The latest film adaptation of a Jane Austen novel, the unfinished Sanditon, will air very soon. No doubt, a crucial element to ensure its success will be the cast. So far, in the short trailer at least, the choice of actors looks promising. Unfortunately that is not always the case, and casting mistakes often abound in such adaptations.
But have you ever thought of an actor, “he/she would make an amazing [insert Austen character here]”? I certainly have, so allow me to present the first part of a series of posts on my fantasy cast of Jane Austen adaptations.
The choices are from all novels and are shown in no particular order. I should also warn the reader that they are not necessarily feasible. Some actors are too old or too young to play the roles, but I still think they would have been/would be quite perfect for the different parts. So let’s begin!
The Friends (and Family)
Let’s start with Pride and Prejudice’s Mr Bingley, Darcy’s best mate. A jovial, kind and pleasing young man, he is in many ways the opposite of his friend. Like his sister, he is also unofficially a redhead. I think Eddie Redmayne (Fantastic Beasts, The Theory of Everything) would be great for the role – compulsory freckles included.
I would love to see Helen Mirren (The Queen, The Madness of King George) as Persuasion’s Lady Russell. She has the regal posture and deportment that I have always imagined for the character. And I think I have the perfect Sir Elliot: the magnificent Rupert Everett (My Best Friend’s Wedding, The Importance of Being Ernest). He looks fabulous in period clothing, and I can already picture him admiring his profile in one of his many looking glasses.
Finally, let’s make a pick for Mansfield Park. For years I was convinced that Matt Smith (The Crown, Doctor Who) had played Tom Bertram in a Mansfield Park adaptation. It turns out that I was wrong. No such role appears in his filmography, so I must have dreamt it (his Mr Collins in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is best forgotten, as is the film overall). However, with his debonair charm and aristocratic air, he would be perfect as Sir Thomas’ heir.
Dominic Cooper (Mamma Mia, An Education) would be ideal as Mansfield Park‘s Henry Crawford. He is not a conventionally handsome man and is too short for typical leading man roles, yet he is very attractive. Just the sort of man to make the Bertram sisters lower their guard. He also looks terrific in period garb, as we saw in the opulent film The Duchess.
As to Mr Crawford’s sister, I think Gemma Arterton (see featured image) would be an excellent choice. She played Elizabeth Bennet in Lost in Austen (which incidentally is still on my to-watch list). However, with her sultry looks, I think she is much more suited to a character with a dark side, such as the seductive Mary Crawford.
Rose Leslie (Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey) is my Caroline Bingley of choice. She would be up to the challenge of portraying an iconic character with a heart of stone. Of course, Leslie is also suitably red-haired and would look fetching in a silk gown. She is Scottish, but I trust that an English accent wouldn’t be a problem for her.
I love Hugh Grant (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill). Nevertheless, I have never thought his Edward Ferrars was true to Austen’s original description of the character. Grant is far too good-looking and charming, I’m afraid. I think Freddie Highmore (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Bates Motel), with his boyish looks and hints of awkwardness, would be much better for the role.
Taron Egerton (Kingsman, Rocketman) would make a good Mr Tilney. He has got the right level of cheekiness required to play the part. I can see him in breeches, dancing with Caroline Morland and talking muslins with Mrs Allen. However, I must admit that JJ Feild was rather splendid in the 2007 Northanger Abbey movie adaptation.
Now a controversial proposal: for Sense and Sensibility’s Colonel Brandon, I suggest Rufus Sewell (Victoria, The Illusionist) circa 2010. He has the melancholy look of a man who has suffered and as a result keeps himself to himself. Having said that, I am very happy with Alan Rickman’s performance, which I know is much loved amongst Janeites.
As well as an award-winning actress, Carey Mulligan (The Great Gatsby, Never Let Me Go) is no stranger to Austen. She was part of the 2005 P&P cast as Kitty Bennet and played a suitably vacuous Isabella Thorpe in the 2007 Northanger Abbey adaptation. Having said that, I believe that the Austen role she was born to play is Emma Woodhouse. I think she would be great.
For the remaining two heroines in today’s post, let us focus on the two Dashwood sisters of Sense and Sensibility. Kate Winslet was a force of nature as Marianne in the 1995 S&S adaptation, but if we were to pick a new one for the younger generation, who better than Jennifer Lawrence (Hunger Games, X-Men) as the Austen heroine who most wears her heart on her sleeve? Lawrence would do a great job of conveying stubbornness, passion and vulnerability at the same time.
I think Brie Larson (Room, Captain Marvel) would be brilliant as Elinor Dashwood, Marianne’s level-headed older sister. Granted, both Lawrence and Larsson, at 29, are slightly too old to play the Dashwood sisters, but I think they would do a sterling job. I’d also like to think they could put up a mean English accent.
This list is to be continued, of course, but in the meantime, I would love to hear your thoughts. Who would be part of your fantasy Austen adaptations cast?