Friday, 16 March 2012

Who Else Could Play John Thornton?

When it comes to Mr Darcy, we have plenty of performances to compare and contrast but Mr Thornton only has one actor's rendition available for your viewing pleasure. In this whimsical piece, I wonder who else might be suited to the role, and what each of them might bring to the character. 

Patrick Stewart

Patrick Stewart as John Thornton
While he has already played Thornton in the 1975 mini-series, I do not know of anyone who remembers this version.

However, I think he would he great. He should play Thornton just like he played Jean Luc Picard, a tough and strong leader who is fair but brooks no fools. Occasionally Picard let his emotional side out, falling in love and he could play that side of Thornton, especially the heartbroken aspects, with a typical British stiff upper lip masking his deeper misery.

Tastes have changed since the 70's however and while I'm certain that he could play Thornton very well, I'm not sure how well the script and production values would match up to modern sensibilities.

John Simm

John Simm can play anything and be believable, from the insane Master on Dr Who, to time travelling Sam Tyler in Life on Mars, to driven Cal MaCaffery in State of Play.

My only reservation would be that his roles don't usually require an air of authority, which is an integral part of Thornton's character. 

Robert Downey Jr

There is no doubt that Downey excels at playing Tony Stark-esk roles, the flippant playboy type.

I honestly wouldn't care of he turned Thornton into Stark, it's RDJ for God's sake!

Seriously though, if you haven't seen his performance in Chaplin, do so; it really does show that he's more than just a pretty face and charming personality. This guy has some serious acting chops and now that he's clean and sober, I think he could really do Thornton justice. Plus he's already mastered the British accent to play Chaplin. I wonder what his northern accent would be like?

Colin Firth

Thornton has often been compared to Darcy so why not have Darcy playing Thornton?

While both characters are stern however, Thornton doesn't have the same learning curve to go through that Darcy does. Thornton's character essentially doesn't change, other than he learns to follow his heart and broaden his ideas. Even when it comes to his workers, Thornton is always the best of the mill Masters and his later attempts to help are merely a logical extension of his good business sense.

Firth could pull Thornton off, though his version would likely be more dour than stern and more angry than heartbroken.

Nathan Fillion

Nathan would bring a refreshingly flippant air to Thornton!

When Margaret found him beating up Stephens, he wouldn't order her out, he'd ask if she liked what she saw and throw her a wink. His Thornton would be a wordsmith, cracking jokes and puns and not afraid of telling Margaret how he felt about her “up tight” airs and graces. Underneath that superficial charm though, would beat a heart of solid gold and he would solve all of Milton's problems with a MacGyver-esk plan that involved unearthing the capitalist conspiracy to keep the proletariat in their place.

David Tennant

Well he'd get in his TARIS, fly back to the start of the industrial revolution, correct the social problems before they started and take Margaret off on an adventure throughout the universe!

OK, assuming he isn't playing Thornton as the 10th Doctor, Tannant has proven that he can play emotional roles, not only during Doctor Who but also in such drama's as Single Father. He could play Thornton's stoic heartbreak with relative ease.

Having said that, I don't think stern comes easily to him. His face is friendly and his nature more suited to comedy than to 'hard' characters. Even when threatening to wipe out entire species as the 10th Doctor, he just didn't seem than menacing.

Tennant's Thornton would be a more emotional and vulnerable character, and whether ot not that would work would depend largely on your own tastes.

Benedict Cumberbatch

There is no doubt that Benedict has the acting chops to play Thornton but I'm just not sure he could be believable as a rough and ready mill master. Benedict is upper class though and through, but it would be interesting to see him a little rough around the edges and hear him try to do a northern accent.

Perhaps someone more familiar with his body of work can tell us if he's attempted any such roles in the past?

Justin Beiber!

Imagine it - Thornton: The Early Years!

Okay, seriously, I don't know much about Bieber, but I did see his stint on CSI and he wasn't a bad actor at all (though I did hear unpleasant things about his manners on set).

Could he pull off a 16 year old boy who is dragged from school to support his family? Well hasn't Bieber been his families sole earner for years now? He certainly has some experience there that he can draw on, I'm sure.

Would it be a success? Well Bieber Fever would probably ensure that.

Would it be any good? You decide!

Thomas Dekker 
Honestly though, if we're talking the early years I'd like to see Thomas Dekker give it a try. I remember him playing a 14 year old faith healer on House a few years ago and even at that age, he could believably portray strength, charisma and vulnerability. He's wasted on the Secret Circle.

Give this guy a real challenge, like a young John Thornton!

Christopher Eccleston

An often sadly overlooked English actor (sometimes by his own choice, I think) Eccleston has the talent to give Thornton both the gravitas he needs and the vulnerability we observe when he is rejected.

I believe he would portray Thornton as more 'working class boy made good' than 'middle class boy who had a tough start'. His accent and mannerisms would probably be less refined but there is no doubt in my mind that he could breath life into Thornton and make us love him.

