Ater recently reading Ben-Hur for the ‘Book That Inspired the Oscar Winning Movie” theme for my book club, and finding time to sit down and watch the first half of the ‘oscar winning’ movie, I’m feeling rather annoyed. Apart from the usual changes in characters, and general mucking around with the storyline and plot, I find it hard to believe that a studio would cast the gorgeous Ben-Hur of the novel with an actor who had a receding hairline and a forced smile. I know I’m 52 years too late to protest this obvious miscasting but there it is. Weren’t there any good looking
Hollywood actors available in 1959 or maybe Charlton Heston is just not my ‘type’?
So, I’ve been thinking about other movie faux pas when it comes to casting against the novels character type. Gwyneth Paltrow playing Marge Sherwood in The Talented Mr Ripley is one that springs to mind. Marge, in the novel by Patricia Highsmith, is a robust girl with a healthy appetite who is not altogether very attractive. It is for this reason that Tom Ripley dislikes her, she actually disgusts him. He is repelled by the fact that Dicky is attracted to her. This is important. Now, who can be repelled by Gwyneth Paltrow? I ask you……!
One of the very worst casting faux pas was Mickey Rooney as Mr Yunioshi in that truly awful adaptation of Capote’s not (in my opinion) particularly good novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s. It must be the most embarrassing movie role to watch and I can’t even comment on it without cringing.
Another blunder movie makers make is cutting out a character altogether. Who makes this decision? Have they ever read the book? East of Eden is a beloved novel of mine, and for me the main character was the Chinese servant Lee. He was an integral part of the story, but was nowhere to be seen in the movie. Instead we had to put up with a mediocre screen-play and James Dean hanging off window sills and tree branches. What the?
And, while we’re at it why mess with the storyline? If it was such a great novel that it just had to be made into a movie then why change it? In some cases the novel should stay a novel, no movie required. Case in point is Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha. It did not translate into a movie very well at all. Where were the images of the beautiful kimono designs that were described so beautifully and lovingly in the novel? And more to the point why the hell does Nobu have both arms? He only has one in the novel, and for this reason his back story and looks are important to his character and those who know him.
But, I have to concede that some movies just can’t go wrong with the novel’s material and, for me these would be To Kill a Mockingbird, Lord of the Rings (even though characters were cut and blended, and lines meddled with, it is a very exciting adaptation of Frodo’s quest). Lastly, I can’t go past the Australian mini-series production of Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet. I never would have thought that the ambience and characters of this novel could be captured so perfectly on screen.
I guess, in the end if you really love a novel then avoid the movie as nine times out of ten you will be very disappointed.
Well, that’s my gripe for the day J