Top 10 Movie Characters That Look Nothing Like Their Source Material

Published 2 years ago by , Updated August 9th, 2013 at 6:17 pm, This is a list post.

Tom Cruise Jack Reacher Character AdaptationsWith more and more movies turning to existing properties instead of original scripts, actors being asked to embody established characters is now commonplace, not a rarity. The latest novel-to-big-screen adaptation puts Tom Cruise in the extremely-oversized shoes of Jack Reacher, and while it may be the latest instance of an actor cast in a role bearing almost no resemblance to themselves, it's certainly not the first.Comic books, novels, TV shows and the inevitable reboots to come all mean that more and more famous faces and newcomers will be asked not to make people care about new characters, but live up to the expectation and legend of ones they already cherish.The list is only going to get longer as the years go by, here's our Top 10 Characters That Look Nothing Like Their Source Material. Some might surprise you.

Jack Reacher, 'Jack Reacher' (2012)

Tom Cruise Jack ReacherWe start of course with Tom Cruise, occupying the title role in the upcoming Jack Reacher. The recurring star of Lee Child novels, Reacher is a remorseless, unstoppable force of a man, with his military service spent as part of an elite investigative unit called upon when the Army's most highly-trained operatives were up to no good. Cruise has played roles along the same lines, and proved he could be as intimidating and deadly in the first teaser trailer.Yet anyone who has read a Child novel knows that Cruise is, literally, about as unlike Reacher as is feasibly possible. Described in the books as 6'5", 250 lbs, and sporting blond hair and blue eyes, Cruise's small frame and dark coloring aren't quite a match.Cruise's casting as Reacher may take the cake, but for now, it seems like the decision could end up being a wise one. Child has long maintained that his character's size was merely a symbol of his determination and unyielding drive, which Cruise is achieving through non-physical means.

Jack Ryan, 'The Sum of All Fears' (2002)

Ben Affleck Jack Ryan Sum of All FearsAdaptations of novelist Tom Clancy's perennial hero have regularly strayed for the sake of Hollywood convention, but for The Sum of All Fears, Paramount took things to a new level. Those who saw the movie know that Ben Affleck was cast as Jack Ryan for the then-planned-reboot; a promising young CIA analyst, though not yet a field agent.The same basic plot worked for Alec Baldwin's Ryan in The Hunt for Red October (1990), so it's not hard to see why they chose to follow the same route. The only problem is that in Tom Clancy's continuity, Ryan wasn't just 40 years old and married when the movie occurs, he'd been appointed Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. His career had him just four years away from being President of the United States, no less.Luckily, the source material seems to be adhered to in the upcoming Jack Ryan reboot, with Chris Pine now occupying the role. Maybe it will even be set in Jack Ryan's early adulthood, when he was just a millionaire investment banker-turned-professor of history at the US Naval Academy. Wait...what...?

James West, 'Wild Wild West' (1999)

Will Smith Wild Wild West Robert ConradIn 1965, the genre of western films and TV shows was swiftly making way for the intrigue and tension of spy thrillers. The shift led to the creation of The Wild Wild West on CBS - essentially, a spy story following two Secret Service agents in the 1870s. Modern audiences may not know Robert Conrad as the face of James T. West, as close as one could get to James Bond with a six-shooter. But they sure know the remake.The Fresh Prince himself, Will Smith was cast as the new Jim West in an updated version of the agents' efforts to protect President Ulysses S. Grant from all manner of villains. While Conrad was as much a heartthrob as Smith in his day (black and white six-packs will never not be weird) but that's where the similarities end.We need only remember that the theme song for the remake featured Sisqo, and are instantly glad the film never received a sequel. Smith and director Barry Sonnenfeld may have sullied the series' good name, but to Conrad's credit, he had a sense of humor. When Wild Wild West (1999) was awarded five Razzies, Conrad was there to accept them in person. Smith has since apologized to Conrad directly.

James Bond, 'Dr. No' (1962)

James Bond Hoagy CarmichaelSean Connery may have become the face of James Bond, but the secret agent fans know  isn't exactly what creator Ian Fleming had in mind when writing. Fleming's Bond was physically described in his first novel, Casino Royale, as a mix between himself and American singer Hoagy Carmichael (pictured left). What audiences got was a ruggedly handsome and well-fed Connery - not that we're complaining.The decision to go in a more 'suave' direction for film made sense, but the comparisons to Carmichael persisted in the novels, with various women noting the resemblance but distinguishing something far from alluring about Agent 007. Specifically, "something cold and ruthless" according to Vesper Lynd, and Gala Brand's claim in Moonraker that Bond looked "cruel in the mouth, and the eyes were cold."Fleming's Bond never had issues with women, even with his sharp bone structure, but the source material does directly contradict those who doubted Daniel Craig as a suitable choice when cast for Casino Royale (2006). Craig may not exude the same debonair...air as Connery, but his harsh features and at-times callous expression make him physically closer to Bond than any other.

