Bronteana: Bronte Studies Blog Archives

April 29, 2006


Filed under: Films,Interviews,Jane Eyre (1997),Media,Productions,Reviews,TV,Uncategorized — by bronteana @ 9:39 pm

Ciaran Hinds on playing Mr Rochester

This is a supplement to a very old post on Ciaran's take on the role of Mr Rochester in the 1997 film Jane Eyre opposite Samantha Morton. As part of a series of posts called 'Actors on Playing Mr Rochester' I had posted some of his rather off-base conceptions of Edward Rochester. Now, it gets so much worse, but we know now why he has such delusions… the poor, poor man:

Firstly, Mr Rochester's mysterious moustache is revealled to be the result of lazy facial hair adaptation from his stint as Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert: "At least half the facial make-up was there. They just chopped bits off the beard willy-nilly."

Hmnnn… *taps foot*

He was chosen for Rochester after the director, Robert Young, heard him play the part on radio. "He told me there was passion in my voice. I couldn't evaluate whether I was right or wrong. I haven't seen any film versions, or read the book. I don't want to because I'd worry about the impossibility of translating it to the screen. I'd wonder why particular scenes are left out, and that would cause frustration as well as getting in the way of the screen writer, who has worked very hard for a long time and knows more about it than me. Sam (his co-star Samantha Morton) has read the book several times, so I developed the character through her. She's only 19 and has an amazing talent. She treated me like her grandfather," he jokes. "The danger is that Rochester has been played so many times I risk being shot down by the critics. But a good story is a good story, whatever, and this is still about two hearts. I hope I can communicate real emotions. I hope against hope sometimes, but there's an extraordinary feeling when you get it right."

Hnnn!!!!! *taps foot faster*

Rochester is, he believes, selfish, arrogant, chauvinistic, bullying, sexist. "You could say he's a man of his time, a rich landowner, with power which he abuses. I wouldn't fancy him, and I wonder why women find him attractive. It's the power, I think. My job is to try and make viewers have sympathy. I hope we show how his heart was hit badly by his first wife. She'd been a bit of a sex siren when younger. How was he to know she was barking mad? Jane is employed as a governess and responds to him like a genuine person. It's not 'Yes, sir, no, sir.' She looks him in the eye and speaks her mind, which is a new experience for him. He finds her fascinating. In the end he says 'We are one soul,' but he can't trust himself to open up completely and admit, 'I love you'. He is callous, too, in the way he flirts with Blanche in order to make Jane jealous".

…*twitch* Perhaps if he had read the book he might have half a clue why women find him attractive? And that Mr Rochester is decidedly …none of those things listed? …*deep clensing breath*

Then he muses on life and love: "Monogamy is a bizarre concept, don't you think?"

…uuuuuurgh! Read it, if you must but… ugh! But… thank you, siansaksa for this. Really. *twitch* I really should talk to Mags at Austenblog about where she got her 'Cluebat of Janeite Righteousness.'

ETA: …one more remark just in case anyone still had any suspicions that this actor had the least sympathy with his character:

His first professional job was as the back end of the horse in Cinderella. "From the back end of a horse to Mr Rochester. You could say there's not much difference. The horse was probably a lot more interesting."



  1. “I wouldn’t fancy him, and I wonder why women find him attractive.”

    Um..shouldn’t this cross Mr. Hinds’ mind when considering his own callous comments?

    Comment by mysticgypsy — April 29, 2006 @ 10:05 pm |Reply

  2. I am mystified. he clearly does not believe in the character he created- which is obviously not Mr Rochester. He doesn’t like him, he doesn’t try to understand him. He pulls some strings, makes him shout and voila! A stereotype stage landlord from the 1840s! Marvellous! …

    Comment by Brontëana — April 29, 2006 @ 10:20 pm |Reply

  3. I find it incredible that he would play such a classic part without having read the book or studied the character. It explains much about his ridiculous performance. I have always liked Ciaran Hinds, so was very disappointed by that version of Jane Eyre. He’s not the worst Rochester though – I would give that accolade to William Hurt.

    Comment by Anonymous — April 30, 2006 @ 5:07 am |Reply

  4. To be fair, I think it is considered a legitimate actorly technique, to keep oneself free from outside influences – but this is probably more useful when there has been, say, only one previous incarnation. Mr R has been portrayed so many times it would be more salutory than otherwise to watch ALL the portrayals and build your performance around them.

