Booking Through Thursday: Nightmare Cast


And, the reverse–which actors have been particularly badly cast in roles of characters you first met in the pages of a book? Do you blame the actors or the writers and other film-people for the failure? Who would you have cast instead?

“Nightmare” is such a strong word, isn’t it? I’d reserve it for something as egregious as whitewashing or anything else flat-out offensive. I’ve seen plenty of actors that I, were I a casting director, perhaps might not have cast as certain characters, but I’ve so rarely seen anyone completely fail at playing a character that I can’t even think of an example. Acting is a job like any other; at the end of the day, every actor wants to do good work for good money. If the character is poorly written, that’s the screenwriters’ fault, not theirs.

This question reminds me a little of the film adaptation of Interview with a Vampire. Anne Rice was livid that Tom Cruise was cast as Lestat. She just couldn’t see any way that Maverick could do her character justice. Then she saw the film. Afterwards, she wrote Cruise a letter of apology. Cruise is, perhaps, not everybody’s vision of Lestat, but the stamp that he does put on the character, emphasizing his weaknesses in a way that makes him entertaining as both a character and an antagonist, is an enjoyable one.

The point is, there’s always plenty of room for different interpretations of literary characters, with, of course, some reasonable exceptions (no, the cast of Anansi Boys can’t be white!). After all, they’re safe and sound in their books.

14 thoughts on “Booking Through Thursday: Nightmare Cast

  1. I thought this referred to imaginary Terrible Casting, which is a lot more fun. Adam Sandler as Aragorn! Kristen Stuart as Elizabeth Bennet! Keanu Reeves as Henry VIII! But alas, I am disappoint.

  2. I have never seen the movie but am so surprised that Rice would publically criticize! It was very professional of her to write the apology letter – makes me like her even more!

    • Rice is quite protective of the character (she’s one of the few authors who explicitly does not allow fanfiction of her work) and Cruise, at the time, was such a Hollywood golden boy—she was probably quite shocked.

  3. Your attitude towards movie adaptations is much more Zen than mine. I’m much pickier about things like that, and I can think of dozens of actors who I thought were downright terrible in their roles: Malin Ackerman as Silk Spectre II in Watchmen, Russell Crowe as Javert in Les Miserables, Roger Moore as James Bond (although that last one is probably just me)…

    But I think that when it comes to movie adaptations, the “wrong” actors can be divided into two camps: those who are completely different from the characters they’re supposed to be playing and do a terrible job, and those who don’t fully resemble the original character but instead make the character their own and make it work. For instance, Johnny Depp is basically the polar opposite of the title character of What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, but he does a fantastic job in the movie and I love his portrayal. I don’t mind if an actor chosen for a role isn’t how I pictured the character in the book – I only mind when they can’t make me believe in the character.

    Like Cameron says in Modern Family: Meryl Streep could play Batman, and it would be the right casting.

    • Roger Moore’s Bond is not a very faithful Bond, but he is a very fun and sweet Bond.

      Your two camps idea is quite accurate. As actors, it’s their job to make their character believable and real, which can include both being studiously faithful and being more pragmatic.

      • See, that’s what bothered me about Moore: he always treated Bond like a joke. Timothy Dalton is actually one of my top Bond actors, because he never gets enough credit for being the first actor to play Bond as a cold-blooded killer – which is what he is, when you get down to it.

      • Nope, the first Bond movie I saw was either Golden Eye or The World is Not Enough – both playing on TV, so it must have been a few years after they came out. Like you, I gave myself a project of watching every single Bond movie in college, and read Casino Royale in 2010 or 2011. It remains the only Bond book I’ve read.

      • Oh, cool! You know that all the Bond films are playing at the Plaza this month, right? You could go see Dalton on the BIG SCREEN.

        I adore Dalton, but I think he’s better than the Bond films he’s in.

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