Playing a part

Apparently a storm is a-brewing among fans of the Hunger Games trilogy:  an actress whose name means nothing to me has been cast to play Katniss Everdeen, and apparently she is all wrong for the part according to a vocal section of the audience.  Now before I get too far into this, I must confess that I’ve only read book one so far, so pleeeeeeeeeeeeeease, I beg you, don’t spoil the rest of the trilogy in the comments.  It’s miraculous that I don’t already know what happens, and I know I’m years behind on this one, but still, please indulge me.  Thanks!

This is really just an excuse for me to talk about characters again.  Not long ago, I mentioned character names and how they affect my reading, but film adaptations can have an even more significant impact.  I almost always read books before seeing movies—if I know I want to see the movie, I’ll usually read the book even if for some reason the book had never interested me—but I’ve found that the actor will often erase my pre-existing impression of the character, for better or worse.  I love Scott Spencer’s Waking the Dead, both book and film, but I think I love Fielding Pierce more because I love Billy Crudup and his portrayal of him.  Would I be quite so stubborn about Little Women if I wasn’t completely convinced that Christian Bale was a better catch than Gabriel Byrne?  (OK, maybe not in real life since Byrne seems lovely and Bale a touch ragey.  But young me found Byrne unforgivably old and Bale indisputably adorable.)  And I’ve never really forgiven Kirsten Dunst, who I had previously loved, for playing Amy.  On the flip side, my affection for the stars of The Outsiders because of their roles in that film is totally disproportionate to their subsequent careers.  It doesn’t really matter what career heights Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, and C. Thomas Howell might’ve failed to reach later on, nor that they’re largely better known for other things—I just can’t hold anything against them.

I recall, initially, being opposed to Brad Pitt’s casting in Fight Club, but I have no quibble with it having seen the performance.  Jimmy Fallon taking a role in Fever Pitch made it clear to me that I shouldn’t bother to see it—though, I did, on TV, at a desperate moment, which corroborated that impression—but he can’t be entirely to blame, since I’m pretty sure that movie was made simply upon the realization that the pun in the title would work for baseball as well as soccer.  (Colin Firth in that role I can’t object to, because one simply cannot object to Colin Firth.)  And while I’m not all that passionate about The Scarlet Letter as a novel, I’m pretty confident that Demi Moore ought not to be Hester Prynne.

Since I was having trouble coming up with any casting choices that really raised my hackles as Lawrence does other Hunger Games fans, I polled some of the folks here.  Jim was not at all pleased with the casting of Leonardo DiCaprio in Shutter Island—a choice so horrible that it made him subconsciously replace the “u” in shutter with an “i” when he IM’d me his choice.  Rachel’s not entirely down with the Harry Potter crew, though while she was particularly annoyed about Daniel Radcliffe, he has grown on her: “He looks Harry-er than he used to.”  John takes issue with Tom Hanks in The Da Vinci Code, “if only because of the haircut.”

What do you think?  Hunger Games fans think they should have gone another way?  Who would you rather have?  Or are you pro-Lawrence?  And who really just ruined a movie for you—or conversely, caught you pleasantly by surprise?  Has anyone ever cast exactly who you would’ve chosen?  And finally, and maybe most intriguingly, if you’re an author, have you already picked out the actor or actress you’d like to play your protagonist?

12 Responses to Playing a part

  1. Chelsey says:

    I LOVE the girl who plays Briony in Atonement, but hate, hate, hate her casting in I Capture the Castle. And the film is gorgeous otherwise.

  2. Alan Jones says:

    Edward Norton and Richard Gere in Primal Fear were superb casting choices. I’d love to see the sequels made into films.

  3. L.C. Gant says:

    This doesn’t quite fit with books, but it does illustrate your point about casting. My family and I were die-hard fans of the Airbender cartoon series on Nickelodeon, so when we heard they were making a live-action version, we were thrilled.

    Unfortunately, the casting for that movie was like something out of my worst nightmares. Even without all of the whitewashing controversy (or “racebending,” as fans of the series called it), the actors were just God-awful. Seriously, painfully God-awful. There’s a reason the movie won all the Razzie awards last year.

    I haven’t read the Hunger Games trilogy yet, but I know enough about it to see why fans are up-in-arms about this. Casting really can (and often does) make or break a film, and I can’t think of anything worse than having your favorite book desecrated by a bad film adaptation.

  4. Gilbert J. Avila says:

    The casting of a 20 year-old was a matter of practicality. Hailee Steinfeld was in the running, and Chloe Grace Moritz was also interested in the role, but as they are 14 and 12 respectively there would have been a problem with child labor laws, since Katniss is in nearly every scene and kids are limited in the amount of hours they could work per day. Also, there would have to be an on-set tutor for the minor girls, which would also have added to production time.

  5. Rowenna says:

    It seems every comment I read from someone who’s seen Lawrence in a film is pretty positive–I think part of the outcry comes from her publicity shots, which all scream “California beach day w/ afterparty at trendy club.” She’s a lovely girl, but most photos I’ve seen don’t precisely fit the look I think most people envision for Katniss. But hey–transformation for the cameras is a big element in Hunger Games, so I suppose we can hope it will be the case here, too.

  6. Ryan Field says:

    This may be slightly off topic, but I was half disappointed in “Julie & Julia” with regard to how the film was executed. I wanted more Julia and much less Julie. Merele Streep was spectacular and each scene about Julia Child was excellent, from the car she drove to the Paris flat she lived in. But I honestly became annoyed with the way the film moved back and forth, between Julie and Julia, giving them equal time. It annoyed me, and I wasn’t the only one.

    Is this unfair? Yes. The film was about Julie and her blog, not Julia. But Merele Streep playing Julia Child is a tough act to follow for anyone. And, sadly, this film cheated us out of Merele Streep playing Julia in a future biopic.

  7. Ciara says:

    I think some of the disappointment with casting is that a lot of people assumed that Katniss was a person of colour. her description was vague but a lot of people i’ve heard complaining online feel that it’s whitewashing. I enjoyed the hunger games but i don’t really recall the descriptions of katniss so I don’t know how accurate it is.

    • Lauren says:

      I have read that that’s a big part of people’s problem with the casting. Jim and I actually discussed this last week, and he didn’t remember the description either. I actually remember their being one early on that I suspected was intended to imply that Katniss is a person of color. As I recall, the description doesn’t explicitly exclude her being, say, Italian American, but the way it was written signaled to me that it was supposed to be saying something important about her race. I remember it because it read to me as if it was making an important point, rather than simply describing the character, and therefore must be setting up some sort of racial theme for the book, but that ended up not being the case. (Not that that’s a complaint–if I wasn’t misreading, it’s refreshing for it to be just a thing that happens to be the case with no bearing on anything.)

      I’ll have to find that in my copy of the book at home to see if my recollection is accurate!

      Certainly, if the character is specifically supposed to be of color, it could be seen as a squandered opportunity for a young actress who, due to her race, might not otherwise be afforded as many chances to open a big film as Jennifer Lawrence is.

  8. Matt says:

    I like the Jennifer Lawrence choice. Her character in Winter’s Bone struck me as having several similarities to Katniss: survival instincts, woodland skills, fiercely protective of younger family members and a mom with issues, resilient. And if you’ve seen that movie, you’ve seen how her appearance can transform compared to the “California beach girl” photos of her real self.

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