Even if you aren’t a fan of the book phenomenon that is Fifty Shades of Grey, you have perhaps heard about the brouhaha surrounding last week’s announcement of the casting of the future movie. Apparently fans of the book are so upset at the prospect of actors Charlie Hunnam and Dakota Johnson taking on the roles of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele (respectively, of course), they are actually trying to force a change via online petitions. Rather, they’d envision Matthew Bomer and Alexis Bledel as the perfect Christian and Ana, despite the fact that neither of these two actors appears to be interested in participating in this particular book-to-film adaptation.
While I try hard not to judge anyone’s passion, I simply cannot understand what seems to me to be a rather extreme reaction to a movie about fictional people. Instead of rending garments and ranting in cyberspace about how Hollywood is obviously determined to destroy something sacred and beloved, I advocate a wait-and-see approach.
Because, after all, it’s happened before.
It was only a few short years ago that the interwebs buzzed with vitriol over the casting of one Robert Pattinson as vampire hottie Edward Cullen of Twilight fame. People were none too happy about then-relatively-unknown Kristen Stewart as their Bella Swan, but the open hostility towards R-Patz was surprising. Everything about him was wrong. His hair. His English accent. The fact that he wasn’t Henry Cavill, author Stephenie Meyer’s pick for the role. Yet look how that turned out?
And less than two years ago, we went through this with the casting of Jennifer Lawrence as The Hunger Games’ Katniss Everdeen. She didn’t have it nearly as bad as poor Josh Hutcherson when he was cast as Peeta Mellark. But once the movie arrived in theaters, people seemed to watch it without any long-lasting traumatic effects. I would even wager that now they can’t imagine anyone else in these iconic roles.
Before anyone can protest that over-the-top fan upset over what they perceive to be bad casting choices is relegated to the younger and female set, the superhero crowd currently has its collective panties in a twist over the prospect of Ben Affleck playing Batman in the future Superman sequel. Before Ben, Michael Keaton was on the receiving end of the world’s bad vibes for earning the role of Batman in the Tim Burton film of the same name. Heath Ledger won an Academy Award posthumously for his performance of the Joker in The Dark Knight, this after the internet went crazy over the prospect of a “teen heartthrob” playing one of the darkest villains in comic history.
But we readers are only human, so who can blame us for becoming verklempt when we think Hollywood is making a tragic error? Even writers have their moments of extreme doubt, and some of them are rather vocal about it. Thankfully, they seem very willing to own it when they realize they may have been mistaken.
Author Anne Rice sided with fans who decried the casting of Tom Cruise as the vampire Lestat for the movie Interview with a Vampire. However, after actually seeing the final product, Ms. Rice had so thoroughly changed her mind about Cruise that she was compelled to take out two-page newspaper ad praising his work.
“From the moment he appeared Tom was Lestat for me. He has the immense physical and moral presence; he was defiant and yet never without conscience; he was beautiful beyond description yet compelled to do cruel things. The sheer beauty of Tom was dazzling, but the polish of his acting, his flawless plunge into the Lestat persona, his ability to speak rather boldly poetic lines, and speak them with seeming ease and conviction were exhilarating and uplifting. The guy is great.” – Daily Variety, Sept. 23, 1994
In the end, don’t forget that the people chosen to star in movies are, for the most part, professional actors. Their job is to become the person they are portraying. The fact that Charlie Hunnam and Dakota Johnson are actually earning a living in Hollywood makes it seem reasonable to assume they are fairly successful at what they do. They might just surprise the heck out of all of the doubters.
I’ll admit I don’t have a strong opinion one way or the other about who would be the perfect actors to play Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele. While I’m not at all familiar with Dakota Johnson, as a fan of the TV show Sons of Anarchy, I can personally vouch for Charlie Hunnam’s acting chops and his ability to smolder and seduce and generally look very attractive. To be blatantly honest, I had never even thought to see the film adaptation of the Fifty Shades books, but the casting of an actor that I know and love might actually be enticement enough to get me into the theater.
Are there any times that you think Hollywood got things very wrong and then changed your mind once you saw the finished product? Or are there times when you felt justified in saying “I told you so!”?
– Jenna Harper
I enjoy spending as much time as I can between the covers of a book, traveling through time and around the world. When I'm not having adventures with fictional characters, I'm an attorney in Virginia and I love just hanging out with my husband, little man, and the cat who rules our house.