How I Would Cast The Goldfinch Movie
Donna Tartt’s massive, 784-page novel The Goldfinch did what books at their absolute best can do for a reader - create a world. Some great writers are able to say a whole lot in very few words and pages; to distill a giant concept and lots of emotion into a bite size piece. Kurt Vonnegut comes to mind, who famously provided this tidbit to aspiring writers:
If a sentence, no matter how excellent, does not illuminate your subject in some new and useful way, scratch it out.”
I have always taken that to mean “short and sweet,” but when it comes to Tartt’s writing in The Goldfinch, she built her characters brick by brick, from mundane thoughts and passing observances to quotidian rituals and seemingly unremarkable idiosyncrasies. Some of those “bricks,” like terrorist bombings, art theft and drug use (most of this is outlines in the book jacket, no #spoilers here) are decidedly larger, but they are still dissected and reported with the same cool but thorough reportage, and they still serve to build for us readers from scratch each character and plot line, atom by atom.
The Goldfinch captured my imagination in a way that no other book has managed to do in ages - come to think of it, the last time I got that absorbed in another world was Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan series or Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84, which I still think about all these years later, especially when I see a reflection of the moon in a windowpane and I get to pretend there are suddenly two moons, like in the book. And while I have a few friends that read but didn’t love the book (hey, I won’t hold it against them…) all of them finished it, and that says something. (This write-up about The Goldfinch on BarnesAndNoble.com does a pretty good job of aggregating and summarizing all the criticism the book received, while also cheekily pointing out that shortly after being slammed by The New Yorker, The Washington Post, The Guardian and more, it won a Pullitzer Prize. So, there.) Personally, I couldn’t put it down, even when I sleepily agreed to turn out the lights at the end of the next chapter or at a break in paragraphs. Tartt packed so many cliffhangers into the book that it was really hard to stop reading.
The book came out in 2013, but I stole (borrowed?) a copy from the beach-house rental two summers ago and I just started, and promptly finished, it this Fall. My only consolation after just having finished the book is that at least the movie is coming out soon. I tried to refrain from looking up the cast while I was reading because I wanted to conjure up the characters organically in my mind, so as I read, I formed such vivid images of each one that I feel like I know them all.
Here’s how my own personal fantasy football team cast for The Goldfinch, which includes a mix of old and new Hollywood royalty and a random Instagram model, because it’s 2018 and that’s what we do now.
AUDREY DECKER (Theo’s Mom) - TIE: Lisa Bonet or Demi Moore
This is a toss up for me between these two actresses, and I know that both are slightly older than Hollywood would usually cast for this role, but the way Tartt describes her - long dark hair, green-eyes traffic-stopping looks (“interesting” and “captivating” more so than “hot,” mind you. Also, #goals), and a intelligent, artistic aura - either of these two women would be perfect for the role.
JAMES “HOBIE” HOBART - John Goodman
Hobie’s character just came across as a teddy-bear - good-natured, and cuddly! I love Jeffrey Wright and all, who is said to have been cast for the role, but he doesn’t seem to have the physical presence, a kind of bumbling, slightly clumsy father-figure that I imagined Hobie (described by Tartt as over six feet tall and only narrowly escaped from an alternate life as a rough and tumble blue-collar tough) to possess.
WELTON “WELTY” BLACKWELL - Anthony Hopkins
Anthony Hopkins would be Hobie’s somewhat older partner. Welty always seemed to be the more mature, level-headed and old-fashioned one in the couple, although we barely knew him, and he was old enough to be Pippa’s grandfather in the books. Hopkins would be perfect to play a polyglot antiques dealer who was raised in an art-filled home abroad.
PIPPA - Sophie Turner
Sophie Turner would be the perfect Pippa. She looks great with red hair, and while she’s absolutely beautiful, she also has really unusual, striking features that makes her classical beauty a great counterpart and contender to Kitsey’s WASPy good looks.
BORIS PAVLIKOVSKY (Young) - Sasha Trautvein
This is one of those times where a random Instagram model was cast for a life-changing role. (It happened to Sanam, who was cast in Rihanna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money” video). Sasha Trautvein - he’s Russian, he’s scrawny but he’s tough-looking, he already smokes cigs, and I randomly follow him on Insta. That is all.
LARRY (Theo’s Dad) - Bobby Cannavale
Bobby Canavale could easily play your run-of-the-mill loving father, but there’s something kind of wild and manic about him that would make him perfect to play Larry, who is equal parts debonair and dangerous. Well, maybe more parts dangerous…
XANDRA - Taryn Manning
Full disclosure, Xandra would have been played by my hairdresser but she’s not SAG. So instead, I’ll cast Taryn Manning for the definitely trashy, maybe hot in the right light role. Pencil thin eyebrows will be mandatory, though.
ANDY - Noah Schapp
Yes, he survived The Upside Down in Stranger Things, but he also could probably play a kid who’s allergic to everything, including fun.
PLATT BARBOUR - Hayden Christensen
He got that troubled, recovering-pretty-boy look that will definitely work for Platt, who’s mother is a social goddess, his younger brothers are a genius and a rising political star, respectively, and his sister is being groomed to fill his mothers socialite shoes.
(Sidebar: This would have been Ed Westwick, who was accused of sexually assaulting at least three women, but he is definitely cancelled from my adaptation and my imaginary production company will no longer be working with him or any creeper.)
KITSEY - Nina Agdal
“Kitsey was never tired; Kitsey was never unhappy. She was appealing, enthusiastic, affectionate. She was beautiful, with a luminous, sugar-white quality that turned heads in the street.” Sounds exactly like Nina Agdal tbh.
LUCIUS REEVE - Danny Huston
He’s good at playing creepy dudes. That is all.
THEO DECKER - John Patrick Amedori
Sorry but, Ansel Elgort is Just. Too. Pretty. He may have played a get-away driver in Baby Driver, and yes this is a similar role - being orphaned, getting into a life of crime, etc. But do I see Ansel going through some of the really dark stuff that Theo went through - depression, suicide attempts, shoot-outs, drug binges, blackout drinking sessions, etc.? No, not really. John Patrick Amedei would be a better fit for the role. I loved him in Dear White People and in Electric Children. He’s quiet, cute but in a non-threatening way, smart, sensitive, and he looks like he’d be no stranger to the dark side - a lot like Theo.
I like Nicole Kidman as Mrs. Barbour, and I couldn’t think of anyone for Adult Boris - he’s a mysterious guy, and one of the only ones that was just really a shadowy blank in my mind as I read. What do you guys think? Are you happy with the (actual) cast or would you have picked other actors for the roles? Leave ‘em in the comments!