MCM: Rufus Sewell


He’s been in everything, but, no, Rufus Sewell doesn’t have a glass eye, it’s just a lazy eye that never quite got corrected. It makes him weirdly cute, so he’s not that standard-issue leading man. But he’s still had the lead in a lot of historical costume movies and TV series, just not as many big shiny ones. It’s like he’s a poor man’s Hugh Grant! Still, Rufus Sewell is a damn fine actor and just shows up everywhere. He deserves a Man Candy Monday of his own, and these are my favorite of his roles.


Will Ladislaw, Middlemarch (1994)

Middlemarch (1994)

The sweet, smart, tenuous hero of one of my very favorite Victorian novels, and such a perfect adaption! Historically accurate, true to the book, totally recommended.

Middlemarch (1994)

He’s serious! He’s pursues his love from afar! I’m rooting for you, Will!

Middlemarch (1994)

Dreamy McDreamyston.


Seth Starkadder, Cold Comfort Farm (1995)

Cold Comfort Farm (1995)

This movie is hilarious, and it shows how Sewell can play dark comedy as well as drama (he tends to get more breadth of roles in non-costume flicks though).

Cold Comfort Farm (1995)


Fortinbras, Hamlet (1996)

Rufus Sewell, Hamlet

A small role, but hey, somebody has to come in and pick up the pieces. (This is the excellent Kenneth Branagh version, btw, not the weak Mel Gibson one.)


Giles Winterbourne, The Woodlanders (1997)

Rufus Sewell, The Woodlanders

An adaption of a lesser-known Thomas Hardy novel, but a very well-done one. Rufus Sewell plays the jilted lover who comes to a tragic end. Par for the course in Hardy, though this is unusual in that the man dies and not the woman (spoiler alert).

Rufus Sewell, The Woodlanders

Sweet, tragic, Rufus plays these roles so well.


Marco Venier, Dangerous Beauty (1998)

Rufus Sewell, Dangerous Beauty

Wasted on a tramp!

Rufus Sewell moons over this talky courtesan, who wears historically inaccurate pants and yells at Oliver Platt. Yeah, it’s not my favorite Rufus Sewell movie, but for reasons that have little to do with him.

Rufus Sewell, Dangerous Beauty

Making the best of a bad movie.


Count Adhemar, A Knight’s Tale (2001)

Rufus Sewell, A Knight's Tale

I’m on record as HATING this movie, no lie. But Sewell does look cute in armor, I’ll give it that.


Charles II, The Last King, aka Charles II: The Power and the Passion (2003)

Rufus Sewell, Charles II

Oh baby! Come to mama! He is SO hot in this. fans self It’s a hot flick full of hot people like Rupert Graves and Helen McCrory doing hot things. Hot, hot, hot.

Rufus Sewell & Rupert Graves, The Last King

Rufus Sewell & Rupert Graves, two great tastes that taste great together!

Rufus Sewell, Charles II

Did I mention hot?

Rufus Sewell, Charles II


Rufus Sewell, Charles II

This looks like a fun game…


Marke, Tristan + Isolde (2006)

Rufus Sewell, Tristan + Isolde

I found this movie rather meh. Sorry Rufus! He does get a sex scene and wears a lot of fur, so y’know, yay for him.


Crown Prince Leopold, The Illusionist (2006)

Rufus Sewell, The Illusionist

Lookin’ sharp in the uniform and mustachios!


Alexander Hamilton, John Adams (2008)

Rufus Sewell, John Adams

This is a really, really good miniseries, both well-written and with excellent costumes. I’m sure Kendra will give it a detailed review as part of her 18th-Century Quest at some point. I’ll just mention that, for Rufus Sewell’s only foray into the 18th century, he looks mighty fine (no shocker).

Rufus Sewell, John Adams

I’m totally in favor of a national bank if you’re in charge, sir.


Tom Builder, The Pillars of the Earth (2010)

Rufus Sewell, Pillars of the Earth

True confessions time: My husband and I both loved this kind of cheesy Ken Follett historical novel, and we just found the miniseries available for streaming. But we’ve been busy, and we’re saving the show to watch together. I have high hopes, so don’t burst my bubble if it sucks.

Rufus Sewell, Pillars of the Earth

I spy a metal grommet on that shirt lacing *sigh* Let’s just hope the acting is better than the costuming.


I haven’t listed them all, only my highlights — what’s your favorite Rufus Sewell historical costume movie or TV series?

21 Responses

  1. Dawn

    I have to ask, what would have been used instead of the metal grommet? Would it simply have been a tightly stitched/hemmed hole?

