Films

Movie castings of literary characters

When reading a book, you're allowed to take on the esteemed role of casting director. Guided on by sparse or lengthy character descriptions, your imagination dictates who you think would be perfect for the role, regardless of their availability of salary.

But in the real world, things are different. To examine this, we've coupled the character descriptions of famous literary figures with their on-screen equivalent.

Which do you think work well? And which ones bomb hard? Let us know underneath.

Click on each image to read the original description

(Images: Rex Features, All Star)

  • Movie castings of literary characters

    Kurtz (Heart of Darkness)

    Author: Joseph Conrad

    Played by: Marlon Brando (in Apocalypse Now)

    "The eyes of that apparition shining darkly far in its bony head…It was as though an animated image of death carved out of old ivory… His mouth wide… And the lofty frontal bone of Mr. Kurtz! They say the hair goes on growing sometimes, but this—ah specimen, was impressively bald. The wilderness had patted him on the head, and, behold, it was like a ball—an ivory ball… His colorless lips…"

  • Movie castings of literary characters 1

    Annie Wilkes (Misery)

    Author: Stephen King

    Played by: Kathy Bates

    "Her hair like some battered helmet…Her hair fungus-frowzy around her face…Grinning rictus…Her brow was too white. Her nostrils flared regularly, like the nostrils of an animal scenting fire…That stony, obdurate look covered her face like a mask…Only her eyes, those tarnished dimes, were fully alive under the shelf of her brow."

  • Movie castings of literary characters 2

    Sam Spade (The Maltese Falcon)

    Author: Dashiell Hammett

    Played by: Humphrey Bogart

    "Samuel Spade’s jaw was long and bony, his chin a jutting v under the more flexible v of his mouth. His nostrils curved back to make another, smaller, v. His yellow-grey eyes were horizontal. The V motif was picked up again by thickish brows rising outward from twin creases above a hooked nose, and his pale brown hair grew down—from high flat temples—in a point on his forehead. He looked rather pleasantly like a blond Satan."

  • Movie castings of literary characters 3

    Jesus (The Last Temptation Of Christ)

    Author: Nikos Kazantzakis

    Played by: Willem Dafoe

    "Narrow, deeply wrinkled forehead… The fluff about his chin and cheeks had become a curly coal-black beard. His nose was hooked, his lips thick…It was not a beautiful face, but it had a hidden, disquieting charm. Were his eyelashes to blame? Thick and exceedingly long… Or were his eyes responsible? They were large and black, full of light, full of darkness—all intimidation and sweetness."

  • Movie castings of literary characters 4

    Lisbeth Salander (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo)

    Author: Stieg Larsson

    Played by: Rooney Mara

    "A pale, skinny young woman who had hair as short as a fuse, and a pierced nose and eyebrows. She had a wasp tattoo about an inch long on her neck…Her natural hair colour was red, but she had dyed it ivory black…Crooked smile."

  • Movie castings of literary characters 5

    Javert (Les Miserables)

    Author: Victor Hugo

    Played by: Russell Crowe

    "The human face of Javert consisted of a flat nose, with two deep nostrils, towards which enormous whiskers ascended on his cheeks...When Javert laughed,—and his laugh was rare and terrible,—his thin lips parted and revealed to view not only his teeth, but his gums, and around his nose there formed a flattened and savage fold, as on the muzzle of a wild beast...As for the rest, he had very little skull and a great deal of jaw…Between his eyes there was a permanent, central frown, like an imprint of wrath; his gaze was obscure; his mouth pursed up and terrible."

  • Movie castings of literary characters 6

    Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games)

    Author: Suzanne Collins

    Played by: Jennifer Lawrence

    "Straight black hair, olive skin, we even have the same gray eyes. But we’re not related, at least not closely…Huge dark eyes, full red lips, lashes that throw off bits of light when I blink…I may be smaller naturally, but overall my family’s resourcefulness has given me an edge in that area. I stand straight, and while I’m thin, I’m strong…Then Venia goes to work on my hair, weaving strands of red into a pattern that begins at my left ear, wraps around my head, and then falls in one braid down my right shoulder."

