Another typical example of inappropriate casting


The fat, pig-eyed Russell Crowe as Inspector Javert in Les Misérables? You’ve got to be kidding. Javert, who obsessively hunts the innocent Jean Valjean for twenty years, is the classic lean and hungry type, spare and vulpine, and increasingly tortured as his duty to catch an escaped convict and throw him in prison for life is contradicted by his growing knowledge of Jean Valjean’s Christ-like virtue. As an example of appropriate casting for the part, think of the thin, bent-over, sharp-nosed Barry Morse who played the Javert-based police detective Lieutenant Philip Gerard in the great 1960s TV series The Fugitive:


Crowe, by contrast, is evidently a man who likes to eat to excess and enjoys being a rich movie star. There is nothing ascetic, nothing driven, about him. But the ruling imperative is to get name stars for big movies, even if they are overweight, totally wrong for the part, and have, essentially, no acting talent. Crowe was also overweight and wrong for the lead role in Master and Commander, a movie he walked through, as he generally does all his movies.

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Jason R. writes:

I couldn’t let your characterisation of the ideal Javert as “lean and hungry” pass without making mention of Philip Quast, whose stage musical Javert is often considered the best:

Maybe the film producers had him somewhere in mind when casting his burly compatriot for the same part.

LA replies:

The problem is that so many people are overweight or obese nowadays that overweightness has become a new norm. I’m reminded of the 2003 Civil War movie Gods and Generals in which the Confederate troops charging out of the woods at the battle of Chancellorsville were porky, big-gutted, forty-ish men, totally unlike the thin-as-rail young men we see in Civil War photographs. I wondered at the time, why couldn’t the movie-makers, whose stated intention was to have as much historical verisimilitude as possible, have found some slimmer and younger re-enactors at least for the front rank of the charging soldiers? And a possible answer is that overweightness has become so much a norm today that it didn’t occur to anyone that overweight Civil War soldiers looked wrong.

Beefy Confederate re-enactors charging at Chancellorsville.

Well-fed Union re-enactors defending at Chancellorsville.
Check out the gut on the fellow at the right.

JC from Houston writes:

I found your observation of the overweight reenactors quite astute. My great grandfather was one of those Confederate soldiers who actually did charge out of the woods at the real battle of Chancellorsville in 1863. We have an old photo of him and two of his comrades, taken in uniform in 1861. They are all relatively slender young men in their early twenties (My great grandfather was twenty years old at the time). My younger brother used to do a lot of Civil War reenacting and it does take quite a bit of money for equipment, travel expenses and such. I think that’s why reenactors are usually quite a bit older than than the actual soldiers were. As for the overweight thing, I really can’t talk, but at age 60+ maybe I’m entitled to a bit of a paunch.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at November 26, 2012 12:46 PM | Send

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