Casting My Favorites

cliveWe’re talking casting here again at the AAR blog.

Lynn wrote earlier this week about how she never, ever visualizes actors as characters in a novel she’s reading.  Truth is I rarely do either.

But sometimes something just clicks and the pairing of an actor with a character feels totally right.

The list of favorite characters that I haven’t cast is far (far, far, far) longer than the characters I have.

In fact, I’ve really only cast three.

Clive Owen as Derek Craven:

I’ve loved Derek Craven since he first crossed my path w-a-a-a-a-y back in 1994 when Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas was first published.  Back then, as is typical with me, I never pictured him as having a particular face.

Then I saw Clive Owen.  I forget what film – maybe Croupier – first introduced me to his wonders, but by the time Gosford Park was released in 2001, I knew he was Derek.  Just knew it.

His craggy features verge on roughness, but he is still undeniably, divinely handsome.  Add in that Derek Craven scar and he’s absolutely perfect for the role.

peterPeter Horton as Blue Reynard:

If you’ve got a fondness for the Beta hero, let me introduce you to Blue Reynard of Ruth Winds’ In the Midnight Rain.

Still mourning the death of his young wife, Blue is a beautiful, blond, and damaged.  He is also fond of getting pleasantly drunk of a sultry Southern evening and posting on Web sites dedicated to the Blues music he loves.  And, to add to his attractions, he is incredibly nurturing of the ancient Siamese cat who belonged to his lost love – and, hello, Straight Cat Guys are a slam dunk with me.

My mental casting of Peter Horton is unusual – from the moment I read Blue’s description, the actor came to mind and I pictured him as I read the book.

He’s absolutely perfect.

heathHeath Ledger as Young Jamie Fraser:

Sometimes when I mentally cast a character it’s all about the attitude.  Or a feature.  The first time I saw Heath Ledger smile in 10 Things I Hate About You I thought of Jamie.  The attitude was just absolutely right.

I’ll certainly concede that the coloring was wrong and Ledger wasn’t out sized in the way that Jamie is, but, man, he had the attitude – and the cheekiness – down.

Liam Neeson is how I picture Jamie now.  But in Outlander?  It’s Heath all the way for me.

Interestingly, in a first for me I’ve now back-ended the actors from Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series into my reading.  I am so pleased with the casting of Alan Ball’s True Blood that they now slip effortlessly into my mind as I’m reading the books.  Anna Paquin is perfect as Sookie, Stephen Moyer is even more handsome than I pictured Bill (and it totally works), and Sam Trammell is beyond perfect as sweet Sam. And Eric?  There are no words for Alexander Skarsgard’s perfection – the looks, the attitude are dead on.

So, how about you? Who have you mentally cast to play your favorite characters?

– Sandy AAR

39 thoughts on “Casting My Favorites

  1. When I visualise characters they don’t have faces. They have hair and ears but the face is like a blur. But, if they have a striking feature like a scar, then I imagine that feature within the blur. So for eg, I’m reading Sophia Nash’s Secrets of a Scandalous Bride right now and when I discovered the woman had an impressive pair of dimples they appeared on both sides of the blur of her face.

    So though I can’t speak to my personal visualisations, I do look forward to seeing how books turned to movies are cast. I recently heard that the Stephanie Plum books might become movies and I’m interested to see who is cast for Morelli and Ranger. Some people are saying Sandra Bullock as Stephanie but she’s too old for the part imo. Maybe it’ll have to be new-to-the-scene actors. If Estelle Getty was alive, I think I would have cast her as Grandma Mazur.

  2. Abi, the Stephanie Plum movies are a go and Katherine Heigl is playing Stephanie. Haven’t heard anything about any other characters.

  3. Funny, I just had this conversation with a good friend at lunch yesterday. He is reading Atonement now. I asked if he had seen the movie and he said no because he doesn’t visualize characters as he’s reading so having actors’ faces in his head is annoying. I agree with him (and Abi) about not giving actual facial features to characters I’m reading about, let alone the features of any living person, actor or otherwise. But I do find I can accommodate film versions of books because that’s a different medium.

    Thus I don’t agree with my mother, who wouldn’t go see Cold Comfort Farm (the movie) because it had been one of her favorite books. The risk was too great that they’d “get it wrong.” I think part of that is because she had given all the characters faces; they were “real” to her, and she couldn’t risk exposing her internal casting to the power of seeing the movie’s cast.

  4. Katherine Heigl…..I’m not sure how I feel about that…
    Her best work to date is My Father, the Hero. Dang, I loved that show back in the day.

    Now that I know the movie will actually be happening, my interest in Morelli and Ranger has ratcheted up well past my current interest in the actual books! I may not read them anymore but I’ll certainly watch them!

    Morelli: still no clue who is best. We’re spoilt for choice what with all the dark haired Italian American males running about CSI type shows.

    Ranger: all I see is a ponytail.

    Sandy, did you think Owen would have made a good Bond? I had thought so and still do.

  5. @Abi, yes, I think Owen would have been a perfect James Bond.