    Still probably should’ve read the book, though!

    Comment by Liz — April 30, 2006 @ 5:44 am |Reply

  5. I think that Ciaran’s right to play it based upon the script he’s actually got in front of him and if he’s made misinterpretations, then it’s because of the script that he was given and maybe because of the direction. It may not be an accurate interpretation of the role in the book but that wouldn’t be Hinds’ fault (though he overacts as far as I hear). If he mistakes Rochester’s character blame the scriptwriter. 🙂

    Comment by Aidan — April 30, 2006 @ 9:16 am |Reply

  6. to anonymous:

    It does explain a lot. Part of it is also that horrid script. It is, I think, rather naive to think you can play such a role with no preparation whatsoever.

    Comment by Brontëana — April 30, 2006 @ 9:29 am |Reply

  7. to Liz:

    I have some background in drama. My sister is an actor as well, and I have learned something about techniques from her. I have never seen it be the case that not preparing for a role was useful. The more research that goes into a role the more it seems to benefit. This is why there are whole books about how people held their hands in Victorian England just for actors! 😉

    I’ve heard from Hurt, Dalton, Jayston, Barbour, Crivello, and Hinds now, about the role. Most of them mention the anxiety about previous portrayals but it is a challenge they enjoy meeting. Ciaran has simply side-stepped the whole issue. It is also naive to think that the role and the film exists in a vacumn, especially a film based on a well-loved classic novel.

    Comment by Brontëana — April 30, 2006 @ 9:37 am |Reply

  8. to aidan:

    I agree that he should work with the script he has. I know you haven’t seen it yet, but the script is the worst I have seen. For a long time I did think that it was simply the horrible script but I am beginning to wonder just how much of it explains his portrayal. For Ciaran did play Mr Rochester before the film and that script was much better, but the performance was the same. And now I’m thinking that Samantha Morton was brilliant in her attempt to work with the script. Each actor cannot help but make the role their own, but what he came up with was a character you can’t sympathise with because the actor himself doesn’t sympathise with him.

    It really is poor form not to prepare for a role. And he’s RSC! What are they teaching them these days?

    Comment by Brontëana — April 30, 2006 @ 9:47 am |Reply

  9. I’m glad to find this site, and all the insightful comments. Reinforces for me just why I am NOT going to watch this version even if it jumps out in front of me.
    CH, shame on you! I truly believe his lack of conviction in the role may well have doomed this Jane Eyre, even if the script had been any good.
    Give me Zelah and Tim any day. Just goes to show, doesn’t it: Z and T’s brilliance shone through even the awful 80’s lighting. They were so good I was able to look past the technical faults very quickly.

    Comment by Jane's Sister — May 3, 2006 @ 8:36 am |Reply

  10. Cluebats are available at all fine purveyors of Clue Inducing Implements.

    However, I must protest at the use of this item on Mr. Hinds, as he is (until further notice) the earthly manifestation of Captain Wentworth, and therefore exempt from the forceful application of Clue Inducing Implements.

    And I agree that many of the problems with that film were in the script. It was the Reader’s Digest Condensed version of Jane Eyre, and not in a good way. It provided interesting comparisons to the theatrical version that came out a little beforehand, though.

    Comment by Mags — May 4, 2006 @ 12:16 pm |Reply

  11. to Jane’s sister:

    I would still see it. It is good to see all of them, but I wouldn’t buy it. I did, and I seldom watch it- and when I do I never enjoy it. The script is so terrible right from the start.

    Comment by Brontëana — May 4, 2006 @ 3:14 pm |Reply

  12. to mags:

    Well, on that grounds I will spare the Cludebat but not my snark. 😉

    By the by, did you know that Colin Firth has also played Mr Rochester (And I have possible photographic evidence for this)?

    Comment by Brontëana — May 4, 2006 @ 3:16 pm |Reply

  13. Colin Firth as Mr Rochester????!!!
    This should be definetely very interesting to see 🙂

    Comment by siansaksa — May 4, 2006 @ 5:02 pm |Reply

  14. to siansaksa:

    The evidence is sketchy at best, but it looks like he did play Rochester although there’s probably only one picture remaining. I’ll be posting about it soon so I won’t say more. 😉

    Comment by Brontëana — May 4, 2006 @ 7:01 pm |Reply

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