I recently saw a very strange, postmodern adaptation of a Jacobean tragedy play called The Changeling (no relation to the Eastwood movie), and there was something about it, perhaps just how out there it was, that’s inspired me to do this new feature. Plus, it’s always nice to have something to break up just regular articles and reviews.
As the title of the piece suggests, it’s all about how I would cast classics (books, plays etc.), and this time, I’m looking at The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. Since I know it rather well, I can cast the principle roles with confidence, and I’ll be doing so in order of their significance, leaving the most important ones until last.
And so, without further ado, here is how I would cast the principle roles in adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray.
Kirsten Dunst as Sibyl Vane
I’ll admit that I’m casting an actress who’s a fair way older than the character she’d be playing (Sibyl is about 18 in the novel if my memory serves me right), in fact, she’d be about the same age as the person I have in mind for Dorian.
But there’s something about her, and her performance in Melancholia that I think really shows hat she’d be able to portray the fragility and desire of a young woman who falls desperately in love with the enigmatic Dorian.
Alife Allen as Basil Hallward
This piece of casting is a little difficult to explain. Allen is of course excellent as the treacherous and power hungry Theon in the wonderful Game of Thrones, but that character of course, is nothing like the reserved, delicate painter from Dorian Gray.
However, just looking at Allen, the way his build and how he looks aesthetically, I just associate him with Basil, and I think, seeing his talent in ….Thrones, that he’d be more than capable of tackling the material, particularly given how far removed Basil is from Theon Greyjoy.
Jared Harris as Lord Henry
I loved Harris in Mad Men, I thought he was wonderful, and deserved to win the Emmy that was tragically taken away from him.
Simply put, he’d be fantastic as Henry, he can play the reserved and calculating man with such ease, as he slowly corrupts the eponymous hero, but the range that Harris can bring to the table would perhaps allow Lord Henry to be a little more humanized for want of better phrasing, as it’s easy for him to be seen as being pure evil.
Also, Henry is more than just a force of quiet corruption, he is the antithesis of Basil, hedonistic and a lover of life in more ways than one, Harris could bring this out easily, as well as that quiet resentment that festers in Henry, as he can only look on, aging, while Dorian retains his youth.
And now, last, but certainly not least:
Dan Stevens as Dorian Gray
First off, there’s an aesthetic reason behind it. Dorian is blonde, and so, obviously, is Dan Stevens (Ben Barnes, who played Dorian in the last adaptation, wasn’t, but I really shouldn’t go on about that woeful film right now), and in looking at Dan Stevens, he, to me at least, looks perfect for Dorian.
Then there’s his acting. I’ll admit that I’ve only seen him in Downton Abbey, but I’ll be damned if he’s not excellent in it, he shows great range, from romance to rage, his ability to perform is not in question here.
Dorian is of course, a little more like Basil at the beginning of the play, before becoming gradually more corrupted by Henry, and later, by sin in general, as the story progresses, and Stevens could really do some good work with that material, showing his range in greater detail, as he tragically falls from grace.
So, am I right wrong? Who would you pick instead. and what do you think of my choices? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.