Saturday, March 07, 2009


How important is it to have a clear image of the main protagonist in a crime fiction book? 
When the book or series is filmed or goes on television if the star does not fit your mental image does it ruin the next books in the series for you? 
Do actors, television and film producers have an obligation to get as close as possible to the author's character? 

Lauren [in a comment] said that she thought in text and did not imagine the scenery or image of the characters. [Apologies if I have misquoted] I think in pictures and develop an image of what I think the character is like. For instance I found it impossible to watch John Hannah as Rebus, as he was almost the anti-Rebus as far as I was concerned. 

Maxine of Petrona mentioned in our Friend Feed discussion group that although Kenneth Branagh acted well in the recent BBC Henning Mankell trilogy he was not the Wallander of the books.  
I have discussed this previously with regard to David Suchet going the extra mile to be the Hercule Poirot of the Agatha Christie book and the idiosyncratic casting of Stieg Larsson's Lisbeth Salander here and here.

When Rebecca Cantrell suggested Carice van Houten and Sebastian Koch as her Hannah Vogel and Boris if  A Trace of Smoke was ever filmed I was very pleased because they fitted exactly my mental image of the characters especially Ms van Houten. 
Next week you will have a chance to win a signed copy of A Trace of Smoke .   


Blogger Dorte H said...

What a great post, Norman!
Though I have to say I disagree totally on Rebus - John Hannah IS Rebus (but I have a suspicion that I saw the series before I read any of Rankin´s books which makes a different approach).
I also made my post about the Wallander actors because Martin Edwards wrote about Branagh, and in my opinion Wallander will just always be Rolf Lassgård because he has the right kind of charisma. A tough police officer, but not unlikeable in any way.

4:54 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks Dorte.
I had read quite a few Rankins before I watched the TV series. By the time I watched it there were both the Ken Stott and John Hannah series running alongside each other and that did expose Hannah as being too young and good looking to play Rebus.

We have not seen the Rolf Lassgard's Wallander in the UK but perhaps it might turn up on a digital station some time. I will keep a watch out for it.

6:59 AM  
Blogger Dorte H said...

I can´t really see ´good looking´ should be any problem ;)
Rolf Lassgaard is less good-looking, but suitably masculine for the Wallander role.

12:53 PM  
Blogger Philip Amos said...

From an interview and the horse's mouth:

Q: Did you have any input into the casting of John Hannah as Rebus?

Ian Rankin: The young, glamorous, thin, healthy-looking Scottish actor with an East Kilbride accent? No, I had no input into that whatsoever....Hannah's production company bought it so I knew he'd want to play Rebus. I felt it was a bit of a mistake because he's too young and too good-looking, but what the hell. I consulted some other crime writers and they all said, "Take the money and run."

Rankin also wasn't overly enthused by other production companies, one of which had it in mind to cast Robbie Coltrane, the other the actor who plays Dirty Den in Eastenders -- I'm not making this up. I thought Stott was quite good, but Rankin's own suggestion was Brian Cox. They should have listened to him. And, if they would just listen to me for once, Sharon Small should have played Siobhan.

3:42 PM  
Blogger Lauren said...

The quote is accurate enough, so no problem there. I should probably add that I'd rather like to be able to visualise things as I read, but I really can't (and I've tried!) I can't seem to control the pictures I get, and if I can manage a person they almost never have a face.

So the discrepancies don't tend to bother me unless the acting's truly vile.

Oh, and I've seen all three television Wallanders - Krister Henriksson is the third, I think - and while Lassgard is probably the closest to the textual description, I've been generally impressed with how such different actors can still give me a feeling of being the same character. Peter Ustinov and David Suchet as Poirot, on the other hand...Suchet wins by the proverbial mile.

Dorte, I have no particular objection to good-looking men either ;)

4:57 PM  
Blogger Dorte H said...

Thanks for your support, Lauren.

3:57 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Philip poor Sharon Small is in a disastrously bad TV series at the moment called Mistresses. The male characters seem to have been recruited from a modeling agency and also to be sharing a brain cell. The male doctors are extremely unconvincing as are the blokes who hang around bars late at night waiting for Orla Brady. Both these categories of males are much more likely to look like me [short bald and overweight] than the hunks on Mistresses.

Sharon Small of course plays her part, the only fairly normal character on the show, brilliantly ;o) But the script and plot have been written by a first year medical student with delusions.
Sorry ladies but any mention of the name Sharon Small distracts both Philip and I.

Back to the subject if Rankin thought Brian Cox was a possible Rebus it is no wonder I could not get used to John Hannah!
Suchet is a the definitive Poirot and always makes me want to go back and read the books again.

4:55 PM  

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