Here’s a question, why hasn’t there been a well executed and accurate version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame outside of France? Is it because it just a hard book to adapted into a film? The answer is yes and no. First, the book doesn’t have a traditional happy ending. It ends with pretty much everyone either dead or unhappy in some capacity.
Louis Boulanger’s Illustration of Frollo, Esmeralda and Sachette
Typically when characters die in movie it’s for one of two reasons, either they die for someone’s else sake like Jack in Titanic or they get punished for for being bad like any number of movie villains. In Hunchback we have these death with Frollo and Quasimodo but Esmeralda’s death is the tricky one. She is neither punished nor scarified for anything. She dies because she didn’t want Frollo and no one was capable of saving her. Her death is very hard to accept which is why typically she lives in film versions. There have only been two movies where she dies, neither of them are American. However if a movie did want to be true to the book and have the same ending the audience could get over it and if the movie was well executed the audience might enjoy it as well.
Gina Lollobrigida as Esmeralda (1956)
But there is more to it than filmmakers not wanting to deal with the death of the leading lady as the reason. Classic literature has often been tweaked by screenwriters since it allows for them to use established characters and plots but their is no pressure from the filmgoers to make the movie in line with book. Perhaps if the Hunchback of Notre Dame had the same die-hard fan-base as Twilight , The Hunger Games or even Gone with the Wind maybe we would get an accurate version.
The Hunger Games
Gone with the Wind
These three movies based on popular literature more or less capture the original book or series of books whereas Hunchback movies never do. Although Hunchback does have more complexity to plot and tone than Twilight, The Hunger Games and Gone with the Wind. But if Hunchback did have the same levels of popularity within popular culture as a book screenwriters would be less compelled to be creative with the story like making Esmeralda a champion for equality, have her pray, Frollo as a judge and a cat lover, singing semi-imaginary gargoyles who tell fart jokes etc.
The Gargoyles; Hugo Laverne, Victor Hunchback of Notre Dame Disney
Perhaps one day there will be a version that is well executed and accurate or at the very least captures the original mood of the book. Till then we have the “jazzy” Brolin movie to look forward to.
In an interview with Josh Brolin (click here to watch), he said that Tim Burton will be involved in the project in some way (either directly or indirectly). This just means that Burton hasn’t sign a contract yet. No doubt he is holding out for more money. In any case Tim Burton involvement means that Johnny Depp has to be in this movie in some way.
He’ll probably end up playing Gringoire. Given that this version is going to focus more on Gringoire and Burton is involved it seems very likely that Depp would be cast in role. Personally I think he would be fine in the role but Depp maybe to mature for Gringoire. Then again I think the book’s plot was thrown out the window ever since Brolin called this version “jazzy.” So perhaps so Depp can make Gringoire into what ever he wants.
But tell me what do you think……
MTV’s Movie Blog back in May had an interview with Josh Brolin regarding the the rumors around the new Hunchback movie. According to Brolin, he woke up one fine day and decided he wanted to make a Hunchback movie. He also says that Tim Burton will be involved in some form and the script is brilliant. Though what actor would diss their own vanity project by saying the script is a piece of crap? And this is a vanity project for Brolin since he is putting himself in the role of Quasimodo, a role that fine actors have been playing since the 20s.
Now from the book’s perspective Brolin, who is in his 40s is way too old to play Quasimodo but from a film history perspective he is not. Of the actors who have played Quasimodo in films since 1923 the average age of the them is 42. So while I can’t really disparage Brolin for playing a character 20 year younger than himself, I do blame the film industry as a whole for this warp-ness especially when actress playing Esmeralda that have less of an age gap are deem too old.
Another issue I have is that Brolin mentions a few times (in the space of a minute and a half) how fun the movie will be. Hunchback has a connotation for being dark and depressing and while it’s true that most of the character die in the book the films are never as bleak. The way Brolin makes it known that this movie will be “jazzy” makes it seem like he feels that all the movies are depressing and never fun. However the last two major movie versions have been a Disney movie and a modern-retelling that was a parody. The world doesn’t really need a another fun version of Hunchback. Making it fun is a marketing ploy to get people to watch the movie since people in general don’t like sad movies. So making the Hunchback of Notre Dame (a book people know very little about other than it’s “depressing”) fun is a way to make money off of the book. Hollywood doesn’t have the balls to make a version of the movie that keeps in line with the book.
This movie is also going to focus on Gringoire, so it’s like the 1939 version and the 1997 version where Gringoire is Esmeralda’s major love interest. While I it find this interesting I also think it’s a major cop-out out. He is a safe character to follow as he not controversial or deep .
All that being said the prospect of new Hunchback movie is exciting and I can’t wait to see how it the film takes shape but my exceptions are low.
Ages of Actors who have played Quasimodo in films (ages may not be exact)
Chaney born 1883 – 40 in 1923
Laughton born 1899 – 40 in 1939
Quinn born 1915 – 41 in 1956
Hopkins born in 1937 – 45 in 1982
Hulce born in 1953- 43 in 1996
Patinkin born in 1952 – 45 in 1997
Timsit born in 1959 – 40 in 1999
Brolin born 1968 – will be 45 in 2013
The average age is 42 and the character is 20 that a 22 year different between the actors and the actual character.
