A Daniel Deronda Who's Who
played by Hugh Dancy
Daniel Deronda is sensitive, caring, and highly intelligent, but haunted by doubts about his own identity. Drawn to Gwendolen Harleth the moment he sees her at the roulette table, he senses the vulnerability and despair lurking behind her brilliant façade.
The scope of the role as the eponymous hero of George Eliot's passionate love story immediately drew Hugh Dancy to Andrew Davies's adaptation. It was at Oxford, where he studied English language and literature, that Dancy first discovered the character he would one day bring to life onscreen. "I'd read the book a long time before I got the script, and my residual memory from that was the breadth of the story," he says, "the progression that he goes through and what he learns about himself."
Dancy praises Davies's adaptation. "Everybody knows that if you adapt a novel for television or for the screen, you're involved in a work of translation, and, like any kind of translation, you're going to have a different product at the end. But with Andrew Davies attached, and other people [including producer Louis Marks] who were involved with [a 1994 adaptation of Eliot's] Middlemarch, they're not about to introduce some theme that isn't there. Nor are they going to split it down the middle and just keep the nice bits," he says. "You have to have faith in the original work of art, and they have. A lot of our discussions when we were on set would involve going back to the book, because you have this perfect blueprint."
As the son of a philosophy professor, Dancy, the eldest of three, might have been expected to take the path to academia. "My father's an academic, and both of my grandfathers taught Classics. It's something to do with being the eldest son, but I reacted quite strongly against that world quite early on, and I didn't want to go into it."
He began to act when he was only 13. Adept at several accents and dialects, from Welsh to South African to Southern American, he has starred in a number of other films and plays, both period and contemporary: Madame Bovary [with Deronda co-star Hugh Bonneville]; Guy Jenkins's The Sleeping Dictionary; Ridley Scott's Hollywood blockbuster Black Hawk Down; and Sam Mendes's play To The Green Fields Beyond.
Upcoming films include the thriller Tempo with Melanie Griffith and Rachael Leigh Cook, and Ella Enchanted, a traditional fairy tale with a modern slant.
played by Romola Garai
Gwendolen falls in love with Daniel Deronda when she first sees him at the gaming tables. She senses he is not like other young men, but she has no idea how different he actually is. Outwardly alluring and vivacious, Gwendolen is spoiled and childish, selfishly determined to get what she wants out of life.
Rising star Romola Garai, who coincidentally shares her first name with another of George Eliot's heroines, admits that playing Gwendolen was a challenge for her. "The thing that I found difficult to understand," she explains, "is why someone as intelligent as Gwendolen would make such a fatal error in marrying this man that she believes she can control. I suppose that just comes from naïveté. Gwendolen has no experience with the world at all, outside of her domestic sphere."
Garai believes that Gwendolen's "fundamental flaw is selfishness," she says, "and that's what George Eliot is exploring. Eliot was quite a social activist; she very much believed in being interested in the world around you, especially in Victorian London. [Elizabeth] Gaskell, Eliot, and other women writers were engaged in a moral struggle to improve themselves. And Gwendolen doesn't think about others, and as a result suffers because she doesn't know enough about other people to be able to judge characters properly. So she makes this mistake, which is just appalling, because she has to suffer the ignominy and mental torment, as it were, of this desperately unhappy marriage."
Garai grew up in Hong Kong and Singapore, where she lived until she was 10. Her intelligence, rather than being stifled like Gwendolen's, was encouraged by her parents, who liked to discuss books and music around the dinner table. It is this that Garai attributes to her success. "It doesn't matter how good you are [as an actor]; if you can't talk to the director, that really affects the result."
She got her start in acting when she was plucked from the anonymity of A-level examinations to play the young Elizabeth in The Last of the Blonde Bombshells. She abandoned a degree in English at Queen Mary's College to concentrate on her acting, a move that appears to have paid off judging by her growing list of credits. Garai can also be seen in 2002's Nicholas Nickleby, and the upcoming Havana Nights: Dirty Dancing 2.
played by Hugh Bonneville
Rich, worldly, and sophisticated, Henleigh Grandcourt could have been the perfect husband for Gwendolen, but he feels compelled to crush her spirit and mold her into his perfect wife. He also hides a dark secret which further threatens Gwendolen's happiness.
