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Quasimodo from Hunchback of Notre Dame

Updated on September 27, 2014

Quasimodo (Hunchback of Notre Dame)

The Hunchback of Notre Dame has been adapted since 1836 when it was first made into an Opera and there have been many different films and musical versions. None of the adaptations are 100% accurate to the book in terms of some plot points and characters. Quasimodo has captured the imagination of artists and film markers for over a century but Quasimodo is always depicted as a hero and the main character which is not what Hugo had intended.

Let's look through the major films and one popular musical of the Hunchback of Notre Dame and look at the portrayal of Quaismodo and the actors that have played him.

Luc Olivier Mersoc 1905 Esmeralda giving Quasimodo water
Luc Olivier Mersoc 1905 Esmeralda giving Quasimodo water

Quasimoda a la Victor Hugo

SPOILERS

Quasimodo is the deformed bell-ringer of Notre Dame and adopted son of Claude Frollo. Quasimodo was likely born November 11 1462 (he's a Scorpio). He was mostly a Gypsy but he was abandoned and left in lieu of Esmeralda. Quasimodo eventually found his way to Notre Dame where Archdeacon Claude Frollo in his sympathy for orphans adopted him. Quasimodo is very loyal to Frollo and does what he says without question. He is bitter and avoids people except Frollo. Beside being a hunchback Quasimodo is also described as having a horse-shoe mouth, a small left eye with bushy red eyebrow, a right eye that's completely hidden by a monstrous wart, uneven broken teeth with gaps that project out like tusks, callous lips, and forked chin. He was also described " a giant who had been broken and badly put together again."

When Quasimodo was 14 he became the bell-ringer out of a profound love for the bells. The bells eventually made Quasimodo deaf. Quasimodo therefore shut himself in Notre Dame and it become his world. At the beginning of the book he goes to the Feast of Fool and is declared Pope of Fools. Later that evening he is arrested for trying to kidnap Esmeralda because Frollo ordered him. He is put on trail and sentenced to 50 lashes and an hour of public shame on the pillory. It is here that Esmeralda on a mere whim gave Quasimodo a drink of water, after that Quasimodo fell in love with her. When Esmeralda is about to executed, Quasimodo saved her and proclaimed sanctuary for her. He cared for her in Notre Dame giving her food and his own bed. Quasimodo tried to protect Esmeralda when Notre Dame was "attacked" but he failed and she ended up dying. In a fit of rage Quasimodo threw Frollo off of Notre Dame even though he still loved him. After Esmeralda died, Quasimodo crawled into the vault where she was laid to rest and he lay down besides her to die. It's a bittersweet ending to the book.

Quasimodo is not the original title character, Hugo titled the book Notre Dame de Paris (Our Lady of Paris) referring to to both Notre Dame the edifice and Esmeralda. It was when the book was translated into English by Frederic Shoberl in 1833 that Quasimodo became the title character. Shoberl name it "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" because in England Gothic novels were more in style than Romance novel. Quasimodo has also maintained main character-ness by having some of the most well regarded actor playing him in the films.

Lon Chaney as Quasimodo
Lon Chaney as Quasimodo

Lon Chaney

1923 Version

Lon Chaney played Quasimodo in the 1923 version directed by Wallace Worsley. Chaney is best known for being another deformed Frenchmen The Phantom of the Opera.

Chaney's Quasimodo starts off morose and this is one the few instants of this personality trait remianing in a movie. He also plays into the monster aspect more than other movies but the film was label as horror, however his Quasimodo is also docile and submissve epecially to Esmeralda. Also Quasimodo is not as loyal to Frollo, once Frollo betrayed him this Quasimodo did not forgive. In this version Quasimodo is stabbed by Frollo and dies at the end.

Charles Laughton as Quasimodo
Charles Laughton as Quasimodo

Charles Laughton

1939 Version

Charles Laughton played Quasimodo in the 1939 version directed by William Dieterle.

Laughton's Quasimodo is much human than Chaney (less monster) He also tries to comes off sadder and more pathetic. He is more in love with Esmeralda and tried to get her off the murder hook before she was convicted. He gets the most tragic ending; he is alive and alone at the end. Laughton's Quasimodo is one the most well regarded depictions of the character.

Anthony Quinn as Quasimodo
Anthony Quinn as Quasimodo

Anthony Quinn

1956 Version

Anthony Quinn played Quasimodo in the 1956 version directed by Jean Delannoy.

Quinn's Quasimodo is the most human as the deformity are at a minimum here; he only has a small curve in his spine and a slightly deformed face. I think Quinn does decent job in the role but he spends more energy trying to come off as deaf than actually showcasing Quasimodo.

The film tries to hard too hard to make him sympathetic that all the power of emotion of Quasimodo is lost and he comes off more like a child. This is the only version that to alludes to original ending of the book.

