When you adapt a book, you don’t take everything in it; you have to do the sorting to fit 500 pages in 2 hours. Especially since the film industry isn’t always super hot for rough sex scenes or showing supposedly heroic personalities indulging in awful deeds. In short, we distort, we distort, we create something else: and sometimes it shows.
1. Jack Torrence (Shining)
So you’re going to tell me that the long version of the film shows it in part, but in the original version of shining, the character of Torrence is very different from the way he is portrayed in the book, which begins with a rather precise contextualization of Torrence’s past alcoholism which cost him his place as a professor at the university and the led to doing awful things like knocking over a guy or even breaking little Danny’s arm for pretty much nothing. These differences weigh heavily on the interpretation that can be made of the story, between a ghost story or the destructive madness of a man who frightens his son and pushes him to imagine supernatural elements to better digest his father’s violence. .
Guy Ritchie’s two adaptations aside, Sherlock Holmes generally appears onscreen as some kind of geek who pricks himself, plays the violin, and unravels plots from his living room. However, in the novels, he has boxed at a high level and spends a lot of his time dealing uppercuts. Incarnated by Peter Cushing or Basil Rathbone, he sticks to the pipe and reflection. As for the character of Watson, he is very regularly presented as a huge booby trailing madly in love for his friend; in the novels, he more accurately embodies a clever type, quite flirty, courageous but a little overwhelmed by the genius of Sherlock who does not especially despise him.
3. Tom Ripley (Plein Soleil and The Talented Mr. Ripley)
In full sun, the homosexuality of Tom Ripley is never mentioned. In The talented Mr. Ripley, it appears as a watermark but is only suggested. However, there is a central fact in Highsmith’s novel that explains Ripley’s conduct, which is not only dictated by the lure of gain and the easy life; Ripley wants to become Greenleaf, he wants to own his life if he can’t own it.
In Winston Groom’s novel, Forrest Gump is a real jerk: he smokes weed 24/7, is more stupid than mentally impaired, loves to play roulette, drink and don’t give a fuck. In reality, Forrest Gump is a caricature of the average American who never left the house and never learned anything from life. Conversely, Zemeckis’ film made him a character full of very common-sense wisdom, mistreated by life but always valiant and kind; Zemeckis also chose which adventures to bring to the screen: We don’t see Forrest Gump wrestling or sleeping with a famous actress. In the book, Jenny leaves him; in the film, she dies: it’s convenient. And above all, in the book, Forrest Gump is obese.
5. Katniss (Hunger Games)
In the books of the saga, Katniss is a little bitch who gets everyone drunk. She’s in a bad mood 24/7 (she has her reasons, huh), she constantly whines, she just wants to die, she’s obnoxious to everyone and she’s scary. Whereas in the film, Jennifer Lawrence portrays a sort of badass heroine who is sufficiently emancipated to be accused of feminism but not really independent or misanthropic.
6. Hannibal Lecter
Initially, Hannibal Lecter was to be camped by Sean Connery, but this one refused because of the scenario which he found hellish. And that makes sense, because Hannibal Lecter appears in the Thomas Harris books as a younger guy than Anthony Hopkins is in Thesilenceofthelambs. Above all, he is even more manipulative than in the films and has physical specificities that have been erased from the films, in particular the presence of a sixth finger on his left hand.
Finally, in Hannibal, by Ridley Scott, Clarice unsuccessfully tries to stop Lecter; in the original book, Clarice and Lecter end up halfway around the world together. What moves the ass of Andalusian cannibals? It’s love.
7. Humbert Humbert (Lolita)
In fact, all the characters in lolita received a minor facelift when adapting Kubrick. First, Humbert is a manipulator in Nabokov, who tries to drug the little one to approach her in her sleep (and therefore potentially rape her, we understand it half-word), while in the film he is bewitched by Lolita which is much more sexualized than in the novel. Humbert seems much weaker than in the book. Especially since the film puts the character of Quilty, played by Peter Sellers, very prominently, whereas the latter only has an anecdotal role in the book. Quilty, whose murder will send Humbert to prison, shines in the film for his ease and his manners; from then on, the jealousy that seizes Humbert becomes the red thread of the film whereas it is only sketched in the book.
We know the story: Ian Fleming did not want Sean Connery, whom he found too vulgar, before changing his mind at the vision of Dr.No. However, the character embodied by Connery differs quite a bit from that imagined by Ian Fleming, in particular by his much more macho and bestial ways. Fleming’s Bond was somewhat precious, closer, in a way, to poor Roger Moore or Pierce Brosnan; a guy surrounded by books but who loved alcohol, cigarettes and women. Not violent by nature. In the books, Bond also spends a lot of time at his desk getting bored: he reads boring files and is just waiting to get back into battle.
9. Sam Spade (The Maltese Falcon)
Immortalized by Humphrey Bogart in what would set the tone for the golden age of film noir, Detective Sam Spade was meant to be tall, blond, and blue-eyed, not like Bogart at all. Besides, Sam Spade has a lot of evil in him, he likes to see others fall and doesn’t have a particularly good heart; Bogart embodies a slightly more humanist character, ready to help the woman and the orphan (well especially the woman) although not fooled by the attempts at seduction of which he is the object.
10. Gandalf (Lord of the Rings)
Middle-earth’s Dumbledore is a magician, meaning he doesn’t normally have a human form. In reality, Gandalf is a spirit who chooses to materialize as a goofy old wizard to be taken seriously by the hobbits. A rather daring choice all the same and which is not the subject of any explanation, even allusive, in the films of Peter Jackson where it is even implied that Bilbo and Gandalf have known each other in their respective forms for years even though Gandalf was passing once his time wandering around as the wind in Middle-earth.