Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Bad Casting

Sandra Parshall

Nothing gets crime fiction fans more worked up than the news that a favorite book or series is about to become a movie or TV series.

First reaction: They’ll ruin it, of course. Second reaction: They’re casting WHO in the lead? You’ve gotta be kidding!

All too often, our worst fears are borne out by the finished product. With rare exceptions, the people who make movies and TV shows have no respect for the written word and no understanding of the deep connection many readers feel with familiar, beloved characters.

The latest travesties-in-the-making are a movie starring Tom Cruise as Lee Child’s Jack Reacher and an American TV version of Prime Suspect. Folks on various mystery discussion listservs are throwing a lot of insults at Cruise these days, but the worst is: He’s short. In Child’s novels, much is made of Reacher’s massive, intimidating size. Way over six feet, huge hands. The very sight of him strikes fear into the hearts of lesser men. Tom Cruise, on the other hand, is shorter than his wife. He was shorter than his first wife too. After their divorce, Nicole Kidman joked about how nice it was to be able to wear high heels again without worrying that she would tower over Tom. I happen to think Cruise is a reasonably good actor, but he can’t act his way into Reacher’s shoes.

As for Prime Suspect, I have no quibbles with the casting of Maria Bello as Jane Tennison. She’s a talented actress. What I object to is the jokey, hokey tone of the previews I’m seeing on TV. They seem to have turned Prime Suspect into one of those female-oriented cop shows where every second line is played for laughs and the little lady makes jokes while she kicks the crap out of the bad guys. Spare me. Why did they have to put the Prime Suspect title on the show and name the character Jane Tennison when neither the stories nor the character will bear any relation to the original?

Which brings me to Rizzoli and Isles. I love Tess Gerritsen’s books. I love Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles. I do not see anybody I recognize on the TV show. Again, a somber, thoughtful series has been turned into a breezy, amusing little show in which women run around solving crimes while gossiping about men and taking care (in Maura’s case) not to get their nice shoes and clothes dirty. Angie Harmon is a terrific actress, but the second she was cast in the role the character ceased to be Jane Rizzoli. Jane is frumpy and plain, and her appearance is an important element of the character. Angie Harmon wouldn’t be plain if you put a bag over her head.

Speaking of frumpy and plain, did anybody ever accept Sharon Small as Barbara Havers in the British TV version of Elizabeth George’s novels? The actress is... well, cute, no matter how messy her hair is or how sloppy her clothes are.


I can think of two movies from the past few years that did justice to the books they were based on, and both books were written by Dennis Lehane: Mystic River and Gone, Baby, Gone. These films demonstrate that it is possible to transfer a great story and great characters to the screen without mutilating them or doing a lot of prettying-up. Dexter, as a character, made a successful transition to TV, although the series doesn’t closely follow the books. I don’t watch True Blood, but fans of Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse books seem to think it’s great. This kind of success re-imagining of the source material is rare indeed.

Sue Grafton says she would “rather roll naked in ground glass” than see her Kinsey Milhone novels turned into a movie or TV series. Unfortunately, most writers can’t resist the glamorous allure of a film or TV option. They take the money (surprisingly little in most cases), they tremble with excitement, and in the end they see something that barely resembles what they created. Maybe they can draw the distinction – “The movie/TV series is a different animal and has nothing to do with what I wrote” – but a lot of readers can’t do that. We keep hoping for the best but expecting the worst, and the worst is usually what we end up with.

7 comments:

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Funny thing--Nicole Kidman's second husband, country music star Keith Urban, is shorter than she is too. I guess she decided those high heels hurt her feet. ;) As for why they named the show Prime Suspect and the character Jane Tennison, it's so people would watch the show. Entertainment is making the same safe decisions publishing is trying to nowadays. Same reason Sister Act is now a Broadway musical--a recycled movie rather than something fresh and risky for the investors.

Sheila Connolly said...

I sooo agree about Tom Cruise. Not only is he too short for Reacher, but he lacks the dominant quality.

I'd add Temperance Brennan from the TV series Bones, for which Kathy Reichs is still a consultant. Not only is Emily Deschanel too pretty, but her character is drawn inconsistently from one episode to the next--sometimes she hews to the socially-blind original model, and other times she's more mainstream.

At the other end of the spectrum, I love that Cumberbatch guy on the recent Sherlock Holmes PBS series. He is not Conan Doyle's iconic figure, but he captures the spirit well.

Sandra Parshall said...

We watched one episode of Bones, and that was more than enough. Dexter set a high standard that few shows based on novels have matched.

