July 1, 2011 9:24am EST
Justin Bieber will star in 'Jon Eyre'
"I may be poor and plain, but I'm not without feelings"
by Alaina Phillips-Walker
In the world of gothic romance stories, Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre has ruled as queen for nearly a century and a half.
The most recent screen interpretation was directed quite recently in 2011 by Cary Fukunaga, starring Mia Wasikowska as Jane Eyre and Michael Fassbender as Mr. Rochester, and was both a critical success and a box office smash.
There seems to be an unwritten rule in Hollywood that Victorian novels are generally remade in intervals of not less than 15 years apart. (1996's version of Jane Eyre was directed by Franco Zeffirelli and starring William Hurt as Mr. Rochester and Charlotte Gainsbourg as Jane.)
So why attempt a remake so soon?
Wildly successful French director Jean Hijab Pinault explains:
"This is not just a remake. It's got a certain twist. Instead of repeating the past mistake of simply rehashing the classic story, we're infusing new life into it. New blood."
Jon Eyre is set for a 2013 release and will feature pop star Justin Bieber in the titular role.
"Justin was actually more interested in drama before he was handed a microphone and discovered that he had a fantastic singing voice," says Pinault.
Bieber will play the role of Jon, the orphaned and initially impoverished lad who after a horrific upbringing at Lowood Boys Home eventually finds himself in the employ of Mrs. Rochester (Kathy Bates) as a French teacher for her young charge Adelphin (a young male role that is yet uncast).
In keeping with the novel, young Jon will be portrayed as highly esteeming traditional morality – in particular by refusing to marry Mrs. Rochester until she is widowed. It is hoped that this pleases fans of the novel and the previous film versions, despite the radical change of gender in the principal character.
Mrs. Rochester will be seen as far less a perfect moral figure. She is, indeed, a sinner: she attempts to enter into a bigamous marriage with Jon and, when that fails, tries to persuade him to become her Victorian-era "boy toy".
Also starring in a relatively minor, though pivitol role, is Brad Pitt as Bert, Mrs. Rochester's mentally ill husband, still alive, and secretly living in the attic.
Initially afraid that Pitt would not be interested in such a small role, Pinault says "Bradley jumped at the opportunity. Not a lot of people know this, but he's a huge fan of Jane Austen's novels. Although he had not heard of 'Jane Eyre' before we spoke, I explained to him that it was just like 'Pride & Prejudice' only with even more of a 'gothic' feel to it. He came on board without any hesitation."
Currently filming at Shepperton Studios in England and in Victoria, Canada, the producers of Jon Eyre are hoping for a limited release early in the Spring of 2013.