Literature and film are different beasts; while one medium serves up details on a silver platter, the other demands its recipients use their imagination - entire worlds and characters conjured out of nothing but words. When beloved books are adapted into movies, it’s hard to live up to what the author conceived (especially if it's autobiographical).
Sometimes making a good film means following a different creative vision, changing what was on the page to fit the screen. Often the text is reimagined and actors are cast to play characters who looked completely different in our minds. Other times, lightning strikes - movie characters are not just similar to their book counterparts, but turn out even better than the author imagined. Here are some examples of authors who were blown away by how actors brought their characters to life. Vote up your favorite screen versions of beloved characters.
- Photo: 20th Century Fox
David Fincher’s cult classic Fight Club is based on Chuck Palahniuk’s novel of the same name. The story follows an unnamed narrator suffering from insomnia and an overall feeling of societal disconnect. He then meets soap salesman Tyler Durden who, in many ways, represents everything "Jack" wishes he could be (at least aesthetically). Fight Club at its core is a contemplation of existentialism, consumerism, male identity, and body image affecting the "middle children of history."
(Spoilers) Tyler turns out to be a figment of the protagonist’s imagination - an alter ego created to do and be the things he cannot. In the film, Edward Norton plays the protagonist and Brad Pitt plays Tyler. In an interview with (ironically) Men's Health, Palahniuk called the contrast between Norton and Pitt a no-brainer, saying, “Brad was the only kind of super blond actor who could play that part.”2207Great book-to-screen transition?
- Photo: Universal Pictures
Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird is loosely based on the author’s experiences in 1930s Monroeville, AL. Atticus Finch, the lawyer who represents Tom Robinson, is based on Harper’s father, Amasa Coleman Lee, who also defended an African-American man in a highly publicized trial. The Guardian’s Michael Freedland once scored an interview with Lee thanks to the referral of Gregory Peck, who played Finch in Robert Mulligan’s big-screen adaptation. According to Freedland, the relationship between star and author was not unlike that of a father and daughter - perhaps due to the character fitting Peck like a glove:
"In that film, the man and the part met. As far as I'm concerned, that part is Greg's for life. I've had many, many offers to turn it into musicals, into TV or stage plays, but I've always refused."17714Great book-to-screen transition?
- Photo: Paramount Pictures
Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather is considered one of the greatest films of all time, featuring an immersive tale and mesmerizing performances led by the godfather himself, Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando). The film is so widely acclaimed that people often forget about Mario Puzo's novel of the same name - a narrative that was certainly improved in the adaptation.
Recognizing his novel's big-screen potential, Puzo lettered Brando saying, "I wrote a book called The Godfather which has had some success and I think you're the only actor who can play the part Godfather with that quiet force and irony (the book is an ironical comment on American society) the part requires." At the time, the studio had its reservations about Brando. However, once Coppola came on board, the director backed Puzo's instincts.15710Great book-to-screen transition?
- Photo: Summit Entertainment
Stephenie Meyer was incredibly involved in the adaptation of Twilight (at least more so than most authors). She was consulted on almost all of the casting choices and, by the last film, Meyer was a producer in attendance at every audition. Talking to The Hollywood Reporter, Meyer was asked which casting decision most approximated her vision of a character. Given the otherworldly/unobtainable beauty exhibited by the vampires in her novels, Meyer recalled seeing Ashley Greene's headshot and thinking she was the perfect Alice:
"She's stunningly gorgeous. Physically, [she's] not as short as Alice, but facially very close. She's probably the most like a vampire because they're supposed to be inhumanly beautiful."14124Great book-to-screen transition?