Michael Fassbender, Marisa Tomei, and Alexandra Daddario: What do these three actors have in common?
You may not know all of them, but what you need to know is that they’ve all played a character from a book or a comic, and that they don’t look like their book-alikes at all! For some people, this may not be relevant, but for book fans, who’ve lived side-by side with their fictional characters, it’s highly important that an actor who somewhat resembles the protagonist in the book plays the role. I’m an avid reader, and whenever the rights to one of my favourite books are bought, I begin to think about the perfect actor who would best fit the role.
If you’re a fan of the classics, you may know that Michael Fassbender played notorious Mr. Rochester in Cary Fukunaga 2011 adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s famous 1847 novel, Jane Eyre. And if you know what he looks like, I’m sure you understand why he’s not – and never will be – Mr. Rochester:
I knew my traveler, with his broad and jetty eyebrows, his square forehead, made squarer by the horizontal sweep of his black hair. I recognized his decisive nose, more remarkable for character than beauty, his full nostrils, denoting, I thought, choler; his grim mouth, chin, and jaw – yes, all three were very grim, and no mistake… I suppose it was a good figure in the athletic sense of the term, broad-chested and thin-flanked, though neither tall nor graceful.
This example is case in point in which an actor is chosen because of his fame and appearance over his resemblance to the character. Let’s be honest, I’m not sorry to see Fassbender on the big screen, but what bothers me is that they preferred a good-looking actor over a correct representation of Edward Fairfax Rochester.
In contrast, let’s look at Marisa Tomei. In case you’re wondering who she is, I’m here to tell you that you might have seen her in the last trilogy of Spider-Man (2017–2021). Yes, the one with Tom Holland and Zendaya where she plays Aunt May. You don’t need to read the comic to know that she’s usually portrayed as an older woman (just like in the other cinematographic versions of Spider-Man with Tobey McGuire). Unlike in the Rochester case, Marisa Tomei was chosen because the movie director wanted to modernize the plot by employing younger and more inclusive characters.
Zendaya, who’s also in this movie, plays Peter Parker’s love interest MJ. In fact, in the comics, Mary Jane portrays a white woman with red hair, unlike Zendaya’s MJ. Choosing an actor who doesn’t resemble his character isn’t necessarily a bad thing; indeed, it’s often an excellent way of representing minorities.
Last but not least, let’s look Alexandra Daddario. You may have seen her in a couple of movies like Baywatch (2017) or When We First Met (2018), but especially in the only two movies of Percy Jackson & the Olympians (2010–2013) where she plays Annabeth Chase. I might seem repetitive, but I’m also a big fan of this book saga, and when I saw the cast, I was very angry.
Annabeth Chase, the daughter of Athena, is a 12-year-old girl with blond, curly hair and grey eyes. Alexandra not only has brown hair and blue eyes, but she was 24 when she played the character. You may think that this case is similar to the Fassbender one, but it’s not, and I’m going to tell you why: in Jane Eyre, they tried to change the appearance of the actor to make him similar to the character. With Alexandra Daddario, they didn’t even make the effort to dye her hair blond in the first movie. In fact, in the second film, due to numerous criticisms from fans and the author of the books, Alexandra Daddario had to wear a blonde wig. Of course, this didn’t change the fact that she was too old to play that role. Because of this and other numerous errors in the adaptation, no other films in the Percy Jackson saga have been produced.
Being able to adapt books to movies is a difficult task, not only from a cinematic point-of view, but also in terms of lending credibility to the characters – their looks, their age, their charisma – in the film. Only then will fans of literature gladly see their heroes come to life on the big screen. So, casting directors, listen to the fandom a little more and be less superficial. In some case, like in Spider-Man, casting against the grain brings a new dimension to the film; in most cases, however, it is simply an annoyance to every true book lover.
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