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01 January 2014 @ 05:41 pm
War & Peace Casting  
[Ed note: LATE AS ALWAYS. /o\ If it's true what you do on New Years sets the tone for the rest of your year, I'm already screwed! But um, Happy New Year!!!]

So this year I read War & Peace in a readalong hosted by myfriendamy. That should feel like quite an accomplishment, but I find myself somewhat ambivalent about it? Anna Karenina is one of my favorite novels, and I re-read it last year before the movie came out and liked it even more than I used to, but I didn't have nearly the same amount of love for W&P. Also the year-long readalong was fun, and I'm positive I wouldn't have finished it without that motivation, but I was always putting off other reading because I needed to finish that month's reading selection first. And in combination with how badly I procrastinated on getting the monthly reading done, I ended up reading embarrassingly little this year! So I feel like a big reading flop even though I finished War & Peace!

I really enjoy Andrew Davies adaptations, generally-speaking. He wrote the screenplays for the 1995 Pride and Prejudice most people consider to be the definitive version and the newer ITV Sense and Sensibility and Northanger Abbey, both of which are totally adorable. Fun fact: he also wrote the original British version of House of Cards. It was recently announced that he's writing a W&P miniseries for the BBC that's set to air in 2015, w00t! One actor is attached but the rest of the casting is up in the air, so I thought I'd fan!cast it for the W&P carnival. Disclaimer: I'm actually really terrible at fan casting, but I've tried my best!

Vanessa Redgrave as Anna Pavlovna Scherer

Any number of older British actresses with a lot of presence could play this role, but I'm going with Vanessa Redgrave because I don't think I've ever seen her do the society maven thing. And hey, IMDB informs me she was just in a BBC adaptation of The Thirteenth Tale which I totally need to watch b/c I remember that being a really fun gothic romp~ of a novel when I read it a few years ago!

Rupert Grint as Pierre Bezukhov

When I watched the 1956 Audrey Hepburn adaptation of W&P (terribad), Henry Fonda was woefully miscast as Pierre, mostly because Pierre is supposed to be 20 when the novel starts and Henry Fonda was FIFTY FOUR! Good grief. Anyway, I think whoever plays Pierre needs to be able to portray an overall sense of "softness" as Pierre is very weak-willed but ultimately good-hearted. He'd also need comic timing since Pierre is somewhat ridiculous as he fumbles along -- I remember thinking he was like a lamb other people were constantly leading to slaughter (at one point literally)! And even when he attempts to take control he's still pretty ridiculous i.e. his Call of Duty: Moscow Has Fallen! mission to assassinate Napoleon.

Anyway, I was trying to think of a British actor who is a little bit schlubby since Pierre is supposed to be overweight, and I was like hey what about Rupert Grint?? I think Pierre is a relatively simple character whose journey is really carried by the narrative, so it wouldn't take an actor with gravitas or skills beyond what I think Rupert's abilities are at this point in his career, and I think his comic timing would bring a lot to the role. Plus everyone really likes Rupert a lot and he hasn't done anything high profile since Harry Potter, so why not! My only reservation is that I thought he might be a little young for the part, but he's 25 (and will be 27 in 2015!), and the book spans seven years which makes him the perfect age for the part! But I just feel like it will ultimately go to someone older, probably. But hopefully not someone 54, lol.

Colin Morgan as Andrew Bolkonski

Andrei is my fave, tbh! I think he requires a good actor because he has such an active inner-life. In fact I'm not sure how he'll come off without his inner monologue; the 1956 adaptation (did I mention it was terribad??) dispensed with all of that and softened him into someone basically unrecognizable. But there's also the risk of having him be too detached/cold and not conveying any of what makes his character actually interesting! Anyway, originally I was going to go with Richard Madden for the part until I realized that he's only 26! Andrei was in his early 30s in the novel, and Richard Madden looks like a baby when he shaves his beard. I actually never watched Merlin, and I was originally interested in the other actor from the show for the role, but when I asked my sister if he was a decent actor she insisted Colin Morgan is way better and that he wasn't "too skinny!" anymore which was my initial objection. So IDK, have Colin Morgan. Look, he has an award! He must be good!

