Let’s Talk About…Casting

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I was recently chatting up some fangirls online when someone mentioned that they were upset about complaints that some Divergents fans had about Theo James. They were saying he wasn’t attractive enough to play Four (more on that later), that he was too old, etc. etc.

And I really could understand where she was coming from, and it really got me thinking about the world of YA adaptations (or just adaptations in general) and the process of casting our favorite characters.

Now, before I really dive into this, I do have to say this: was that person blind? Seriously? I can’t understand why this person thought Theo James wasn’t attractive enough to play Four. I mean, I know beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that stuff, but really? I think most people would agree that Theo James is QUITE attractive.

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Seriously? I’m still insanely baffled. Also, if you’ve read the book, you’ll know that Four isn’t exactly attractive, not conventionally so. Neither Tris nor Four is supposed to be good-looking, its their personalities that really jump off the page. But again…Theo James…not attractive. I’m baffled.

Moving on.

This is not the first time I’ve heard outrage like this for a casting of a character.

Think Shailene Woodley as Tris Prior and Hazel Grace Lancaster.

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All fans had of Shailene Woodley was her stint on The Secret Life of an American Teenager and her performance in The Descendants before suddenly she was cast as Amy in The Spectacular Now, Mary Jane Watson in Spiderman, Tris Prior in Divergent and Hazel Grace Lancaster in The Fault in Our Stars. Fans of alll of those were not happy.

Think Danila Kozlovsky as Dimitri Belikov.

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Most fans of Vampire Academy said that Danila was not attractive enough (seriously? are people blind?) and that he was too FAT to play Dimitri. Yeah. Too fat.

Think Jamie Campbell Bower as Jace Wayland.

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Fans were in an uproar because they didn’t find Jamie attractive enough to play Jace, and they also said that he was entirely too skinny to play a character that was a warrior, fighting demons all the time.

Think Sam Claflin as Finnick Odair.

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Again, fans said Sam was not attractive to play Finnick, who was described in the book as incredibly attractive. They also said that he wasn’t built like Finnick, who was also a fighter and needed to be well equipped to using a trident.

Think Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark.

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Again: attractiveness, not built big enough, too scrawny, too short, etc.

(I’m starting to see a trend with the boys here…)

And it continues even now. People were in outrage over Charlie Hunnam’s casting as Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades of Grey movie (though they were a lot quieter when Jamie Dornan was cast as his replacement). The same can be said of Ben Affleck’s casting as Batman, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, and even the four actors chosen to play the Fantastic Four in the reboot.

Look, I could go on and on about unhappy fans and casting choices. I really could. Because it seems every time someone is cast as a known character, whether from a book or a comic book or a previous adaptation, people just tend to be very unhappy.

What I’ve noticed with it too, is that its mostly looks. People get absolutely obsessed with the look of a character.

And I can understand that. All the people that I named, and pictured, above are from book series that mean something to me and are important to me. If you asked me if Shailene, Jamie, Danila, Josh, Sam, or even Theo, was what I pictured as those characters, the answer would be a resounding “no”. Definitely not.

But here’s the thing: I don’t think ANYONE is what I pictured for Tris or Hazel Grace or Jace or Four or Dimitri or Peeta or Finnick. Because that’s the beauty of reading: escaping into these pages, into a made up world. Sure, the author has exactly what they have in mind when they’re writing but there’s a beautiful translation to each reader, who pictures the setting, the story, and the characters in their own unique way.

So no, I wouldn’t have picked any of those actors to play those characters. Tris and Four, Peeta, Finnick, Dimitri, and especially Jace are characters that I am especially close to and have a firm idea in my head of what they would look like. But perhaps what I have in my mind is completely different from you. That’s the beauty of reading and imagination. Its both the same and completely different experience for each reader. What we see these characters as is going to be different person to person. That’s kind of the fun of fancasting; everyone has a different person in mind. But even when I fancast, its still not what I picture. I have my own imagination of what these characters look like and no one is going to fit them.

I always laugh when I see people nitpick too, like when Jamie’s eyes weren’t golden like Jace’s are in the book and stuff like that. Is that really important? Is that really going to change the dynamic of the story? It always takes me to the Harry Potter movies, which is SUCH a huge franchise, its the top grossing of all time. And think about it: Daniel Radcliffe had blue eyes not green. Emma Watson had blonde hair not brown. And so on. And I’m going to sit here and say, yeah, I don’t think that ruined the movies in the slightest.

