Special Collaborative Post: Recasting Jane Austen’s Screen Adaptation of Sense & Sensibility

Happy Sunday, everyone! Hope you’ve had a lovely weekend.

Today I bring you another collaborative post with a fellow blogger, and fellow British actor aficionado, Anna from Defiant Success blog. This will be a mini blog series of RECASTING Jane Austen screen adaptations. Anna wanted to do this in order of the book’s release, the first one happens to be my own personal favorite: Sense & Sensibility.

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Anna’s Picks

Romola Garai as Elinor Dashwood

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“Elinor, the eldest daughter whose advice was so effectual, possessed a strength in understanding, and coolness of judgment, which qualified her, though only nineteen, to be the counsellor of her mother, and enabled her frequently to counteract, to the advantage of them all, that eagerness of mind in Mrs. Dashwood which must generally have led to imprudence. She had an excellent heart; — her disposition was affectionate, and her feelings were strong; but she knew how to govern them: it was a knowledge which her mother had yet to learn. and which one of her sisters had resolved never to be taught.”

If you’ve seen Garai’s work in the brilliant (but unfortunately short-lived) TV series The Hour, you’ll know that her role of Bel Rowley has a few shared traits with that of Elinor. Reserved, levelheaded, (un)willingly keeps her feelings to herself…she just seemed right for the part. (It also doesn’t hurt that Garai has previously played another Austen leading lady, albeit a less sensible one.)

Carey Mulligan as Marianne Dashwood

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“She was sensible and clever; but eager in every thing; her sorrows, her joys, could have no moderation. She was generous, amiable, interesting: she was every thing but prudent.”


I was reminded of Mulligan’s work in An Education as I was sketching out this list. Her role of Jenny Mellor is that of a young woman with a deep admiration for the arts and is experiencing love for the first time in her life before the harsh truths about her lover come to light. That description could easily be applied to Marianne as well. (Again, Mulligan has previously been in an Austen adaptation, though her character is less appreciated.)

James McAvoy as Edward Ferrars

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“He was not handsome, and his manners required intimacy to make them pleasing. He was too diffident to do justice to himself; but when his natural shyness was overcome, his behaviour gave every indication of an open affectionate heart. His understanding was good, and his education had given it solid improvement. But he was neither fitted by abilities nor disposition to answer the wishes of his mother and sister, who longer to see him distinguished—as—they hardly knew what. They wanted him to make a fine figure in the world in some manner or other. His mother wished to interest him in political concerns, to get him into parliament, or to see him connected with some of the great men of the day. Mrs. John Dashwood wished it likewise; but in the mean while, till one of these superior blessings could be attained, it would have quieted her ambition to see him driving a barouche. But Edward had no turn for great men or barouches. All his wishes centered in domestic comfort and the quiet of private life.”

Yes, Austen specified that Edward is “not handsome” but considering the role has also been played by 90s-era Hugh Grant and a pre-Downton Abbey Dan Stevens, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I don’t think anyone will object to whom I’ve chosen. Anyway, McAvoy’s work in Atonement is what inspired me to choose him. Reserved and shy but passionate. (And yes, I see the irony of having him and Garai play love interests. It would certainly shine Atonement in a new light.)

Benedict Cumberbatch as Colonel Brandon

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“He was silent and grave. His appearance however was not unpleasing, in spite of his being in the opinion of Marianne and Margaret an absolute old bachelor, for he was on the wrong side of five and thirty; but though his face was not handsome his countenance was sensible, and his address was particularly gentlemanlike.”


Okay, I’ll admit the 1995 Sense & Sensibility film might have had some influence in this decision. (Another influence was Parade’s End.) There was just something about that description that made me think of Cumberbatch. (My money’s on the “not unpleasing” appearance.) And I bet that the scene of Colonel Brandon recalling his lost love to Elinor would be done beautifully in his hands (and voice).

Henry Cavill as John Willoughby

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“Elinor and her mother rose up in amazement at their entrance, and while the eyes of both were fixed on him with an evident wonder and a secret admiration which equally sprung from his appearance, he apologized for his intrusion by relating its cause, in a manner so frank and so graceful, that his person, which was uncommonly handsome, received additional charms from his voice and expression. Had he been old, ugly, and vulgar, the gratitude and kindness of Mrs. Dashwood would have been secured by any act of attention to her child; but the influence of youth, beauty, and elegance, gave an interest to the action which came home to her feelings.”

