Casting Call for Lord Vaughn

Despite the fact that he has no flowery title to call his own, Lord Vaughn has proved one of the most elusive of my heroes– at least in the looks department.

Ironically, I’ve probably described him in more detail than any of my other heroes (when you’ve hung around for three books, you tend to get more than your fair share of physical descriptions), so we know that he’s of average height but seems taller, that his build is wiry, that his hair is dark and suspiciously frosted with silver (to match his black and silver clothes), that his lips are thin and quick to quirk, and that he has deep shadows beneath his eyes. And so on and so on.

Despite all these individual details, many have commented to me that they have trouble picturing Vaughn. You’re not alone. While I was writing Crimson Rose, the image I had in mind was Sean Bean as Lovelace in the BBC adaptation of Clarissa— although, as I was quick to point out to anyone who asked, Vaughn doesn’t actually look all that much like Bean. I know, I know. It doesn’t make much sense. What I had in mind was more a similarity of soul, as it were (although, since Vaughn would object to that term, let’s call it a similarity of motivation, instead). Bean’s Lovelace is a practiced rake, the sort who views seduction as a sport, somewhat akin to shooting grouse. The more wary the quarry, the greater the challenge. But, um, yes, Lovelace was blond and Vaughn most certainly isn’t.

As I was writing, other comparisons that came to mind were Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes (he has the long, thin features down and something of Vaughn’s air of herculean self-control), the guy who plays Lynley in the dramatizations of the Elizabeth George novels (aspects of his appearance are right, but the character is all wrong), and Clark Gable as Rhett Butler (without the little mustache), but none really hit the spot.

I think this inability to pin Vaughn down visually says something deeper about Vaughn as a character. First, Vaughn is a creature of deception for whom every appearance is a performance, every item of clothing a costume (I have serious doubts as to the veracity of that silver in his hair). He creates a shifting show in which the object– for Vaughn, at least– is to prevent us from pinning down anything concrete about him. Second, and in direct contrast to Mary, Vaughn has always operated entirely on strength of character rather than looks. To be frank, his looks aren’t much to write home about. It’s the personality that animates them that makes him so entirely riveting. In that, he has more than a little bit in common with Charles II, who was famously ugly and yet still gets my vote for Monarch With Whom I Would Most Like to Have Drinks.

Even so, it would still be rather nice to have a concrete physical image of Vaughn. Please help me out here! As you can tell, my cinematic lexicon is limited. When you read about Vaughn, who do you picture?


  1. Melissa on May 28, 2008 at 12:51 am

    I did have the hardest time picturing him. I’d only get a shadowed face in my imagination, but you’re not the only one who thought of Sean Bean. I’ve also imagined Vaughn as Rufus Sewell, but now more of James Purefoy in Vanity Fair. I think it changes with each book…. ; )

  2. Bonny on May 28, 2008 at 9:26 am

    When I think of Vaughn, I get this picture of Peter Stormare in the Brothers Grimm which came out in 2005. He plays Cavaldi and you never know whose side he is on–good or bad? I’ve never seen Vaughn as the dashing hero type…more like a snake.

  3. Maggie on May 28, 2008 at 10:05 am

    I pictured Richard Armitage (the way he looks in North and South [2004] as Thornton).

    He’s kind of perfect for it. Dark hair, thin lips…

  4. Rachel Hawkins on May 28, 2008 at 10:22 am

    Ha! I just finished Crimson Rose last night, and was thinking about how much Vaughn reminded me of Sean Bean’s Lovelace (which I think is one of SB’s best performances ever. Lovelace is a tricky character- all those shades of gray, and the lovesickness coupled with the ruthlessness and cruelty… sigh.) You’re right that they’re very similar in attitude and general outlook on life.

    As for my visual of Vaughn, like Maggie, I had a Richard Armitage-ish picture of Vaughn for the most part, but his physical charateristics stayed kind of vague for me. He’s a hard guy to pin down, that Vaughn!

  5. Whitney on May 28, 2008 at 1:02 pm

    Vaughn looks like Vaughn. Granted, I realize that this is no help. However, I am not a very visual reader to begin with; I am more auditory. Every character I read has a distinct voice. Vaughn sounds a little bit like Cardinal Richelieu.

  6. Georgia on May 28, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    In my mind’s eye Vaughn looked a bit like Colin Farrell (as portrayed here–, but I like the Richard Armitage suggestion as well.

