Why does it matter so much to those of us who have read the novels, when the movies get the casting so, very, very wrong?
With the outrage that has quickly spread online with Lee Child’s novel One Shot’s main character Jack Reacher being played by Tom Cruise in the movie Jack Reacher currently playing in cinemas, with Cruise not resembling the reoccurring main character in the over 20 books series at all, as well as the questionable decision to again have Carrie played by a hot actress in the remake bringing Stephen’s King first ever novel to be turned into a movie back to the big screen for a second time, I thought I’d raise the following question. Why does it matter so much to those of us who have read the novels, when they get the casting so, very, very wrong? Not that these actors don’t usually do a good job, it’s just that they don’t look at all like the book tells us they should. Is it because we assume the casting agency, director etc hasn’t read the book? Or is it a lack of respect for a character we have become sort of attached to, eagerly look forward to meeting again in the next unpublished novel in the series, seeing them sort of like a friend or family member. Or is it simply we want those who we know will never pick up a novel to realise what they are missing out on when they see the movie and when the main character is not brought to the big screen like the book describes, we feel ripped off psychologically or that our love for the books is not validated?
With Jack Reacher he is not only described as a massive human being, in the novel One Shot, (which incidentally isn’t book one in the series, it is in fact book number 9, this isn’t mentioned anywhere on the Tom Cruise face version cover of the book), but by Reacher’s own admission is not someone women in bars and the like are attracted to and approach, whereas Tom Cruise once had just about every woman who saw him in the street throwing themselves at him back in the 80s. Sure he’s older now but even those who despise his personal life would have to acknowledge he is still an attractive man. Aside from attractiveness and physical appearance, Reacher being a massive human being is extremely important for a large percentage of the plot of the novel. If he was Tom Cruise’s height, those events wouldn’t have happened. I’m not going to spoil it for you what they are, and I haven’t seen the movie yet to know if that massive part of the book is even in there, but it seems a pretty big oversight. Does it matter also that Tom Cruise bought the movie rights to the series, so if he didn’t do so and cast himself, fans of the books may never have ever seen the books on the big screen at all, since no one else has been interested since the first Reacher book was published in 1997?
I would hazard a guess to say some fans may have preferred the series never to have been turned into a movie if the main character wasn’t portrayed properly. The past has shown us that a poor casting as lead character can kill off any interest for future movies from a popular series of novels written by a big name author. When the young, smooth talking up and coming ambitious homicide detective who had women eating out of the palm of his hand due to them all wanting to sleep with him in the early Alex Cross novels was played by the old, heavily facial scarred actor Morgan Freeman in a 1997 movie version of Kiss the Girls, the potential for more Alex Cross movies to follow died right there when the poor casting made that movie a flop. Morgan Freeman’s character simply didn’t resemble the Alex Cross one on the pages, and no one wanted to see him play Cross again. Which is why when they didn’t listen to the readers and tried again with Along Came a Spider in 2001, you probably never even realised they made the thing. I would have gone with someone like Denzel Washington back then. But the point is it wasn’t until last year that they could try again bringing probably one of the most successful series of novels back to the big screen and although not as big a miscasting, a lot of fans again weren’t happy with Tyler Perry in 2012’s movie Alex Cross either.
Fans of Donald E Westlake also saw the hugely successful Parker series (written under the pseudonym Richard Stark) never get a sequel to the first novel in the series The Hunter, when like has happened with Reacher, the tall physically intimidating character of Parker was played by the short Mel Gibson in the 1999 film Payback. Gibson actually did a believable job, and the move was pretty loyal to the novel, but he just simply didn’t look like Parker, which may be why they renamed him Porter. Well actually in 2013 fans will get a chance to see Parker on the big screen again with one of the final novels in the series (19th) Flashfire, being released in March this year simply titled Parker. Unfortunately it also seems to be miscast with Jason Stratham this time as Parker, again a much shorter actor who looks nothing like him and I dred won’t act like Parker either since he pretty much only seems to play the same character in every film he has ever been in.
Do we accept miscasting of our favourite book characters more if a character from a book is from a standalone novel and not a series, such as with Stephen King’s Carrie? Do we accept that maybe more viewers would rather watch a hot actress on a screen for an hour and a half such as we will in November this year when Chloe Grace Moretz plays the title role, rather than a more accurate to the book ugly actress, even if it makes her treatment by her classmates seem a lot less plausible?
But what if the character wasn’t unattractive on the pages of the book? Such as the blue eyed blonde haired Robert Neville from the Richard Matheson’s classic I am Legend. When brought to the screen in an awful remake that didn’t follow the plot at all, he was played by Will Smith? Does it then matter that he doesn’t resemble the character at all? If the movie had stuck to the plot and showed respect to the influential book for every zombie film or novel ever made, and importantly didn’t forget and leave out the reason the novel was titled I am Legend in the first place, would we have cared at all?
If you see a poorly cast character movie does it put you off reading the series of books if you haven’t tried them before? I have to say I have no intention of checking out the Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series after Heigel did such a poor job of making that an interesting character in One for the Money, yet heaps of people recommend that series.
Sometimes a change to the characters can be seen by some fans as an improvement such as Bill Crompton who changes from being in his 20s when he was turned in Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series but was a much older guy when he became a Vampire in the True Blood TV series. Maybe you disagree?
Are there any major characters from novels you love that have been miscast by Hollywood that I haven’t mentioned here? Who are they?