Many of the people who go see “Jack Reacher” won’t be aware that Tom Cruise is way too short to play the title character (when the actor was cast in the role last year, fans of Lee Child’s best-selling book series were up in arms over the choice). Reacher, who is the protagonist of 17 novels, is well-known in literary form as being six-foot-five with dirty blonde hair, blue eyes and a weight of well over 200 lbs. So, basically the opposite of Cruise.
However, the actor will likely make the character his own, and that’s fine if you can accept that movies don’t always have to be faithful to the page. Cruise is just following in steps of actors who were cast in adaptations in spite of having little to no resemblance to their literary counterparts. Let’s take a look at 10 examples below.
Tom Cruise as Lestat (‘Interview with a Vampire’)
“Jack Reacher” isn’t the first adaptation Cruise was cast in where fans (and author) were disappointed. In the novel by Anne Rice, Lestat is described as having blonde hair, like a blaze of light, and bluish gray eyes. And he’s supposed to be young looking and six-feet tall (kinda like Reacher, but undead). Reportedly, Rice originally envisioned Lestat resembling Rutger Hauer, and her first choice for the film casting was Julian Sands.
Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon (‘The Da Vinci Code’)
Another famous Tom has overruled literary descriptions on account of his stardom being more important to the studio than faithfulness. Still, the oft-noted way that Dan Brown presents the appearance of Robert Langdon is “Harrison Ford in Harris tweed.” However, Ford would have reminded us just too much of Indiana Jones in the role of an expert on religious and historical symbols. At least Hanks went the distance and got a mullet for the part.
Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade (‘The Maltese Falcon’)
In Dashiell Hammett’s hardboiled detective novel, Spade is likened to a “blond satan.” He’s also described as being tall and bulky and having a long angled chin. Again, they went the opposite way in picking Bogie. Not that this was out of nowhere given the first adaptation of “The Maltese Falcon” in 1931 had the dark, though tall, Ricardo Cortez in the part. (It’s funny that a lot of the deviations for male actors involve them being darker-haired and shorter.) Later, Spade would lose a few more inches on the big screen in parody form, when Peter Falk played “Sam Diamond” in “Murder by Death.”
Russell Crowe as Captain Jack Aubrey (‘Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World’)
In the books by Patrick O’Brian, Capt. Aubrey is nicknamed “Goldilocks” due to his long blonde hair. He’s also known to be a quintessentially British naval hero with a scarred face (and fat as can be without sinking his ship). For the part, the always committed Crowe grew out some appropriately golden locks and gained some weight – though not too much that he’d no longer be viewed as an attractive leading man. Many fans of the character still don’t find him physically right in the role, but he gives a convincing performance for the film nevertheless.
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones (‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’)
Following early casting considerations including Toni Collette, Kate Winslet and Emily Watson, an American actress was chosen to play the very popular and very English character. In one of the greatest instances of skeptics being proven wrong and an actor successfully making a literary favorite all her own, Zellweger managed the accent adequately and also gained a good amount of weight to fit Jones’s issues with her body. Moviegoers and fans of Helen Fielding’s novel found her to be an utter delight in the part.
Keanu Reeves as John Constantine (‘Constantine’)
Comic book fans weren’t happy to hear that Reeves was cast as a definitively British character, specifically from Liverpool, who was drawn with blonde hair and meant to resemble Sting. Reeves didn’t try for the accent (the movie was set in Los Angeles), nor did he bother to dye his hair. Reviews of the adaptation were mostly negative, including usual criticisms about Reeves’s acting, but the changes to the character weren’t of much focus. Still, fans of the comic are probably thankful it didn’t succeed enough to warrant sequels and can now hope that if Guillermo Del Toro follows through with a supernatural DC Comics ensemble film that Constantine will be recast more appropriately.
Will Smith as Agent J (‘Men in Black’)
The original comic book series by Lowell Cunningham and Sandy Carruthers wasn't too well known (it still isn't), so there wasn't too much of a fuss about the African-American Will Smith filling a role that was drawn on the page as white-skinned. (Smith didn't get complaints when cast as Robert Neville in "I Am Legend" either.) Given how often race changes in casting is criticized, Smith seems to be one of the few black actors who can overcome the prejudices of viewers.
Anthony Hopkins as Coleman Silk (‘The Human Stain’)
There will always be controversy with white actors being cast as other races, particularly as blacks, though Hopkins playing the African-American professor of Philip Roth’s novel in this adaptation was a complicated matter. Coleman Silk is a very light-skinned black man, pale enough to be consistently mistaken for white throughout his life. And the truth about his race is a major aspect of the story. So it almost seems appropriate to have an actual white-skinned actor play the character. Interestingly, most viewers, whether familiar with the book or not, seemed to have more of an issue with Nicole Kidman being cast as a young, poor janitor.
Steve Zahn as Al Giordino (‘Sahara’)
Fans of Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt series had been waiting a long time for a proper adaptation following the disaster of 1980’s “Raise the Titanic!” Cussler had his concerns about licensing his characters, as well. But for “Sahara” he was initially given casting and script approval, the latter of which was later denied resulting in a big lawsuit. As for the casting, though, he did give the OK on Matthew McConaughey in the starring role as Pitt, much to the worry of loyal readers. Even more surprising was his approval of Zahn as sidekick Al Giordino, who is known in the books as the “burly Italian.” For comparison, one poll of fans revealed their ideal casting choice to be Sylvester Stallone or Bruce Willis
Daniel Craig as James Bond (‘Casino Royale’)
Now that Craig has starred as Agent 007 in three very successful movies, there doesn't seem to be any issues with the actor's looks. But back when he was first cast as James Bond, skeptical fans, whether of Ian Fleming’s novels or just the movie franchise, really focused on his hair, calling him "James Blonde." Now "Skyfall" is the highest grossing (and arguably the best) Bond movie yet. Also, hardcore fans have moved on to protesting the idea of Idris Elba or any other non-white actor in the part.