  7. Jessica on May 28, 2008 at 3:03 pm

    Hmmm…I didn’t picture anyone in particular.

    Oooh…with the right wig, and some youthening (is that a word?) makeup, maybe Patrick Stewart? He has the quality of letting the character overtake his actual looks.

    Or, if you clean him up just right, Alan Rickman…he does sardonic SO well.

    • VA on April 4, 2015 at 9:16 pm

      I can totally see this. I think it’s the voice. Alan Rickman has a very Vaughn-like voice.

  8. Angie on May 28, 2008 at 3:43 pm

    I had trouble too! I wish I’d thought of Sean Bean, because he fits better than the two who shape-shifted their way into being my Vaughn at intervals: a darker, slighter Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, and a somewhat fresher Sir Ian McKellan as Chauvelin in The Scarlet Pimpernel. (I had a hard time shaking this one at times, actually, even when I wanted him a tad more attractive in my mind’s eye…maybe the similarity in the French names?)

  9. Laura on May 28, 2008 at 8:21 pm

    I always thought of Vaughn as the rake he is but that he’s got that dark and sexy thing going on. I picture him to look (and in this version) even act a bit like Richard E. Grant as the Scarlet Pimpernel (the 99′ miniseries). Also, he reminds me (looks moreso) of Johnny Depp in From Hell.
    Still I don’t think anyone could do him quite right. I’d like to have a few drinks with him 😉

  10. Priyanka on May 29, 2008 at 1:59 am

    Come to think of it, Richard Armitage works really well, but I almost mixed a bunch of others together and simply got a picture of Vaughn. Speaking of who the heroes would look like, who do you think the heroes and heroines from the last three books look like??

  11. Camille la Flamme on May 29, 2008 at 2:11 am

    I’ve entertained several Vaughns:

    -Alan Rickman (after all, he plays the Regency gentleman so well <3).

    -Gerard Butler as seen in the 2004 Phantom of the Opera; same hair, only longer and silvered; and of course no mask.

    -If you were to tame Johnny Depp’s Sweeney Todd hair…

    -I like to think of a young Vaughn – Sebastian – as Benjamin Barnes, who of course is Prince Caspian in the new Narnia movie. I’m SORRY, but since I am not usually susceptible to fangirlishness, indulge me here…

  12. Eliza on May 29, 2008 at 3:39 am

    I will admit to liking the Richard Armitage suggestion of others, BUT I’m totally going for James Purefoy, he just will always be Vaughn for me.

  13. cecelia on May 29, 2008 at 9:45 am

    Alan Rickman with dark hair would do it–he has the voice I associate with Vaughn and the expessions.
    Pierce Brosnan is a maybe. Sean Bean doesn’t have the right facial expression. Rickman can sneer so well…yes, I think he is perfect for the part.

  14. Lois on May 29, 2008 at 11:48 am

    Oh geez, this sort of thing I’m bad at. Honestly, when I’m reading, I have a rather bad imagination, so the guy (or even gal) on the cover is the guy (or gal) in the inside. If there is no guy, gal or both on the cover, then my image is sort of a blurry image of no one in particular. . . alas, I guess I’m nuts. LOL


  15. Irina on May 29, 2008 at 1:12 pm

    Richard E. Grant would be my first pick! Sean Bean has played too many villains to ever be a “hero” in my mind. My other suggestion, based on the “strength of character” theory, is Hugh Laurie, whose intensity and energy level reminds me of Lord Vaughn.

  16. Irina on May 29, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    I just thought of another one – Toby Stephens as Mr. Rochester in the latest Jane Eyre!!

  17. laura on May 29, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    Ooooh I didn’t think of Hugh Laurie before but He’s almost perfect! He’s already got the cane things down too!

  18. Jessica on May 29, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh…Hugh Laurie!!!! *swoons* But you’d have to cover his beautiful blue eyes 🙁 Other than that, he can do the cane, he can do imperious and autocratic, he looks great in, well, anything, but period clothes in particular, he’s wiry and not too tall.

    If Hugh is Vaughn, *I’m* getting a long black wig and auditioning for Mary 🙂

  19. Gina on May 29, 2008 at 9:22 pm

    I’m so frustrated…I have a fairly clear picture of Vaughn in my head, and I know he’s a real person (or it wouldn’t be so clear) but I have no idea who he is!!!
    As for the suggestions listed, I liked Richard Armitage best. Oddly enough though, he looks nothing like my idea of Vaughn, he just looks….plausible.