Michael Gambon as Prince Bolkonski

Can you feel the disapproval and emotional withholding already?? I'm still irritated that Gambon played Dumbledore so wrong at so many points in the Harry Potter films (like the time he shook Harry after his name turned up in the Goblet of Fire, or how about in OotP after Professor Trelawney is sacked in the courtyard and he yells at the gaping students to go do their homework? DUMBLEDORE WOULD NEVER, BYE!), but that's the performance that gives me confidence that he could totally be an ailing, crotchety, set-in-his-ways retired general who is... not the greatest father, to put it mildly. Gambon also has comedic talents, which I think the role needs. The prince's bizarre scenes should often be humorous, I think, but they also need to leave an impression of his cruelty and later on the tragedy of his deteriorating health. I think Gambon can help make that happen!

Aisling Loftus as Mary Bolkonskaya

Aw, she looks like a Hufflepuff in the last one. If ever there was a Hufflepuff! And Nicholas is a total Gryffindor, aw. Anyway, I'm familiar with Aisling Loftus from Mr. Selfridge's Store -- also an Andrew Davies adaptation! The sophisticated Frenchman being quite taken with her sweet shop assistant was probably one of the better story lines. I think she would be a great Princess Mary. She could be styled to seem plain, but the camera loves her -- especially her eyes -- and I think she could easily pull of the "radiance" that makes Princess Mary beautiful. And yeah, I'm dwelling on her looks because I do feel like that's the most difficult part of the casting to get right; like Pierre, I think Mary is a fairly simple character who is carried by the writing, and I think it would be easy for most actresses to pull off this role.

Mélanie Laurent as Mademoiselle Bourienne

Sort of self-explanatory. If I'm not going to cast any of the Russians without Russian actors, at least I can try to cast the French characters with French ones! But Mélanie Laurent is probably too big of an actress for this small role, considering how busy she keeps in France.

Anthony Hopkins as Count Rostov

A purely sentimental choice! Hopkins of course played Pierre in the previous BBC adaptation from 1972. He was also much too old, tho!

Prince Bolkonski would be a more logical choice, but what with him being most famous right now for playing a similar role (Odin in the Thor blockbusters), I'd rather see him as the more loving, indulgent father of the Rostov children.

Julie Christie as Countess Rostova

I thought she'd be a good match for Anthony Hopkins in age, and she is a good actress and so beautiful! And lol, I just realized she played Madam Rosmerta that Ron had a crush on in the HP movies. (WHY IS THERE SO MUCH HP IN THIS POST. I don't know, but I'm sorry!)

Rachel Hurd-Wood as Natasha Rostova

The most difficult casting decision, IMO! Andrew Davies said he hopes to cast an unknown in the role. (He also said in his press release that Natasha > Lizzie Bennet, which WOW OKAY SHOTS FIRED.) I think whoever plays her needs to embody liveliness -- she'll need to be able to sound as if she's laughing when she speaks, she'll need to be really smiley and charming and innocent and have all that je ne sais quoi stuff as well as be beautiful and fresh-faced. I think it will take a talented actress, since Natasha is so dramatic and goes through so much! I think early twenties is the right age to cast, but Natasha starts the book just 13 years old and falls for Andrew when she's 15 which EW THAT'S REALLY GROSS NOW THAT I ACTUALLY THINK ABOUT IT.

Anyway, I'm not really tuned in to up-and-coming British actresses, but Rachel Hurd-Wood was one of the first people to come to mind. Yes, Wendy from Peter Pan! She's still a bit of a blank slate as an actress, but I remember her being so striking in Perfume. I mean, just imagine her hair less crazy red since the Perfume's director has a fetish for red heads. She could totally be Natasha on the balcony! (Completely OT, but I always thought that scene was a reference to the John Waterhouse painting of a redheaded lady smelling roses, and yay I'm not alone!)

Honorable Mentions

I also considered Adelaide Clemons. In fact, I sort of have buyer's remorse, but every time I looked at her pictures I just felt she doesn't really have ~*~the look~*~ I was going for? But she got really good reviews in Parade's End (which I still haven't watched, ugh!), and she's on the much-raved-about Rectify series now. (Amy do you have opinions??) Mia Wasikowska is Australian, I know, but I think she'd be good. Mia and Adelaide are 24, but I think they could both play younger. If the actress needs to be younger, though, there's always Saoirse Ronan who is 19 but has loads of experience. I don't think she's ever played a character like Natasha, but...

