Samantha Morton’s Jane.

    It’s not a bad version though, it’s worth watching. A & E usually does a good job.

    Richard Armitage IS Rochester, though 😀 that would be something to watch.

  16. Sophie said

    Mr. Rochester needs to be someone who is deeply attractive but in an odd, or unconventional way. He is a sort of dark and gothic darcy. He needs to be deeply attractive so that we might see, feel and believe Jane’s Eyre’s attraction to him. But he need to be a bit weird looking so that we can also beleive in his ugliness. Vaughn is close. But not quite because though he could pull off the darkness of Rochester (having seen him in ‘Into the wild’ and Return to Paradise’) with a bit of a comedic edge. I’m not sure if he could really pull it off culturally in the same way Hugh Grant couldn’t pull off Wayne Westerberg or Eddie. He would find it difficult to be an ill-mannered yet oddly charming bastard (in that awkward british way). Also it is BBC films working on this, so expect the plot to be deep, and heavy. My personal shortlist includes:

    Colin Firth – He would be a safe bet. Not typically good-looking and has been playing awkwardly charming and ill mannered for years. To add a gothic facet to his anally retentive potential lover ‘will they, won’t they’ type stock would be amazing. Also this wouldn’t be his first time doing English Lit. Having done a good, subtle Jack Worthing of The importance of being earnest’ and having absolutly rocked Fitzwilliam Darcy of the original BBC mini-series ‘Pride and prejudice’ He would be able to skill-fully apply the very subtle humour that allows Rochester’s rudeness to be accepted as chaming, while being awkward, gruff, yet enigmatic. He would be unconventinal enough in appearance to be construed as ugly yet captivating enough for us to believe in Jane’s growing attraction.

    Christian Bale – He would be brilliant. He would play a very edgy, dark and gothic Rochester, he is the same in that he could be very easy construed as ugly for the purpose of the film yet on screen is so very enigmatic and captivating that one would certainly believe in Jane’s attraction. He would be able to convey perhaps even become Rochester (I mean you would beleive his Rochester) perfectly and very intensley which will fit with the gothic nature of the book and allow the acting to remain true to the original tradition of melodrama found throughout. He is totally my fave!

    Ralph Fiennes – Though less so. He’s more charmless.

    Hugh Jackman – Though less so. He would be similar to Bale in darkness but I think he might allow the character to be a little bit 2 dimentional. The thing about Rochester is that he is a highly complex character in that he is a very kind and surprisingly moral man who’s years spent taking the wrong paths, leading to a deep bitterness in life thus allowing his inner beauty to be encircled in the brambles of rudeness and meaness leading to isolation and lonliness despite travel and later company. An example being his being very mean to Adele but his spiteful comments only coming out of a place that wishes to save adele from the embarrassment of her behaviour she may face later in life.

    I will stop now. Because this has become an essay. And I never intended for it to be so.

    p.s Ellen page will be ok I guess. She is small enough and her face is odd enough to be interpreted as plain but having only seen her in Juno we shall have to see if she can translate that passionate spirit of Juno into a quiet, passivly passionate, british Jane.

    p.p.s I hope they don’t mess up… I love this book!

  17. Trac said

    I love the idea of Richard Armitage! He’s my favorite choice, and he can definitely act, as seen in North & South. I also like Christian Bale or Gerard Butler.

  18. jerryjeff said

    Nice post, Sophie.

  19. jerryjeff said

    This is not the first time I’ll say that this reminds me of a quote from director John Huston (The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The African Queen). Huston said, “You don’t have to be the thing itself to be an actor in the theatre. You don’t have to be the real article … But to be a screen actor, you have to be the real thing. The camera sees behind the eyes of the person, it sees something – it sees deeper into the person than just an acquaintance would. The camera has … a discerning!”

    If this is true, then it makes sense to choose an actor who clearly has a lot going on in his head to serve the complicated character of Mr. Rochester rather than someone for whom the main recommendation is that he outwardly looks the part. Sounds funny but anything less seems fraudulent.

  20. Sophie said

    Like Daniel Craig a la Bond?

    p.s thanks!

  21. herewegokids said

    Well: I agree about Vince Vaughn; he’s definitely cut from the right cloth but he could never pull off the “British-ness” of Rochester (I’m American, BTW).

    Christian Bale: yes, in his ‘bulked-up’ state.

    I’m surprised noone’s mentioned Russell Crowe. He might give it a go.

    Colin Firth: please, no.

    Ralph Fiennes: I really don’t think so.

    My fantasy pick: Joaquim Phoenix; if he could do the accent, he could TOTALLY pull it off!

  22. Ash said

    Why oh why are they making this anyway? I hate when they make bland hollywood films so shortly after a successful BBC-series. It will always be disappointing. An american Mr Rochester? I don’t think so. However, if I had to choose someone for the role it would have to be Joaquin Phoenix (exellent suggestion! If he could pull off the accent he would be absolutely perfect) or Richard Armitage, simply because he looks like a Rochester.

    However, noone can ever reach Toby’s level. He embodied the role in the same way Colin Firth embodied Darcy. (Firth could NEVER be a Rochester though…) Oh, and Ellen Page is waaay to American and, well, pretty.

  23. liz said

    I agree with James McAvoy. Though he is not perfect for it (who is) i think he would be great. He could definately to the rochester-eyes (cold, estranged sometimes while passionate, searching others).
    Think of becoming Jane, people, only he’d be rougher and less charming.

  24. Lila said

    While I actually like James McAvoy, he’s just not right for Mr.Rochester. He’s just too young, and just way to cute to pull it off.
    He would actually be a really good Saint John though.

    I can see Richard Armitage as Rochester… even though he is very good looking…

    Damian Lewis (from Band of Brothers) would be an interesting choice. I think he would do a GREAT job, plus he has the advantage of being british!

  25. jerryjeff said

    I think Richard Armitage is wooden.

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