I love the modern-day, young Sherlock too. They've captured Holmes and Watson perfectly and placed them in a new era, and it works beautifully. I'm looking forward to the new season, and I hope it will be longer than three episodes this time.

Leslie Budewitz said...

You know, you're right about all those shows -- at least, the few I've seen :) But I still find myself torn on the topic. A tv show is a different creature than a book. Does it have an obligation to be the same? Can't it take liberties, beyond casting a pretty actress in a plain role? Or should it at least capture the spirit -- as the new BBC Sherlock captures the spirit of the original stories, even though the tales told are new and set in a different time? (My hunny is a major Sherlock fan -- we loved it and are looking forward to the next season, too.)

Canada said...

What a compelling, satisfying novel by an author who was new to me. It kept me going to the last page. What a terrific film this would make: by the middle of the book, I had all the major roles cast! This book literally pulls the reader into the minds of the characters and examines their thoughts and motivations very carefully; while exhaustive in detail, it is never boring or trivial. I thought the characterizations were excellent, the pacing and suspense were exquisite and the violence was horrifying but bearable. There was much sadness in this novel, but also a lot of endurance and hope. I have already purchased another Lehane novel, which I plan to savor as I did this one.

Anonymous said...

[url=http://uskino.ru/index.php?newsid=652]смотреть онлайн бросок кобры 2 в хорошем качестве без регистрации[/url]
[url=http://uskino.ru/index.php?newsid=33]охотники за ведьмами смотреть онлайн в хорошем качестве[/url]


USkino.ru является порталом, на котором имеется большое количество фильмов, только в лучшем качестве, передаваемые на большой скорости, без необходимости проходить скучную процедуру регистрации, смотреть назойливую рекламу. А именно такая всегда мешает киноманам нормально смотреть видеофильмы. Самая главная особенность этого сайта заключается в том, что он полностью бесплатный. Здесь никогда не попросят пользователя отправить сообщение, и что-то оплатить. Ежедневно на к нам заходят тысячи любителей кино для того, чтобы позволить себе расслабиться и насладиться просмотром качественного кино, без лишних проблем.
USkino.ru - один из немногих самых трудолюбивых и порядочных проектов в Рунете. Здесь заботятся о своей репутации, о мнениях пользователей, заходящих на ресурс отдохнуть. Каждый день на сайт загружаются новые видеофильмы. Основной акцент порталасайта делается на безопасность, а также на его наполнение новинками. Наш портал начал свою работу 5 января 2012 года. С тех пор работа сайта не прекращалась ни на один день. У нас заботятся о своих пользователях и поддерживают дружбу с многочисленными партнерами. На этом сайте можно посмотреть все последние новинки кино в онлайне полностью без денег, исключительно в самом высоком качестве, не выходя из дома и не отрываясь от любимого дивана.

[url=http://uskino.ru/index.php?newsid=926]перевал дятлова смотреть онлайн[/url]
[url=http://uskino.ru/index.php?newsid=52]кино мама люба[/url]

Anonymous said...

[url=http://MirSkidok.ru/tailand/]тайланд горящие туры[/url]
[url=http://MirSkidok.ru/teztour]тез тур поиск тура[/url]


Компания MirSkidok.ru работает в сфере услуг уже более десяти лет, осуществляя кардинально новый путь к решению такого немаловажного задания, как организация отдыха. В сети работает команда профессионалов высокого класса, имеющие немалый опыт в сфере туризма.
Основные принципы работы MirSkidok.ru состоят в индивидуальном подходе, внимательном отношении к любому клиенту, предлагая качественные услуги по более низким ценам. Во всех офисах магазина общая база предложений, которая всегда обновляется, соответственно цены во всей сети одинаково низкие. Чтобы стать счастливым обладателем лучшего тура по наиболее низкой цене, достаточно узнать, где находится ближайший офис MirSkidok.ru.
В концепцию развития торговой марки входит определённое число поставщиков туристических услуг, чтобы качество и класс обслуживания оставался неизменно на высоком уровне. Мир Скидок является профессиональной сетью турагентств, которые специализируется не только на одних «горящих» турах, путевках со скидками и бонусами на приближающиеся выходные или праздничные даты, но также и на поездках с ранним бронированием.
Число клиентов MirSkidok.ru неумолимо увеличивается с каждым днем. В планах Мира скидок - активно расширять сеть по всей стране, внедрять новые проекты для наиболее комфортабельного отдыха клиентов.

[url=http://MirSkidok.ru/kurorty-egipta/sharm-el-sheikh/]шарм эль шейх[/url]
[url=http://MirSkidok.ru/tailand/]дешевые туры в тайланд[/url]