Did Scarlett J. do this character justice?
_After I viewed the trailer for Hunger Games, I admit I breathed a great sigh of relief. The young woman playing Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) seemed spot on, as did the young man in the role of Gale (Liam Hemsworth). I have to say, too, that Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) looked better than what I imagined. The movie looked exciting, and more importantly, seemed true to this tense and unpredictable book.
Why was I worried, you might ask.
Like every reader, I had imagined these vivid characters--and the whole world--in a certain way, bringing my own sensibilities and experience into the book. Sometimes, it's really hard when an actor seems all wrong for the character. (Case in point--I enjoyed Matthew Macfadyen in MI-5, but I think he really misunderstood Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice--and not just because the wonderful Colin Firth had already dominated the role).
I always wonder what it's like for authors to see how others view their characters. Perhaps sometimes the characters dance off the pages, just as they'd imagined, while at other times emerge as virtual strangers.
For my part, I garner physical descriptions for my characters by seeking out visual cues. Sometimes I rely on period art, as I think Tracy Chevalier may have done with Vermeer's The Girl with a Pearl Earring, to get a feel for how someone in early modern England might dress or wear their hair, and to ponder their worldview. More often than not, I find photos of real actors to help me remember what each of my characters is "supposed to" look like, at least to me.
Hmmm...I could share those photos and images, if I wanted to. I'm pretty sure, however, it's cheating when you tell readers how they are supposed to think.
So as a writer, I'll stay hands-off about my own characters. I accept that characters are negotiated through the lenses that readers bring to the text.
As a reader, I admit I often don't want that negotiation to happen. I want to see on the big screen exactly what I see in my mind's eye. Otherwise, I'm confused, even disappointed. Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka? George Clooney as Batman? Jim Carrey as the Grinch? I'm not so sure.
But sometimes characters evolve from author to reader to viewer, when in deft hands. Consider Matt Damon as Jason Bourne. Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock. Emily Deschanel as Temperance Brennan. And yes, Scarlett Johansson as Griet, the Girl with a Pearl Earring. None of these characters were really rendered as the author wrote them, and yet I was satisfied, even intrigued, in their re-imagining.
The problem at that point, of course, is when everyone says: 'I think the characters were better in the movie than in the book." ARGHHHH!
What do you think? Have you ever been surprised--pleasantly or unpleasantly--when a character is portrayed very differently than what you had imagined?
1/15/2012 09:49:34 pm
Although I certainly form mental images of the book characters, I think they are rarely fully formed (visually) in my mind. Saying that they are 'faceless' may be going a bit too far, but really they are visually quite malleable--just a bit more than a default template with the right height, weight, hair, and general disposition.
1/15/2012 09:52:44 pm
Jennie, I felt the same way about Harry Potter. I was quite nervous that they would not do the books justice, and they did! One of my friends never thought Daniel Radcliffe was quite right (too handsome, she thought from the covers he always looked a bit straggly, wild and crazy), but I was okay with him too. Thanks for stopping by!
1/16/2012 06:12:58 am
Regarding the Hunger Games trailer, I agree with you. I thought the characters and the whole feel seemed spot on to what I imagined. While reading all 3 books, I found that my image of Peeta kept changing. By the end, he ended up matching the actor pretty well.
1/19/2012 03:49:59 am
Another interesting post. I admit, I have in my head how certain characters should look, based on my interpretation of whatever description the author supplied with regard to height, coloring, build and so on. So when the awesome Indiana Jones (I mean, Harrison Ford) was cast as Jack Ryan when Alec Baldwin was unavailable, I could not get over it. I may have been scarred for life. Of course, if the film came first, or I saw the film before reading the book, I will usually just plug in the actor's face when visualizing the character's appearance.
Beckery--what did you think about Ben Affleck as Jack Ryan? Hmmm... Alec Baldwin was great. But maybe if we'd seen harrison ford in the role first, it would be different as you say. I guess its the same for people who get upset when James Bond changes. what about Jake Lloyd as baby Vader? :-)
1/24/2012 03:53:42 am
Never saw Ben A playing Jack Ryan. Sorry--I don't like his acting style, and that was a major turn-off to seeing the movie. I really liked the little kid who played Anakin. He was great in the show "The Pretender" in the 90's. I thought at the end of the movie, he had the perfect expression of rage, determination, and conviction. I could believe this kid was going to do really great or really bad things; nothing run-of-the-mill for him.
1/19/2012 12:34:24 pm
That is why I don't like movies. I always feel uncertain; almost resistance going to movies adapted from books. And once I accept the characters, I then start to get nervous about the story. Is it going to be faithful to the book? Is it going to miss the important parts? Harry Potter is the only one that I feel....well, not so disappointed. Even so, every night when I listen to the story (yes, I am in Book 3 now again!), I ask myself, "Why wasn't this part included in the movie? What a shame!" Then I sleep with the book/audiobook; satisfied and happy.
1/20/2012 12:44:12 pm
In fact, I have been thinking about writing "Blog, Blogging and Blogger". Want to write something about it? I need some inspiration and some sleep first though. :-)
1/25/2012 10:03:06 am
I really like this post. I feel very proprietary about certain characters, and I can therefore get quite upset when someone doesn't fit my image. In some cases, I also get attached to a particular performance. Case in point: Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes. But these things are not insurmountable--I loved the new "Sherlock" series on the BBC, and I felt that Cumberbatch and Freeman both made the parts their own.
Anna, I love the new Sherlock on BBC (and Watson for that matter), for me, that modernization worked. Since I was always more of a Austen and Alcott fan than a Bronte fan, I didn't have a huge attachment to Jane Eyre myself (in fact, I remember when I read it as a teenager I was quite annoyed that they were together...but I've come to appreciate the beauty of the story over time). have you seen the 2011 movie--I haven't. I think there was another version I liked too--a more recent miniseries. In fact, this might be the rare example of me appreciating a book more after I saw the screen version :-)
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Historian. Mystery writer. Researcher. Teacher. Occasional blogger.