Warren Clarke as Quasimodo
Warren Clarke as Quasimodo

Warren Clarke

1976

Warren Clarke played Quasimodo in the 1976 British TV series directed Alan Cooke.

Clarke plays the part well but for me it's just not that memorable. Perhaps because this movie follows the book very closely so the focuses is on Esmeralda and Frollo and not Quasimodo.

Anthony Hopkins as Quasimodo
Anthony Hopkins as Quasimodo

Anthony Hopkins

1982 Version

Anthony Hopkins played Quasimodo in the 1982 British-American TV movie of Hunchback of Notre Dame. It was directed Michael Tuchner and Alan Hume.

It's an intelligent depiction of Quasimodo but nothing is fanatic or terrible about his performance. I think he was trying to play similarly to Laughton's version. In this version Quasimodo stabs Frollo; he lifts Frollo on a protrusion on the wall of the bell tower. After Quasimodo says good-bye to Esmeralda who leaves with Gringoire, Quasimodo is chased by soldier, he tries to hide on the ledge of Notre Dame but he falls to his death.

Disney Quasimodo voice by Tom Hulce
Disney Quasimodo voice by Tom Hulce

Tom Hulce

The 1996 Disney version

In the Disney version, Quasimodo is voiced by Tom Hulce.

Quasimodo is a forced shut-in of his adopted father/master Frollo. Quaismodo fits the dreamer-wanting-something-more-outside-his-own-experience stereotype of Disney character a la Ariel, Belle, Jasmine etc. He likes the idea of love but his love for Esmeralda is just a crush. He comes off as a kind, gentle, naïve child who has emo tendencies but is always loyal to those who are loyal to him or show him kindness. He gets a happy ending where he accepted by the people and doesn't haven't hide in Notre Dame and he's okay that he didn't get the girl. But it's okay because he gets a girl the sequel.

Mandy Patinkin as Quasimodo
Mandy Patinkin as Quasimodo

Mandy Patinkin

1997 Version

Mandy Patinkin played Quasimodo in the 1997 version called "the Hunchback" directed by Peter Medak. He's a very different type of Quasimodo, he a lover of books, a love that rivals the bells and Notre Dame. He acts like Gringiore did in the 1939 version, opting to use words over arms. He even uses the same method that the '39 Gringiore employed, making a pamphlet to get Esmeralda off the murder hook. He also doesn't have the strong loyalty to Frollo. Like other Quasimodos he gets the tragic hero's ending.

Garou as Quasimodo
Garou as Quasimodo

Garou

1998 Musical

Garou played in in the oringal cast of the French musical Notre Dame de Paris written by Richard Cocciante and Luc Plamondon.

Quasimodo is that last one to sing in the musical, his first solo is the 8th song "Le Pape des fous". Quasimodo has a good blends of love, resentment, pain, shyness, and devotion in this musical. Garou conveys with emotions very well through his voice, of course it help that the songs are very dramatic.

Fun Fact - Luc Plamondon discovered Garou in a Jazz bar in Sherbrooke Quebec, Plamondon instantly wanted him for the role as Quasimodo but Richard Cocciante wasn't as convinced, but Plamondon won that casting chose.

Patrick Timsit as Quasimodo
Patrick Timsit as Quasimodo

Patrick Timsit

1999 Version (Parody)

Patrick Timsit played Quasimodo in the 1999 parody film called "Quasimodo d'El Paris". It was direct by himself.

In this version, Quasimodo is born to rich parents but they deem him unlucky and try to abandoned him and when little Quasimodo finds his way back home they trade him for a cuter cuban girl that they rename Agnes (formerly Esmeralda).

Quasimodo is very, very childlike and he just wants to have fun. He plays little game and times himself, he plays video games, and enjoy swinging on the ropes that ring the bells. He also very naïve when asks what he wanted more than anything he just want a sports bag instead of being handsome. He is one of the few Quasimodos that get a happy ending.

Josh Brolin
Josh Brolin

Josh Brolin

Rumored

Josh Brolin is rumored to play Quasimodo in an upcoming version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame directed by Zhang Yimou and Brolin is to produce the film (or somehow attracted to the project).

Brolin has played a deformed character once before in Jonah Hex, but who knows if this makes him the best actor to play the part. If nothing else this adaption will be yet another vehicle for the actor playing Quasimodo and not for the original premise which centers on Esmeralda and Frollo more than Quasimodo.

Given that this project was announced in 2011 and all we know about it is Brolin's involvement, the director and script I'm not sure of the likelihood of this getting made. But who knows maybe Broilin will get this movie made and prove me wrong.

Josh Brolin As Quasimodo???

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Disney Quasimodo getting in on the fun
Disney Quasimodo getting in on the fun

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