Sunday, December 19, 2010
Casting the Characters
To continue the theme started two posts back by Liz, with her thoughts on sexy heroes (and we're all very grateful for THAT photo of Hugh Jackman, Liz!), which led rather beautifully into Biddy's discussion of heroines, I'd like to talk about casting, as well.
I've actually just been asked by an interviewer, as part of my "virtual tour" for the American release of The Winter Sea (Sophia's Secret in the UK), to tell whom I would cast in the character roles if the book were made into a movie, and to be honest it was one of the more difficult questions to answer.
For one thing, I don't see my heroine clearly when I'm writing her. I don't know why. It might have something to do with the fact that I'm usually writing in the first person, so I'm paying more attention to the things she sees than what she looks like. Whatever the reason, when a cover designer asks me to describe my heroine, I often can't manage much more than her age and her hair colour, if that. (It was probably one of my own cover designers who started the whole trend of headless women on book covers, from pure frustration!)
And I'm really no better with heroes. Movie buff that I am, I'll admit that I do sometimes find inspiration in actors, but they're usually not the matinee idols of the moment, so even if I wanted to reveal who they were (and as Jane Lovering pointed out in her comment on Liz's post, that's not always a good thing to do for the reader) most people probably wouldn't be able to call to mind an immediate image anyway. Besides, since I often go by what an actor looks like in a certain film role, there's a good chance that the actor – if he's still alive – looks very different now.
It's more common, though, for me to do things the other way round: not to base my character on an actor, but to see an actor afterwards who closely embodies the character I've written.
This happens most often with those in supporting roles. These are the characters I can see vividly, their faces so distinct I find it easier to match an actor to their features.
Brian Cox, for example, a truly great character actor, reminds me a lot of one of my favourite men in The Winter Sea – Colonel Patrick Graeme – and I can easily imagine Mr. Cox in the role, striding round in his cloak and his boots and teaching my heroine how to play chess from a soldier's perspective.
A second Scottish actor, Dougray Scott, is very much in looks and bearing like another of the Jacobites, Captain Thomas Gordon, who was from all accounts a very charming, handsome man, and who in my book does his best to charm my heroine.
And Vanessa Redgrave, with her strength and sense of humour, is the image (to me) of Anne Drummond, the Countess of Erroll.
Which is it for you, if you write?
Do the actors inspire your characters, or do the characters form themselves first, leaving you to find actors to play them?
And what's the best bit of casting you've ever seen done in a film or TV show?