Award-winning actor Hugh Bonneville dons the mantle of powerful aristocrat Henleigh Grandcourt in Daniel Deronda. The star earned a BAFTA nomination and carried off the Best Young Actor Prize at the 2001 Berlin Film Festival for his performance in Iris as the young John Bayley, Iris Murdoch's husband, opposite Kate Winslet. He relished the chance, however, to show another side of himself in Deronda.
"I always try to contrast every character I play with the last significant thing I've done, and in Iris, you couldn't play a gentler, more neurotic, nervous, less self-assured man if you tried," he declares. "So to find a character like Grandcourt, who is the most self-confident, arrogant, mysterious, scary, surprising bloke, was a great contrast. It's no more Mr. Nice Guy!"
Another magnet that drew Bonneville to the all-star cast was screenwriter Andrew Davies. "Having read the scripts, I then read the novel and realized just why Andrew Davies is so brilliant at what he does," says Bonneville. "He manages to capture and compress and explore themes of the novel in TV form."
Grandcourt is determined to marry Gwendolen because, Bonneville explains, he relishes the challenge of controlling someone who thinks that she can control him. "It's to do with a battle of wills," he explains "Gwendolen, in the first part of the story, ... has a horde of young men swooning over her, gazing at her with doe eyes. Suddenly, she comes across a guy who's got the equivalent of a Lamborghini and an enormous credit card, and she thinks, 'Oh, great, I'll have some of that, too.' Of course, in contemporary terms, if you're 19 and you see a 35-year-old guy with a Lamborghini and a credit card, you think, 'Careful, girl.' ... She doesn't realize that she's stepping into shark-infested waters. Also, because she stands up to him, he finds that very attractive.
Bonneville believes escapism is one element that lends period drama its huge appeal. "You're taking a leap away from your own hang-ups and problems, even though the hang-ups and problems you're seeing onscreen are exactly the same as your own. They're dressed up in beautiful costumes and appear to be from a different era, but, in fact, stories like this are utterly contemporary," he says. And, he adds, "The way that George Eliot analyses the whole Jewish ghettoization of the 19th century, the way that the Jews were treated in Europe -- she explores it with incredible sensitivity, way ahead of her time and with a liberal conscience way ahead of her peers."
Bonneville launched his acting career with the National Youth Theatre, simultaneously studying theology at Cambridge University. He has been seen with Hugh Grant in Notting Hill and in the previous Masterpiece Theatre productions Madame Bovary, The Cazalets and Take a Girl Like You. He'll be seen again on Masterpiece Theatre during the 2003-04 season in Davies's adaptation of Dr. Zhivago.
played by Jodhi May
Mirah develops feelings for Daniel, the young man who foils her suicide attempt. The young Jewish woman's search for her family opens up a new world for Deronda.
The prospect of playing an unconventional Victorian heroine on the margins of society attracted Jodhi May to the complex character of Mirah. Rescued from the depths of despair, Mirah must come to terms with her own identity, which eventually leads Daniel into his own voyage of self-discovery. "What I find so compelling about the character," says May, "is the way in which she belongs in the periphery of conventional Victorian society and actually discovers her own sense of identity as an outsider within that context.
"Rediscovering a way of expressing herself by using her singing voice is an important part of the character," she explains. "Essentially, she's been crushed by her father, and her talent has been suppressed. With Daniel's encouragement, she quickly finds a platform for her talent when she is heard within his circle of friends."
May won a Best Actress award at Cannes when she was only 13 for A World Apart (which also starred Barbara Hershey, who plays The Contessa in Daniel Deronda). "Mirah challenges the other characters' moral perceptions. She is a fascinating catalyst in terms of how she affects all the other characters and challenges their way of seeing the world."
May admits that she is a fan of George Eliot and her novels, many of which she read while studying English literature at Oxford. Once she read the script, she was immediately drawn to Davies's "brilliant adaptation" of the novel. George Eliot's underlying message, she says, is relevant to a modern audience. "The society which she is writing about is something which is ruled by homogeneity, and she is very much exploring what it is to have an ethnic identity that does not fit into that society. I think all of those issues are totally relevant today, as much now as they were then."