Eddie Redmayne as Nicholas Rostov

Eddie Redmayne is the only actor currently attached to the adaptation, but no word on which part he's playing. I was like, who? when I heard his name since his big movie is Le Mis which I'd rather shoot myself in the face than watch (I hate musicals sry), so I don't know what his acting style is like, but just going off his look and the idea that he'll be a main character, I think he's best suited to Nicholas. Who I have so much affection for! He and Andrei were usually my favorite of the men to read about. Plus if he can sing maybe he and Natasha can do a song together in the adaptation like in the books!

Eleanor Tomlinson as Sonya Rostova

Aw, poor Sonya.

Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Petya Rostov


But lol, he's actually 23 years old?! I think casting an older actor possibly undermines the tragedy of his death and the message behind it, but he really doesn't look it to me + maybe casting a well-known child actor would have just as much of an impact?

Jason Isaacs as Prince Vasili Kuragin

Sneaky courtier is well within his wheelhouse.

Douglas Booth as Anatole Kuragin

Originally I was thinking Theo James (I even made the graphic!) since he played this type of character so well in Downton Abbey, but he's probably busy right now with Divergent/Insurgent/Whatevergent, and his features were always a little bolder than what I'd wanted. I think Anatole needs to be very ~*~pretty, so Douglas Booth immediately leapt to mind. He's used to playing the protagonist/romantic-lead in these types of films, but maybe he'd enjoy a smaller role where he gets to play an antagonist. I know some people think he's really unattractive, but... I don't know, he's really pretty and a little unusual looking to me. And I think he'd be believable as Helene's brother, since I've chosen....

Gemma Arterton as Helene Kuragina

OH WHAT FOLLY TO SUPPOSE THAT BEAUTY EQUALS GOODNESS or whatever the quote is. Anyway, I think Gemma is absolutely drop dead gorgeous and totally capable of being the imperious, manipulative Helene. Still annoyed Tolstoy pointedly killed her off because even though she was objectively horrible and manipulative and etcetera etcetera, but how could you not help but be impressed with her fabulous plan to divorce Pierre and get away with it!

William Moseley as Dolokhov

Originally I was considering William Moseley for Anatole, but I came across a bunch of pictures of him all sneaky looking and thought of Dolokhov instead. Anatole is not smart enough to be sneaky!

Ben Winshaw as Denisov

This feels like the longest-shot since Denisov is a smaller role, but he's short and hairy and a little odd-looking but still handsome, so I was like okay Ben Winshaw could pull that off. And I selfishly want to see him interact with Rachel Hurd-Wood again, just because Perfume is to this day one of the most bizarre, reach-for-the-brain-bleach movies I've ever watched, but it still amuses me so much to think about. (In Perfume Ben Winshaw is a serial killer who goes around killing tons of virgins including Rachel Wood-Hurd and turning their ~essential oils into the most sublime perfume that ever existed... and THEN IT STARTS GETTING WEIRD and there is an orgy and cannibalism and Alan Rickman weeping and stuff.)

Brian Cox as Kutuzov

There are a lot of generals in the novel, and Kutuzov is the best and most important and therefore the only one I'm casting!

Tom Hollander as Napoleon

Okay, so he's not French, but I think Tom Hollander would cut the right figure (short and generally unimpressive!) for an English version of a Russian novel that is very scornful towards Napoleon and his alleged genius. In fact it is scornful of Napoleon over and over and over and over and over again!! So why not perpetuate the myth that Napoleon was very short a little bit more, lol.

PEOPLE I DIDN'T CAST. Vera and Hippolyte and Boris and Julia and Anna Mikhaylovna because who cares. Various generals and officers. The only character I feel bad about not casting is Lise, who I forgot about! I remember the description of her as being angelic, very petite, and having a ~cute little mustache~ or something, but ugh I'm just tapped out at this point.

Anyway, yay! Hopefully at least one or two of the choices seemed on point! I'd love to hear what you think of them and who you'd choose instead -- especially for Pierre and Natasha, which to me were the hardest parts to cast! And ofc thank you to Amy for hosting the W&P readalong and carnival!! ♥
12cubed: Sky12_12_12 on January 2nd, 2014 01:33 am (UTC)
Someone who likes Andrei, yay! :DDD

Gorgeous picspam, as always. I've never seen anything Davies has done that isn't Austen (he also did an ITV version of Emma, IIRC, with Kate Beckinsale), but I love his work so I'll definitely be interested in seeing this!
Caitie: books | nancy drewcaitie on January 2nd, 2014 06:16 am (UTC)
I always forget about that version of Emma! I guess I always just think of the Gwyneth version as the one from the nineties! But yeah, he did really good work with all the Austen so hopefully that will carry over into W&P!

