Leo Tolstoy describes his iconic character Count Vronsky in Anna Karenina, which was published in serial installments from 1873 to 1877 in The Russian Messenger, as “a squarely built, dark man, not very tall, with a good-humored, handsome, and exceedingly calm and resolute face. Everything about his face and figure, from his short-cropped black hair and freshly shaven chin down to his loosely fitting, brand-new uniform, was simple and at the same time elegant.”
With such succinct casting instructions, one wonders why so many filmed adaptations opted for tall actors or ones with blond hair—as the following list shows.
In 2012, brown-haired Aaron Taylor-Johnson took on the role of Count Vronsky as well as taking on an unneeded bleach job since he was more suited to the part before hair and makeup got ahold of him.
Two for the Role
Greta Garbo played the heroine twice with different Vronksys, both of whom fit the part, whether it was Fredric March in 1935’s traditional adaptation Anna Karenina or the more modern take with John Gilbert in 1927’s Love.
At the turn of the last century film and TV versions of Anna Karenina took a wrong turn, casting tall blond actors Sean Bean and Kevin McKidd as Vronsky in 1997 and 2000, respectively.
Foreign Feats & Flubs
The 1967 Russian production clearly showed a hometown advantage with its excellent casting of Vasili Lanovoy on film unlike Spain’s televised effort of 1975 which has the supposed young role of Vronsky played by 40-year-old Paco Valladares.
Faulty Towering Actors
Although Nicola Pagett and Jacqueline Bisset were ideally cast in the title roles of these television adaptations, their respective Vronskys played by Stuart Wilson in 1977 and Christopher Reeve in 1985 were a tad tall, despite having the right facial features.
Tall Suits in Tales
In 1948, Kieron Moore played Vronsky on the big screen while Sean Connery stepped into his shoes for a television version in 1961 to tower over their petite leading ladies, Vivien Leigh and Claire Bloom.
Perhaps the most miscast Vronsky came in the from of dancer Alexander Godunov who portrayed the dark-haired character with long blond tresses in the filmed ballet version in 1976.