11 Actors Who Made These Famous Fictional Characters Their Own

Pride And Prejudice

Over here at the Book Blog, our main passion is books—but you know we also love us some movies. Especially when those movies are based on books! When done well, they’re magical visualizations of the lovely stories we treasure in our heads and hearts. When done poorly, we get to go to town on them in a really harsh, yet still cerebral manner. Win-win, right?

Either way, once in a blue moon, a movie based on a book will come along and a certain actor will irrevocably capture the essence of the literary character he or she is portraying. When that happens, for better or for worse, from that day forth us devoted book lovers know we will be unable to picture that character as anyone else. That’s it. It’s over. The book has been Cast In Our Minds, and that character is now and forever linked to that actor. You can reread the Lord of the Rings series a dozen times, but you will always see Ian McKellen as Gandalf. You can recite all seven Harry Potter books backwards, but Alan Rickman will remain inextricably bound to Severus Snape.

Here are a few more actors who’ve gone ahead and made some of our favorite literary characters their own. Thanks, actors! (And, occasionally, thanks a LOT, actors…grumble.)

Emma Watson (Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling)
Never mind that she’s not exactly the bushy-haired frump I pictured in my head while devouring the first few Harry Potter books; soon after Watson came on the scene as Hermione, I was sold. She’s got the no-nonsense tone down, as well as the bookish, scholarly air, and as the series (and films) went on, she blossomed into a poised, confident young woman, just like her smart, dependable fictional counterpart.

Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh (Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell)
That’s right—he may have starred in dozens of popular films, but Gable will always be Gone with the Wind’s handsome scoundrel Rhett Butler, though I’m pretty sure neither gives a damn. Same goes for Vivien Leigh’s spoiled, tempestuous, yet beautiful and determined Scarlett O’Hara, of course.

Christian Bale (Patrick Bateman in American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis)
If you can read American Psycho without picturing Christian Bale’s curvy-lipped, dead-eyed, couture-suited murderer Patrick Bateman, you’re a far stronger individual than I.

Josh Hutcherson (Peeta Mellark in The Hunger Games series, by Suzanne Collins)
Sorry to say, I’m still not sold on Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss (haters to the left), but Josh Hutcherson won me over instantly with his endearingly open boy-next-door face and his sweetly clumsy frame. He’s handsome, sure, but there’s still something doofy about Peeta, and Hutcherson captures this quality perfectly—the one that leaves Katniss circling him warily for awhile, unable to sort out her feelings about him. Just like his fictional counterpart, you can fall in love with Hutcherson’s Peeta, but first he’s got to grow on you.

Colin Firth (Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen)
Oh, you know I’m right. Mr. Darcy may be a sacred fictional dreamboat, but despite myriad cinematic versions, thanks to a canny 1995 BBC miniseries, Colin Firth has permanently filled his immense buckled shoes. Moreover, Firth managed to cement this status by starring as the similarly desirable, similarly natured (and named) Mark Darcy in the film based on Helen Fielding’s delightful Bridget Jones’s Diary. Apologies to Sir Laurence Olivier, who did make an admirable bid for the role in a 1940 film adaptation, but stick a fork in Colin Firth, he’s since become Darcy and we’re DONE.

Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson (Bella Swan and Edward Cullen in the Twilight series, by Stephenie Meyer)
Y’all, I read ALL the Twilight books. Breaking Dawn was still only out in hardcover when I got to it and I may have elbowed a tween in the face at B&N to get the last copy. And I have to say, love the character or hate her, I think Kristen Stewart did a bang-up job portraying Bella Swan, in all her strange, ethereal, infatuated, occasionally irritating glory. And R-Patz took formal, cold-blooded, yet hypnotically handsome, charming, and obsessive Edward Cullen and made that vampire his own. Kudos, you crazy kids!

Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, and Richard Dreyfuss (Brody, Quint, and Hooper in Jaws, by Peter Benchley)
I must have read Benchley’s dark, violent, unforgettable horror novel Jaws three or four times during a single adolescent summer (a summer during which, I might add, I never went near even a swimming pool, never mind the ocean), and when I finally got around to seeing Spielberg’s brilliant film adaptation, I had the characters of exasperated Police Chief Brody, slightly unhinged shark hunter Quint, and bossy ichthyologist Matt Hooper set firmly in my mind. But darned if these three talented actors didn’t promptly rewind and tape over my original impressions with their spellbinding performances. Benchley’s Hooper, in particular, was a rather nasty, unredeemable character, with little of Dreyfuss’s light-footed charm or humor, but Hooper in the movie was so likable he forever replaced my impression of the character in my head. For those who haven’t read Jaws, you’re in for a treat—just make sure you save it for November, when bathing suit season is months away.

What actors have made your favorite fictional characters their own?

  • AlexiaF

    Best casting ever: William Hurt and Geena Davis in The Accidental Tourist.

  • Citlali Aquino

    Agree with all of them, even the Bella and Edward one, they were as bad in the movie as they were in the book. Yes, I read all the books and watched all the movies and hated every page/minute.

  • Gwen Goble-Bartzen

    Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn from LOTR, actually I can’t think of a single character from that series that was NOT perfectly cast. Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Duval as Call & McCray from Lonesome Dove. Derek Jacobi as Brother Cadfael.

  • pairaka

    Not a movie, but a television series: The main cast of All Creatures Great and Small: Robert Hardy as Sigfried, Christopher Timothy James, Peter Davison as Tristan and Carol Drinkwater as Helen. Especially Hardy and Davison.

  • Sarah Kourkoulis

    How did you miss Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch?! That is the best casting I’ve ever seen, and I agree with several of your choices. But he made To Kill A Mockingbird the classic movie that it is, and breathed life into Atticus. No one quite like him.

    • Leticia Loaeza

      Hahaha, hadn’t seen your post but thought the same thing.

  • Raistlin

    Where’s Charles Dance as Tywin? He does an even better job of playing Tywin that Tywin does in the book :P

  • crunchycon

    Leslie Howard as the Scarlet Pimpernel. I also liked Charles Dance.

  • Janet Manley

    Bizarrely, I can only ever picture Romeo and Juliet’s Paris as Paul Rudd after his turn as an astronaut in the Luhrmann film.

  • Leticia Loaeza

    Deffinety Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird.

  • kate dillon

    samantha barks as eponine in les miserables.