Saturday, March 31, 2012

Images, Actors and Movie Remakes of Books

In movie remakes of books, do actors need to look anything like the character as they're described in the original book?

"Why, heeellooo Clarice...  Yes, yes I know I'm not a small, fine-boned man with a weasel-like face and eerie violet eyes..."

Well, I don't think they do.

For one thing, I think Anthony Hopkins was absolutely perfect for the original Silence of the Lambs even though Hopkins looks absolutely nothing like Hannibal Lector as Lector is described in the book.

They didn't even give him eyecaps to make his blue eyes more Hannibal-like.  They kept them blue.

Why does this come up?  Well, I'm a fan of a couple of blogs, including Byzantium's Shores and Electric Cerebrectomy.

Apparently there's been a debate in the Nerdosphere about a movie called Hunger Games, which I'm studiously avoiding until I read the book.

Some people are pissed that some characters were cast with black actors.  Others have subsequently pointed out that this is a sign of serious mental deficiency because the characters in question were explicitly described as black in the book.  Meanwhile, people are accidentally dropping spoilers everywhere, which is seriously pissing me off.

But it lead me to the question: does it actually matter if a character looks really different from how they're described in the book, e.g. the character in the movie is a different race from the one in the book?

To me it boils down to one question: are the physical features of the character which are relevant to the plot the same as they were in the original novel?  Or remake of a comic book.  Or play, or whatever.

I have to admit, Othello with a white eponymous character would be pretty off.  (Although there's exceptions even to that rule.)

Similarly, Gully Foyle from The Stars My Destination (Tiger, Tiger to Commonwealth audience members) probably shouldn't be played by a 90-pound-weakling.

But in roles where the physical difference of race doesn't matter, I don't really see where the problem is.  I could see a problem with it in period pieces - we would expect the characters to interact differently - but in science fiction and fantasy it really doesn't matter at all.  Or at least it doesn't matter to me.

So, I say "Hooray for Hispanic hobbits!  Or an Asian Aenea!  Let's hear it for a First People's Faust!  Or a Dalit Dr. Harshaw!"

Why?  'Cause Anthony Hopkins was awesome as Hannibal Lector.  And he didn't look anything like the character in the book, either.


  1. I remember Kingpin was white in the Daredevil comic, black in the movie. It was fine. Marvel Comics in the 1960s was all white (except for the Black Panther)

    1. I haven't seen it yet. I'm HUGE into classics like Batman.

      Weird, I just looked up the Black Panther comic and if Wikiknowledge is accurate he predates the actual Black Panthers. Crazy. The 60's were weird.

  2. Oh, and: I'm really into superheros that DON'T have special powers. Batman, Ironman, Catwoman, but not Superman.

    I think characters are more interesting if they have to solve problems. I'm not crazy for Superman 'cause it's got too much Deus ex Machina for my tastes.

  3. The Wiki are correct. T'Challa was in the Fantastic Four cover date July 1966 (and which would have come out 2 or 3 months earlier). The BP Party was founded in October of that same year. Did you know I worked in a comic book store for 8.5 years?

    1. I knew you worked in a comic book shop - I had no idea it was for 8 1/2 years.

      I miss jobs like that. "Yay, I have my own office now... alone... all day... listening to the hum of a computer... And I'm basically paid in ramen noodles..."

      Never worked in a comic book shop, but I remember working a lot of jobs like it - the very best was in a fish shop, butchering and handling customers. I loved it. My boss was awesome.

  4. ". . .the very best was in a fish shop, butchering and handling customers." I hope you mean, buchering the fish and handling the customers."