Friday, September 26, 2014

Jumping From My Mind's Eye to the Big Screen

As you can probably tell from several past entries I really enjoy reading.  I feel transported by a good book to a place where I can let go of my stress and worries and allow myself to be submerged in a world of someone else's creation.  I like going on these excursions and I like authors who can engage me with their ideas.  What I find the most exciting is how these ideas take shape in my own mind.

 The best books give your imagination a workout and give you enough description of the environment and of the characters that the way you fill in the blanks is well informed, but free to be painted by your own perspective and nuance.  I sometimes throw away an author's description and cast my own preferences on the characters.  I often find myself manipulating the images of the characters in these books to suit my own personal tastes and opinions.

Here's an example: in the Dead Until Dark series by Charlaine Harris, we meet a mind reading waitress by the name of Sookie Stackhouse.  She is described over and over as a petite blonde, who is incredibly tanned.  My Sookie was a leggy, porcelain skinned beauty with red hair falling in waves down her back.  When HBO created the True Blood television series and cast Anna Paquin as Sookie I was a little confused.  My vampire loving pal didn't look anything like I had imagined her.  I went back and re-read the descriptions of her in the books and realized that my mind pitched them in my unnecessary information pile and pulled out the redhead from my own opinions on what a cute and plucky leading lady ought to look like.

Anna Paquin with blonde hair looks very much like the descriptions of Sookie in the novels, but in my mind she looks a bit like Jessica Chastain with her beautiful red hair.

Gale and Peeta from the Hunger Games were other characters I wondered about.  When I saw the movie casting I was excited because physically the two actors looked very much the way I imagined the characters in the book.  Then I read that they would both dye their hair for the roles and I was baffled.  My Peeta had glossy brown hair and my Gale was a dirty blonde, so seemingly the actors cast had perfect hair for the roles.  When the movie hit the theatres I had to go back and re-read the book to find their descriptions.  Again, I had pitched the author's description and plugged in my own personal preferences.

Yes!  Yes!  Wait. What?

This is one of the main reasons I like to read a book before I see the movie or television version.  I like to have MY characters firmly rooted in my mind before some actor hustles their way in and changes them.  I don't typically "cast" a book with actors or people I know in the real world, but I do have a Rolodex of sorts that informs certain physical features of the characters I build.  If I read about a handsome man he will probably have a tendency to look like Bruce Willis or Jon Hamm.  If I think of a beautiful woman she will probably look a little something like Michelle Pfeiffer or Christina Hendricks.   I have a wide variety of what I consider to be beautiful so my casting pool is pretty huge.

Lately I have been discovering the books that movies were based on after they have been released as a production with someone else's ideas shaping the way I see it.  Game of Thrones was completely off my radar until I was attending the televised version of the "Red Wedding".  I thought to myself "I need to read these books" after that moment happened.  I have been dutifully making my way through the series, and now that I'm in the fifth book (and I've thrown the fourth one across the room a few times in disgust at the turn of events), I realize that I simply can't replace the images of the actors on the show with my mind's own imaginings.  Every time I read about Tyrion's missing nose and scarred face I picture the handsome Peter Dinklage and think "geez George - he looks awesome, why do you have to keep describing him this way?"  I sometimes wonder how much of my book mind suffers by filling in the blanks with someone else's version of John Snow or Sanza Stark, but I can't look away.

I recently began watching the Starz television series Outlander.  I have the first book by Diana Gabaldon and I wanted to finish it before I watched the series, but I just didn't have time.  I am so completely entranced by the storyline and I adore the actors who have been cast.  I know my mind will plug them in as I read the books, but hopefully I can make it well into the series before the second season airs and I will meet new people to craft in my imagination.

This is what I wonder - has there ever been a movie or production based on a book that you wish you could un-see?  Has your perception ever been so changed that you re-read a book or a book series and then had your images of the characters elbowed out by the cast on the screen?  Do you wish you could remember "your" Peeta or Sookie a little better and not have them crowded with Josh Hutcherson or Anna Paquin's visage?  Is there ever a time when you want to kiss a casting agent for planting someone in your head?  I would love to hear about it!

Last weekend we saw The Maze Runner.  I liked it, but I'm in no rush to read the series after seeing the film.  I bet I'll get Patricia Clarkson's face stuck in my mind if I ever do.  There is something wonderful about her nose that is so memorable and striking that it won't be easy to let it out of my mind's grip.  Let me know if you'll be watching a movie or show based on a book this weekend and if they "got it right"!  Have an awesome weekend folks and much love to all of you.

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