Colonel Christopher Brandon
A retired army officer and a friend of Sir John Middleton, the kind and honest Colonel Brandon falls in love with Marianne Dashwood and marries her at the end of the film. In the novel, the Colonel is thirty-seven-years old. Alan Rickman, best known for his role as Professor Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films, plays Brandon in the Lee-Thompson film adaptation.
The twenty-seven-year-old eldest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Dashwood, Elinor restrains her passion in favor of reason and decorum. She is the character who represents the ‘‘sense’’ of the title. She falls in love and ultimately marries Edward Ferrars. Emma Thompson plays Elinor in the Lee-Thompson film and won an Academy Award for the role. Elinor in the Austen novel is only nineteen.
Self-centered, arrogant, and manipulative, Fanny is the wife of John Dashwood and the sister of Edward and Robert Ferrars. Harriet Walter plays Fanny in the Lee-Thompson film adaptation. The character in the film is portrayed a bit more flamboyantly than in the novel.
The father of John Dashwood and, by a second marriage, of Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret Dashwood, Henry dies early in Sense and Sensibility. He leaves his estate at Norland to John Dashwood. Tom Wilkinson, whose illustrious career includes Michael Clayton and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, plays Henry in the Lee-Thompson film.
John Dashwood inherits Norland estate after his father dies. His wife Fanny persuades him into leaving his stepmother and half sisters with little money to secure their future. James Fleet, who starred in the British television series, The Vicar of Dibley, plays John in the Lee-Thompson film.
Thirteen-year-old Margaret takes after older sister Marianne in her energy, good humor, and romantic ideals. This role in the Lee-Thompson film was the debut role for Emilie Francois. Margaret figures into the film plot more than the novel, particularly as Thompson plays up her playful friendship with Edward Ferrars.
Spontaneous Marianne lives for romantic idealism and ‘‘sensibility.’’ She falls in love with John Willoughby, who deceives her and causes her heartbreak. In the end, she marries and learns to love Colonel Brandon, who has admired her from the moment he met her early in the story. Kate Winslet played this role in the Lee-Thompson film, two years before her award-winning performance in the film Titanic.
The mother of Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret and second wife to Henry Dashwood, the loving Mrs. Dashwood possesses no wealth of her own, but seeks better financial situations for her daughters by looking to match them with well-off husbands. Gemma Jones, best known among Harry Potter film fans as Madam Pomfrey, plays this role in the Lee-Thompson film.
Affable and rather awkward, Edward is the older brother of Fanny Dashwood and Robert Ferrars. Edward becomes friends with Elinor (and Margaret) while staying at Norland, although he is secretly engaged to Lucy Steele. In the end, he marries Elinor, after escaping from his obligation to Lucy and choosing the simple life he has always wanted for himself. In the film, Edward is portrayed as more endearing than the version in the novel, mostly due to his kind treatment of Margaret. Hugh Grant played this role in the Lee-Thompson film at the height of his popularity in the 1990s. He had previously appeared in Four Weddings and a Funeral and The Remains of the Day, among other films.
Conceited and arrogant, Robert is the younger brother of Edward and Fanny. Robert marries Lucy Steele, the woman who once was engaged to his brother. Richard Lumsden plays this role in the Lee-Thompson film. The role in the film is more marginal than in the book, where Robert is given further characterization.
A gossip who possesses the best intentions, Mrs. Jennings is Sir John’s mother-in-law. Throughout the film, she is preoccupied with marrying off every single woman she knows. Elizabeth Spriggs, who had a vast career in British television and film, plays this role in the Lee-Thompson film.
Sir John Middleton
Gregarious and generous, this distant relation of the Dashwoods invites Mrs. Dashwood and her three daughters to stay at Barton Cottage when Mr. and Mrs. John Dashwood inherit Norland. Robert Hardy plays this role in the Lee-Thompson film.
Charlotte Jennings Palmer
Chatty and at times silly, Charlotte Palmer is Mrs. Jennings’s daughter. She invites the Dashwood sisters to stay at her home in Cleveland. Imelda Staunton plays the role of Charlotte in the Lee-Thompson film.
Mr. Palmer is Charlotte Palmer’s husband. He is fairly indifferent to the goings-on around him and displays a dry sense of humor. Hugh Laurie, known to television fans as the lead role in the medical series House, plays the role of Mr. Palmer in the Lee-Thompson film.
Lucy is Mrs. Jennings’s cousin. She is manipulative and opportunistic. Although she was secretly engaged to Edward Ferrars for four years, she marries his brother Robert instead when Edward loses his fortune. Imogen Stubbs, who had much success on stage with the Royal Shakespeare Company, plays the role of Lucy in the LeeThompson film.
Charismatic and handsome, Willoughby charms Marianne into falling in love with him, but dumps her in favor of the wealthy Miss Sophia Grey when he gets a third young woman pregnant and is disowned by his aunt. Greg Wise plays this role in the Lee-Thompson film.
Sara Constantakis, Novels for Students: Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Novels, Jane Austen, Volume 33, Gale-Cengage Learning, 2010