Angels & Demons, Anthony Hopkins, blogging, Blogs, Casting Director, Charles Portis, Clarice Starling, Da Vinci Code, Daniel Craig, Dennis Lehane, Dr. Hannibal Lecter, Gus, Hannibal, Hannibal Lecter, Jack Reacher, Jeff Bridges, John Wayne, Larry McMurtry, Lee Child, Leonardo DiCaprio, Lisabeth Salander, Lonesome Dove, Lost in a Drunken Banquet of Static, Matt Damon, Matthew McConoughey, Michael Connolly, Mikael Blomkvist, One Shot, Reasons to Read, Robert Duvall, Robert Langdon, Robert Lundlum, Rooney Mara, Rooster Cogburn, Shelter Island, Silence of the Lambs, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Static in the Airwaves, Stieg Larson, Teddy Daniels, The Bourne Identity, The Girl with the Dragoon Tattoo, The Lincoln Lawyer, Thomas Harris, Tim L O'Brien, Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, Tommy Lee Jones, True Grit, Woodrow
Recently a small but certainly loud uproar circulated throughout the internet over the news that Tom Cruise had been cast to star as Jack Reacher, the former US Army cop, in mega-popular author Lee Childs novel One Shot.
The best-selling thriller series has sold more than 50 million copies and apparently the loyal readers did not approve of Cruise, a full ten inches shorter than Reacher, who is described in the novels as being six-foot, five-inches tall and weighs 250 pounds. They charged that Cruise was too short and good-looking to play the menacing character.
One fan went as far to criticize the author, “He is clearly out of touch with his reading public. I am seriously thinking that my Child-reading days are over.”
Extreme? Certainly. Sitting in the casting chair as we read our favorite novels can make us that way.
Great authors can make a character feel like part of our family. We fall in love with them. We feel their pain and rejoice in their triumphs.
It brings up an important and rarely discussed point. One of the joys of reading is also to play the part of casting director. Readers are loyal to their favorite authors. We read each new release in a series and follow along with intense enthusiasm.
When I read a novel, at some point along the journey, I will stop and picture certain actors playing the roles in the book. I become the casting director, and in my own little world, my imagination gets to pick and choose who I believe is perfect for the part.
I have always cheered when a book I’ve read, or an author I have long followed, starts to get national recognition.
When Hollywood announced plans to adapt Michael Connolly’s novel The Lincoln Lawyer to the big screen I was excited. My inner casting director thought Matthew McConoughey was the perfect choice to play Mickey Haller. I was excited to see the movie and pleased with the results. The movie stayed true to the novel and McConoughey finally delivered, after several suspect roles. My inner casting director was pleased.
Have you ever tried to go back and read a favorite novel after its been made into a movie? Try reading Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove without picturing Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones as Gus and Woodrow. Try and read Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Identity without seeing Matt Damon floating in your imagination. It can’t be done!
Pick a Thomas Harris novel back up and read the exploits of the most chilling, evil antagonist ever written – Dr. Hannibal Lecter.
Hannibal Lecter: Why do you think he removes their skins. Agent Starling? Enthrall me with your acumen.
Clarice Starling: It excites him. Most serial killers keep some sort of trophies from their victims.
Hannibal Lecter: I didn’t.
Clarice Starling: No. No, you ate yours.
Your nightmares will be forever invaded with the image of Sir Anthony Hopkins.
When you read Dennis Lehane’s Shelter Island did you see Leonardo DiCaprio starring in the role of US Marshall Teddy Daniels? Did you read Charles Portis’ novel True Grit? Who do you see in the role of Rooster Cogburn? John Wayne or Jeff Bridges? What about the adaptation of best-selling novel Da Vinci Code? The novel sold over 65 million copies and ranks tenth on the all-time bestseller list. But did 65 million casting directors agree with the choice of Tom Hanks to play Robert Langdon? Or did you read Angels & Deamons and picture a different Langdon?
It will be interesting to watch how the public will react to Stieg Larson’s mega-seller The Girl with the Dragoon Tattoo. The soon to be released movie adaptation stars Daniel Craig as Mikael Blomkvist and Rooney Mara as Lisabeth Salander. Will you inner casting director be pleased?
Is there a book/movie that Hollywood’s casting director nailed it spot on? Has there been a movie version of a favorite novel that was so miscast that your inner casting director vision was ruined?
Leave a comment and let me know what you think…
Note: I read somewhere that one-third of high school graduates never read another book. It has been reported 42% of college graduates never read another book after college. We need more readers. We need more casting directors!
Diane Capri (@DianeCapri) said:
Fun post! I agree that casting for movies is a tricky business. I almost always prefer the character that I’ve imagined in my head (I don’t usually picture actors/actresses, but I have a clear vision of that person). A couple of movies that nailed casting, IMHO: Lord of the Rings with Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn, Emma Stone as Skeeter in The Help, and Alan Rickman as Snape in the Harry Potter series.
