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.