FPQ: Best and Worst of Book-to-Film

Fandango’s Provocative Question this week is: What movie adaptation of a book you have read before you saw the movie has done the best job when it comes to casting the actor (or actors) in the movie to match your image you had of that character (or those characters) in the book. Conversely, what movie adaptation has done the worst job of matching the casting of the characters to those you envisioned in your head.

I thought it would be impossible for me to answer this question, because I really don’t see many movies these days. But then I remembered the Harry Potter series.

I read the first book long before the movie came out, but as I watched it, I remember thinking that the casting and set design were perfect – as if Hogwarts jumped out of my brain the way I had envisioned it and projected that way on the screen. I think overall I enjoyed all the Harry Potter movies more than the books, but the books were good, too. And the best adaptations (at least the ones I thought about) were the first four books.

Rupert Grint with his fiery red hair and zany expression was a perfect Ron Weasley. And Alan Rickman as Snape – nobody could have done that role better, with his deep voice and cynic tone. Daniel Radcliffe as Harry was perfect – his dark hair with bangs hanging over his scar, his round glasses – the glasses made him seem vulnerable and I think the author, J.K. Rowling, intended it that way. She was involved in the making of the films, so that may be the reason why the adaptations – characters, sets, everything – were so good. The photo below is how they looked in the first movie – so British and a look of mischief on Ron’s and Harry’s faces!

Now for the worst – it was easy to come up with several candidates for worst casting, but the most glaring difference, in my opinion, between book and film was A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson. The director of the movie, Ken Kwapis, cut a lot of the plot because it didn’t make sense with the actors chosen for the two leads – aging Robert Redford and Nick Nolte. While these guys are both fine actors, and perhaps their star status was what the casting director was thinking of, the story was ruined by the fact that these actors were TOO OLD! In the book, the two guys hiking the Appalachian Trail were middle aged, and one of them was quite physically fit. Some of the things that happened in the story (the book) were just not plausible for two old guys to do. As a result, the movie was nearly unrecognizable as the same story as the book. In fact, I read the book and saw the movie to participate in a Book-to-Film group at by our public library. While I was in this group, I saw several very good matches of book to film, but this was not one of them. The other people in the group had similar feelings.

Read the book A Walk in the Woods. Don’t watch the movie. Here’s a photo of the book cover:

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