Plus, no disrespect to either Mr Eccleston or Mr Armitage, Thornton in the book is described as unremarkable and it is his personality we are supposed to be attracted to. Mr Armitage had both looks and the acting chops but Mr Eccleston would (sadly) have to win us over with only his performance, just as Thornton in the book won Margaret.

So who would you like to see play Thornton and what do you think they would they bring to the role? 

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  1. I'm afraid I'm completely biased and simply can't imagine anyone but Richard Armitage playing John Thornton. I'm going to have to give the question of who might play a good Thornton, some thought. At the moment, the only two I can think of are Toby Stephens and Rupert Penry-Jones and I really don't feel either of those actors would be suitable.

    1. They're not bad suggestions, though I haven't seen Rupert playing period yet.

  2. In spite of loving Downey Jr. and Colin Firth, I just can't imagine anyone playing Thornton!!

  3. I read first the book and later on I watched the movie, and I do really think that Richard Armitage is the only one who will be able to play that role and make a masterpiece of it. For me, and I love Pride and Prejudice and Colin Firth and so on; the BBC best miniseries ever have done, it´s North and South and from my point of view, that is due to how Mr Armitage play Mr Thorton rule :)

    1. Firth is my Darcy too, but I still enjoy seeing how others interpret the role.

  4. Benedict would be the only possibility, but do we need a re-make? Justin Bieber!! Sorry we exported him :D (Oh no doubt he's a sweet lad)Angemar4, though I love all the Austen productions, have to agree that N&S is the best costume drama of all.


  5. Can still only picture Richard playing John Thornton and even though I love Colin Firth and his portrayal of Darcy can not see the two swapping roles. And was Justin Bieber thrown in there for the ROFL reaction because that was mine.

    1. Yes, Bieber is there for the lols and because, well he's everywhere! At least it feels that way sometimes.

  6. I couldn't get used to watching the same story played by a different John and a different Margaret. Those who watched and loved fondly P&P 1995 can understand what I mean, thinking about their reaction to watching P&P 2005... Richard Armitage is John Thornton just like Colin Firth is Mr Darcy to so many. So, I won't choose any of your suggestions, if you don't mind.

    1. Colin Firth is my Darcy too, but I still enjoy seeing other people play him.

      It's like when you enjoy a book, it's fun to see what other people liked and took from it, even if it's different to your point of view.

  7. Robert Downey Jr. - he can smolder and brood with the best of them and, God knows, he's handsome.

  8. Nathan, that would be really funny. Bieber, please no, now I gonna have nightmares (well maybe not ... only goosebumps)

    1. I think there's an internet meme in this.

      North and South in the style of...

  9. I think Robert Downey Jr. is the best candidate of those mentioned. :) I would watch that just to compare and contrast if nothing else.

  10. Me too, only (if we let reality intrude) he might be a little old to play Thornton now :(

  11. Hi Cat,
    I have about five different film versions of Pride & Prejudice, and I enjoy watching the different variations--especially Colin Firth and Matthew McFayden as Darcys. Perhaps that is because I am more focused on the Lizzie character for those films, than I am the Darcy's.

    But since Richard Armitage's John Thornton in North & South is seared into my brain now, I'm afraid that all other actors would pale by comparison. RA was manly and worldly beyond his 33-34 year old self as John Thornton--just right. And I would not want to see a boy toy take up the role. Ha!

    Cheers! Grati ;->

  12. How about Matthew MacFayden as John thornton? I liked his Mr. Darcy best because his interpretation of the character was the most passionate and his eyes were mesmerizing. The way MacFayden spoke the proposal scene was priceless!!! I could see him doing justice to that scene at the end of N&S when John and Margaret are at the train station. BUT, I really do not want to see a remake of N&S. The way it is with Daniela Denby-Ashe and Richard Armitage is PERFECT.

    I do want to see Richard Armitage porptray Mr. Darcy. I just finished reading a regency romance novella called Miss Moseley The Matchmaker written by Caylen McQueen. I downloaded it onto my Kindle and it was only 99 cents. It is one of the best love stories I ever read and Richard Armitage would be perfect to the portray the Julian Crawford character. There is another romance novella called The Vow by Rebecca Winters that I also downloaded to my Kindle. I kept thinking that Richard Armitage would make the perfect Nick Marsden. I wish Richard Armitage would do more love stories instead of the shoot 'em up violent stuff that he has been doing since N&S.

  13. I can't speak for those novels, but I too would love to see RA do more romance and/or comedy. Even if it was just a romcom (most of which I don't like) I could suffer that just to see RA being a little more light-hearted.

    Don't get me wrong, I do like his action roles but they are so plentiful, while he has really only had two romantic roles, as Harry Kennedy and JT.

    I really hope that after the Hobbit, Hollywood offers him a comedic or romantic part.