The Literary Roles of Claire Danes

Posted by Danielle Mohlman

Photo by Pietro Jeng from Pexels

Whether you know her as Beth March, Juliet, Cosette, Julia Vaughan, or Mirabelle, we can all agree on one thing: Claire Danes is a literary dream. Her extensive resume is peppered with literary adaptations that we love. And while we’re steadfast in our belief that the book is always better, we would happily watch Claire Danes embody our favorite characters for hours on end. 



Little Women (1994)

In those pre-My So-Called Life days, Claire Danes was making a name for herself as our second favorite March sister. Sorry, Beth. Jo March is always going to be our number one. This star-studded adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel Little Women featured Winona Ryder as the unflappable Jo, Kirsten Dunst as Amy, Susan Sarandon as the March matriarch, and Christin Bale as Batman – we mean Laurie. The cast alone feels like a master class in acting. It’s no wonder she went on to star in so many other literary adaptations.



Romeo + Juliet (1996)

After Little Women, Claire Danes stepped into a starring role as Juliet in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet aka the movie that made us all pay attention in English class. This phenomenal adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is couched in the 90s, sure. But it also has the greatest Queen Mab scene ever recorded. We know we’re here to talk about Claire Danes, but come on. Harold Perrineau as Mercutio is just (chef’s kiss) perfection.


Les Miserables (1998)

Because we’re geeky feminist publishing employees, our default setting is to root for Eponine in all adaptations of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. But because we love Claire Danes, we’re making a big exception – huge! – and siding with Cosette in the 1998 (sadly non-musical) film adaptation of the 1,500+ page classic. And we say “sadly non-musical” because can you imagine Claire singing “A Heart Full of Love”? We can.



The Hours (2002)

While everyone was buzzing about the prosthetic nose that Nicole Kidman wore to play Virginia Woolf in The Hours (you looked fierce, Nicole!) we were over here geeking out about Claire Danes’ performance as Julia Vaughan aka Meryl Streep’s daughter. This nine-time Academy Award nominated adaptation of Michael Cunningham’s stunning novel of the same name is essential viewing for anyone who has ever been touched by the Virginia Woolf.



Shopgirl (2005)

Steve Martin’s novella Shopgirl became a bookworm favorite when it was adapted into a film starring Steve Martin, Jason Schwartzman, and, you guessed it, Claire Danes. Honestly, we were more excited about the fact that Martin was writing fiction than the actual plot behind this movie. Love triangles are so 1990s, you know? But if Shopgirl was the literary warm up for his unbelievable novel An Object of Beauty then we’re very happy how it all turned out.