Casting Romance Heroes (Again)

castingcall A friend and I who both love Kristen Ashley’s books have recently made a game of casting her romance heroes with actors from television and movies. That made me wonder about whom our reviewers have cast in their minds while reading their favorite romance novels. We’ve chatted about this a little bit before in the context of the AAR Top 100 Poll, but when I polled my fellow reviewers I still received some answers that surprised me. The general concensus was that we prefer not to cast romance heroes with known actors, and further that too much description was undesirable.

When I asked everyone to give me a book name and the actor they’d cast, some of the responses were:

Jane – I don’t often cast actors. I’m not a very visual reader, so having a clear mental image of a character isn’t that important to me.

Lee – I don’t cast actors either. When movies/tv miniseries are made of books, it’s usually never how I pictured the characters.

Jenna – It’s funny because when I write, I always need to have an idea of what my characters look like and choose an actor that fits my imagination. But when it comes to reading, I usually don’t cast the characters.

Caz – Me too – I just usually like a general description, but I know some readers like to visualise their characters more than that – I’m not very good at fantasy casting.

Lea was one stand-out. She said, “I’m a very visual reader. In fact, I don’t enjoy a book all that much unless I DO visualize at least the main characters. And there are many more out there like me – it’s a common topic when we discuss audiobooks. And I usually cast actors as both the hero and heroine.”

What if Authors Cast Their Characters?

The AAR staffers I polled stated without exception that the worst thing an author can do is compare a romantic hero to a known actor. Leigh stated that,”I don’t pay that much attention to their looks. In fact, I hate it when authors go on and on about their appearance especially when they say they look like Brad Pitt or someone else – except when looks are important to the story, like Phoebe in It Had to Be You.”

And LinnieGayl reported, “I have run into a couple older books that described a hero as looking like an actor who’s now in his 50s or older, which gave me pause. So, if authors hope to have their books stand the test of time, I’d suggest they NOT describe them as looking like anyone famous.”

Anne had a great example of why this is a problem. She told us that “William X. Kienzle used to do that in Father Koesler mysteries. He used to say that Father Koesler looked like Ken Howard in The White Shadow. That was fine when the first book came out, but the series lasted for years, so I’m sure people were asking “Who’s Ken Howard?”

However, I think Heather said it best – “I tend to visualize when reading also, so descriptions can be helpful or they can be something I need to overcome. It’s not necessarily that I want to put myself into the heroine’s place while I’m reading, but I need to feel some sort of attraction to the hero to get the most from the romance. If he’s described in a way that I find really unappealing, that is going to be one less way for me to connect with the heroine. Because then I will spend a good chunk of the story wondering why she wants to get in his pants.”

Too true Heather!

So anyway, this “casting call” was a bust. But doesn’t Richard Rawlings from Fast and Loud on The Discovery Channel make a perfect Tack from Kristen Ashley’s Motorcycle Man? untitled

How about you? Do you cast known people in your mind as you read? Or do you prefer vague imagery that lets you imagine your own heroes?

– Wendy Clyde

19 thoughts on “Casting Romance Heroes (Again)

  1. Funny that this topic is being discussed, I just reread Ransom by Julie Garwood. Prior to Ransom, I finished Bared to You by Sylvia Day. It left me wanting to read to a sweet and funny romance. I chose Ransom; it’s a comfort read I’ve enjoyed many times. I don’t picture actors as romance heroes, but with Brodick the perfect actor is obvious. With every reading I picture Brodick as Brad Pitt as he appears in the movie Troy. He plays Achilles – big, bronze bulging muscles, long blond haired and gorgeous. I won’t age Brad/Brodick or try to substitute other imagines of Brad. It’s Brodick = Brad/Achilles. That works for me!

  2. Too many books use too much description and then repeat it endlessly. We know what color the heroine’s eyes are after the first description; by the 17th variation on “blue”, we’re bored. I think Jennifer Kierans review of Crusie’s Welcome to Temptation captures this perfectly:

    “Then she meets Phineas Tucker, who “looked like every glossy frat boy in every nerd movie ever made, like every popular town boy who’d ever looked right through her in high school, like every rotten rich kid who’d ever belonged where she hadn’t.” Isn’t that a great description? Do we need to know the color of his eyes after a description like that?”

