In a recent interview for Brook Cottage Books as part of a Book Tour, I was asked,
‘If the movie rights to your novels are purchased, who would you like to play your main characters?’
I replied Alan Rickman in the first place, but I wasn’t completely convinced, so I added Jeremy Irons as my second choice. I also added that they were both far too good-looking for such a nasty character as the sick and evil Mr. Rochester!
The interview was published today in Glynis Smy’s blog.
When I wrote the answer to that question, I knew there was an extremely slim chance of Alan Rickman playing Mr. Rochester in my novel, because for that to happen, my novel would need to be ‘discovered’ by the literary mainstream world, and later by the film world, and that will probably not happen in the near future, although I can dream…
Now, the slight possibility has become an impossibility, Alan Rickman passed away yesterday.
When I claimed that Alan Rickman would be my ideal Mr. Rochester, it was a quick, unconscious reply, I didn’t reflect on my reasons, so I’d like to do so now.
Mr. Rickman has played many villains. One of his first villainous roles was as criminal mastermind Hans Gruber in Die Hard. He also played other nasty characters, such as the evil Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, the corrupt and lascivious Judge Turpin in Sweeny Todd, and an unfaithful husband in Love Actually.
However, his most famous villainous character was undoubtedly Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films. Snape was malicious, complex, and ambiguous, right to the end of the Harry Potter series.
Snape was the reason I chose Mr. Rickman, yet at the same time, Snape is probably the reason why I wasn’t completely sure if I would cast Alan Rickman as Mr. Rochester.
I consider Snape as a very romantic type of villain, because his character develops in such a way that he becomes a hero, thereby encouraging the reader to believe in the ultimate power of good over evil.
Converting my villain, Mr. Rochester, was never my intention. Although Mr. Rochester has redeeming qualities, he is, foremost and right to the bitter end, a selfish and evil character.
What makes a villain in literature and on screen?
Readers and audiences need to hate villains, although they are intrigued by them, because evil both frightens and fascinates us.
Villains often torture virtuous characters, or they are used as opposites to bring out and contrast the good characters. They embody evil in the struggle for good and evil within ourselves, and in the world.
They are evildoers, sometimes in the extreme. They are selfish and lack empathy, so they will go to any extremes to reach their goals. They do not shy away from the use of violence and destruction, ignoring the pain they cause others. They have no conscience and no limits. They are prepared to lie, cheat, blackmail, or use force to get what they want.
They are often ugly, rich, and often physically and psychologically sick.
On the other hand, it’s always useful if they’re not a hundred per cent evil, as even the smallest hint of goodness will be their downfall, because they will be vulnerable and suffer.
Mr. Rochester was passionate, witty, and clever. I’m convinced he loved Jane Eyre, in his own way, with a unique passion with which he never loved anyone else. He was also a liar and a selfish and spoilt, rich landowner, who never thought about is tenants, or did a single day’s work in his life.
He was a taker, not a giver. He wanted Jane Eyre and was willing to go through anything to have her. He blatantly went against the law of man and his religion, to achieve his goals.
I wouldn’t put anything past him, which is why my novel (in which I have used the spaces Charlotte Bronte left in the original text) paints a picture of a selfish, obsessive, impulsive and unscrupulous lover.
He was capable of committing bigamy, ordering a murder (he would never dirty his own hands), and covering up his deeds by bribing whoever could help him out.
He was more than immoral, he was amoral, because he was convinced that his actions were beneficial to others as well as himself. Incapable of any type of empathy or compassion.
Mr. Rickman was a great actor and a perfect Snape, the villain who Harry Potter named his son after and described as, ‘… the bravest man I ever knew.’ The ambiguous villain, whose ulterior motives are not as dark as they seem. However, I’m no longer convinced he would have been as convincingly and totally evil as Jeremy Irons.
Jeremy Irons transmitted, the perfect, cold-blooded villain in Reversal of Fortune, and you can’t get more wicked than Scar, can you? I think he’ll nail Mr. Rochester, one day…
Meanwhile I’ll leave you with an excerpt of Chapter XIII, of All Hallows at Eyre Hall, depicting Mr. Rochester’s weak point. The only possibility of making him suffer, by tasting his own medicine, is his love for Jane, which eventually leads to his confession on his death-bed. He finally tries to make amends by telling her the truth about her stillborn daughter, but it’s too late.
“Jane, I must confess and only your absolution can save me. You must promise to forgive me for what I am about to tell you.”
“I cannot absolve you or anyone else. If you like, I can call Mr. Wood, or Bishop Templar, if you prefer.”
“Yes, Mr. Wood, he will absolve all of my sins, but what good is that to me now? Bishop Templar, what is he to me? No, Jane, it is you who must forgive me.”
“Edward, I have told you a hundred times, I forgive you for everything, for your short temper, your relationship with Blanche, your flirts in London, your illegitimate children and your dark past before we met. Is there anything else to forgive?”
“There is something else, Jane. I have done you wrong. I have done you a terrible wrong, but you must understand me and find it in your heart to forgive me.”
“I am tired of being your conscience. If there is no solution and it is a further unknown treachery, you must face the consequences of your actions on your own. I would prefer to remain ignorant of any further wrongdoings.”
“Perhaps that would be best, but I cannot sleep, I cannot live, and neither can I die, if I do not confess and receive your forgiveness. Jane, you must help me carry my burden once more, but I guarantee that this time there will be some benefit in it for you. You will suffer greatly at first, but when I am gone, believe me, it will fill your life with reward, hope and purpose.”
“You have intrigued me. Proceed.”
“So precise, so Jane-like. Please don’t hate me, Jane.”
I remembered Michael’s words. “I do not wish to carry the burden of hate.”
“Forgive me, my dearest Jane. You are the love of my life. I once asked for your forgiveness, and you gave it to me. Can you forgive me a second and a third time? You were a passionate, righteous woman. I had expected you to shed tears, reproach me my misdeeds and accuse me angrily. Why didn’t you forcefully make me behave? You became passive once more, and you let me go. Why? Did you stop loving me? Did you lose patience? Interest? You stopped conversing with me. You left me while you were at my side! I had to find consolation elsewhere, because you refused my kisses! You shrank from me in disgust! I am a passionate man, and you were ice and rock to me once more. I failed you and I am sorry. If you find it in your heart to forgive me, you will allow me to die in peace.”
“I cannot forgive you before you speak. What must you tell me?”
“You are cruel, but I will be brave…”