In Your Mind’s Eye


If you aren’t aware, the “The Hunger Games” comes to theaters this week. It’s a movie opening that will forever change the way that people feel about a book that they dearly love.

For the uninitiated, The Hunger Games is a young readers novel written by Suzanne Collins and published in 2008. It introduces sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives in a post-apocalyptic dystopia where the countries of the United States and Canada once existed. A highly advanced city, made up of privileged “1 percenters” dominates the rest of the nation. “The Hunger Games” are an annual televised event in which one teenaged male and female from each of the “12 districts” compete in a battle royale… in which only one person can survive.

Young people around the world love the book, and it has found a devoted following from readers who tend to be a little less whimsical than Harry Potter fans and a whole lot more sensible than fans of the Twilight series.

As a fan of Tolkien’s work, I learned ten years ago that once a book is made into a movie, and that movie makes it big, readers lose the ability to picture the characters the way that they imagine them in their “minds-eye.”  They will now see the actor’s face as they read.

This isn’t always a bad thing.

In my mind, Legolas is now a porcelain skinned, blond-wigged Orlando Bloom, even though Tolkien never mentions hair color or length.  While some recoil at Peter Jackson’s interpretation of the elf, I am gratefully upgraded from my childhood mental image of a long-nosed, pointy-eared, hollow-tree dwelling munchkin.

Beyond this, publishers eventually begin to use images from forthcoming movies to advertise new copies of the books- prejudicing the readers before the author can describe them.   Viggo Mortensen’s picture becomes the cover image, then the reader’s mental image of “the King.”

This isn’t always a good thing.

While a production company can strike gold finding someone who both looks the part and has the ability to believable portray a beloved character, they do have to be careful to avoid serious pitfalls when casting a film adaptation.

In the 1990’s we learned the hard way that populating a film of beloved characters with a “who’s who” list of “hollywood hotness” means that while people might turn up at the theater on opening weekend, by the time the film hits home release, Chris O’Donnell and Alicia Silverstone may no longer be important pieces of the popular pantheon.

While this can pay small dividends on the front end, they will unfortunately still be the faces you see when someone says the names “Batgirl” or “Robin” even 15 years later.

For good or for ill, starting tomorrow Katniss and Peeta will stop being names with the faces you gave them, and become faces with names that everybody knows.  If you’ve read The Hunger Games, take a moment to savor the images in your mind before you say goodbye to them over the weekend.


You never know if the actors will look the part, but be unable to deliver the performance that you’ve already visualized:

Sometimes you don’t buy into an actress because you already saw her in…
wait for it… “Fred Claus”.

Maybe the stylist will look like a rockstar AND be able to act like Denzel?

What if that idiot bartender from Cheers can’t play an alcoholic?

Either way, tomorrow will be a game changer.
May the odds be ever in your favor.

Do you have a favorite character that was perfectly captured by an actor?  What about a character that was butchered?  I’d like to hear a shout out for your best and worst casting job of a character you loved.



17 Responses to “In Your Mind’s Eye”

  1. Jon March 22, 2012 at 11:25 am #

    The Good: Heath Ledger as the Joker
    The Bad: Heath Ledger in A Knight’s Tale
    The Ugly:Tom Hanks Hair in The DaVinci Code

  2. Carl Nicolson March 22, 2012 at 12:10 pm #

    The Good: Anthony Hopkins as Clive Staples Lewis
    The Bad: George Clooney as Batman
    The Ugly: Jar Jar Binks as Jar Jar Binks

    • Jon March 22, 2012 at 12:37 pm #

      Sooo true! Loved the Ugly!

  3. Andy Schreiber March 22, 2012 at 12:35 pm #

    The Good: Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man

    The Bad: Ben Affleck as Jack Ryan (and as Daredevil)

  4. Jon March 22, 2012 at 12:37 pm #

    Ben Affleck ruined two franchises for me!

  5. Jordan March 22, 2012 at 1:41 pm #

    The Good: George Clooney as Mr. Fox

    The Bad: Topher Grace as Venom

    The Ugly: John Travolta in Battlefield: Earth (though I’m not sure the book was any good)

    • Jon March 22, 2012 at 4:29 pm #

      I bet that book was terrible…

  6. Bob Paskins March 22, 2012 at 4:06 pm #

    I will take a slightly different tack here. Movie Remakes. In this case, you envision and compare the original actor or actress with the new version.

    The Good: Jeff Bridges and Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit. After viewing both, you wonder how John Wayne won the Academy Award.

    The Bad: Steve Martin in “The Pink Panther”. There is only one Inspector Clouseau.

    The Ugly: Denise Richards in “The World is not Enough” A disgrace to the Previous James Bond Women.

    • Jon March 22, 2012 at 4:25 pm #

      I almost put Carey Lowell on my list but I couldn’t imagine that anyone else had seen License To Kill. It’s a good thing though, Denise Richards is clearly at the bottom of that barrel!

  7. Joel Dombrow March 22, 2012 at 4:44 pm #

    The good: Ralph Macchio as the Karate Kid
    The bad: Will Smith’s son (Jaden Smith) as the new Karate Kid
    The ugly: Hilary Swank as the karate girl

    • Jon March 22, 2012 at 4:54 pm #

      Your Kung Fu is deep…

  8. Elise Lockwood March 22, 2012 at 8:35 pm #

    The good: Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch
    The bad: Bonnie Wright as Ginny Weasley (never bought the chemistry with Daniel Radcliffe, though the rest of the HP cast was impeccable)
    The ugly: Everyone in the live action version of Avatar: The Last Airbender

    • Jon March 22, 2012 at 9:42 pm #

      I was really hoping that at least one of the avatar movies would be good…

  9. Luke March 22, 2012 at 8:56 pm #

    Good: Half the fun of the newest Star Trek was the casting. I didn’t watch the TV shows, but it was still cool to see how closely the ones in the latest movie were matched to the original characters.

    Bad: Never saw it, but I remember “Dumb and Dumberer” lasting about 1.5 weeks in theaters.

    Ugly: Jake Lloyd as Little Darth. I’LL TRY SPINNING THAT’S A GOOD TRICK

    • Jon March 22, 2012 at 9:27 pm #

      That’s so Wizard!

  10. Jen W March 23, 2012 at 10:00 am #

    Maybe the deeper question with the Hunger Games is why we are obsessed with a story about kids killing kids on reality TV in a SUPER SIZED government gone corrupt and mad. History often repeats itself and just as coliseums were once filled with men being killed by lions and other men for any number of reasons -somehow this highly fictional tale doesn’t seem so much like entertainment to me as it does an omen.

    • Kristi March 25, 2012 at 9:50 am #

      Shivers. Jen nailed it.

Leave a Reply:

XHTML: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>