A random topic to potentially keep you occupied while I'm on jury duty: movie or TV adaptations of books that, through casting, significantly change the nature of a main character -- and those rare occasions when the change winds up reflected back in the literary world. Some more thoughts on this coming up just as soon as I go to Detroit...
So over the holiday weekend, inspired by the many hours I've been wasting on Flickchart (and I strongly suggest you avoid the site if you also play fantasy sports or do something else of a similar time-sucking nature), I watched "Out of Sight" for the first time in a few years, and I also picked up Elmore Leonard's "Road Dogs," which is a sequel to several of his books, featuring Jack Foley from "Out of Sight," Cundo Rey from "La Brava" and Dawn Navarro from "Riding the Rap."
"Out of Sight" the movie holds up incredibly well, but a funny thing has happened to the book version of Jack Foley in the years since his first adventure was published: he's gotten younger, and better-looking.
In the original book, Foley is described as looking like Harry Dean Stanton, and is a lot older than Karen Sisco. On the DVD commentary, Steven Soderbergh says he didn't want to do another story about a much older, less attractive man landing a young and gorgeous woman, which is one of the reasons he went for Clooney. And Leonard apparently liked the casting so much that the Foley of "Road Dogs" is more or less supposed to look like Clooney circa the film. (Though, as an in-joke, he has another character namecheck Clooney while discussing the movie business with Foley.)
Now, it's well within Leonard's right to do this -- especially given how well Clooney did, in fact, play the part -- and he wouldn't be the first author to be so tickled by the on-screen interpretation of his hero that he'd start hearing the actor's voice as he typed. Ian Fleming, for instance, made James Bond Scottish in one of the later novels because he liked Sean Connery in the role so much.
And while I doubt the percentage of Leonard fans who aren't at least aware of "Out of Sight" the movie is pretty darned small, I wonder how someone would react to reading the two books back to back with their very different takes on Foley.
So, feel free to answer any or all of the following:
1)What is the best example you can think of of unconventional casting in a literary adaptation either equaling or surpassing the quality of the character in the book?
2)What's the best example of against-the-grain casting completely ruining the character and/or the adaptation? (I'd probably go with swapping in Morgan Freeman for Alan Arkin as the judge in "Bonfire of the Vanities," but I'm sure there are more egregious instances. For that matter, "Striptease" would have been a really funny movie if they'd cast an actress with the sense of humor of the woman in the book.)
3)How do you feel in those instances where a character continues from book to book and it becomes clear that the author is letting himself be influenced by the actor cast in the adaptation?
Try to avoid going too much into plot, if you can help it, but beyond that, have at it.