The Duchess has a fairly straightforward part in Quixote's story. She's a haughty, self-seeking aristocrat who impedes the hero and his squire through a series of pranks, with the help of her equally snooty husband. Nobody plays aristocrats quite like Cate Blanchett, and she's mastered a voice that drips with disdain. The Duchess would also mark a refreshing spin on Blanchett's more serious period roles, as the Duchess is just as much a ridiculous prankster as she is a snob.
Photo by Mikael Jansson, Interview, November 2008.
The Priest is afraid of the delusion that results from Quixote's obsession with stories of knights and heroism, and faces the decision of burning or salvaging Quixote's idealistic books. He's a friend of Quixote, and in a way, enjoys his odd behavior.
Simon Pegg is an intuitive choice, maybe because he's well-versed at playing the exasperated but understanding friend in big-budget roles as Benji in the Mission Impossible movies or Scotty in Star Trek. As the Priest, Pegg could once again play a genuine friend, but struggle with more morally powerful themes.
Photo by Jillian Edelstein, Interview, May 2007
Nearly as central to the story as Quixote himself, Sancho Panza is Quixote's gruff and realistic counterpart, an ever-loyal squire. Film and TV adaptations past often picked someone chubby, hairy, and slightly grumpy, such as Akim Tamiroff in Orson Welles' unfinished Quixote project. Stephen Graham is our pick for Quixote's gruff but faithful friend. He has the memorable sidekick role down pat in 2000's Snatch. He'd be a cleaner, smarter take on Sancho Panza, and he could channel the bite from his recent work as Al Capone in Boardwalk Empire into Panza's quick wit.
Paz Vega is our pick for Dulcinea, demonstrating her skill at playing a woman of few words and a lot of facial expressiveness as a Spanish-speaking housekeeper for an American family. She's also one of Spain's most beautiful imports to appear in American film.
Sampson is a student from Don Quixote's village. He's sarcastic and easily frustrated, and is unable to wrap his head around Quixote's quirks. He's markedly younger, and we envision him as good-looking and annoying. James McAvoy could use a role as Sampson to take on more sarcastic characters. He tiptoed into that area as a fed-up desk job kid in Wanted, but for the most part, he's stuck to admirable and lovable characters à la Atonement. How dull. His college-boy looks and charm could work wonders for the quick-tempered Sampson.
Photo by Matt Holyoak, Interview, October 2006.
John Hawkes is good at acting unaffected, and very good at intensity. Though he's made a name for himself as a great bad guy, he's a bit of a chameleon, with roles as backcountry meth-addict Teardrop in Winter's Bone, charismatic and unsettling cult leader Patrick in Martha Marcy May Marlene, and a recurring role in the TV comedy Eastbound and Down. Hawkes has the chops to take on the madness of Don Quixote, plus the wiry frame and capacity to grow pointy grey facial hair true to most depictions of Quixote.
Photo by Christian Ferretti, Interview, November 2012.