Columns > Published on January 6th, 2012

The 10 Best Book To Movie Casting Decisions

As the release of Fincher’s adaption of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is upon us, I find myself wondering if Rooney Mara can possibly nail the wild carelessness and single-minded survival instinct of the protagonist, Lisbeth Salander. I have high hopes for her role, but I find it hard to believe that she’ll approach the transformative performance given by Noomi Rapace in the 2009 Swedish film. As book lovers, we feel protective of our favorite characters, entitled to them in a way that is often threatened by negligent or inexplicable casting—or casting that is simply not what we envisioned. But below are ten times that the casting directors and the performers absolutely nailed it.

Atticus Finch, Gregory Peck, To Kill A Mockingbird

It’s hard to argue with this face, isn’t it? Gregory Peck has the face of integrity, of quiet wisdom, of conviction. This is a man who would risk everything to defend the innocent and to live a life of upright principles as an example to his children. Gregory Peck is Atticus Finch.

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Bellatrix LeStrange, Helena Bonham Carter, The Harry Potter Series

Get a load of this wild-eyed lunatic! With her haughty features and penetrating peepers, Carter’s got the evil, aristocratic zealot down pat. The quirky fashion and outrageous hairdo certainly suit her, as well.

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Clarice Starling, Jodie Foster, The Silence Of The Lambs

Clarice Starling is one of the strongest protagonists in any novel or film of the past thirty years. She uses a tragic childhood to fuel her steely dedication as an ambitious student at the FBI Academy. Foster plays Starling beautifully—as fierce but unsure, frightened but staunch. Her subtle Southern accent and throaty voice deliver weight to the scarce lines given the taciturn Starling.

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Vito Corleone, Marlon Brando, The Godfather

Vito Corleone is a powerful man but a sentimental one. He has risen to the head of the Corleone crime family and therefore to the head of New York mafia through a combination of resolve, ruthlessness and a personal code of honor that he takes very seriously. Brando’s portrayal is iconic, a man with a face like a bulldog who will bow to no one, yet goofily gets a laugh out of his grandson by smiling with an orange peel in his mouth.

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Dorothy Gale, Judy Garland, The Wizard Of Oz

Garland plays Dorothy Gale with a wide-eyed, earthy naiveté that suits the innocent character well. Garland may be one of the most beautiful and troubled stars to grace the silver screen, but as Dorothy she delivers a sensible, authentic performance as the little girl with the ruby shoes and the golden voice.

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Gandalf, Sir Ian McKellen, The Lord of the Rings

With a silvery beard, warmly intelligent voice and eyes that twinkle ceaselessly, Ian McKellen utterly transformed himself as the white wizard, leading the fellowship through a dangerous quest with wisdom and tenderness. I cannot wait to see the knighted one reprise his role in the upcoming The Hobbit.

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Gollum, Andy Serkis, The Lord of the Rings

McKellen isn’t the only person who transfigured himself for a role in Peter Jackson’s epic Tolkien trilogy; Andy Serkis became Gollum in an all-consuming way that demands utmost critical respect. The king of motion capture, Serkis has given tremendous performances, but his portrayal of Gollum is abidingly creepy and somewhat heartbreaking. Here’s to seeing much more of him in The Hobbit!

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Lisbeth Salander, Noomi Rapace, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Rapace elevated the character of Salander onscreen, using her savage eyes to imbue a wildly fascinating character—a vicious computer hacker who is a bisexual ward of the state with Aspergers and a terrifyingly violent sense of honor and vengeance—with nuanced humanity through very little dialogue.

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Scarlett O’Hara, Vivien Leigh, Gone With the Wind

As legend has it, producer David O. Selznick was in the midst of a widely publicized search to find the actress to play Scarlett and was satisfied with none of the performers who had auditioned for the role. He began filming the parts of the scene in which Atlanta burns that didn't involve Scarlett when his brother Myron introduced David to Vivien Leigh, saying “Hey genius, meet your Scarlett O’Hara.” The next day, the role was hers. Leigh nails Scarlett, presenting her as petulant, strong-willed, selfish and utterly indomitable.

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Tyler Durden, Brad Pitt, Fight Club

Who else could play Durden but Brad Pitt, who gives a wild, macho, untamed performance as the ultimate man’s man, the embodiment of a dude’s id? Pitt comes off as carelessly sexy and intense throughout the film, pulling off a waiter’s tux and a ratty woman’s bathrobe with equal panache.

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This list was honestly hard to restrict to only ten names, as so many others came to mind. Laurence Olivier as Heathcliff, Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman, Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance, and Clark Gable as Rhett Butler have all transcended the screen to become that character from the page. Who else should be on this list, dear readers?

About the author

Meredith is a writer, editor and brewpub owner living in Houston, Texas. Her four most commonly used words are, "The book was better."

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