Josh Brolin Interview for Men in Black
While promoting Men in Black III, Josh Brolin gave a short interview for Collider.com. The last question was about the upcoming Hunchback movie. He seems very excited about the project and thinks that filming will take place in either France or England. While I’m all about filming on location, Hunchback films are better when filmed on a set. Sets enable the production to create a more accurate Notre Dame as it looked in the 15th century. Both the 1923 and the 1939 were films on sets and they had amazing set design. Also regardless of enthusiasm, I don’t see Brolin as Quasimodo. He just seems wrong in type. While I want to say I’ll hold off judgement till I at least see a trailer, I probably won’t. I will say this though, if Megan Fox comes anywhere near this project I will boycott it.
What do you think; Josh Brolin as Quasimodo, Yay or Nay?
Watch Interview Here
I don’t think Disney denies knowledge of Hunchback like they do with the Black Cauldron it’s just very clear that from a business stand point that Hunchback didn’t make the money that Disney was used to after the Renaissance and so it gets looked over in favor of the cash-cows. But why did Hunchback fail to garner the reviews and money and is hence ignored? Well that is actually an easy question to answer, and it not so much the title translation it’s actually film history. You see the oldest surviving movies of Hunchback (the 1923 version and the 39 version) were both star vehicles for the actors who played Quasimodo. As a result Quasimodo has been the coveted role in Hunchback, it something I like to call “The Quasimodo Factor©” (more on this later) . (Why do you think Josh Brolin is playing Quasimodo, it’s because he a producer and chose to play him.) So as a Quasimodo has been pushed to the main character role even though he is not in the book.
Frollo and Quasimodo during Out There Disney Hunchback of Notre Dame
I think this was Disney’s problem from the onset, they thought this film demanded Quasimodo and it didn’t matter how he was depicted. So Quasimodo with his sweet/bland personality was favored over the more interesting characters like Frollo, Clopin and Esmeralda.
Esmeralda and Quasimodo Disney Hunchback of Notre Dame
I have to wonder that if Disney had made Frollo and Esmeralda the focus and put Quasimodo in a role where he was a minion and through some kind of exposure to Esmeralda is turned good if the movie who have done better. Was Disney too blindsided by Chaney and Laughton to see that it might have the Hunchback that bought down Notre Dame. I mean don’t get me wrong Disney was in a hard position with his one making an adult classic into a children-friendly film and I think for they did it worked, and I’m not bashing on Quasimodo but here is a challenge, list your favorite character from this movie and then list your favorite character from other Disney movies and see how often did you site the protagonist as being one of your top. I bet comparatively people like other disney protagonists over Quasimodo. So I think Quasimodo and the film revolving around him is the down fall and you can thank the 1939 version and the 1923 version for this.
Next Movie to be Reviewed – The 1923 Version Starring Lon Chaney….. oh….
Hunchback of Notre Dame 1923 Lon Chaney
*I’ll tell you what I’ll rank Disney characters too, leave a comment with 5-7 disney movies, can be any movie (not Oliver I haven’t seen it but anything else is fair game (I think)) if I don’t hear from people by the April 23th I’ll just choose at random. If in the event I get more comments I’ll pick the top 5-7 Disney movies that people picked Got it?
I just want to take a moment and get this out there.
Quasimodo Rescues Esmeralda Illustration
A few months ago it was announced that Tim Burton was rumored to be directing a new adaptaion of The Hunchback of Notre Dame slated for 2013 and attach to this is actor Josh Brolin of such movies as Jonah Hex and True Grit as Quasimodo. I was reading some of comments people left on the websites that announced this and mostly they were discussing how Johnny Depp was not playing the leading character in a Tim Burton movie. Unusual? Yes but does this mean that Johnny Depp will not be in the film?
My guess he will. Let’s face it Quasimodo not exactly a Depp role, sure he played Ed Scissorhand but I can’t envision Depp as Quasimodo. However I could see him as Gringoire. Gringoire is a poet and sometimes he used as a story-teller (as he more less is the voice for the writer) and more often than not he has been paired up with Esmeralda. I would predict that Johnny Depp will play Gringoire, I can see him as Frollo or Phoebus, however he could play Clopin. For Depp to Play Clopin it would depend of the direction of the film. Clopin is not actually a gypsy in the book but in the film Clopin takes on all of the leaders of the Court of Miracles, so sometimes he’s a Gypsy and sometimes he’s not. However I could see him as Clopin or Gringoire. Though I would lean towards Gringoire.
Helena Bonham Carter
As for Helena Bonham Carter (another staple in a Burton movies), there is a lack of females in Hunchback of Notre Dame and it’s up to the film’s direction if they’ll have more than just Esmeralda. I wouldn’t cast Carter as Esmeralda or Fleur de Lys ( if Fleur de Lys is in this adaptation). Pending on film direction I would cast her as Sister Gudule, Esmeralda’s mother. However if the film doesn’t go for Esmeralda’s back story which I’ve only ever seen twice in adaptations, Carter will have some cameo of some sort maybe La Falourdel (the women who house Phoebus rents a room from in order to seduce Esmeralda). In case I would predict her to be in the film is some capacity.
I hope they get someone who is more akin to Esmeralda in the book; someone who is not overtly sexy and youthful, that would be refreshing to see.
Anyway these are all rumors and predictions, but I would love to hear what you think on this upcoming movie.