P.S. I think Daniel Craig is a good choice for Blomkvist. Tom Hanks is nothing how I pictured Robert Langdon, so I never saw either movie.
Julie – I agree. I think Daniel Craig is a great choice. I hope the movie can live up to the book expectations.
Karen McFarland said:
I really enjoyed your post. It’s fun to play casting director.
How many books have we read, then watched the movie and was disappointed. Something was lost in translation and the director’s version did not live up to the author’s voice.
I’m sticking with the author. 🙂
I love playing casting director. However, one of my favorite authors Michael Connolly has a series with a detective named Harry Bosch. I’ve read every one of the books featuring Bosch and to this day can not come up with an actor to play him. I think I may know the character so well that I am stumped.
Kecia Adams Dilday said:
Iconic casting: Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. Interestingly, Elizabeth Bennet is less set in my mind, maybe because when I am reading P&P, I AM Elizabeth Bennet. With the Jane Austen movies, since there are so many versions, you can pick, choose and even combine your favorites. Another iconic couple: Clark Gable and Vivian Leigh as Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara…”Frankly, my dear…” 🙂 And Leslie Howard and Olivia DeHavilland as Ashley and Melanie were IMO spot on too.
Tom Cruise has been good in roles that he didn’t seem right for before, such as Interview with a Vampire as the sly Lestat, and the heartbreaking Born on the Fourth of July. Maybe he’ll step it up again. Can’t do much about that height thing tho’.
Thanks, Tim, for a thought-provoking post.
At first glance I was in the crowd that boo’d the decision to cast Cruise. I have since changed my mind and think he will pull it off well. At least I’m hoping he does, because I have a feeling this is just the beginning of many movies with Cruise playing Reacher.
Pat O'Dea Rosen said:
Kecia, you’re right. Colin Firth as Darcy IS iconic casting. Why hadn’t I ever thought of it that way before?
Tim, I can’t picture Tom Cruise as Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, but I’ll see the movie and will keep reading Child’s books. What say I tell you? I’m a Reacher fan.
A program that nailed casting is The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series by HBO. I had read a couple of the books by Alexander McCall Smith and liked them but didn’t really connect with the characters. The HBO series featured Jill Scott as Precious Ramotswe (hope I spelled that right) and she did more than personify the character, she made Precious MORE credible and appealing.
I am a big Reacher fan as well and really hope Cruise pulls it off. The potential movie franchise with Lee Child’s books is unlimited, but if Cruise stumbles out of the gates, I fear Hollywood will drop the project.
Debra Kristi said:
I agree! Very well put. I too felt that Tom Hanks was nothing like the Robert Langdon I pictured, Although I did go see the movie and was bothered the whole way through! I thought the Harry Potter films were cast well, for the most part. Emma Watson was prettier/thinner than I pictured Hermione.
Loved the post Tim!
Debra – I could never figure out my disappointment in both movies which starred Hanks. Was it Hanks or just Hollywoods failure to adapt the two great novels to the big screen.
Sheila Seabrook said:
I must be the exception here — LOL! — because I never cast the books I read. And if I’ve read a book, I rarely watch the movie. I’m afraid I’ll be disappointed!
Sheila – I completely understand. I’ve seen so many books that I’ve loved turned into horrible movies. I never understood why they felt the need to re-write a perfectly good story.
Jan Burton said:
Great blog, Tim. I always cast a book’s characters while I read, or immediately after. The “mental picture machine” offered through books is magical. Turning the pages of a book may be a thing of the past due to electronic devices, but reading in any form is what matters most.
Jan – There is nothing like turning the pages of a great book. I am either old fashioned or set in my ways, or perhaps both, but I don’t have an e-reader and don’t want to read a novel that way. Hey I still subscribe to the locals papers as well. Nothing beats holding a great book in your hands and staying up all night trying to finish it.
August McLaughlin said:
I tend to leave much of my character’s physical appearance to the reader’s imagination. Part of the magic of reading, and books’ benefits over film, is the creativity and imagination it inspires. That said, certain factors, such as general size seem pretty vital. 😉
I don’t think I can handle the Hollywood version of Dragon Tattoo. I LOVED the Swedish version, which is undoubtedly grittier and, I feel, more in-tune with Larson’s work.
Terrific post, Timothy!
Kristy K. James said:
I have to say right off…if a movie with Tom Hanks doesn’t work, it would be the fault of the script or casting director. In my opinion, Hanks is THE best actor I’ve ever had the pleasure to watch (although Cuba Gooding is a close second).
That said, I have a love/hate relationship with the whole book to movie thing. If I see the movie first, it helps, because then I picture the characters as the actors/actresses who portrayed them. If I see the movie first, then I’m probably going to be disappointed in the casting.
My daughter and I are reading a series right now and often sit at my computer coming up with the perfect cast (in case it’s ever makes it to the big-or small-screen). What’s amazing to me is how differently we each picture the characters in our minds. We’ll never agree, but that’s okay. We still love the books. And if it’s ever made into movies or a series, we’ll both be watching.