Basically that description there is Austen describing Willoughby as the most ridiculously handsome man you’ve ever laid eyes on. (Don’t quote me on that.) And I’ll admit I was slightly stuck on whom to cast in the role. Thankfully I’m on the internet enough to get a good idea or two, and Cavill certainly came to mind. I mean, look at him. It practically makes Willoughby’s philandering all the more stunning (though not exactly unexpected), doesn’t it?

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Ruth’s Picks

Andrea Riseborough as Elinor Dashwood

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I first saw Andrea in three films last year and was so impressed by her chameleonic ability to disappear into her characters. She’s in her mid 30s but looks youthful enough to pull off a 19 year old. I think she’d do Elinor justice as I think she can play ANY role convincingly. She has a quiet grace about her as well as a wise-beyond-her-years countenance that’d work nicely for this role.

Sophia Myles as Marianne Dashwood

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Myles has actually done an Austen adaptation before in 1999 film version of Mansfield Park, but it was a small role as Fanny’s sister. I actually thought she resembles Kate Winslet so much but that’s not the reason I cast her here. I had been impressed by her in Tristan n Isolde and the Moonlight TV show. She’s so grossly underrated but she is beautiful and has that innocent yet impetuous sensibility that would make her an excellent Marianne.

Tom Hiddleston as Edward Ferrars

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I always thought that Hiddleston is not classically handsome but yet he’s immensely attractive and charming. Now Edward is more on the shy side (unlike the more gregarious Hiddles) but I think the talented Brit can pull off reserve. Though he’s most well-known for playing the villainous Loki in the Marvel Universe, Tom has kind eyes which makes me think he’d suit this character. I also love that Tom has a soothing n gentle voice, more Dan Stevens than the stuttering Hugh Grant. Plus I think he and Andrea would make a lovely, albeit a bit unexpected, pair.
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Toby Stephens as Colonel Brandon

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Yes I know it’s no surprise you’d see Toby on here but really I can’t imagine anyone else I’d want in the role. He’s done two Brontë adaptations, Charlotte’s (BBC Jane Eyre 2006) and Anne’s (The Tenant of Wildfell Hall), but never Austen’s. I could just picture his melancholic expression as he beheld Marianne for the first time playing the piano. He’s perfected that pining look as Rochester pining for Jane. Now obviously the impossibly fine-boned actor can’t be described as ‘not handsome’ (how Brandon’s described in the book) but the important thing is that he captured the essence of the character the way he did with Rochester. Plus, like Rickman, Toby has voice to die for, so I’d want an extended scene of his Brandon reading to Marianne [sigh]
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Aaron Taylor-Johnson as John Willoughby

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Initially I was thinking of Ben Barnes, who’s played Dorian Gray before, but I feel that he’s not seductive enough as Willoughby. Aaron on the other hand, is what I’d consider not simply handsome, but a truly beautiful young man. On top of that, he oozes so much sex appeal with just the way he stares at you with those gorgeous blue eyes. At 23, also pretty close to the character’s age in the book (25). Willoughby is supposed to be an instant charmer, all swagger and undeniable passion, but not in a malicious kind of way as he earnestly does love Marianne. Interestingly, his hair here reminds me of Greg Wise’s wavy locks in the 1995 version as Willoughby.


Well, those are our picks for the main characters Sense & Sensibility. Let us know your thoughts and feel free to offer your own picks in the comments!

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59 thoughts on “Special Collaborative Post: Recasting Jane Austen’s Screen Adaptation of Sense & Sensibility

    1. Fair enough. I know Benedict is extremely popular. I’d be surprised if anyone has even heard of most of my choices, well apart from Hiddleston.

        1. All right, all right.

          Although you told me your choices going to be “lesser-known” (Hiddleston and Taylor-Johnson aside), I’ve actually seen some of the work of your other choices. (Those particular works, by the way, were Riseborough in The Devil’s Whore, Myles on an episode of Doctor Who, and Stephens in Cambridge Spies.) And although my knowledge of their work is rather limited (Hiddleston aside), I very much like whom you’ve chosen for Sense and Sensibility. I look forward to the next one.

          1. Very cool!! You’ve actually seen Cambridge Spies too, I’m impressed 😀 Are you a Jane Eyre fan at all? I think of Stephens as Brandon more from his performance as Rochester, combined with the more reserved and forlorn quality he displayed in the recent indie sci-fi The Machine.

