Tuesday, June 7, 2011

When Movies Ruin Books - The Actor v. The Character

Well, I finally sucked it up and read Breaking Dawn.  I just can't watch a movie of a book without reading it first.  It always irks me.  As it is with both Harry Potter and the Twilight series, it's been painful to watch the movies and then read the books.

This is because I really like imagining the characters in my head and very rarely do the actors live up to my standards.  I will say, there are certainly some actors that do.  But when I read the descriptions of the characters, I know the author wasn't picturing Rupert Grint or Taylor Lautner.  Granted, they aren't poor second choices, but they aren't Ronald Weasley and Jacob Black - they're compromises.  I don't mean this as a comment on their acting.  It's not their acting that bugs me.  It's just when I read about Jacob, it's describing someone else.  Not Taylor.  But I see Taylor.  Jacob doesn't look anything like Taylor Lautner, except they have dark hair and tan skin.

The thing that bugs me even more is when the movie and book release dates overlap.  This only occurs when a series has not been completely written and Hollywood smells green.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoy seeing books turned into movies, not the least of which for an increase in book sales.  However, I just can't separate the actor portraying the character from the character when I visualize what is happening in a story.  And it bugs.   

As much as I love BBC's rendition of Pride and Prejudice, I have a hard time separating the actors from my beloved Mr. Darcy and Miss Bennet when I read the text. 

For those of us with limited imaginations, this might be an acceptable situation.  Maybe you never imagined the characters before seeing the movie.  I did.  I saw and felt each piece of fabric.  I imagined their hair, how it reflected the light, and hung about their heads.  I saw their skin, the lines, shapes, and color.  I relished in the beauty of their imperfections.  I fell in love with them. 

There are limits to what good actors exist in the world with certain desirable traits exhibited by literary characters.  Sometimes a casting director might get lucky.  More often than not, it's a series of compromises.  Who is similar enough to communicate the character without ignoring essential pieces of their physical attributes?  That is the goal - similar enough. Except of course, that doesn't help those of us who read or plan to re-read.  We can only hope the similarities are enough to blot out the differences when we come to the next scene where our favorite character appears.

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