What present day actors would you choose for the following characters in Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451--Montag, Mrs. Mildred Montag, Clarisse, Professor Faber, and Granger? Explain your choices with regard to character traits and give examples to illustrate your point.
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In Ray Bradbury’s story of a dystopian society in which owning books is a crime punishable by having one’s home, and everthing in it, burned to the ground. Books, in particular, are sought after by law enforcement as both violations of the law and as symbols of defiance and rebellion in a society in which thought and expression are closely monitored. Fahrenheit 451 does not present vivid images of its characters; that is not its points. It does, however, provide just enough in physical descriptions and dialogue to allow for some sense of who among present-day actors and actresses would be appropriately cast in a new filmed version of the story. Bradbury’s story was, of course, already made into a film in 1966, with Julie Christie in the double roles of Clarisse and Linda Montag, and Oskar Werner as Montag – in both cases good choices for those characters.
In his book, Bradbury describes Montag is minimal terms. All we know of him is that he is early-middle-aged, as indicated in the following exchange between him and Clarisse:
"Do you mind if I ask? How long have you worked at being a fireman?"
"Since I was twenty, ten years ago."
This would obviously indicate that Montag is 30-years-old. A suitable actor for the part, then, should be between 25 and 40, in order to “look” the part. Matt Damon is 43, but can look ten years younger with suitable make-up and photographic manipulations. And, his persona and previous roles would appear to make him a suitable candidate for that role. Clarisse is a teenager, still in high school, as suggested by her statement, "I'm seventeen and I'm crazy.” Either of the Emmas, Watson or Stone, could be credibly cast, as could Kristen Stewart. My pick would probably Abigail Breslin, who was so good in “Little Miss Sunshine.”
Professor Faber, of course, would be an older gentleman with a distinguished appearance, but not too handsome and a little rumpled. Bradbury describes Faber as follows:
“The old man admitted to being a retired English professor who had been thrown out upon the world forty years ago when the last liberal arts college shut for lack of students and patronage.”
The actor should ideally be in his sixties. Both Anthony Hopkins and Michael Caine would be terrific in the role, limited though it is. The recently deceased Philip Seymour Hoffman would have been great, despite his relative youth, but obviously he’s out of the picture. I suppose I would go with Christopher Plummer, who’s always excellent.
In the role of Granger, “the man who seemed to be the leader of the small group” that Montag encounters after he flees the city, could be any young or middle-aged actor with the aura of a leader able to survive in hiding in a rural or forested region where authorities would have a difficult time tracking him. Colin Farrell would be good in this role, as would Michael Shannon. An “out-of-the-box” casting decision could have Samuel L. Jackson in the role. Personally, I like Shannon.
Finally, in the role of Mildred Montag, envisioned in one scene by her husband Guy as follows:
“His wife stretched on the bed, uncovered and cold, like a body displayed on the lid of a tomb, her eyes fixed to the ceiling by invisible threads of steel, immovable.”
She would presumably be around the same age as Guy, who is 30, probably physically attractive but emotionally distant and cold. Michelle Williams would be my first pick.
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