  • Movie castings of literary characters 7

    Norman Bates (Psycho)

    Author: Robert Bloch

    Played by: Anthony Perkins

    "The light shone down on his plump face, reflected from his rimless glasses, bathed the pinkness of his scalp beneath the thinning sandy hair as he bent his head to resume reading…”Looking for a room?” Mary made up her mind very quickly, once she saw the fat, bespectacled face and heard the soft, hesitant voice. There wouldn’t be any trouble…The puckered lips were beginning to tremble…The eyes behind the fat man’s glasses seemed vacant."

  • Movie castings of literary characters 8

    Gustav von Aschenbach (Death In Venice)

    Author: Thomas Mann

    Played by: Dirk Bogarde

    "Gustav von Aschenbach was not particularly tall, with dark hair, beardless. His head seemed curiously oversized in relation to his almost frail figure. His brushed-back hair, thinning at the cortex, very voluminous at the temples and quite gray, framed a high, furrowed and, so to say, scarred forehead. The frame of golden eyeglasses cut into the root of a somewhat plump yet nobly curved nose. His mouth was large, often limp, sometimes small and tense all of a sudden; his cheeks were narrow and furrowed, the well-formed chin sported a cleft."

  • Movie castings of literary characters 9

    Jane Eyre (Jane Eyre)

    Author: Charlotte Brontë

    Played by: Mia Wasikowska

    "I sometimes regretted that I was not handsomer; I sometimes wished to have rosy cheeks, a straight nose, and small cherry mouth; I desired to be tall, stately, and finely developed in figure; I felt it a misfortune that I was so little, so pale, and had features so irregular and so marked…“Jane, you look blooming, and smiling, and pretty,” said he: “truly pretty this morning. Is this my pale, little elf? Is this my mustard-seed? This little sunny-faced girl with the dimpled cheek and rosy lips; the satin-smooth hazel hair, and the radiant hazel eyes?” (I had green eyes, reader; but you must excuse the mistake: for him they were new-dyed, I suppose)… Having ascertained that I was myself in my usual Quaker trim, where there was nothing to retouch—all being too close and plain, braided locks included."

  • Movie castings of literary characters 10

    Rachael Rosen (Do Androids Dream...)

    Author: Philip K Dick

    Played by: Sean Young (in Blade Runner)

    "...he found a young woman waiting for him. Black-haired and slender, wearing the new huge dust-filtering glasses…She had, on her sharply defined small face, an expression of sullen distaste. She eyed him from beneath long black lashes, probably artificial…Rachael’s proportions, he noticed once again, were odd; with her heavy mass of dark hair her head seemed large, and because of her diminutive breasts her body assumed a lank, almost childlike stance. But her great eyes, with their elaborate lashes, could only be those of a grown woman."

  • Movie castings of literary characters 11

    Dudley Smith (LA Confidential)

    Author: James Ellroy

    Played by: James Cromwell

    He was over six feet tall and broad as a ceiling beam. He was an immense brownness—brown hair cut close, small brown eyes, and always dressed in a baggy brown vested suit. There was a frightening set to his face, regardless of the interrogation technique he was explaining…Tall, beefside broad and red-faced; Dublin born, LA raised, Jesuit college trained…a bland smile."

  • Movie castings of literary characters 12

    Holly Golightly (Breakfast At Tiffany's)

    Author: Truman Capote

    Played by: Audrey Hepburn

    "She was still on the stairs, now she reached the landing, and the ragbag colors of her boy’s hair, tawny streaks, strands of albino-blond and yellow, caught the hall light…For all her chic thinness, she had an almost breakfast cereal air of health, a soap and lemon cleanness, a rough pink darkening in the cheeks…Her mouth was large, her nose upturn…They were large eyes, a little blue, a little green."