Thanks for commenting!
myfriendamy: Sawyermyfriendamy on January 2nd, 2014 05:17 am (UTC)
Happy New Year!

I feel like my reading year was a flop, too, though I tended to procrastinate the monthly reading by reading other things and then suddenly have to read W&P all in one night! And man I just-- by the end when I finished I was just so freaking glad to be done. There are a few other chunksters I want to read in my lifetime but for the time being I shall read books the length they should be--250-300 pages!!! (also I think because W&P was work to read it made me not want to read more whereas when I finish a really great compelling book, I'm like "bring on all the books!")

This is very thorough and really nicely done! I would never have thought of Rupert Grint for Pierre but I could totally see it. I honestly don't know who I'd cast for Pierre!

Good point about Andrew, his actions might seem especially ridiculous without his inner thoughts.

Adelaide's character on Rectify is rather timid and sweet but I could actually see her as Natasha I'm sure the actress could do it. Physically it makes sense. Lol, since Natasha is like Tolstoy's ideal woman it's really hard for me to imagine casting for her sort of like casting Helen of Troy or something. I'd be fine with your choices, though!

Omg Eddie Redmayne. He was the super creepy dude in that Blake Lively movie, Hick, like creeeeeepy which makes him automatically creepy to me forever, unforch!!

And aw yes Ben Whishaw as Denisov is perfect!

even though she was objectively horrible and manipulative

lol the part about her divorce was the best tbh, I don't even care. Actually she was involved in a few great scenes including Pierre's epic proposal!

Anyway, this is really nice, thanks for posting! You did a great job, since I can't really come up with anyone to cast at all, heh.

Caitie: books | nancy drewcaitie on January 2nd, 2014 06:44 am (UTC)
I shall read books the length they should be--250-300 pages!!!

Yes, books are way too long nowadays!! But lol, I was just having a look at Have His Carcase expecting to be able to say it's short (wasn't Strong Poison short and sweet??), but it's almost 500 pages! Good point about good books wanting to make you read more, though.

I would never have thought of Rupert Grint for Pierre but I could totally see it.

Yayyy! I was sort of embarrassed to choose him tbh, but I honestly couldn't think of anyone else once he'd come to mind.

He was the super creepy dude in that Blake Lively movie, Hick, like creeeeeepy which makes him automatically creepy to me forever, unforch!!

Ewww, yeah that was him wasn't it. I didn't see the movie but I can see him in my head in the cowboy hat from the trailer + photos now! I actually think he's probably playing Andrei and not Nicholas. I mean Pierre and Andrei are the main parts, and he a hot commodity rn + the first and only actor attached, so it would make sense for it to be for one of those parts. He's all wrong for Pierre, so it's probably Andrei!

Lol, since Natasha is like Tolstoy's ideal woman it's really hard for me to imagine casting for her sort of like casting Helen of Troy or something.

Yes, lol. She's like the early 19th century version of MPDG. I just remember at one point I got a bit behind in the reading because of summer vacation, and I was actually listening to a free crowd-sourced audio version while I was doing mindless work. You never know what you're going to get with that; not everyone who volunteers is great at reading aloud, but the girl who did Natasha's parts in the section where they're having Christmas at the country estate was just SO PERFECT, she really sounded like she was absolutely beaming while she read Natasha's parts and laughing on the inside, and for me that became Natasha's voice for the rest of the novel! Hopefully they can find someone like that who can really embody her... IDK verve or whatever it is!

And yay, glad you enjoyed it! I actually had fun doing it, but yeah thinking of actors out of thin air is really difficult! I tend to watch stuff and be like HMM THIS PERSON WOULD BE PERFECT FOR X ROLE. Thinking up people to fit roles doesn't come as naturally to me!
myfriendamymyfriendamy on January 2nd, 2014 07:43 pm (UTC)
it's almost 500 pages!

Oh, lol. Well at least there will hopefully not be any scenes with Napoleon :)

And ew I don't want Eddie Redmayne to be Andrei! eh he's okay I guess tho.
alley_skywalkeralley_skywalker on March 22nd, 2014 08:49 am (UTC)
Hi! So, I'm sorry, I know we don't know each other and this is going to be really random but I accidentally came across your post while looking for W&P fandom-y stuff actually.