  20. Maggie on May 29, 2008 at 10:28 pm

    Hugh Laurie? Really? I’ve never watched House, so maybe that’s why I don’t get it…I still stick with my Richard Armitage Vaughn, but I like the Toby Stephens idea!!!!

  21. Jean on May 29, 2008 at 10:58 pm

    Armond Assante or Frank Langella, when they were younger..

  22. Amy on May 30, 2008 at 10:42 am

    My Lord Vaughn is a mix of Anthony Andrews as Sir Percy and Ian McKellen as Chauvelin in the Scarlet Pimpernel. Chauvelin’s dark coloring with Sir Percy’s attitude and flair made the perfect Vaughn in my imagination, although I can see Hugh Laurie working as well.

  23. Lauren on May 30, 2008 at 4:18 pm

    I can’t tell you all how much I’ve enjoyed this discussion! (Especially since I am so bad at the actor-picking game).

    Why didn’t I think of Toby Stephens?!?! I watched his “Jane Eyre” as I was finishing up “Crimson Rose” the winter before last and was struck by how much his Rochester reminded me, in spirit, of Vaughn. He played the cynical rake bruised by life to perfection. I think it’s another of those cases where looks-wise, he’s probably not all Vaughn, but character-wise, he’s absolutely perfect.

    My first reaction to Hugh Laurie was “huh?” (I’ve been re-watching Jeeves & Wooster recently, in which he’s more Miles than Vaughn). Then I remembered “House” and light dawned. It takes an extremely talented actor to play such different ends of the spectrum. But, yes, I could totally see the Hugh Laurie of “House” as Vaughn.

    I STILL have to see “North & South”! After this whole Armitage discussion, I have a feeling I know what my next major DVD purchase will be.

  24. Shana on May 30, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    I always pictured him as Jason Isaacs, the voice and manners of Lucius Malfoy but the appearance of the Patriot character (the name escapes me)

  25. Amy on May 30, 2008 at 9:25 pm

    Shana, I’m with you! I was just going to look him up on IMBD when I read your post. Jason Isaacs is my vision of Vaughn. He looks down his nose at others and smiles like a snake as Lucius Malfoy. As Col. William Tavington in “The Patriot” he has that stony glare and ruthlessness beyond compare — all the while every hair in place and neat as a pin. He is HOT! Shew! I’ve got to get some air or break out the smelling salts-

  26. Amy on May 30, 2008 at 9:40 pm

    P.S. I know this is about Vaughn, but I’ve always pictured Colin Selwick looking like a younger version of Malcolm McDowell.

  27. Jessica on May 31, 2008 at 1:33 am

    Wow, I hadn’t thought of Jason Isaacs, but he would be great!!!

    Still rooting for Hugh, ’cause, he’s dreamy! 🙂

  28. Angie on May 31, 2008 at 11:45 am

    LOVE the idea of the House version of Hugh Laurie, as well as Toby Stephens. I wish I’d had these ideas while reading! I’ll have to re-read with one of them in mind 🙂

  29. Lynn on June 1, 2008 at 12:52 am

    I pictured the actor Daniel Craig (the latest Jame Bond) as Vaughn. Althought I thought he may have looked more like Daniel Craig in the Golden Compas movie — mysterious and your not sure if he is a good or bad guy. I also do not think Daniel Craig is all that handsome in looks alone, but he possess a very confident and at times condescending air about him. He also can be warm, gentle with a nice smile that softens his presentation at times.

  30. Sarah on June 1, 2008 at 7:17 am

    I always pictured Vaughn as a Jason Isaacs with black hair, especially the way he looks in the Patriot (though a little older). He has those striking features and the thin lips and can totally pull of that quick quirk of a smile.

  31. Kelly on June 2, 2008 at 7:55 am

    For me, it’s all about Lord Vaughn’s eyes. They are as heavy-lidded as Anthony Andrews, but Vaughn also has a more rounded face–like Daniel Craig. His body type is definitely Hugh Laurie, but he has he physicality of Andrews as the Scarlet Pimpernel.

