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?
Historian. Mystery writer. Researcher. Teacher. Occasional blogger.