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Michael Fassbender and Other Mr. Rochesters: Why So Dreamy?

by Caryn James
March 7, 2011 2:30 AM
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One thing is certain about Jane Eyre's Mr Rochester: he was no dreamboat. Try telling that to the people who cast Michael Fassbender as Rochester to Mia Wasikowska’s Jane in the new version arriving Friday.

Charlotte Bronte’s Rochester was not just older than Jane and gruff – an essential part of the plot – he was decidedly not attractive. As Jane herself describes him, he has “stern features and a heavy brow,” and she only feels comfortable talking to him at first because he is not great-looking. “Had he been a handsome, heroic-looking young gentleman I should not have dared to stand thus questioning him,” she says.

But that’s the book. Few filmmakers have dared to go with a truly unappealing Rochester, even though the actresses are turned into plain Janes. Why? Maybe it’s just box-office casting, maybe they don’t trust the audience to recognize how love can make an unattractive man resemble somebody’s dream.

Take a look at some other Mr. Rochesters. Why would Jane ever have resisted, bigamist or not?


More dashing than gruff, here’s Rochester ready to morph into James Bond, from a 1983 BBC miniseries.


Charlotte Gainsbourg plays the plainest of Janes in Franco Zeffirelli’s lovely 1996 film. But does Hurt look un-handsome? A little goofy, maybe.


Carrying on the tradition of good-looking men in very bad wigs, Stephens at least has the Rochester glower in this 2006 miniseries with unglamorous Ruth Wilson.


That’s more like it. Hinds can be attractive, but not at first glance, as Samantha Morton’s Jane realizes in this 1997 TV version.

I’ll let you know how FASSBENDER works in the new version.

Here’s the trailer, in which he asks, “Do you think me handsome?” and Jane answers, “No, Sir.” Another point: Jane is not meant to be delusional.

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  • Andrea | March 9, 2011 11:11 AMReply

    Hilarious and so true! I laughed my way through this article. I forgive Hollywood because it's fun watching dreamy Rochesters. Ciaran Hinds is pretty close to what I imagined Rochester looking like the first time I read the book. :)

  • JaneEyre Expert | March 8, 2011 3:29 AMReply

    Oh quit complaining. These are gothic characters and they are meant to be haunting and stern but it is supposed to come off as attractive. No one who has really read the book carefull envisions Rochester as quasimodo. And some of the Rochesters up there are not so dreamy. The bar for dreaminess seems really low for you.

  • Urbisoler | March 7, 2011 10:05 AMReply

    That's Hollywood!
    Any organization that can make Wuthering Heights a Romance needs a leash.

  • Voltaire | March 7, 2011 4:43 AMReply

    The trailer makes Jane Eyre look--and sound--like another vampire movie. I hope it isn't. Charlotte Bronte definitely put the Gothic to good use but the story needs the balance that a non-delusional Jane gives it. Thanks again, Caryn, for your witty and acute reports from TV and movie-land.

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