    I have a very clear picture of Vaughn and he just looks like Vaughn and no one else. Ironically, I think he has the most clear description of any of the heroes! It’s definitely the eyes…

  32. Bailey on June 3, 2008 at 12:04 am

    I was picturing Jason Isaacs the entire time I read Vaughn, but with dark hair. Although, it might have been the snake cane that created the similarity of features between the two.

    I’m a very visual reader though, and the people I imagine are typically unique to…my twisted brain. HOWEVER, my Vaughn did bear a striking resemblence to Jason Isaacs.

  33. Rebecca on June 3, 2008 at 11:22 am

    Ooh, I’d never thought of Richard Armitage! He could totally pull it off!

    As I was reading, I went back and forth between JJ Feild (from the new Northanger Abbey adaptation), Rupert Penry-Jones (that might be a stretch, though — now that I think of it, is he more like a Colin?)…I know there was someone else, but I can’t think of him. 🙂

  34. ALB on June 13, 2008 at 11:40 pm

    Hmmm….I had quite a different experience and vision in my head from the above. I pictured him somewhat older, and I quite clearly saw a man who looked like a slightly younger Ian McShane.

  35. Cristina Jambon on June 18, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    Adrian Brody! check him out on imdb… He’s perfect. He’s dark, angular and odd looking, but in certain contexts he becomes quite sexy…

    • VA on April 4, 2015 at 9:19 pm

      Mmm Adrien Brody.

  36. erin on June 19, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    Before I read these replies, I was so thinking Jeremy Northam….not your typical rake, but I think he could pull it off….and he’s very good at smoldering passion….

    However, Hugh Laurie is an EXCELLENT visual, and I think will probably be the one sticking in my head from now on……

    Or, if Christian Bale were a tad older, he’d fit perfectly too…oh the possibilities!

  37. christine on June 22, 2008 at 10:57 pm

    I will admit that as I was reading the book I did go through several different “castings” for Vaughn… I started immediately with the comparisons to HP’s Snape and there went Alan Rickman and Jason Issacs (but that was mostly for the quality of voice, and the scheming, and the use of snake imagery)

    And then with each description, I did get a kind of Sherlock Holmes vibe, which had me pretty locked with Rupert Everett as Vaughn for a while there. (Everett did a fabulous job in a recent PBS adaptation of “The Case of the Silk Stockings.”) That’s the one that stuck for me while I was reading, anyway.

    However. I can totally see Richard E. Grant, Michael Sheen, Richard Armitage, Jeremy Northam, James D’Arcy, Jonathan Pryce (perhaps a few years ago), OR Mark Strong (whom I’m almost 92% certain I’m leaning towards now as the best). The longer I think about it, the harder the choice gets!

  38. Kellie on June 24, 2008 at 7:34 pm

    I picture Jonathan Rhys Meyers when trying to put a face to the Uber Cool Vaughn 🙂

    • VA on April 4, 2015 at 9:19 pm

      Oh man he’d be PERFECT.

  39. Laura M. on June 30, 2008 at 11:46 am

    When reading SotCR, I immediately saw Alex O’Loughlin (from CBS show Moonlight) as Lord Vaughn.

  40. Andee on July 4, 2008 at 10:34 am

    Though he went through some transformations as I read, my final version of Lord Vaughn is definitely Robert Downey Jr. He’s dark. He does brooding really well, and could totally pull off the double and triple entendres admirably. Plus, he’s hot.

  41. Pepper on May 4, 2013 at 2:45 am

    How about Orlando Bloom? I also thought of Robt. Downey Jr. And MatthewMacfadyen, yum yum. James Purefoy is good too.

  42. VA on April 4, 2015 at 9:18 pm

    For some reason whenever I read the books with Vaughn I imagine Jason Isaacs or Tom Felton, if we’re going for someone younger. Not sure why but I feel like he is very set in his ways, likes what he likes, and has no hesitance in making his opinions known. Kind of like Draco Malfoy and his “my father will hear about this” angle.

  43. Nikki on October 10, 2015 at 10:25 pm

    I’ve always pictured someone similar to Vincent Price. Handsome, debonair, but slightly sinister.

  44. Malony on November 21, 2019 at 7:56 am

    Malony maire kenny I say Vaughn looks like my kind of man

  45. Nina on December 31, 2020 at 2:15 pm

    There’s no other choice. Johnny Depp.

  46. Penny on September 5, 2021 at 10:40 am

    Lord Vaughn is Michael Fassbender

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