Because beyond that, isn’t there something way more important than capturing the look of a character? To me, its all about capturing the essence of the character: their personality, their soul, the way they walk, talk, and act, their morals and beliefs. I want the character that I’ve gotten to know so well to breathe out of the actor/actress that is portraying them. I want to know that the person portraying this character did their homework and understands them as well as we do, and is going to get in front of that camera and show us. I want them to say those lines I know from the book and have it feel like its really Tris or Jace or Peeta saying them.

That’s more important to me. I want to see this person represent what I love about the character and what I love about the character is who they are as a person. I love that Tris is incredibly selfless and brave but is constantly doubting herself. I love that Peeta is such a good person, its almost unbelievable, and that he tries so hard and it just never seems to work for him, until the end. I love that Jace has an incredible level of sarcasm and cockiness but is so amazingly vulnerable and emotional as well. I love that Four is so dark, and mysterious and closed off but when you see him, you see such a thoughtful, intelligent and incredible person.

And what I’ve seen of these movies, and these portrayals, there are very very very few disappointments. I usually find that the actors chosen to play my favorite characters do a damn good job of portraying them.

I thought Sam Claflin ROCKED it as Finnick Odair. I keep watching my Catching Fire blu-ray and marveling at how much he captures both the charming, flirty side of Finnick but also the painful, secretive side of him as well. Josh Hutcherson is so good as Peeta that I just can’t imagine anyone else playing him. He totally understands the character of Peeta and he brings that to life on screen. I think Shailene does a fantastic job portraying Tris, and the sort of uncertainties she faces when switching from Abnegation to Dauntless.

And to go back to what we started this conversation with: Theo James as Tobias “Four” Eaton. (Four. He’s Four. Don’t call him Tobias. That’s weird. Just…don’t do it). I saw Divergent about a week ago and I absolutely loved the movie, and a big part of that was Theo James. Four is one of my favorite characters and I think Theo really gets him. He plays the sort of hard, mysterious, intimidating Four that we know in the books. But as Tris begins to unlock him, we see more of him, which only makes us love him as a character more and I think Theo really understood that. He played the character immensely well and I didn’t care at all that he didn’t look like what I personally pictured in my mind.

Besides, seriously? Are you blind? Theo. James. Pure. Sex. Seriously. What is wrong with you?

Seriously? I’m so confused.

Okay, moving on from being obsessed with Theo James gifs…

The point is, I think people are focusing on the wrong thing when it comes to casting our favorite characters. Its not about the looks of an actor. I mean, sure, some physical similarities would be nice, but I don’t really much care about how the character looks, unless its pivotal to the development of the character. Like Tris for instance. She’s small, not classically beautiful and willowy. She’s someone you wouldn’t really expect to be a fighter, and she proves everyone wrong. So Shailene really fits that sort of character.

But that’s not what its about, you know? I want an actor to come in, read the book and embody the qualities that make this a worthy and memorable character. That is what makes me the happiest. I’ve been proven so wrong when it come to actors and I am now trying to be as open as possible when they cast my favorite characters. I really believe that the right actors are chosen to play the part, and I feel grateful that I even get the chance to see my favorite characters on the screen, and see worlds I love come to life.

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8 Replies to “Let’s Talk About…Casting

  1. Well said, Sara!

    People DO have a tendency to focus purely on looks when it comes to casting characters. I understand that everyone forms their own image of what a character should look/sound/act like, and yes, sometimes it’s disappointing when an actor/actress doesn’t match who you initially envisioned, but that’s the beauty of reading, isn’t it? That everyone can walk away with their own interpretation —- movie-makers included.

    So long as an actor/actress represents the entire package of WHO their character is or WHAT their character stands for, then I’m satisfied because that’s what it’s all about. So YES to all of this (meaning your post)!

    1. Thanks Nikki for stopping by and reading :) I’m glad to see that people are agreeing! Its a frustration of mine and I’m glad that people are out there, appreciating the hard work that goes into adapting books that are so loved!

  2. I’ll be honest, I was not thrilled with Sam Claflin being cast as Finnick. I love the character of Finnick and I really worried that it would not make me happy. I love saying I was dead wrong. Seriously, the best ever. Sam Claflin rocked my world and IS Finnick.

    I totally don’t get the concern with Theo James. Sure, he may not be a “pretty” boy but come on, neither is Four. I have to agree Theo James = pure sex! *rawr*

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