It has been roughly a decade since we last had a TV or film adaption of Jane Eyre. This is not to be borne! Jane Eyre is one of those stories (like Little Women or Pride & Prejudice) that simply cannot be adapted too many times, in my opinion. With that in mind, I’ve compiled my own dream cast for a new adaption of Jane Eyre. You won’t find every single character from the book on this list (that would take too long!), and neither will you find casting for any of the children (like young Jane or Adèle), because kids grow up very quickly and I don’t know very many child actors anyway. However, I have tried to be reasonably thorough in my casting.
So here is the list! (Tried to start with minor characters and gradually work my way up to Jane and Rochester.)
Colonel Dent: Sean Bean
“Colonel Dent is a fine soldierly man.”
Starting off with a very obscure character indeed. 😉 I will not be casting all of Rochester’s house guests, by any means, but when I started thinking about this dream cast I immediately knew that Sean Bean would be an excellent choice for the role of Colonel Dent. ‘Twould be a fun little cameo!
Mr. Brocklehurst: Ricky Gervais
“Passing through and curtseying low, I looked up at—a black pillar!—such, at least, appeared to me, at first sight, the straight, narrow, sable-clad shape standing erect on the rug.”
Hehe. I can see Ricky Gervais turning in an absolutely hilarious, satirical performance as one of the most base and hypocritical of schoolmasters. Grinning just thinking about it.
Mrs. Reed: Kate Winslet
“Illness never came near her; she was an exact, clever manager; her household and tenantry were thoroughly under her control.”
After seeing Kate Winslet in Divergent more times than I can count, I have no doubt that she could portray the cold, proud, selfish Mrs. Reed. And her acting skills in general are so good that I just know she would do a fantastic job with the deathbed scenes. *shivers*
Miss Temple: Carey Mulligan
“Miss Temple is full of goodness; it pains her to be severe to any one, even the worst in the school.”
Not going to lie, Carey Mulligan is one of my favorite actresses—and she is no stranger to period dramas, having appeared in everything from Pride & Prejudice to Bleak House to Far From the Madding Crowd. Miss Temple is sweet and kind, but she also has a hidden strength and backbone of steel (not unlike Jane, actually—which makes sense). Carey Mulligan would give a lovely, well-rounded performance, even if Miss Temple is something of a minor character.
Mrs. Fairfax: Brenda Blethyn
“She was occupied in knitting; a large cat sat demurely at her feet; nothing in short was wanting to complete the beau-ideal of domestic comfort.”
Oh, I love this bit of casting! Granted, I have only seen Brenda Blethyn in Pride & Prejudice (as Mrs. Bennet) BUT I believe she would be simply perfect for the role of Mrs. Fairfax. Fussy and gossipy, but also warmhearted and welcoming. (I also think Julie Walters would be great in the role.)
Grace Poole: Anna Maxwell Martin
“…any apparition less romantic or less ghostly could scarcely be conceived.”
To be frank, I don’t reeeeally care who is cast as Grace Poole, but I felt that she was an important enough character that I needed to find someone to play her. Even though Grace doesn’t have too much time on-screen, hers is an essential role. And I think Anna Maxwell Martin would do an excellent job with Grace’s character! Martin has an almost stern presence in at least one of the roles in which I’ve seen her, a presence that could easily turn forbidding and mysterious if she portrayed Grace Poole.
Bertha Mason: Emilia Clarke
“Just at my bedside, the figure stopped: the fiery eye glared upon me—she thrust up her candle close to my face, and extinguished it under my eyes.”
I struggled with casting Bertha, because she is a complicated character to handle—especially, I believe, were an adaption of Jane Eyre to be made these days (and you know it’s only a matter of time before that happens). After all, Jane Eyre has come under quite a bit of scrutiny with regards to the treatment of Bertha’s character.
Personally, I still believe that Rochester did the best that he could for Bertha (besides, y’know, planning to marry another woman). See here and here. Neither am I an advocate for Wide Sargasso Sea-esque readings of the text. But I do think it would be interesting if a new adaption gave some more depth and life to Bertha (perhaps even through a brief flashback or two as Rochester tells Jane his story). With all that said, Emilia Clarke could, I believe, be depended upon to portray Bertha with talent, sensitivity, and accuracy.
Richard Mason: Patrick Kennedy
“On closer examination, you detected something in his face that displeased; or rather, that failed to please.”
