Who?

We all agreed that John Malkovich was by far the worst Poirot ever. Though to be fair, I  saw a movie with Tony Randall playing the detective, which was just…..indescribable…. It was done in the sixties, so I’ll forgive it to a point…. But what other roles have been horribly miscast?

I love Tom Hanks. He is one of my favorite actors, and he actually seems like a really great guy. Fine actor. I can’t tell you how good I think he is. Except, you know, he can’t play everyone. For example- “Bonfire of the Vanities”. Not only was this a horrible adaptation of a book, it was just a horrible movie. I mean horrible. And miscast is an understatement. The last person who should have played the arrogant prick of a main character was Tom Hanks.. (In hindsight Kevin Spacey would have been perfect actually…)

And how about the iconic Dan Brown character, Robert Langdon. I remember reading DaVinci and was casting the movie in my head. I immediately thought Liam Neeson. Maybe Russell Crowe. Tom Hanks never entered my imagination. I have no doubt that Tom Hanks is a brilliant guy- but he doesn’t play as an elbow patch wearing Harvard academic. Not. at. All. And they keep making the movies with him, and I keep watching them, and I keep shaking my head…..why oh why?

This is one of my problems with film adaptations of books. As a reader, you get a mental picture of a character. This week a couple of people had very interpretations of what Jack Reacher should look like. And that’s great, because we all bring our own interpretations into things. But when you have imagined a character one way, and then see them on a big screen as something else….well, it’s hard to change your mind.

Sometimes you have the perfect casting. Colin Firth is Mr. Darcy. End of discussion. I will never read P and P again without picturing Firth. Jennifer Ehle is Elizabeth Bennett. David Suchet is Poirot.

It’s a wonderful thing when an author writes such a brilliant character that we all “know” what they will actually look like. We know how they would act, we know how they would react. Some authors have the innate ability to bring a character to life. Things like this are what makes a great book: iconic characters and settings. And a literature purist just doesn’t want to see the dream fade. They want the character to live on in their memory.

If I overthought this subject a little more, I could probably argue that there is some psychological component to this. We imagine something and then the reality is quite different. Maybe we want to keep our fantasies safe…..but this is a blog for another day…

But anyway….worst miscastings?

Advertisements

It Reminds Me Of…

PBS used to do a show “The Bletchly Circle” about women who had worked as codebreakers during WWII. Loved it. I recently found out that there was a new version with some of the British characters but taking place in San Francisco. Unfortunately it is only available on BritBox, a 6.99 addition to Amazon…seriously- I don’t pay enough for Amazon already? But…they did have a 7 day trial…and my family was away for four days…

So I binge watched British murder mysteries for four days…

After I finished Bletchly, I tuned in to the Jane Hickson Miss Marple series from the 80’s. I am a huge fan of Marple. Those were the first Christie books that I had ever read, and I have an affinity towards the working of the Marple mind. I remember watching these adaptations when they first came out and thinking that Hickson might be the quintessential Marple. And after rewatching them, I know that she was.

I will watch any Agatha Christie show in any form- movie, mini series, PBS…I even recently saw an off Broadway production of “Death on the Nile”. If there were an all Agatha all the time channel I would watch it (as long as I didn’t need to pay 6.99 a month- I mean- I have my limits) By now, I have become a connoisseur of sorts. I know my Marple.

Since the Hickson series of the 80’s, PBS has had a few other actors play Marple. Geraldine McEwan in the early 2000’s, followed by Julia McKenzie. Both are wonderful actresses. I have no problem with either of them being cast as Marple. What I do have a problem with is the actual interpretation of the sleuth.

The beauty of the character Miss Marple was her brain- she had a great intellect for deducing things. Marple didn’t crawl along floors or hide behind curtains to solve crimes. She used her own brand of logic. Her particular specialty was her ability to draw comparisons. She was a great observer of people and their habits: she was able to figure out a person’s character rather quickly. Whenever she met someone knew she would come up with a comparison  with someone from her village- “Oh yes that Tom chap- he reminds me of the nephew of my neighbor, always seemed to be way too flattering of the neighbors flowers, turns out he was stealing from them” or something of that sort. Marple was able to see through to someone’s true nature and character. She was observant and a solver of puzzles. The Hickson interpretation showed this clearly. The other versions did not show this at all. The writers simply eliminated these personality traits from the series. There were no more references to crosswords, jigsaws or chess. No more folksy comparisons. I’m going to have to rewatch the other series to see exactly how Marple solved the crimes. (but not for 6.99 a month)

Why do writers eliminate parts of a character that actually make up the character? Why would you take out the essence of a character?

I realize that people want to modernize things. I know that things need to be brought up to date, and a screenwriter has the license to adapt something any way they please. But if they eliminate the main trait of a character, why bother doing the adaptation at all? Why not just adapt something else? Or start fresh?

So- have you ever watched a recurring character and see a screenwriter change the major parts of a character? Have you ever seen a character you loved in a book brought to screen and you just want to scream “No! That’s not how it’s supposed to be?”

Eliminating and Melding

I love books.

I love movies.

I don’t always love books made into movies.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when characters are eliminated or melded together. I understand why it’s done: keep production costs down by reducing headcount, keep storyline cleaner, save time. I understand the practicality- I am all about the practical. But….

The first time I encountered this daunting character thing was upon reading Gone With the Wind. SPOILER ALERT: In the book Scarlett has three children, Bonnie is her third. The movie adaptation of this book only has her having one child.

Blasphemy.

Even at twelve, I was incredulous that this had been allowed to happen. It was a 9 thousand hour movie, with 8 billion people in the cast. Really? They couldn’t cast two kids? The additional kids were a great way to really look at Scarlett’s character as a whole person. Being a Mother changes you, or should change you? Did we miss integral parts of the story because they weren’t included in the movie? Did the premise change? How much of the integrity of the book was compromised by cutting out these characters?

Not long after my disillusionment with the movie/book dilemma of GWTW, I encountered another slight- “Rich Man, Poor Man” (SPOILER AHEAD) In the movie there is a sister character and a girlfriend character. In the mini series, these characters were combined.

What? Combine a sister and a girlfriend to make one character? Madness…

Now, I admit that RMPM is not a classic of literature- it’s a page turning soap opera of a story. But you take any lesson or value or literariness out of the book by melding these two characters together. If the book had melded these characters it might not have gotten published- that’s how strong the need is for there to be two separate characters. Nature/nurture was a strong foundation of the novel, and it was completely reduced to cheap and tawdry in the mini series. But I guess even back in the seventies we just wanted cheap and tawdry…

So- which book/movie adaptations annoy you the most regarding eliminating or melding of characters? These were the ones that came to mind because these were the first time I recognized the phenomenon.  Which characters were integral to the storyline of a book but ended up in the vast black hole of unused characters?