Kane & Lynch, 'Kane & Lynch' (20??)

Kane and Lynch Bruce Willis Jamie FoxxVideo game fans may already know the big screen translation of Kane & Lynch: Dead Men (2007) and its...unexpected casting. The story follows two escaped death row inmates: Adam 'Kane' Marcus, a no-nonsense, grizzled mercenary complete with scarred-milk-eye, and James Lynch, a gunman with a sense of humor - who also happens to be schizophrenic.When Bruce Willis was first confirmed to star in the film, many hoped the aging action star would welcome a change, and be the one sporting the shoulder-length hair and mental affliction. Perhaps that was hoping for too much. Oh well. So who would be playing the aging, balding, unkempt, overweight and mentally deranged Lynch to Willis' Kane?Oh that's right, Jamie Foxx. The casting was the first sign that the game's title and loose (and honestly, formulaic) plot might be the only thing the producers were after, supported by a leaked script that removed Lynch's mental condition and crude demeanor entirely. Since then the production has been swamped, meaning fans might not get to enjoy this completely modified adaptation at all.

John Constantine, 'Constantine' (2005)

Keanu Reeves John Constantine HellblazerIt's a tough question: how do you make magic in the modern world work? Our answer: pick up an issue of Hellblazer. The occult detective John Constantine may have been solely created to resemble singer/musician Sting, but since inception has become Vertigo's most iconic and unique antihero.The epitome of sarcasm, crude language, and British punk counterculture, who better to play him in the movie than Keanu Reeves? Trading his blond hair for black, grizzled exterior for baby-face good looks, Liverpool accent for American, and even his uniform of a tan trench coat for black, the magic detective of Constantine bears zero resemblance to the original (although a second attempt may be on its way).The inexplicable changes extended to secondary characters as well, like Constantine's longest and best friend Chas Chandler, portrayed on film as a fast-talking apprentice in Shia LeBouf. Why, we can't possibly answer, since at this point in the comic books, Chas is a grandfather....In hindsight, that might've been a stretch for LeBouf.

Frank Abagnale, Jr., 'Catch Me If You Can (2002)

Catch Me If You Can Frank Abagnale

One of the too-good-to-be-true biopics, Catch Me If You Can followed the dramatized events of prolific con-man and impersonator Frank William Abagnale, Jr. Having masqueraded as an airline pilot, doctor, lawyer and more, Abagnale's life was one destined for the big screen.Leonardo DiCaprio embodied the confidence man with a performance that helped cement his career as more than just a youthful face; and that's the problem. Abagnale consistently maintained (and the photos support it) that it was his ability to look much older than his actual age that allowed him to fly over 1,000,000 miles posing as a PanAm pilot - by the time he turned 18.Casting DiCaprio, an actor whose unchanging youthful appearance hindered his casting as more than a heartthrob, was an odd choice to say the least. We'd wager he'd have trouble buying a beer before he turned 25, let alone playing a convincing pilot before he was able to drive. Biopics generally receive a dose of glamour in their shift to the big screen, but the truth is: if Frank Abagnale Jr. looked anything like Leonardo DiCaprio, there wouldn't be a story to tell.

Bruce Wayne, 'Batman' (1989)

Batman Movie Michael KeatonHe's one of the most famous comic book characters, and the embodiment of terror; the one man able to strike fear in even the most hardened criminal. So when director Tim Burton got the chance to cast an actor in the role of Batman (who wouldn't merely be parody or camp), who better than Mr. Mom?Michael Keaton was on virtually nobody's list of dream casting for Batman, and fans made their outrage heard. It isn't hard to see why a 5'9" actor known for comedic roles over dramatic ones raised eyebrows, since it's still hard to picture what a serious, depressed Michael Keaton actually looks like. Luckily for all involved, the choice paid off.Comic book and movie fans will debate the best incarnation of Batman until the end of time, but there's no denying the chemistry between Jack Nicholson's Joker and Keaton's Batman as some of the best in the comic book movie world. We wouldn't have bet money that Beetlejuice could give the world anything but a horribly misguided version of Bruce Wayne, but Keaton and Burton made it one to remember.