            We’re going w/ EMMA next right? Oooh, casting Mr. Knightley would be fun, though Jeremy Northam is tough to beat. I didn’t care for Gwyneth tho, so that’ll be fun finding her replacement as well. Btw, I did like Romola Garai as Emma, I wish she had been in the film version w/ Northam.

            1. Well, I haven’t seen that adaptation of Jane Eyre (I only saw the film with Michael Fassbender as Rochester) but I intend to in the near future.

              Well, you yourself specified in the opening paragraph that I “wanted to this in order of the book’s release”, and the next one we agreed on was Mansfield Park, remember? We’ll do Emma right after Mansfield Park, I promise. (And I have the perfect Mr. Knightley in mind too.) 😉

              1. Oh sorry I forgot. Yes Mansfield Park it is then. Now I remember you’ve started it already. So you’re set on Dominic Cooper as Henry Crawford? Funny but he’s kind of a cad, similar to Willoughby I guess, which he played in the latest BBC version 😉

  1. Ted S.

    As you know I’m not into period pictures unless it’s action or war storyline and I’ve never seen Sense & Sensibility. But I think you’re going to have a lot of fun with my site: http://www.yourmoviecast.com. I hope to launch soon, been saying that for years but it’s close to reality now, fingers crossed. 🙂

    1. Can’t wait for the launch Ted! We have to make a promo splash here at FC to celebrate its launch, let’s think of something 😀

      1. Ted S.

        Oh sure for sure, we’ll announce it here when it’s launched! I’m going to have section for bloggers to promote their articles on the site since IMDB got rid of that feature. I don’t know why they did that, it’s quite popular.

        1. Oh awesome! Yeah I miss that section, it brought TONS of hits every time my post made it there. Now my only hope is Reddit but the mods there is brutal, they kept blocking me for some reason 😦

          1. Yep, totally with you on that one. It was such a waste having those two for barely 10 min in that movie. It wasn’t a very good movie to begin with either.

  2. Nice choices all around. I would vote for Anna’s Edward and Colonel Brandon. While Ruth scored for me with Willoughby with pretty-boy Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Fun! 🙂

    1. Aaron sure is pretty but he’s quite manly as well, and soooo sexy! I don’t usually go for guys that age but my goodness, I fell for him playing young Lennon in Nowhere Boy.

  3. jackdeth72

    Hi, Anna and Ruth:

    So, this is what a cinematic “Girls’ Night Out” looks like! 😀

    Very cool and intriguing selections, ladies. Lots of familiar names and capabilities. Austen requires, almost demands subtlety. And those selected could have a wonderful competition
    in underplaying the other.

    Well done!

    1. Thank you Kevin! “Austen requires, almost demands subtlety” Couldn’t say it better myself and yes these actors are more than apt to the task.

  4. I love your picks Ruth! Myles is such a beautiful girl, and she was wonderful in Triston + Isold (and yes, she looks so much like Winslet). It’s sad that her career hasn’t taken off like it should have. Andrea needs more roles too. She was wonderful in W.E., but she’s sadly underused.

    I only contest to Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who’s face offends me.

    1. Hi Andrew!! Glad someone else noticed miss Myles. It’s too bad her career didn’t take off though she had been in some popular shows, she was in Dr Who w/ Tennant (they both dated for a while too). Andrea is such a tremendous actress, beautiful w/ chamelon-like quality, just like Blanchett.

      Oh no, Aaron’s face offends you?? Why so?

  5. I really like some of these choices. Sense and Sensibility is one of my favorite Austen films. I’m a big Carey Mulligan fan. So I have to go with Carey. She also has a very youthful look to her. I’ve adored her since I first saw her as a guest star in ‘Doctor Who’ as Sally Sparrow.

    1. I love Mulligan, esp in Never Let Me Go. I felt that she was miscast as Daisy in The Great Gatsby though, but I’d think she’d make a lovely Marianne.

  6. Quite a lot of British actors there. Not only interesting picks there, but I also love the photos you’ve picked. Its almost like casting photos for the actual roles!

  7. It’s actually hard to pick one set over the other. I love Anna’s woman and Ruth’s men…haha what can I say I like the lesser known guys for this one! Love this post, Cheers.

    1. YAY! I’m thrilled you like my male picks! I know Hiddleston is super famous now though, but I still would love to see him as Edward. Right now I’m all about Toby so it’s been fun imagining him as Col Brandon, esp with THAT voice [sigh]

    1. Mwahahaha! Well now that would guarantee that I won’t watch it Mikey!

      Well miss Riseborough sure is beautiful AND talented, let’s hope she gets more roles.