    @Magdelen, I am usually disappointed when films or TV shows are made from favorite books. The exception is Colin Firth as Darcy (perfect!) and True Blood. I truly think they did an astonishing job casting that series. And I LOVED the Cold Comfort Farm movie. I didn’t read the book, but I’d say your Mom is missing out on that one.

  6. This is a topic close to my heart as when I read books I almot always have an actor/actress pop into my mind as ‘playing’ those characters. And I totally agree about Clive only in my ‘casting agency’ I would have him playing the role of Nicholas Brisbane in D. Rayburn’s series. As soon as I picked up the first book and began to read, his face popped into my mind as Nicholas. I am a huge Clive Owen fan and find that in a lot of the romance novels I read, my mind automatically looks for/actually casts him as a whole slew of heroes; it works for me. And I pictured Eva Green playing the role of Lady Julia. Interestingly, I usually have a harder time picturing actresses in the roles of the heroines. But that doesn’t take away from my being able to enjoy the character or book if it really engages me. In fact, in most of the books that I read can’t usually picture any actor/actress as that character. With me, it’s a hit or miss phenomenon. And yes, he definitely would have made an amazing Bond, not that I don’t think that Daniel Craig isn’t terrific as Bond, it’s just that Clive Owen would have brought another angle/feel to the role.

    As for Katherine Heigl, if she’s Stephanie Plum, then I’m Ilsa Lund!! In my opinion casting her in that role can only be a disaster as she has a very limited acting range. With her in that role, it will play as a ‘movie of the week’ and die a quick death. There, that’s the end of my Heigl rant. Thank you.

  7. @enesbit5 I’m not a big mental caster, so I don’t know if I find it harder to cast women than men. I’ve always thought, though, that Julianna Margulies would make an excellent Claire in Outlander. Maybe she’s a little old now for the first few books, but for older Claire, she is spot on in my mind.

  8. AARSandy: I’m a huge film buff and maybe that’s why my mind veers towards casting actors/actresses in books. In fact, I’ve always thought that in another life, I might have made a terrific casting director.

    I haven’t read the Outlander series but do like Julianna Margulies and I think that she could play a lot of roles. In fact, wasn’t she in the Mists of Avalon?

  9. @enesbit5: I believe she was in the miniseries of Mists of Avalon. There is an intelligence to match her beauty that comes through. And, yes, I agree, she could play a number of heroines.

  10. After seeing North and South I like to visualize every British character I read as Richard Armitage. What can I say? I am smitten. :) In a movie, I’d like to see him as one of the Wallflower men, Marcus I believe.

  11. I never do this either, but for some reason, the only book that I have sort of mentally casted is Susan Donovan’s TAKE A CHANCE ON ME. I pictured Mark Valley (Keen Eddie, Boston Legal and now Human Target) as Thomas and Minnie Driver as Emma.

    And I agree Clive Owen would make a great Derek Craven!

  12. I find that casting can be so tricky, I think that all the major characters cast for the Twlight series are so wrong, but when a series like True Blood gets it right (especially Alexander Skarsgard for Eric!), they really get it right. As for books, I don’t really plug in a face for characters, I end up picturing a scene and environment more. Sometimes, the picture that sometimes ends up a novel is such a contrast to how the character is described by the author, so I have stopped looking at the insert now.

    I will say that I totally agree on enesbit5′s choice for Clive Owen as Nicholas Brisbane and Eva Green as Lady Julia. Those are spot on choices.

  13. The only character I’ve ever case is Rhage from the Black Dagger Brotherhood. And I say, Gabriel Aubrey all the way. The man is heartbreakingly beautiful.

  14. I believe I mentioned in another post somewhere that I think Stana Katic, who plays Beckett on ABC’s Castle, is a perfect Eve Dallas. That’s the only character I’ve ever really cast. I’ve thought about Jamie Fraser, but still haven’t found anyone who I thought really suited.

    I went to high school with a pretty good-looking guy named Morelli, so I can’t help but picture him in my head for Stephanie Plum’s Morelli, even though he’s really not quite right for it.

  15. As I said in response to Abi’s earlier post, I do visualize characters in books, but it’s generally fairly vague. However, I have two specific actors for two specific roles: Daniel Day Lewis for Lord Edmund Waite in Mary Balogh’s “The Notorious Rake” and Heath Ledger for Robbie Turner in Ian MacEwan’s “Atonement”.

    Daniel D-L fits Lord Edmund in every way. He is smart, fits naturally into the character of an upper class Englishman, and fits the physical description of handsome and lean. I saw him in the role when I read the book the first time, and I still do.

    James MacAvoy played Robbie in the movie version of “Atonement”. I like him a lot, but it comes down to one factor: he was too short. Normally this is a non-issue for me, but it turns out to be important here. There is a scene in the library where Briony sees Robbie and Cee making love and totally misinterprets it — she thinks Robbie is hurting Cee. Since MacAvoy is shorter than Keira Knightley (not sure if I’m spelling any of these names right), he doesn’t loom over her as he does in the book, and Briony’s mistake is far less believable. In another scene an older Briony visits Cee’s apartment and Robbie lunges at her in anger. He doesn’t touch her, but, once again, what is supposed to come off as threatening does not. (OTOH, totally believed MacAvoy as Anne Hathaway’s love interest in “Becoming Jane”.) Heath Ledger had the height and the physical presence to totally carry off this role.