  • Movie castings of literary characters 13

    Pinkie Brown (Brighton Rock)

    Author: Graham Greene

    Played by: Sam Riley

    "He had a fair smooth skin, the faintest down, and his grey eyes had an effect of heartlessness like an old man’s in which human feeling has died…Grey inhuman seventeen-year-old eyes…the slatey eyes were touched with the annihilating eternity from which he had come and to which he went…The eyes which had never been young stared with grey contempt into…The eyes which had only just begun to learn a thing or two…In the tipped mirror on the washstand he could see himself, but his eyes shifted quickly from the image of smooth, never shaven cheek, soft hair, old eyes."

  • Movie castings of literary characters 14

    Lux Lisbon (The Virgin Suicides)

    Author: Jeffrey Eugenides

    Played by: Kirsten Dunst

    "He couldn’t say she was beautiful because all he could see were her eyes. The rest of her face the pulpy lips, the blond sideburn fuzz, the nose with its candy-pink translucent nostrils-registered dimly as the two blue eyes lifted him on a sea wave and held him suspended…Lux’s eyes, burning and velvet, glowed in the dim room."

  • Movie castings of literary characters 15

    Edward Rochester (Jane Eyre)

    Author: Charlotte Bronte

    Played by: Michael Fassbender

    "I knew my traveller with his broad and jetty eyebrows; his square forehead, made squarer by the horizontal sweep of his black hair. I recognised his decisive nose, more remarkable for character than beauty; his full nostrils, denoting, I thought, choler; his grim mouth, chin, and jaw—yes, all three were very grim, and no mistake. His shape, now divested of cloak, I perceived harmonised in squareness with his physiognomy…My master’s colourless, olive face, square, massive brow, broad and jetty eyebrows, deep eyes, strong features, firm, grim mouth."

  • Movie castings of literary characters 16

    Marla Singer (Fight Club)

    Author: Chuck Palahniuk

    Played by: Helena Bonham Carter

    "Black hair and pillowy French lips...Italian dark leather sofa lips…Her eyes are brown. Her earlobes pucker around earring holes, no earrings…Short matte black hair, big eyes the way they are in Japanese animation…Her black hair whipping my face…The color of Marla’s brown eyes is like an animal that’s been heated in a furnace and dropped into cold water."

  • Movie castings of literary characters 17

    Kevin (We Need To Talk About Kevin)

    Author: Lionel Shriver

    Played by: Ezra Miller

    "His face had that ferret-like sharpness from his earliest years…The narrow olive face is instantly familiar: recessed eyes, sheer straight nose with a wide bridge and slight hook, thin lips set in an obscure determination…His whole geometry was based on the triangle and yours on the square, and there is something cunning and insinuating about acute angles, stable and trustworthy about the perpendicular…. I wanted to glance at my son’s profile and apprehend with a flash of lambent joy that he had your strong tall forehead—rather than one that shelved sharply over eyes that might begin as strikingly deep-set but were destined with age to look sunken."

  • Movie castings of literary characters 18

    Tom Ripley (The Talented Mr Ripley)

    Author: Patricia Highsmith

    Played by: Matt Damon

    "He had always thought he had the world’s dullest face, a thoroughly forgettable face with a look of docility that he could not understand, and a look also of vague fright that he had never been able to erase. A real conformist’s face, he thought…Really it was only his darker hair that was very different from Dickie. Otherwise, his nose—or at least its general form—his narrow jaw, his eyebrows if he held them right"

  • Movie castings of literary characters 19

    Tess Durbeyfield (Tess)

    Author: Thomas Hardy

    Played by: Nattassja Kinski

    "She was a fine and handsome girl—not handsomer than some others, possibly—but her mobile peony mouth and large innocent eyes added eloquence to colour and shape… The pouted-up deep red mouth to which this syllable was native had hardly as yet settled into its definite shape, and her lower lip had a way of thrusting the middle of her top one upward, when they closed together after a word"