Friday Fun — Best Casting Choices in Movies Based on Books

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: Reader Kaitlin Throgmorton invited us to join her in picking favorites for the best casting choices in a movie based on a book. Which actors really brought a character to life on the screen in a way that you felt was worthy of the author’s original literary vision?

Kaitlin’s list includes some great selections, but what do the writers of the gang here at Live to Write –  Write to Live have to add? Ladies? 


headshot_jw_thumbnailJamie Wallace:  I really like some of Kaitlin’s picks, including Emma Watson as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series and Sean Astin as Samwise Gamgee in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I also think that Robbie Coltrane was perfect as Hagrid and Dame Maggie Smith was dead on as Professor Minerva McGonagall, but I think I’d like to mix things up a bit and find a favorite outside of Hogwarts. So, I’m going to make my pick pretty much the entire cast from the ill-fated movie version of the first book in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy.

golden compassI absolutely loved Pullman’s books, particularly the first one in the trilogy, The Golden Compass (which, apparently, was retitled Northern Lights in later editions). His characters are beautifully portrayed, each individual a prism of personality and motivation. Though, sadly, the movie version of The Golden Compass did not to well enough at the box office to entice the studio to invest in producing the rest of the series, I think that the cast was stellar. I mean, seriously: Nicole Kidman as the delicious diva of intrigue and manipulation (sultry despite being pregnant for much of the filming), Daniel Craig as Lord Asriel (swoon!), and the lovely Dakota Blue Richards as fierce Lyra. I ask you, who could have done better? And then you have Ian McKellan as the voice of Iorek Byrnison, a savage and noble ice bear and Sam Elliott as the gun-toting, big-hearted aeronaut, Lee Scoresby. Throw in the added delight of creepy Christopher Lee as First High Councilor and earthy Kathy Bates as Scoresby’s cynical daemon hare, Hester and you have to admit that this cast offers a wealth of perfection.



17 thoughts on “Friday Fun — Best Casting Choices in Movies Based on Books

  1. I agree with your choices – and I too liked the film (and loved the Pullman books). What else comes to mind – well I’ve gone all classic:
    Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon.
    Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind.
    James Dean in ‘East of Eden’
    Marlon Brando for ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’

    • Hello, Marina! 🙂
      I love your picks – very classic and very cool. Now I feel like I need to have a classics movie marathon.


  2. I think it’s interesting that even when the cast seems perfect, the movie version still doesn’t live up to the book. My personal favorite is The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. I was so excited when it was announced that it would be made not as a movie, but a three part mini-series. There’s so much going on in the story (a retelling of Arthurian legend from a feminist POV), that I knew a feature length film wouldn’t do it justice.

    I thought the casting of Julianna Margulies, Joan Allen and Angelica Houston was wonderful, but I was very disappointed with the result. They were great–the screenplay wasn’t. Still love the choices, though.

    • Oh! I’d forgotten about that film production. I also loved the book, and I remember seeing the TV series and not loving it as much. You’re right – well cast, but that wasn’t enough to make it work on the screen.

      Now I feel like I want to read The Mists of Avalon again. 🙂

  3. I agree with Sean Astin as Samwise Gamgee (Swoon!) Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn (Swoon again!) Daniel Craig as 007, Robert de Niro as Max Cady in the remake of Cape Fear and Juliet Lewis as the daughter. It was adapted by James R. Webb from the novel The Executioners by John D. MacDonald. Kathy Bates in Misery and Dolores Claiborne. That’s all for now.

    • Great picks!
      I also swoon for Mr. Mortensen, and agree that Daniel Craig is perfect as 007.

      And Kathy Bates in Misery … how could I forget that one. She was stunning.

      Thanks for playing!

  4. So glad you decided to do this, and thanks for linking back. 🙂 I have yet to read His Dark Materials, but I’ve only heard good things. I’ve seen clips of the movie and it’s always looked like good casting. So sad they didn’t finish the series.

  5. If I can stretch the topic to HBO shows, I’d nominate Bronn, the Hound, and Tywin Lannister from Game of Thrones – it’s like they were born to play those roles. The whole cast is fantastic, but those three are the perfect fit.

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