  8. Love Anna’s section for the female characters. I can really picture Mulligan in the role. As for Brandon, it’s hard for me to imagine a more perfect actor than Rickman but Stephens does have that more rugged, lost look going on so I could see him working very well Ruth! Although an older Cumberbatch might do the trick too! Great idea for a post series! Looking forward to the next entry 🙂

  9. Wonderful picks from both of you, but I prefer yours Ruth, Toby would make a magnificent Brandon even though I cannot imagine anyone topping Rickman.

    1. Hi Sati! I’ve been waiting for you to chime in, girl. Oh yeah, nobody can top Rickman, he’ll always be my favorite. But I think Toby could come close, glad you think so too. I like the word you use, magnificent is how I’d describe him in general 😉

    1. Hmmm, that’s a bummer you didn’t like Taylor-Johnson. What movies have you seen him in? I loved him in Nowhere Boy and he showed his range in Kick-Ass, though he’s so wasted in Godzilla. Ok so aside from him, what do you think of the rest of my picks?

  10. What’s great about this is that as different as the two casts are they both feel like believable potential interpretations of the text. (The beauty of Jane Austen is that it could work in so many ways).

    I love, for example, the idea of Romola Garai and Carey Mulligan as sisters (both former sisters to Keira Knightley) and the idea of Hiddleston as someone more reserved like Edward is an intriguing idea. I’d believe that Henry Cavill would enchant Marianne with his looks, but I’d believe Aaron Johnson would beguile her with his playfulness.

    No casting of Mrs Dashwood, though? What gives?

    1. Ah, thank you, Andrew. I was wondering what you thought of our choices. (And for what it’s worth, Ruth was the one who decided on which characters to cast. I probably would’ve had Kate Winslet as Mrs. Dashwood.)

    2. Hi Andrew! Thanks for your comment, I value your judgment and I’m glad you think our pics could work!

      I think Aaron Johnson (though arguably perhaps not as handsome as Henry) could be much more playful and flirtatious as Willoughby.

      Mrs Dashwood… hmmm, I’m not sure to be honest, perhaps Kristin Scott Thomas or Samantha Morton?

  11. Loved this post. You know I am also a sucker for these types of movies. I was wondering when the Toby mention was coming… hello he has to be in it. I am really loving Aaron Taylor-Johnson right now. Ummmm to die for !

    1. Hey Melissa!! You’ve seen the 2006 Jane Eyre right? If not, you MUST see it pronto. I’d lend you my dvd of it if need be, just send me your address 😀

      Yes of course Toby has to be in this, I’d cast him in every period drama if I could. He’d make a wonderful Mr Knightley for Emma as well I think, though maybe not Mr. Darcy as he’s supposed to be much younger.

      Aaron is my young man crush. I usually don’t go for someone THAT young, I’m closer to Gerry Butler & Toby Stephen’s age (well, about 5 yrs younger) but man, Aaron is sooo sexy. Even w/ his mustache in Anna Karenina he oozes sex appeal. He seems to go for older women though, his wife is 20+ yrs older than him!

      1. No I haven’t seen it yet! When I get home I am going to look for it, I think it is on Netflix. I have to see it! Definitely looks like something I would like, plus I need to see Toby in action.

        Yes Aaron is seriously cute! My younger sister introduced me to him years ago and I didn’t think much of him as he was a teenager (have you seen Angus, Thongs, and Perfect Snogging?). But now he is a full fledged man and oh lord he is hot. Him in Anna Karenina and a period costume, I’ll take that!

        1. Yeah I believe it’s on Netflix, not sure if it’s available on streaming tho, might be dvd only. Oh that’d be a good intro to see Toby in action, esp the scenes where he convinced Jane to stay with him. Oh la la! Here’s a preview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6z6CAvY4_pA I LOVE his breathy voice here too, I don’t know how ANY woman could resist him. I’d also recommend The Machine, a sci-fi made a year ago, it’s an homage to Blade Runner.

          No I haven’t seen Angus, Thongs, and Perfect Snogging, is that an earlier role Aaron did? I first saw him in Nowhere Boy. I think he looks better now than when he’s much younger. I bet he’d be even hotter as he grow older. I’m not fond of the Anna Karenina movie, but I still think Aaron is so sexy in the role of Vronsky.

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