  16. Ida R: yes wouldn’t those two actors (Owen&Green) be great as those characters? We should start a campaign to have the series filmed as I would certainly pay a lot of money to see that pairing on screen!!

    And I also love Richard Armitage as I also first saw him on North and South and thought he was terrific. These days I get my weekly Armitage fix by watching “Spooks/MI-5″ as it’s an interesting show and has a slew of great British actors!

  17. I have a hard time visualizing characters, so sometimes I’ll actually try to force a famous face onto them. Brad Pitt has been attempted many times. That never works well either. Maybe I’m just a bad visualizer. But there’s always a feel to my favorite characters and some vague physical qualities. I’m always very worried about seeing the movies that have come from my favorite books for fear that they’ll get that feeling wrong. For example, when I saw the Harry Potter movies, it grated for a bit and took a while to become comfortable with the actors as those characters. But, when I read the seventh book after becoming familiar with the actors, they’re all I could see when reading; my original interpretation was completely gone. Same with the Twilight movie. Whether or not I agreed with the casting, the actors eventually became the characters in my mind. (I didn’t like Rupert Grint for a long time as Ron.) For this reason, I’ll probably never see a movie of Outlander (if it ever happens) for fear that my very favorite characters will be altered in my mind. And when made-for-tv movies come out, like Montana Sky, I steer clear, because I know I’m not going to be impressed.

    • Andi AAR: And when made-for-tv movies come out, like Montana Sky, I steer clear, because I know I’m not going to be impressed.

      I think Lifetime producers sit down in a little conference room to discuss who would be THE ABSOLUTE WORST person to cast for a Nora Roberts book, makes a shortlist of these possibles, weeding out those who just *might* make it work and calls the winner of their ABSOLUTE WORST competition and offers them the role!

  18. I agree it is not always easy to visualize characters but I always thought of Matthew McConaughey as Sam in Suzanne Brockmann’s books. Even more than his looks which I thought were a good fit. I could hear his voice saying Sam’s lines.

  19. I generally don’t picture famous people as characters. However, last year People magazine had a spread with Chace Crawford and the minute I saw the pictures of him I thought of Wren, from SK’s Unleash The Night. He would be delicious in the part. I actually kept that magazine so that the next time I read the book, I’ll have it nearby for easy reference.

  20. I’ve thought about this with Eve and Roarke from the In Death series, and I can’t imagine any actor I’m remotely familiar with in the major roles. Nora Roberts so defined these characters that any deviation wouldn’t work for me. Even Peabody would be difficult to cast. The rest? A lot easier.

  21. Sandy, as far as I’m concerned, both Clive Owen and Liam Neeson can just stand there and read the phone book and it would be perfectly fine with me!

    I love the idea of Liam as the older Jamie Fraser–you obviously saw “Rob Roy” fifteen years ago, when Liam played the title character! Even then, he would would have made a fine Jamie–even more so now that he’s older!

    I’ve not read “Dreaming of You”, so my choice of a romantic role for Clive Owen is Michael Kenyon, the hero of my favorite Mary Jo Putney novel, “Shattered Rainbows”. Clive can certainly do a tormented hero with the best of them!

  22. Sandy, I agree about Ed Harris as Tom Paolotti. I, also, like the idea of Clive Owen as Michael Kenyon. I have tried to imagine Roarke. What do you think of a slightly younger Pierce Brosnan?

  23. Renee, my Big Secret is that I don’t read the In Death books. With that said, I did read the first one and I definitely thought then that the author was thinking of Pierce Brosnan. I don’t remember why, but I thought it was pretty clear.

    And RobinB, I could definitely see Clive as Michael in Shattered Rainbows. It is one of my favorites also.

    • AAR Sandy: Renee, my Big Secret is that I don’t read the In Death books.

      LOL, Sandy. My secret is that I have never read a Sookie Stackhouse story. Pls. don’t tell anyone.

  24. Speaking of casting… my son is involved in the development of the miniseries The King of Late Night based the book, The Tonight Show by Robert Metz. It’s about the behind the scenes drama surrounding the development of the show and its first three hosts, Steve Allen, Jack Paar and Johnny Carson. The producers have not yet begun casting but already suggestions are coming in. So for those of you old enough to remember these three titans of late night, who would you cast?? The article about this can be found at http//www.deadline.com/2010/04/late-night-wars-miniseries-in-the-works-its-about-johnny-not-conan/

  25. Renee, your secret is safe with me.

    Anne, for some reason I thought of Greg Kinnear for Johnny Carson. And, heck, he’s playing John Kennedy in a miniseries for The History Channel so he’s cool with basic cable.

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