Okay. I admit that Richard did a good thing in putting a stop to Jane and Rochester’s marriage. A VERY good thing. But…he’s also kind of annoying? And an idiot? What I’m getting at is that, as with Grace Poole, I don’t much care who plays him. However, I think Patrick Kennedy would do a good job with the role. Maybe he’s a liiiitle too old. But whatever. I don’t feel like wracking my brain to find someone else.
Diana (or Mary) Rivers: Saoirse Ronan
“I had nowhere seen such faces as theirs: and yet, as I gazed on them, I seemed intimate with every lineament.”
I’m fine with both Rivers sisters being included in a new adaption of Jane Eyre, but I also think the role could be condensed to just one sister. And, if so, I want Saoirse Ronan to play her. Why? Um…because it’s Saoirse Ronan. Duh. XD I also think she matches my casting for St. John quite well, in terms of them seeming like an actual brother/sister pair.
Rosamund Oliver: Lily James
“I wondered, as I looked at this fair creature: I admired her with my whole heart.”
Just about now you might be thinking “Rosamund Oliver? Who’s that?” Or maybe you actually know Jane Eyre very well, and I’m the only one who sometimes forgets about Rosamund. 😉 Anyway! Rosamund is a well-to-do young woman who is in love with St. John Rivers. She ends up marrying someone else (dodged a bullet there, I say, lol) and I suppose she’s not essential to the story. But she does give some more depth to St. John’s character, and Lily James would be lovely perfection in the role!
Blanche Ingram: Emily Blunt
“If he liked the majestic, she was the very type of majesty: then she was accomplished, sprightly. Most gentlemen would admire her.”
ALL HAIL THE QUEEN.
(I mean Emily Blunt, not Blanche. XD)
Honestly though. I’m having so much fun imagining Emily Blunt as Miss Ingram. I have a feeling she would steal the show. Just a little bit. And it would be glorious.
St. John Rivers: Domhnall Gleeson
“Mr St. John—sitting as still as one of the dusky pictures on the wall; keeping his eyes fixed on the page he perused, and his lips mutely sealed—was easy enough to examine.”
Perhaps my favorite bit of casting in this whole list. I’m such a Domhnall Gleeson fan, and I know that he has the acting skills necessary to portray St. John the way he should be portrayed. St. John is a complex character. Legalistic, narcissistic, all around awful—but complex. Even a little sympathetic at times. All of that can be difficult to convey, especially as it would be much easier to make St. John a one-note jerk. But Domhnall Gleeson? He could portray St. John so, so well. I would love to see it.
Mr. Rochester: Christian Bale
“…his grim mouth, chin, and jaw—yes, all three were very grim, and no mistake.”
This was the very first casting idea I had for this dream cast. Besides the fact that I just want to see Christian Bale in more films, I wholeheartedly believe that he could bring Rochester to life in an incredibly vivid way. One aspect of Rochester’s character that is sometimes ignored is just how charismatic and captivating Rochester actually is (when he chooses to be). He has a magnetic personality that attracts not just Jane, but so many others as well. In the book, we read “if he was absent from the room an hour, a perceptible dullness seemed to steal over the spirits of his guests; and his re-entrance was sure to give a fresh impulse to the vivacity of the conversation.”
In my opinion, Christian Bale has that same magnetism in every single one of his roles (that I’ve seen). You don’t want to take your eyes off him, even (especially?) when he’s playing an awful character. There’s a sardonic, cynical quality to so many of his performances, as well as an undercurrent of unpredictability whenever he’s on-screen—you’re never quite sure what he’s going to do or say next. How very like a certain Byronic hero!
Jane Eyre: Alicia Vikander
“I have as much soul as you—and full as much heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you.”
My dearest Jane Eyre. Jane is one of the greatest fictional heroines of all time (if not the greatest—truly!), and she needs a good, wonderful actress to portray her. And Alicia Vikander? She is good and wonderful and more. I have seen her in Testament of Youth, The Light Between Oceans, and Tomb Raider, and she was incredible in all three films (particularly Oceans).
Jane is quiet, but impassioned. Physically small, but possessing an incredible strength of will. Plain, yet beautiful in spirit. Serious and studious, yet full of wit. And Alicia Vikander could portray her with such clarity, complexity, and compassion. I truly hope she gets the chance.
And there you have it! My dream cast for a brand-new adaption of Jane Eyre. *happy sigh* What are your thoughts? Do you disagree with any of my casting choices? Who would you cast to portray these beloved characters? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!