    So no, I don’t need to cast the characters in books, although I do occasionally. I read Mary Balogh’s “The Notorious Rake” when it was first published and imagined Daniel Day Lewis as the hero based on both the physical description and the fact that both are so intense (still do, as a matter of fact).

  3. I don’t picture actors but if I did it would have to be someone who I didn’t know to much about their personal life like a Richard Armitage or Viggo Mortensen. I like guys with long hair and Anson Mount was so hot in the Red Widow pilot episode. I don’t know anything about him so I guess he would work. :)

  4. I understand what people mean about not wanting to cast actors as certain characters because they think that would ruin the book for them but I have started to have a greater appreciation for this now that I listen to audiobooks. When a character’s voice matches how I believe the character would sound it really enhances my pleasure in the novel.

    On the Roarke discussion. I always see Pierce Brosnan in my head :)

    • I think Roarke is so obviously Pierce Brosnan circa the late 80′s/early 90s that it’s impossible for me to see him as anything else. Heck, he’s even a former thief and Irish street rat like Remington Steele. Of course 20 years have passed for Pierce while even 40 something books later Roarke is only a couple years older. :D

      • In Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Lady Be Good someone says that Pierce should play the role of the hero Kenny Traveler if there was a movie about him.

      • I so agree. Recently, I saw a Remington Steele rerun and it brought back my appreciation for the Remington Steele character. When I think of Roarke, Pierce is a total fit even 20 years later. It doesn’t hurt that the last time I saw Pierce, he had aged pretty gracefully too. :)

  5. Totally depends on the book. I will cast characters if the conversation comes up, but others totally defy casting! I *know* what Roarke and Eve look like (in my head); I *know* what Colin and Penelope look like (he bears a passing resemblance to a certain Brit with the initials Colin Firth, but only passing…)

    It would be disappointing to put faces on some characters, however. Jane and Rochester haven’t been perfect in ANY of the movies.

    I guess I like the movie in my head better than the one on the screen…

  6. I definitely like to do my own “casting” for romance novel heroes. I’m on an Anson Mount kick right now, after catching up on the first 2 seasons of Hell on Wheels.

  7. I know this topic came up on one of the discussion forums regarding watching publication videos of books. I’m very much opposed to viewing another person or artists rendition of books, or at least until I have done the work of using my own visualization and imagination through the reading process. I teach literature as well as film courses and always encourage my students to read the book first and give themselves that wonderful pleasure of engaging with a text and interpreting the author’s language as this is one of the activities reading provides. Then venture out and see how others view the characters if that is something they want.

  8. I could make mega lists of books that movie people have rewritten, miscasted and then ruined. An example would be Nothern Lights by Nora Roberts or Christmas at Friday Harbor by Lisa Kleypas.

    The one that still makes me crazy is A.S, Byatt’s Possession. It is criminal what Hollywood did to that beautiful book.

    @LeeAnn: I understand why so many fans of Roarke and Eve and Jamie and Claire want to cast them for film, but I think it would be a very bad idea.

    • leslie
      The one that still makes me crazy is A.S, Byatt’s Possession. It is criminal what Hollywood did to that beautiful book.

      I actually liked Jeremy Northam and Jennifer Ehle as the couple in the past.

  9. I don’t think I WANT Eve and Roark cast, because sometimes casting for well-known book characters is simply HORRIBLE. Case in point: Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher? Well, they are both male, I guess, but otherwise …

  10. I’ve been casting Roark since the first In Death novel! Geez. With all the junk on tv, wouldn’t you think SOMEBODY would try for some fun and class by putting Eve and Roark on screen? *sigh* Then again, maybe it’s better not to ruin a good thing – and seems like Hollywood has a habit of doing that.

    • They’d ruin it, for sure. Remember Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt in Interview With A Vampire?

  11. I think the fact that whoever is the current heart-throb of choice will date a book is a key factor. When I was in my teens and first saw Star Wars Harrison Ford was rather yummy! Now I’m much older and so is he – and while he’s not an unattractive septugenarian, someone in their teens now would be scratching their head!

    • Imagine how many books are going to be ruined when Clooney, Pitt, & Cruise completely lose their looks.

  12. I haven’t read Kristen Ashley so I don’t know who or what Motorcycle Man is, but that beard and 1960′s hair cut has to go!

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