Bronteana: Bronte Studies Blog Archives

August 29, 2006


Filed under: Uncategorized — by bronteana @ 5:47 pm

Toby Stephens on Jane Eyre 2006

Two pages of interview plus some interesting info. There’s a lot to take in, and a few things to snerk at (Jane’s ‘mysterious lust object’?!!). Perhaps the most surprising thing is that this article only begins and ends with material about Jane Eyre while the bulk is a bio of Mr. Stephens to make sure we’re caught up, I suppose. And do we have confirmation of the sneer? Aidan, our Cornish correspondent had promised to set up a sneer counter. Oh dear. I give you now some relevant excerpts:

This could be the Mr Darcy moment for Toby Stephens. Eleven summers ago Colin Firth was just another good-looking British actor. Then came the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice. Firth, as Darcy, dived into a lake and emerged, wetly, in a clinging shirt, a star. In a few weeks, the BBC begins its four-part adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. Toby Stephens plays Rochester, the heroine’s mysterious lust object. Stephens is 37 (Firth was a year younger), a master of the classical stage who has teetered on the brink of movie fame. Obviously, he is going to be all over the media this autumn, soaking up the adulation, posing for magazine covers, and batting calls from Hollywood casting directors.


The contradictory aspect of this is that Stephens knows what Jane Eyre could mean for him. He says he grabbed at the chance with both hands. He then worked extraordinarily hard filming it, mainly at Haddon Hall, over a particularly cruel Derbyshire winter. “I remember sitting in the main hall thinking: ‘This is f***ing torture.’ My face was frozen in this kind of rictus and I thought: ‘This is going to be Rochester’s expression. I can’t move anything.’ It was horrible for about three, four weeks and then it slowly started thawing out. By the summer it was the most beautiful place on earth.”
He appreciates that, rictus grin or not, his Rochester will not satisfy all of the book’s devotees. “Every woman has their own idea of Mr Rochester. I’d had this image in my head of him being this rather remote, enigmatic, taciturn figure. And I read the book again and, actually, he never shuts up. He just grinds on and on and on, and he’s actually quite theatrical.”


I doubt that Brontë lovers will be objective about his Rochester. Controversy may also surround Ruth Wilson, the unknown whom White chose to play Jane. At least, however, having met her briefly on location in the spring, I can confirm that she looks the part. But is the world ready for a ginger Rochester? “Oh, he looks very different from me, I promise. I wore hair extensions and have black, curly shaggy hair. In the book the both of them are quite plain physically. At the time, what was seen as attractive was somebody slim and fair in a cavalry uniform; he was this shaggy, dark, blue-chin, person. But she finds him handsome.”
My bet is that viewers, like Jane, are going to fall for him too, and big time. Let’s hope the news filters down to the other side of the world.



  1. I was prepared for “Jane’s mysterious lust object” to mean her own sexual awakening–along the lines of the Jane/Bertha duality (Polly Teale-ish). Rochester being labeled so had me in fits of laughter though!

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

  2. Did you? I’m laughing on the outside but I’m crying inside! 😉 Truly, I’m not feeling good about some of this. However, I could be wrong (and hope that I am).

    Comment by Brontëana — August 29, 2006 @ 10:22 pm |Reply

  3. hmm..perhaps they have over-emphasized the sexual aspects of the story?

    I am not very pleased with his answers…I would have liked more depth.

    Comment by mysticgypsy — August 29, 2006 @ 11:03 pm |Reply

  4. Sounds like it. Then again most of those comments come from the reporter.

    His answers didn’t bother me so much. It was the implication that there’s a power struggle between Jane and Rochester, wherein he has to adapt to a willful woman. Since more than one third of the article is about his family and private life rather than the programme itself, I think the substance might have been reduced a bit. I still have faith in Mr. Stephens to understand the character.

    The sneering… I lament. I hope we don’t see another Ciaran Hinds-esque performance (bullying, sneering and loud).

    Comment by Brontëana — August 30, 2006 @ 12:05 am |Reply

  5. Oh, please, not another Dalton-like theatrical performance! Rochester is not “theatrical”; he’s witty and teasing and hard-to-read, but definitely not theatrical!! Unless I have been reading another JE book and I hadn’t realized!

