In this collection, Nirbhay explores some of the best book-character adaptations seen on the silver screen. He has ignored changes in the screenplay, and focussed on the actors instead, looking at their acting prowess, their adherence to the character developed in the book and their ability to convince us avid readers of their performances.
Viggo Mortensen’s Aragorn
The Lord of Rings (2001-2003)
Tolkien’s work is considered one of the finest works in literature and has spewed an entire generation of fantasy fiction writers. Of the characters he created, Aragorn is one of the finest and a model for the ‘hero’ role in books. Bringing him to screen is a tall task and Viggo Mortensen does a fantastic job of getting the audience to love and cheer from him, cry when they think he’s dead, and feel exhilarated as he is crowned the king of all men in the end.
Rooney Mara’s Lisbeth Salander
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is the first of the Millenium series – originally a set of three extremely thrilling books. While the other books are still to be made into English movies, this particular adaptation was a box-office hit and shot actor Rooney Mara to international fame. It was not surprising in the least as it required unusual skill to portray Lisbeth Salander, an extremely complex character – she is a survivor of childhood abuse, referred to as a sociopath and a schizophrenic, and displays violence throughout the book, while in reality, she believes strongly in a higher form of justice. Mara delivers one of the best performances in recent history.
Michael Clark Duncan’s John Coffey
The Green Mile (1999)
Adapted from a 6-part serial novel by Stephen King, The Green Mile is an excellent adaptation of a magical realism book. While the story stays largely true to the original, the brilliance of the movie is in no small way thanks to the fantastic portrayal of the pitiable John Coffey by Michael Clark Duncan. Wrongly accused of rape and murder, Duncan perfectly portrays the sadness, despair, and at the same time, wonderment that are important to Coffey’s character.
Stanley Tucci’s George Harvey
The Lovely Bones (2009)
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold is a haunting tale, told by the ghost of a victim of rape and murder. As young Susie Salmon sees her family breakdown in the aftermath of her disappearance, she also sees her rapist go scot-free till karma delivers payback. Stanley Tucci’s performance is chilling to the core thanks to his understanding of the antagonist George Harvey. He delivers an extremely nuanced performance through which he manages to make the viewer garner some sympathy, albeit reluctantly, for the otherwise despicable character.
Rosamund Pike’s Amy Dunne
Gone Girl (2014)
A psychological thriller, Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl is the story of Nick and Amy Dunne’s broken marriage, and Amy’s subsequent ‘disappearance’. Playing the deranged but highly intelligent Amy Dunne isn’t easy but Rosamund Pike manages to do so with sophistication. She easily portrays a sense of foreboding every time she appears on screen, which is integral to her book-version.
Tabu’s Ashima Ganguli
The Namesake (2006)
The Namesake is a beautiful novel by Jhumpa Lahiri, highlighting the struggles of Indian immigrants when they move to the US – both in settling into a foreign place as well as raising children in a country with completely different values and systems. While all the performances are excellent, Tabu mesmerises with her portrayal of the lost, and confused but strong-willed Ashima. The pain you see in her eyes when Ashoke passes away is truly heart-breaking and you feel strongly for this Bengali immigrant. Staying true to the character, Tabu took what Lahiri created and elevated it to a whole other level.
Gregory Peck’s Atticus Finch
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
No book-to-movie character adaptation list can be complete without mentioning this Academy Award winning, powerful performance by Peck of America’s greatest fictional hero. While the plot of the book does differ in some ways to the movie’s screenplay, Gregory Peck cannot be faulted for that. He faithfully embodies the heroic lawyer fighting for Black rights in a deeply racist South and his powerful histrionics prove his mettle as an actor.
Malcolm McDowell’s Alex
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Both the novel and the film are considered classics by lovers of literature and cinema alike. Bringing the character of Alex (whose last name DeLarge is mentioned only in the movies, and not in the books) to life fell on the shoulders of Malcolm McDowell who does a brilliant job of executing the same. The character is a deeply flawed sociopath who loves violence and blood, and McDowell portrays the same with an eerie degree of cold-bloodedness. As in the books, it is easy to hate Alex thanks to McDowell’s brilliant performance.
In your opinion, how much does the screenplay affect the actors’ performance? Which are some of your favourite character adaptations? Share with us in the comments below.
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As a young boy, Nirbhay had the annoying habit of waking up at 5 a.m. Since television was a big no-no, he had no choice but to read to entertain himself and that is how his love affair with books began. A true-blue Piscean, books paved the path to his fantasy worlds- worlds he’d often rather stay in.