The book, the bad, and the ugly
My newest MS is currently in the hands of my agent while we decide just how we're going to get it out there to readers - traditonal or self-publishing? Yes it's that glorious period where time stands still and a week feels like a year while we initially do the rounds of publishers. In between compulsively refreshing my email server and guzzling wine, I field the following excited questions from friends, family and colleagues - When can I buy it? When is it coming out? Trust me, you'll know as soon as I know.
But the other more interesting question has been "If it gets made into a film, who would you like to play your main characters?"
Most authors would love to sell the film rights to their book. To see their story brought to life in living colour - and of course triggering a great wave of brand new book sales, complete with the words 'Now a Major Motion Picture' emblazoned on the front across a spunky picture of Jennifer Lawrence. Would I? Of course I would. I am working on the screenplay version of my novel as we speak and there's every chance it could end up a film, whether I make it myself or sell the rights. It's an exciting idea.
Interestingly, with this novel I tried an approach suggested to me by another writer - to create a vision board with images of people who looked the way I imagined my characters in my head. I had never done it before - never felt the need - but it really worked for this book.
The novel is a contemporary rom-com and I imagined Emilia Clarke as my MC, Tom Ellis as her snarky best friend who says f*** A LOT, and the gorgeous Sam Heughan as her love interest. To be honest it was really just an excuse to imagine Sam in leather pants and call it research. There's got to be some perks to being stuck in your office for months on end with only your imagination, right?
But much as Emilia, Sam and Tom would be my dream cast, let's not jump ahead. Should my book end up optioned and turned into a feature film, casting directors don't always follow form, but more on that later (*cough 'Jack Reacher' cough*).
It's a tough choice for an author - and one not many get to make unless they're Stephenie Meyer. Personally, I think all authors should get a say. After all, the way their character is portrayed - the live incarnation of the person they created - could permanently skew how people view their book (and potentially deter new readers).
If the actor stinks - Uh oh! If the actor nails it - you win!
It's also important to readers, who have invested time into your character, have fallen in love with your character, who identify with your character. It's important to them that a film does their favourite character justice.
Good casting when adapting a book to screen is key and good casting comes from those making the film actually reading THE BOOK (not just a screenplay version), and getting a real sense of the character. As a screenwriter and filmmaker myself, I understand the casting process (and that it not only comes down to who suits the role but also cast availability, budget, whether your dream cast actually like the script and want to be attached etc), yet it always concerns me when a casting director is unfamiliar with characters that have come from literature. This doesn't mean necessarily sticking exactly to details, but you have to know the character. Also, if you're going to change things you have to make it work (NB Jennifer Lawrence's character in Silver Linings Playbook is a 38 year old divorcee in the book - Jen's Oscar tells me that choice clearly worked).
But we know from experience that casting for a well loved character can be done brilliantly - to the point where an author weeps with joy at seeing their beloved creation walking and talking the way they intended - or it can go horribly, HORRIBLY wrong.
Here's some good, bad and downright ugly!! By no means an exhaustive list, just a few that come to mind. Feel free to add yours in comments.
Bridget Jones on the page - neurotic, insecure, hilarious, loveable. Renee Zellweger nailed it. To the wall. Even the accent, in an industry where half the time they change the nationality of a character rather than risk a dodgy accent if they've cast an American as a Brit. I dare anyone to talk about Bridget Jones without picturing this actress in the pivotal role. To me, anyone who can pull off the scene with the 'enormous pants', coming across completely genuine and lovely, gets my vote. (Plus I may or may not have a soft spot due to completely identifying with singing All By Myself in my pyjamas, while drunk and all by myself. Watch it. You know you want to. (click)
Sookie Stackhouse - Anna Paquin in True Blood is perfection. I haven't been keen on her in anything else but she IS Sookie. If anything, she adds to the character portrayed in the Charlaine Harris novels and makes her more fully realised. More flawed. Funnier. Sexier. More likeable.
Mr Darcy (The Jane Austen version not the Bridget Jones version - although really the two are interchangeable). If Miss Austen were alive today I'm sure she would be more than happy (and be swooning along with the rest of us) with the casting of Colin Firth in the BBC version of Pride & Prejudice. Moody, arrogant, complex, intense and repressed? Yes. Sexy as all hell? You betchya!
Bella Swan (Twilight) Okay, this is a contentious one. You see in the books, Bella Swan is irritating, whiny, needy and frustratingly indecisive. In the film, Kristin Stewart/Bella is irritating, needy, and whiny (why does Bella always look constipated? Someone give the girl a laxative) ... So uh, kudos to Kristin Stewart?!?! I take it back .... this should go in the 'good' section... She absolutely nailed it.
Jack Reacher on the page, 6'5", commanding, very muscular, hard, ruthless. Ummmm... At almost a foot shorter and 100 pounds lighter, let's just say - Tom Cruise - not so much. But this is what you get when you take an a-list actor who wants to play a particular role and has the money and influence to be its producer. Artistic vision and faithful characterisaton tend to take a backseat. I certainly didn't buy it.
Tom Cruise himself is a serial offender, which disappoints me sometimes as I find him incredibly watchable. I like him ... so sue me. But this brings me to 'the ugly' - a film with such ridiculous casting across the board, that could have been SO amazing if done right, that it makes me weep for the wasted opportunity.
Interview With The Vampire based on the novel by Anne Rice.
Lestat is described in the books as 6 feet tall, stunningly good-looking, lithe and broad shouldered. A cross between a lion and a rock-god. Arrogant, bold, selfish but complely charming. Irrepressibly mischievous. But, Tom Cruise?
My reaction when I first heard ? *points to the right*
Cruise's Lestat was so unlikeable I could barely watch the film. He fell short of hitting the mark with the character on so many levels. He completely missed the point, misunderstood Lestat. Part of me thought maybe they'd just mixed up the casting because alongside Cruise, the blonde, tall, lithe, stunning and charismatic Brad Pitt was cast as Louis, who in the books is about 5'10" with short dark hair, a little more serious and contained. Again, huh?
But what finally made me toss my popcorn in the air was the gothically clad, middle aged, swarthy Antonio Banderas cast as Armand. On the page, Armand is an angelic faced, auburn haired, slight of build, SEVENTEEN YEAR OLD!!!!!!!!!!!!!FOR A REASON!!!!!!
WHAT THE HELL, FILM PEOPLE????????????? Did any of you actually read the book? How can you hack to pieces someone else's piece of art? Perfectly casting Kirsten Dunst as Claudia does not in any way make up for the complete mess of the rest of it (and plus, the kissing Brad Pitt thing ... way creepy!)
So I am thinking that, if an author of Rice's stature has no control over the casting of a film based on her book (in fact the follow up, Queen of the Damned, she slammed completely, saying they mutilated her work beyond recognition), then I've got buckleys of getting Sam Heughan. Oh, Sam. And I was so hoping we were going to be friends. *sigh*
So, tell me your list of 'good bad and 'are you kidding me, did you even read the book?' Which characters have you loved seeing brought to life. Who did a great job? Which ones horrified you?
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