Thursday, July 4, 2013

Casting: Appearance versus Character

I was recently talking with someone who is disappointed, nay, grieved, to learn Harrison Ford has been cast in Ender's Game.   I was perplexed.  It's Harrison Ford!  Then the grieved one explained their beef with Ford appearing is because he is to play Colonel Graff, a man he had pictured to be black.  Aaaah.  Y'see, for me, I consider it impossible to satisfy everyone's hopes perfectly (including the author's) for any entity in literature.  I've always been happy so long as the essential elements of a book's character are considered in recreating that character for the screen adaptation (the word adaptation is key here, too).  And the essential character of Colonel Graff in the novel?  A reluctant, discerning and manipulative mentor.  See how I didn't list his ethnicity in there?  For me, it's not essential to who he is (nor did Card think so). The other three points?  These are Harrison Ford.  The reluctant mentor, in particular, is one of his strongest typecasts (Can I get a Hans Solo "Woop woop," anyone?  And if Professor Jones fleeing from adoring students via his office window doesn't cry reluctant mentor I'm not sure what does.).

Which brings me to Tom.  Aw, Tom.  How I defend you so often.  I understand many Lee Child fans are disappointed that Cruise's stature doesn't match the literary Jack Reacher's (a veritable tall man).  But again, isn't the ability to step into the character more important than physicality?  Does stepping-in demand fitting the literal skin the book's description has sewn?  Shoe size, and all?  I would venture no, it does not, unless the character's physicality is an essential attribute to his/her character or the narrative.  E.g. a hobbit; a giant; someone who is bullied because they are small. Provided Tom can pack a punch and carry the confidence of vigilante, can't he be Reacher? 

If you've been tasked to illustrate a character from a novel for the novel (a cruel task, if you ask me),  you better get the hair and eye colour right -- those are basic, driver's licence, indisputable details there.  (Illustrator of Scholastic's Ella Enchanted of 1997, I'm looking at you.)

So, what do you think? 
Have you seen any of your beloved characters of fiction translated perfectly to film?  Poorly? 
Is the exact look of your hero/ine important? 
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