A theater lover, May has an extensive background on the stage and has appeared in the Masterpiece Theatre productions Aristocrats and The Turn of the Screw.
Sir Hugo Mallinger
played by Edward Fox
Grandcourt's uncle, Sir Hugo is Daniel's adoptive father. He provides the only emotional stability in Daniel's life.
An actor since the early sixties, Edward Fox has had an extraordinarily varied and lengthy career in television and film. From A Bridge Too Far (1977) to Gandhi (1982), from 1980's television mini-series Edward & Mrs. Simpson to 1995's A Month by the Lake, Fox has carved a place in acting history. He played an assassin on the trail of President De Gaulle in 1973 film The Day of the Jackal, adapted from the novel by Frederick Forsythe. He appeared as the dignified butler Lane in 2002 film The Importance of Being Earnest, a frenzied re-interpretation of Oscar Wilde's play also starring Colin Firth and Rupert Everett.
Fox is part of an acting dynasty to rival the Redgraves: his younger brother is actor James Fox, who has also had a long screen career including 1963 film The Servant with Dirk Bogarde. Their mother was an actress and they have been followed into the profession by Edward's daughter Emilia (The Pianist and Masterpiece Theatre's Rebecca, Shooting the Past, David Copperfield) and James's son Laurence (Gosford Park).
Born in London, Fox and his partner, actress Joanna David (Masterpiece's The Forsyte Saga, The Way We Live Now, Lillie, The Duchess of Duke Street) have been together for over 30 years.
played by Amanda Root
Gwendolen's anxious mother, Mrs. Davilow, is a faded beauty whose priority is pleasing her brilliant daughter.
Amanda Root's subtle but effective performances have ensured that she is often seen on stage and screen. She has acted with the Royal Shakespeare Company, appeared in several Masterpiece Theatre productions including Persuasion, Breaking the Code, Anna Karenina and The Forsyte Saga (2002).
played by David Bamber
Grandcourt's obsequious friend, Mr. Lush alienates Gwendolen immediately.
A busy actor seen on stage, television and in films (Gangs of New York and The Bourne Identity), David Bamber's credits include Masterpiece Theatre's The Railway Children, The Merchant of Venice and the upcoming Pollyanna. He can also be heard in commercial voiceovers and modestly describes his vocal abilities as 'utterly amazing' and 'endlessly fascinating.'
played by Barbara Hershey
A celebrated opera diva, the glittering and self-possessed Contessa Maria Alcharisi holds a key to Daniel's past.
Barbara Hershey is keeping quiet about her role in Daniel Deronda. "I don't want to say a great deal about the character because I feel it would spoil it for the audience to know too much about her. Let's just say that she's very mysterious. Her appearance has a profound impact on the course of the novel, affecting almost everyone and everything."
It was this aura surrounding the Contessa which first attracted Hershey to the story. "She's a very original character, one of the most intriguing and complex women I have ever had the good fortune to play." And when it comes to strong female roles, Hershey, it seems, has cornered the market.
In an acting career that spans almost four decades, Hershey has worked with a veritable who's who of Hollywood: directors Woody Allen, Barry Levinson, and Martin Scorsese; and actors Michael Douglas, Robert Redford, and Michael Caine. Nominated for an Oscar and a BAFTA, Barbara has won Emmy and Golden Globe awards and is in the distinguished category of having won two Best Actress awards at Cannes. When asked to name the favorite of her own films, however, she hedges a bit: "It's really difficult for me to name one specific project, because I actually have quite a few of which I'm really proud and fond. I'd have to put A World Apart, Hannah and Her Sisters, and The Last Temptation of Christ among my favorites -- but don't tell anyone..."
Hershey is no stranger to acting in adaptations of literary classics. In 1997 she starred with Nicole Kidman and John Malkovich in Jane Campion's multi-award-winning adaptation of Henry James's The Portrait of a Lady. Of Daniel Deronda she says: "I was fascinated by the subject of the novel. Ultimately, Eliot is writing about the discovery of the individual, the discovery of the self. It's a story which is not only heartbreakingly powerful but also massively pertinent to the new world order in which identity is being continually questioned and examined."
played by Greta Scacchi
Grandcourt's embittered former mistress and mother of his children. Lydia's haunting presence casts a shadow over Gwendolen's marriage.