  2. Sarah Lorraine

    Can I just say that “Dark City” is the film that made me fall HARD for Rufus Sewell? It’s not historical, but it is kind of post-apocalyptic science fiction-y/dark fantasy and is kind of set in a noir 1940s-ish world. One of the reasons I could never get into “The Matrix” franchise was because “Dark City” spoiled me. It’s like if you took the basic premise of “The Matrix” and cut out all the fucking over the top SFX that distract you from the fact that the plot is bland as all hell, and the lead actor could actually act, you’d have “Dark City”.

    • Trystan L. Bass

      TOTALLY Dark City — it was the good Matrix (I really f-ing hate The Matrix & sequels, don’t get me started). But I couldn’t include it bec. y’know, not historical :(

      • Elizabeth Merritt

        I was going to say Dark City also, and y’know, while it isn’t explicitly historic, it does have a vintage-y feel from the mish-mash of 1930s-50s style elements.

  3. brocadegoddess

    I’d take Rufus Sewell over Hugh Grant ANY day of the week. Confession time: it was Dangerous Beauty that introduced me to him and made me fall for him. I’ve been meaning to look up more stuff he’s been in, thanks for helping out with the historical side! I’ve seen knight’ tale (blech movie), Pillars of the Earth (I quite enjoyed, but didn’t read the book), and Charles II (because of you guys, thankyouyum), and I love him and Ed Norton equally in The Illusionist for some reason. But haven’t seen the others. I’ll probably stay away from the Hardy one because I’ve read just too many of his books, but I’m gonna check out the rest! Andvthat Dark City sounds intriguing.

    • Trystan L. Bass

      He’s the only good thing in Dangerous Beauty! And in Knights Tale! Woodlanders *is* a really good movie, even if he dies at the end — just watch it with a box of tissues :) I only call Rufus Sewell the poor man’s Hugh Grant bec. that seems like how he’s cast in movies. Couldn’t get Grant, call up Sewell. I don’t mind one bit, heh.

  4. eadon216

    I really loved Pillars of the Earth. The book was pretty good too (although it could have used less rape scenes).

  5. Isis

    I adore Rufus Sewell! Though you have already listed my fav historical Movies. I also really like Dark City, the modern version of The Taming of the Shrew and Higher Love.

  6. Sarah F

    I can’t remember which film I first saw him in, though I do remember thinking ‘Holy F– who is THAT?!’ I was so happy to hear he had been cast as Tom Builder in Pillars and I hope it won’t spoil anything to say I thought the whole cast gave excellent performances. His performance in The Illusionist also stood out for me; it could have been so one-note, but he gave the character some real nuance, rather than relying solely on nefarious facial expressions. Middlemarch remains my favorite.

  7. Penny H

    Don’t know enough to comment on the costumes, but…Rufus Sewell in Carrington! Such a beautiful film.

    Now I can’t unsee the eyes–never noticed before.

  8. Lyn

    What about Amazing Grace? He played Thomas Clarkson. I can’t comment on historical accuracy of the costumes but I thought it an excellent film (and had the super huge bonus of Ioan Gruffudd!!)

  9. Lyn

    PS I discovered Rufus in Dark City, and then again in A Knight’s Tale — he was fabulous as Count Adhemar (anyone else also love his horse?)

  10. gailynne

    Favorite actor playing favorite history hunk (Charles II) = mad about the man. Wasn’t a fan for the TV series, Ren, but watched it just for him. Wish I was on that elevator with him.

  11. leobalecelad

    I know it’s not completely historical, but you really need to check out the 2005 BBC retelling of The Taming of The Shrew. It’s brought into the modern day and Katherine (Shirley Henderson) is a foul mouthed Tory MP who is surprisingly popular with voters, but needs a husband to make her more appealing to the conservative constituency. Enter Rufus Sewell (his character is not named), a feckless Earl who needs a rich wife to pay his massive tax bill…

    And I REALLY WANT the coat he’s wearing at the wedding. I will say no more.

  12. Carol

    Amazing Grace, for sure. But I first was struck by him in The Holiday with Kate Winslet. He was definitely a cad, but I would have fallen in love with him like Kate did!

  13. Kate

    I used to think he was criminally underrated as an actor; now I’m starting to suspect he’s cursed. His turkey ratio is unusually high. (Gods of Egypt, anyone? Just the latest in… a lot.)

    He has done something to his eyes recently (unfortunately), and he really, really needs to step away from the Botox. (His facial expressions appeared to be operated by someone in the next room in The Illusionist.)

    It’s a shame. He seems amiable, and he’s a good actor. My favourite film involving him is John Tarturro’s Illuminata, which I love wholeheartedly, not least for Christopher Walken’s foppish theatre critic.

  14. Bronwyn Cole

    I’m sorry, but Rufus gives me the heebie jeebies. I think it’s his eyes.