Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer-Prize winning novel The Goldfinch was picked up for a movie adaptation by Warner Bros. on Tuesday. The book tells the story of Theo Decker, whose mother is killed in a museum bombing and whose father wants little to do with him. During the bombing, Decker stole The Goldfinch, the 1654 painting by Carel Fabritius, which he keeps hidden from the world. The book is 800 pages long and spans decades, so compressing it all into one movie will be a challenge. The cast of characters is small but memorable, and since it’s so high-profile, could attract a lot of A-listers in a movie adaptation. Here’s who we think should play each role.
For the younger Theo, Asa Butterfield is the right guy, no question. If anyone can play a teenage alcoholic art thief orphan, it’s him. For the part of the story that follows Theo’s later years, Daniel Radcliffe would do brilliantly. The Goldfinch has been compared to the Harry Potter series because of its coming-of-age themes and its orphaned central character, so Radcliffe might not want to take the role for fear of being pigeonholed. However, playing that type of character in a decidedly non-magical setting would be interesting. Theo in his later years is something like a post-Potter anti-hero. He’s not a celebrity like Harry Potter, though he is successful financially (on a modest level). He’s a good guy, but also guilt-ridden, drug-addicted, and a criminal.
Only an unknown actor could play younger Boris right now. No other teenage male actor is Russian enough, or could convincingly fake a Russian accent, to play him in the early years. Casting the older Boris is also tricky. Adam Driver would be the best bet. He’s funny, can be charming yet distant, and has the volatility Boris needs. Every time Boris appears, you’re not sure when he’s going to show up again, and Driver has the ability to pull that off on screen.
Wizened antiques dealer? Someone call Jim Broadbent.
Younger Pippa exists mostly on the sidelines, and could be played by a number of young teenage actresses. The character in the later years is somewhat underwritten, but is exactly the type of person that might get a larger share of screentime in a movie (insofar as any character can get a larger share of screentime in a movie that adapts an 800-page novel). Emma Stone has the red hair already set, and can do a lot with a little. Lizzy Caplan is the type of actress who doesn’t get these kinds of demure roles, but would excel at them.
Kitsey ‘Kitten’ Barbour:
Theo’s fiancée is a tricky one—she needs to be bubbly, high-class, and secretive all at the same time. Anna Kendrick has the ability to appear like she’s in control all the time—she’d do well. Emma Watson could also play the part if she isn’t cast opposite Radcliffe.
Billy Bob Thornton is exactly the type of guy you could imagine leaving his wife and kid to move to the outskirts of Las Vegas with a woman named Xandra.
In the book, Xandra is described as “tan and very fit-looking: flat gray eyes, lined coppery skin, and teeth that went in, with a split between them … she was dressed like someone younger: red platform sandals; low-slung jeans; wide belt; lots of gold jewelry. Her hair, the color of caramel straw, was very straight and tattered at the ends; she was chewing gum and a strong smell of Juicy Fruit was coming off her.” It’s a delicious, distinct sort of trashiness that serves as comic relief for a lot of the book, and can work well as a colorful, unrealistic character in a movie. Amy Adams played someone similar in American Hustle, and could do it again here. Melissa Leo and Frances McDormand could play it campy, and make the role really electric.