Quasimodo (Hunchback of Notre Dame)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame has been adapted many times since 1836 when it was first made into an Opera, called La Esmeralda which libretto was written and adapted by Victor Hugo himself.
None of the various musical, cartoon or movies adaptations are 100% accurate to the book in terms of plot points and characters and that makes them so much more fascinating.
Quasimodo has captured the imaginations of artists, film markers, and actors for over a century but Quasimodo is always depicted as a hero and the main character which is not what Hugo had intended. Even in La Esmeralda he had a diminished role even though he get one of more favorable remember arias in the Opera. The story of that opera develop and backlash is very interesting.
This page looks at the major films and a few popular musicals of the Hunchback of Notre Dame and looks at the portrayal of Quasimodo.
Quasimoda a la Victor Hugo
Quasimodo is the deformed bell-ringer of Notre Dame and adopted son of Claude Frollo. Quasimodo was likely born on November 11, 1462 (he's a Scorpio).
He was most likely a Romani 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 and gave him a home at Notre Dame.
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."
At fourteen, he became the bell-ringer out of a profound love for the bells. The bells eventually made Quasimodo deaf. Quasimodo therefore shuts 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 to do so. He is put on trial but due to his deafness and the deafness of the judge he is harshly 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 be 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 his father figure.
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 and is liken to a marriage.
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 herself.
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 at the time Gothic novels were more in style than Romance novel.
Quasimodo has also maintained main character status by having some of the most well regarded actor playing him in the films.
Lon Chaney played Quasimodo in the 1923 version directed by Wallace Worsley. Chaney is best known for playing another deformed Frenchmen in The Phantom of the Opera as the titular Phantom or Erik.
Chaney's Quasimodo starts off morose and this is one the few instants of this personality trait remaining in a movie. He also plays into the monster aspect more than other movies as the film was label as horror, however his Quasimodo is also docile and submissive especially to Esmeralda.
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.
The 1923 version has the honorable distinction of being the movie to start the Universal Monster Movie trend. There has also been whisper and murmurs of a remake but no news has been announced on that yet.
Charles Laughton played Quasimodo in the 1939 version directed by William Dieterle.
Laughton's Quasimodo is much human than Chaney (less monstrous.) Laughton comes off sadder and more pathetic version of the character with a lot of pathos.
He is more in love with Esmeralda and tried to get her off the murder hook before she was convicted by confessing to the murder.
He gets the most tragic ending as he lives and is alone at the end.
Laughton's Quasimodo is one the most well regarded depictions of the character.
Anthony Quinn played Quasimodo in the 1956 version directed by Jean Delannoy.
Quinn's Quasimodo is the most human as the deformities 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. That could have been a directorial decision instead of Quinn.
The film tries hard to make him sympathetic that all the power of Quasimodo's emotions are 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 played Quasimodo in the 1976 British TV series directed Alan Cooke.
Clarke plays the part well but it's just not that memorable of a performance. Perhaps because this movie follows the book very closely so the focuses is on Esmeralda and Frollo and not Quasimodo.
Anthony Hopkins played Quasimodo in the 1982 British-American TV movie of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. It was directed Michael Tuchner and Alan Hume.
This is an intelligent depiction of Quasimodo but nothing is fanatic or terrible about Hopkins' 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.
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 but has low self-esteem due the abuse of Frollo. Quasimodo 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 of Paris. He get to live among them and doesn't haven't hide in Notre Dame. He is okay that he didn't get the girl. It's okay though because he gets a girl the direct to video sequel.
Mandy Patinkin played Quasimodo in the 1997 version called "The Hunchback" directed by Peter Medak.
Patinkin is a very different type of Quasimodo, he a lover of books, a love that rivals the bells and Notre Dame itself. 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, by 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.
Fun Fact- Mandy Patinkin audition for the Disney version but has a terriable audition and lost the role to Hulce.
Garou played Quasimodo in the original cast of the French musical Notre Dame de Paris written by Richard Cocciante and Luc Plamondon.
Quasimodo is that last of the principle cast to sing in the musical, his first solo is the 8th song called "Le Pape des fous."
This Quasimodo has a good blend of love, resentment, pain, shyness, and devotion in this musical. Garou conveys these 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.
1999 Version (Parody)
Patrick Timsit played Quasimodo in the 1999 parody film called "Quasimodo d'El Paris". It was direct by Timsit 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 games and times himself often with a stopwatch, he plays video games, and enjoys 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 gets a happy ending with Esmeralda.
Michael Arden as Quasimodo
La Jolla and PaperMill Cast
In 2014, a revised musical version of The Disney movie was performed at The La Jolla House in San Diego, California. It then went to Papermill Playhouse in Millburn New Jersey in April 2015. This version was a proof of concept that was originally was hoping to go to Broadway but alas it did not instead the show went of to regional performance across the USA as well as performances in Germany, Japan, and Sweden.
Quasimodo's backstory is changed from Disney version as Frollo is his uncle. Quasimodo is also deaf in this version. Arden is reasonable from bring this aspect of Quasimodo into the show.
In May of 2018 it was announced that Idris Elda was producing, directing and starring a new modern version of Hunchback for Netflix.
He will also be producing the music which was describe as being "sonic and musical experience."
The film is being written by Michael Mitnick.
As of 2021 there hasn't been much news on this version.
Disney Live Action Version
In early 2019 it was announced that Disney was adding The Hunchback to their list of classics getting Live-action remakes. Only difference is that Josh Gad was taking the helm on the project. There is no news on what Gad's role will be in the project. If he the director, writer, lead actor or some combination.
Quasimodo is just one of those roles that many actors dream to play as it an emotionally charged role that is also very physically demanding so an actor can really flex their acting chops. It would be surprising if Gad doesn't play Quasimodo himself but there is not news to confirm or deny this opinion.
As of early 2021 Gad had said, via Twitter, that the production was "getting closer."
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.
As of early 2021, there has no news of the version. In fact since 2010 there has been six times of a Hunchback versions to get some news about a new version being made but so far no new version has gotten passed the in production phase.
The only news of a production so far in 2021 was the one from Gad over twitter and that was very vague.