Greta Scacchi has had a prolific international film career, having made films in Europe, America and Australia. She was born Greta Gracco and was raised in Italy, London and Australia.
Scacchi starred with Harrison Ford in the crime thriller Presumed Innocent and with Tim Robbins in the Hollywood satire The Player (as a character called June Gudmundsdottir). Her role as the manipulated Tsarina Alexandra opposite Alan Rickman's mad monk in the 1996 TV movie Rasputin earned Scacchi both an Emmy award and a Golden Globe nomination. She's no stranger to costume drama having starred in the Jane Austen adaptation Emma with Gywneth Paltrow and in the Merchant Ivory production Cotton Mary.
played by Daniel Evans
Mordecai is the gaunt and intense bookseller who senses something special about Daniel...
A Welsh native, Daniel Evans is both a musician and an actor; he has appeared on stage, television and in film. He was seen in Masterpiece Theatre's Love in a Cold Climate (2002) and Great Expectations (1999) and won an Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Musical (Merrily We Roll Along) in 2000.
played by Allan Corduner
The Arrowpoint's "pet" musician, Klesmer is a talented Viennese musician and composer employed to teach music to the Arrowpoint's daughter Catherine.
Allan Corduner has appeared on stage, in film and on television. He is perhaps best known for his role in Mike Leigh's Topsy-Turvy as Arthur Sullivan (of 'Gilbert and...'). This followed numerous supporting roles, and extensive theatre work in both London's West End and on Broadway. In addition to a leading role in the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Titanic, other stage work includes the London and New York productions of Caryl Churchill's seminal 80's play Serious Money. Corduner's Masterpiece Theatre credits include Foyle's War and The Way We Live Now (as Croll).
The Cohen family
The Cohens; proprietors of an East End Shop, Daniel makes their acquaintance one day while wandering the streets. The family consists of Ezra, Mrs Cohen (his mother), Adelaide (his wife) and children Jacob, Rebecca and baby Eugenie.
Ezra Cohen played by Simon Schatzberger
Mrs Cohen played by Diana Brooks
Adelaide Cohen played by Lesley Stratton
Jacob Cohen played by Daniel Marks
Rebecca Cohen played by Sarah Marks
The Meyrick family
Friends of Daniel's, the Meyricks welcome the desperate and destitute Mirah to their home...
played by Celia Imrie
An accomplished actress, Celia Imrie is known for her comic timing and sympathetic performances. Celia appeared as Edina's arch enemy, the competitive PR woman Claudia Bing in Absolutely Fabulous, she starred as Lady Gertrude Groan in the BBC's lavish production of the fantasy drama Gormenghast, and as Fighter Pilot Bravo 5 in Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace and she was memorable as the gravy-obsessed Una Alconbury in Bridget Jones's Diary. Imrie's Masterpiece Theatre credits include Love in a Cold Climate (2000) and the upcoming Zhivago.
played by Jamie Bamber
Jamie Bamber is a London native whose appearances in several Horatio Hornblower TV films (alongside fellow heartthrob Ioan Gruffudd) has spawned a plethora of Web sites devoted to "the worship of Archie Kennedy (his Hornblower alter ego) and his earthly incarnation".
One of seven children, Bamber (real name: Jamie St John Bamber Griffith) graduated from the London Academy of Dramatic Arts. Educated at St Paul's School in London, he continued his education at St John's College, Cambridge, receiving an honors degree in French and Italian.
Bamber has also appeared in HBO's Band of Brothers.
Meyrick daughters Kate, Mab and Phoebe
played by Kate Maberly, Lisa Jackson and Serena Martin
The Arrowpoint family
The wealthy Arrowpoints of Quetcham Hall; they entertain often and their home is the site of the Archery Contest and Ball. Catherine is a friend of Gwendolen's.
played by Anna Steel
Mr and Mrs Arrowpoint
played by Michael Elwyn and Delia Lindsay
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