    Stephens’ view on Rochester (including the sneer-related part) sounds interesting, but not very promising 🙂 We’ll only have to wait!

    Comment by siansaksa — August 30, 2006 @ 3:37 am |Reply

  6. “And I read the book again and, actually, he never shuts up. He just grinds on and on and on, and he’s actually quite theatrical.”

    Hahaha! This isn’t bad, really. Never-Shuts-Up Rochester is better than Sits-in-a-Corner-and-Scowls Rochester. And he’s read the book (twice!), which is more than can be said for SOME.

    I would argue that there are aspects of the theatrical about Rochester – he certainly likes playacting, and likes to put on a series of masks (the Byronic hero, the country gentleman) concealing his real self. The important thing is that they show Jane seeing through them, IMHO.

    Comment by Liz — August 30, 2006 @ 5:17 am |Reply

  7. To Liz:

    You are right! I was referring to the theatricality of playing the role rather than to Rochester’s habit of disguising himself, of “playing theatre”.

    What I hope not to see in the new JE is a stagey or false performance, otherwise any approach is OK. The problem ith all Rochesters (on screen) who tried to capture the bombastic side of the character is that they only managed a very stagey or unrealistic performance.

    Comment by siansaksa — August 30, 2006 @ 2:12 pm |Reply

  8. I was a bit disappointed with how little Jane Eyre was discussed and with the fact that perhaps this will be his only interview, if I was the Director, I’d be spitting feathers, surely there was a publicity clause in his contract!

    I like the fact that he drew on the fact that Rochester talks a lot. For example; he practically disgorges his entire life history to Jane almost immediately- which in my current uncharitable and slightly grumpy mood – translates as “I’ve bedded my way around Europe”. Is he trying to shock Jane?

    Anyway, back to Toby S, I’m getting a horrible feeling, he’s going to be “byronesque”, please no!

    Also, I think he ought to get a stylist: *pink* polo shirt?

    Comment by pennyforyourdreams — August 30, 2006 @ 2:54 pm |Reply

  9. I like the Byronic-side in Rochester’s character.

    I think Rochester knows by then that Jane is not one to be shocked at hearing such effusions about his personal life 😉

    Comment by mysticgypsy — August 30, 2006 @ 5:09 pm |Reply

  10. I don’t mind a dark side to a character, but often when I hear “byronesque” it puts me in mind of a sullen, brooding, introverted, selfish and mean character. I don’t think that Rochester is mean, a little naive to think that his attic is the the place to keep his mad wife, but in his behaviour toward Adele, Mrs. Fairfax and Jane, we know he’s kind hearted. The strength of the novel is that we come to this conclusion without being bludgeoned over the head with it, just by observing Rochester’s actions, via Jane’s narrative.

    Another word I link with byronesque is narcissistic. I don’t think that Rochester is that at all.

    Reviewing the part of the novel where Rochester tells Jane his story, Jane *is* very matter of fact about what she has just heard, but I still think there’s a touch of mischief about him when he confides in her; at the end of his story he says: “you will be coming to me some day with notice…that you beg me to look for a new governess, &c. – eh?”
    This almost teasing, seems to be in perfect keeping with his sardonic sense of humour and by Jane’s subsequent sober and sensible reaction, we and he both realise that Jane will be steadfast and loyal and even has affection for him. Compare what Blanche Ingrams reaction might have been?

    Anyway, I’ll shut up now, didn’t realise that had gotten so long 🙂

    p.s The Lust Object label has been applied to practically every period drama actor since Colin Firth. It’s almost as if you can’t be taken seriously unless you are deeply swoon worthy.

    Comment by pennyforyourdreams — August 30, 2006 @ 6:23 pm |Reply

  11. “But she finds him handsome.”

    WHAT??? He flat-out asks her if she finds him handsome and she (in true Janian fashion, of course) says, “No, sir.” HELLO??? Does she love him? Unquestionably. Does she find him handsome? No, sir…

    Comment by rinabeana — August 30, 2006 @ 10:44 pm |Reply

  12. Perhaps he meant to say attractive, rather than handsome?

    Men get so confused about these things… 😉


    Comment by Laura — September 6, 2006 @ 12:14 pm |Reply

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