Here’s a reimagined post from three years ago, slightly updated for you. I still need your help with this big problem!
Writers are at heart, fantasists, and for many of us, there is no more entertaining fantasy than to ask yourself who would play your main characters if some movie mogul had the urge to transform your book or series into a blockbuster movie or a Netflix/Acorn TV/Prime/Paramount/You-get-the-idea weekend TV binge.
I think we all know that there can be a massive difference between how each of us pictures our paperback ‘hero’, and how that is translated to the big screen. For fans, and no doubt, writers, this can lead to a terrible sense of disappointment.
Movies/TV Series from books that I loved:
Inspector Gamache from Louise Penny’s fab Canadian-based crime series, now known as Three Pines on TV streaming services. Alfred Molina has brought the most wonderful gravitas, compassion and depth to the role. You’ll need a tissue or two for this series, though.
The Harry Potter series: I felt they nailed all the characters perfectly – Yay!
Dial M For Murder or the remake The Perfect Murder both sensationally wonderful adaptations of Frederic Knott’s stage play Dial M For Murder: a collage for voices. (It helped that the sexy Viggo Mortensen was in The Perfect Murder.)
Murder on the Orient Express now obviously there have been several versions of this, and I’ve loved them all, although for me, Peter Ustinov was always a little better at portraying Poirot at his most mournful and ridiculous, and also managed the quality of moral indignation much better than others, although David Suchet was truly excellent in the TV series. I remember when the first episode aired, I held my breath as it began, waiting to see how this ‘new’ chap would manage the character, would it be everything I hoped for? It was, and more!
Sorry but I am not at all a fan of Kenneth Branagh in this role. At all. He’d have made a great Hastings. Ish. I mean, Hugh Fraser really nailed that part and made it his own. For me the new movies are all panorama and no substance. I hate them.
Dalgliesh: There has been a new outing for this with Bertie Carvell (Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell, remember? Also lots of other stuff including Midsomer Murders…) and in the title role of Inspector Dalgliesh, created by P D James. Bertie gives us a beautifully nuanced role, and the opening credits are sooooo beautiful to look at, I could have them on my wall and gaze at them all day long. Feels slightly out of its era, with a sense of being in the 60s rather than the 70s, but that’s easily overlooked as you get stuck into each story.
Whitstable Pearl: Kerry Godliman, whose stand-up comedy I absolutely love, plays the title character, a private detective with a restaurant in this series based on Julie Wassmer’s fabulous series. I love this show!!! It helps that it’s set in Whitstable on the North Kent coast in the UK, which is very close to where many of my ancestors come from. If you haven’t read it or watched it, there’s no excuse, stop reading this and do it now.
Anyway, this is the game I’ve been playing at home. ‘Someone Wants To Turn My Book Into A Film’.
I’m talking now about my 1930s Dottie Manderson cosy mystery series.
My main characters are:
Dottie Manderson, aged 19 at the start of book 1 which is Night and Day. She is 5’ 7, has dark wavy hair, hazel eyes, lovely skin and a gorgeous, slender figure. She comes from a wealthy background, and lives in London with her parents. She is a wee bit shy, loves her family, loves dancing, and works as a mannequin for Mrs Carmichael. She’s idealistic and a little naïve. In the books, we see her maturing as she learns about the world, and about relationships between men and women. She is nosy and gets into murder-related situations. She is compassionate and detests bigotry and moral ideas that put appearance before compassion and respect.
William Hardy is the detective she frequently ‘runs up against’. (Yes that is a double-entendre, if not a triple…) He is a little older at 28. He is a policeman working his way up the ranks after his father died and left the family penniless. They had to leave their privileged lifestyle and he had to leave his law studies to earn a living. He is (of course) six feet tall, if not a bit more, and well-built. He is fair-haired, and blue-eyed. He quickly develops a penchant for a certain dark-haired young lady which makes him awkward and embarrassed at times. He has a slightly different attitude to women than the majority of men of his era in that he is respectful and does not think of women as inferior or as domestic drudges or as potential conquests. He is determined to improve his family’s fortunes by sheer hard work and devotion to his work.
There are other recurring characters too:
Mr and Mrs Manderson, Dottie’s parents: Her father Herbert is largely to be found behind a newspaper. Her mother Lavinia is brisk and no-nonsense and all about etiquette and social niceties, but as the series develops we see that there is a deep love between these two, and that Mrs Manderson has a marshmallow heart under the stern exterior.
Flora, Dottie’s older sister is married to George, a very wealthy young man. In book 1, Night and Day, they are about to become parents for the first time. They are devoted to one another and to Dottie.
So here’s the big question: Who would play these roles if my books were made into a TV series or a movie? I’ve been thinking about his quite a bit. But I’m somewhat hampered by the fact that I really don’t keep up with who’s who in the acting world, so my ideas are probably really out of touch.
Make sure you tell me who would work better, in your opinion. Obviously I need all the help I can get here!
Dottie: I’ve got a couple of ideas. I originally based Dottie on the 1920s actor Loretta Young, but you know, time doesn’t stand still, does it?
Though I must admit they are both a bit older than Dottie is in my books. What do you think? Do you know of another actor who might be better?
William: the problem here is that I originally based William on the young Gary Cooper acting in the 1920s and 1930s… So I’ve got almost no contemporary ideas for William Hardy. Except for Alex Pettyfer. Or maybe Rick Edwards, who isn’t even an actor… Can you take a look and tell me what you think? I urgently need help here: you never know how soon someone might knock on my door or flood my email with requests , pleas and big fat cheques.
As for Flora and Mr and Mrs M, what about these lovely people:
Tuppence Middleton for Flora, she’d be brill…
Herbert Manderson: What about the omni-gorgeous Jason Isaacs? He’s a little older now (sorry Jason, but you know it’s true) and he’s nicely craggy.
Mrs Lavinia Manderson: Well there’s Kristin Scott Thomas, I think she’d work really well in this role: the only problem is, can we afford her?
So, dear readers, please help! We need to get this cast list sorted before MGM or 20th Century Fox or Nertflerx come knocking on my door.