Thank you for informing me there will be an adaptation of this next year as I somehow did not know! I've watched all of the four main ones and I'm really excited for a new one. I have...um...very strong feelings about this book? lol.

Anyway! This is an interesting fancast. I don't know if you've seen the 2007 adaptation, but I actually really liked the cast there (except for Anatole - Ken Duken was all wrong for that part). I don't think anyone can beat Alexander Beyer as Pierre, Violante Placido as Helene and Alessio Boni as A. Bolkonski in my head. (I don't mind the actor playing Bolonski to be cold, mainly because he comes off as very cold to me in the book.) But I really like your Nikolai and Petya casts. I actually also really like your Dolokhov cast - he's the one I always struggle with. Probably because he's my favorite character.

Also Anatole. I feel like he's constantly misscast. I think this comes from the fact that he's often either missread or no one cares enough to not peg him into a standard, Hollywood that-bad-boy-seducer-throw-away part. The only modern actors I've been able to see in that part are Lucas Till and, actually, Ben Winshaw as he appears in Brideshead Revisited except with lighter hair. I think with Ben is that I think Sebastian = Anatole. Well, not exactly but the TYPE is right. The whole "leave me alone, I just want to be happy, I don't mean to hurt people but sometimes it just happens because I'm not responsible/mature enough" thing. Also, Lucas may be just a little young, although he IS in his twenties around now, I believe, and that's the appropriate age for Anatole. The only reservation I have is that I haven't really seen him act much and I'd rather have a fairly strong actor for Anatole than a week one. Or at least an actor capable of character complexity and perception. (The only adaptation that I think did Anatole right was the old Soviet one where Vasili Lonovoy played Anatole.)

OMG, I'm so sorry for this random long comment *hides*
Caitie: books | nancy drewcaitie on March 24th, 2014 02:40 am (UTC)
Aw, it's fine. It's nice, actually! I rarely get comments on my LJ since I don't use it much anymore.

I think it is probably a fun time to be a big fan of the novel with this adaptation coming out next year. It sounds like a big deal what with Davies writing and Harvey Weinstein producing. I haven't seen the 2007 (French, I think?) version! It's the version I wanted to watch, but I finished the book too late so I had to settle for the shortest version I could easily find instead.

I could see Lucas Till as Anatole. I don't think Ben Winshaw is classically attractive enough (to me, anyway!) to fit my mental image of Anatole, but what you say about his character definitely resonates with me. He wasn't malicious so much as really childish and seemingly unable to appreciate that his actions had consequences, and the fact that they did was just DREADFULLY DREARY and let's stop talking about it. Google tells me Lucas Till is 23 now, I think that's older than who I chose to play the part, anyway.

Anyway lol, thanks for the comment. I did spend a lot of time making this and there was like negative amounts of interest so it was nice to get it. I wish I had let it stew for a couple more days instead of doing it all at once, though, because I kept having little epiphanies scrolling through tumblr after I was finished, all like OH SO AND SO WOULD HAVE BEEN PERFECT FOR X PART, WHY DIDN'T I THINK OF THEM BEFORE!!! Ofc I have forgotten them all now, oh well. :)
alley_skywalkeralley_skywalker on March 24th, 2014 05:38 am (UTC)
I'm totally that annoying person when it comes to W&P who talks constantly about something that no one really cares about. I feel like I'm extra annoying to people who have only seen the adaptations because I'm always like "OH it wasn't like that FOR REAL like in the book!" *facepalm* So I get really excited when I see people who have read and have some fannish interest in the book.

The 2007 version was produced by a whole bunch of people. It's like French-Italian-German-Russian or something. I think it was filmed in English though. Well, according to my DVD anyway :) It was a fun adaptation to watch, by it did take a lot of liberties with characterization and minor plot points.

I kinda have a secret hope that since BBC is so big the show will get some people into the fandom. Of course this makes me extra nervous about the choices they make - casting, scenes to include/exclude, characterization etc. The fact that I like W&P most for its minor characters makes it worse I think lol.

Honestly, I find making fancasts to be really fun but also kinda hard. I don't know nearly enough actors well enough lol.

(Anonymous) on May 24th, 2014 03:18 pm (UTC)
Love your cast : ) I also imagined my ideal cast for this adaptation and strangely, we have chosen the same actor for Anatole Kouraguin (it made me laugh when I saw it). I think I will make a video of my ideal cast so then I would have done, give me your opinion ;)
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