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The Goldfinch: who’s who in the big screen adaptation of Donna Tartt’s novel


When a book takes the world by storm, a movie adaptation is usually inevitable. Case in point: Donna Tartt’s award-winning 2013 novel The Goldfinch, on its way to the big screen this September.

The novel won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2014 and the Amazon Best Book of the Year in 2013, and was chosen by the New York Times Book Review as one of the top ten books of 2013.

As if the movie’s credentials weren’t impressive enough, The Goldfinch is directed by acclaimed Irish film and television director John Crowley – Brooklyn (2015), Boy A (2007), True Detective (2015) – and features a stellar line-up of A-list talent.

Here’s the cast of characters bringing The Goldfinch to life…

Ansel Elgort and Oakes Fegley play Theodore "Theo" Decker

Our lead character is Theo, whom we follow from the age of 13 after the death of his mother in a museum bombing. In the chaotic aftermath, Theo steals a priceless 1654 Dutch painting by Carel Fabritius named The Goldfinch. The artwork’s presence haunts Theo well into adulthood as he spends his life getting into serious trouble, negotiating relationships and grappling with his own personal demons.

You’ve seen Elgort in Baby Driver, The Fault in Our Stars and Divergent, and he is set to star next in the upcoming West Side Story remake directed by Steven Spielberg. The younger Theo is portrayed by Oakes Fegley, best known for playing young Elliot in Disney’s Pete’s Dragon remake.

Ansel Elgort in The Goldfinch movie

Oakes Fegley in The Goldfinch movie

Nicole Kidman plays Mrs Barbour

Mrs Barbour takes Theo in at a young age after his mother dies, and becomes a surrogate parental figure to the boy. Theo is best friends with her son Andy, and the Barbours come to have a monumental impact on his life in more ways than one.

Bringing gravitas and star power to the role is Oscar-winner Nicole Kidman, whose roll call of memorable performances hardly needs to be mentioned here. Acclaimed on the big screen (Moulin Rouge; The Others; The Hours; Lion) and the small (Big Little Lies), Kidman is excellent casting as the somewhat icy and imperious Mrs Barbour.

Nicole Kidman in The Goldfinch movie

Aneurin Barnard and Finn Wolfhard play Boris Pavlikovsky

Boris is one of the key influences in Theo's life after his mother is killed. The pair first meet when Theo is uprooted to Las Vegas and must adapt to his mother’s absence – the younger Boris is played by Stranger Things and IT star Finn Wolfhard, who is sure to bring some of that familiar brash bravado to the role.

As Theo learns of Boris’s itinerant existence and troubled upbringing – his father is an abusive drunk – the two bond over the shared hardships in their lives, and this extends well into adulthood as their destinies become increasingly intertwined. The older Boris is portrayed by Dunkirk and War and Peace actor Aneurin Barnard.

Finn Wolfhard in The Goldfinch movie

Aneurin Barnard in The Goldfinch movie

Luke Wilson plays Larry Decker

Another significant presence is Larry Decker, Theo’s gambling-addicted, alcoholic and emotionally unstable father – divorced from Theo’s mother, Larry has been absent from much of his life. When Larry moves Theo from New York to Las Vegas in the wake of the bombing, the boy becomes acutely aware of his dad’s flaws. More alarmingly, he starts to wonder if he perhaps has inherited more personality traits from his father than his beloved mother.

Somewhat intriguingly Larry is played by Luke Wilson (brother of Owen), best known for roles in quirky comedy movies such as  The Royal Tenenbaums, Legally Blonde and Old School. This is certainly a much grittier, more troubling role than we usually see from Wilson, and it promises emotional fireworks.

Luke Wilson in The Goldfinch movie

Sarah Paulson plays Xandra

Playing the role of Larry’s girlfriend Xandra is Sarah Paulson, who you’ll recognise from the critically acclaimed likes of American Horror Story, Birdbox, Glass and Ocean’s Eight.

She’s definitely got past form in terms of playing troubled characters, which makes her the ideal choice to invest compassion and humanity into the character of Xandra. The somewhat obnoxious, hard-drinking new partner of Theo’s father Larry, Xandra plays a relatively small but vital role in the book and movie.

Sarah Paulson in The Goldfinch movie

Jeffrey Wright plays James "Hobie" Hobart

One of the most important characters in the story is antiques restorer Hobie, who is a kindly, compassionate presence throughout Theo’s life. He acts as a mentor to Theo, first coming into contact with him in the wake of the tragic New York bombing, and later on in the narrative when the older Theo becomes his trusted confidante and business partner.

In another example of sublime casting, the wise Hobie is portrayed by screen stalwart Jeffrey Wright, famous for the likes of Casino Royale, The Hunger Games and Boardwalk Empire.

Jeffrey Wright in The Goldfinch movie

Ashleigh Cummings plays Pippa

At the time of the explosion, Theo finds himself infatuated with red-haired girl Pippa, whose world also falls apart in the wake of the tragedy. Their friendship begins when they are young and both scarred (Hobie is Pippa's legal guardian), and continues into their adulthood, with both feeling a possible romantic connection.

Screen newcomer Ashleigh Cummings plays the older Pippa, and is best known for TV roles in her native Australia – her roles include wartime drama Gallipoli.

Ashleigh Cummings in The Goldfinch movie

Willa Fitzgerald plays Kitsey Barbour

Mrs Barbour’s children each share different relationships with Theo. Young Andy is Theo’s close friend and sticks by him in the wake of the bombing, while his older brother Platt is something of a bully who nevertheless plays a key role later in Theo's life. Their sister Kitsey is initially an incidental presence in the story before eventually becoming Theo’s fiance when he grows up.

Playing the older Kitsey, Scream’s Willa Fitzgerald joins newcomer Ryan Foust as Andy and The Man in the High Castle’s Luke Kleintank as Platt, rounding off the movie’s impressively diverse, multi-generational cast.

Willa Fitzgerald in The Goldfinch movie

The Goldfinch is released in the UK on 27th September, so tweet us @Cineworld if you think this will be one of the year's standout movies.

Nadine Shambrook is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.