January 5, 2012

The casting quandary #2

One of the biggest sources of contention for fans, when their favourite books are adapted to film, is whether the cast lives up to their expectations.

Does the main character suit the author’s description? Is the lead man everything that you imagined him to be?

For female characters, the hair colour of the actress can be a very specific choice – either to keep in line with the book, or to deliberately stray from it.

Meggie Cleary, the heroine of Colleen McCullough’s epic tale The Thorn Birds (1977) is described in the novel as having hair that is “not red and not gold, but somewhere in between.” In the iconic scene where Meggie enters the ballroom and enchants Ralph with her ashes-of-roses gown embroidered with tiny pink rosebuds, her hair had recently been cut short which caused it to “curl far too much for fashion.”

Sydney Penny as a young Meggie Cleary (1983)

Rachel Ward as Meggie Cleary (1983)

The hair colour of Daisy Buchanan, the one true love of The Great Gatsby, is much disputed. In the book, F Scott Fitzgerald describes her tresses in contradictory ways – either as dark as a "dash of blue paint," or light like her daughter’s “yellowy” hair.

Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan (2012)

Mia Farrow as Daisy Buchanan (1974)

The character of Elizabeth Bennet, the heroine of Pride and Prejudice (1813), is another source of contention in the hair department – because Jane Austen never actually describes its colour. However the common belief is that Elizabeth has dark hair, which would suit her fine dark eyes and tanned skin.

Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet (1995)

Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet (2005)


  1. Young Meggie won me over in the role -- the older Meggie didn't.

    In terms of casting, I think the biggest shock for me was Professor Lupin in Harry Potter! The actor is NOTHING like I imagined Lupin!

  2. That's interesting Charity.. I mentioned in another post like this that Emma Watson's Hermione was slightly different to the book description... I'm so used to Lupin now, I can't remember how he was actually described. Having said that, I do remember being surprised at the filmmaker's interpretation of Tonks - I imagined her VERY differently.

  3. Oh and I agree about Sydney Penny - she was fantastic!