Genghis Khan, 'The Conquerer'

John Wayne The Conqueror Genghis Khan

John Wayne. The Duke. The quintessential cowboy, and...Mongolia' greatest ruler? We've steered clear of movie adaptations that change the race of existing characters, since more than skin color goes into bringing a role to life. But we have to make an exception for John Wayne's turn as Temujin/Genghis Khan in The Conqueror for its place in industry history and the talent attached.Casting an actor more well-known for his cowboy persona as Genghis Khan is so absurd, so nonsensical that it's hard to credit the filmmakers with racism as opposed to simple lunacy. Produced by magnate Howard Hughes, who purchased every print of the film in an effort to put the movie behind him, The Conqueror is reportedly one of the films that Hughes watched obsessively during his infamous seclusion.Possibly the cause of 91 cases of cancer among cast and crew (the movie was filmed downwind of a US nuclear weapons testing site), The Conqueror's casting has to stand as one of the worst decisions ever made in film. Wayne himself reiterated the lesson it taught: "not to make an ass of yourself trying to play parts you're not suited for." We'd have to agree.

Everyone, 'The Last Airbender' (2010)

Avatar Last Air Bender Casting ChoicesHorrible casting, atrocious direction, script and pacing issues aside, it was the massive changes to the central characters of M. Night Shyamalan's The Last Airbender that doomed the film to its fate. For those who never saw the TV show it was based on (shame on you!), and simply called it quits after the movie, we can't make this any clearer: none of the characters were faithfully translated.Sokka, the bumbling, ungifted goofball who takes himself seriously (but garners only laughs) became a tough-as-nails, no-nonsense protector to his sister, Katara - the one who really led with her heart, not militaristic courage. But no adaptation is worse than the titular Airbender, Aang. The embodiment of childish wonderment and playfulness, the film portrays a brooding, angry, and all-too-prepared savior. Even the pronunciation of his name was inexplicably changed by should have been a sign.Changes of this magnitude aren't exactly rare, but fans of the TV show unfortunate enough to witness the film will agree: a majority of The Last Airbender's cast of characters share almost nothing besides name and haircut to the source material. That the changes all worked to form a downright terrible film just make it worse.

Top 10 Movie Characters That Look Nothing Like Their Source Material

Tom Cruise Jack Reacher Character AdaptationsThat's just 10 of the most egregious adaptations in our opinion, but the sheer amount of novels, comic books, video games and stage plays mean there are plenty more. We welcome all contributions:What casting decision or 're-imaginings' irked you the most when first seeing them? Were there any that cost the film any chance of success, or perhaps defied expectations and captured the heart of the character despite differences?Hopefully Tom Cruise can pull off that challenge this Friday with Jack Reacher, for both audiences and fans of Lee Child's hulking hero.Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce.
TAGS: Jack Reacher, jack ryan, kane and lynch, the last airbender


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  1. Lee Child saying Reacher’s giant size is just a metaphor anyway is actually code for “Tom Cruise bought the movie rights to my books, so I’m just making the best of it.”

    Reacher’s giant size is so much a part of who he is, it’d be like casting Liam Neeson to play Tyrion Lannister. I’ve seen all of Tom Cruise’s other action movies, and enjoyed them, but I refused to see Jack Reacher because it would destroy the image of the character I have had in my head while reading all the novels.

  2. Everyone in the s***** Resident Evil movies.

  3. Let me just say this. My Opinion only, if you agree cool if not, cool. OKAY?

    My main issues with casting black actors for white characters are this.

    Why do they almost always have to be “ghetto” or “rapper-like”?

    That was the problem with Wild Wild West. IRL or even in the original source setting, he would have been hanged within the first few minutes of his screen time, let alone before that. And Rapping a western…He could have had his own, entirely different movie, plot and all for that crap.

    When you change a race, black, white, asian, ect.. you change their heritage and history. You don’t just change the character and how they are now but their entire existence.

    Just because Hollywood used whites for black roles in the past does not make it ok for them to do it now, nor does it make it ok to use blacks in white roles. Same with every other race.

    America gives blacks the chance to make their own virtually-one-race films. What do we get? Crap like Eddy Murphy’s strings of wtf and Tyler Perry’s Madea movies. Those two should be renamed “Series of Visual Depictions of Every Black Stereotype Evar”. Granted a few come out Like Tyler Perry’s more serious movies. Then if not for those you get Gangsta style or hip-hop movies. Oh and the Black Oppression/white devil movies.
    A new one came out this year and automatically got bumped up to Golden Globe award nomination. The acting actually sucks and the film looks like they used a camera from the 90′s. Early 90′s.

    If Black directors and actors would lay of the stereotypes and slave crap and put out something akin to Lord of The Rings or even Dragon Ball Z then they might be taken serious.

    Just saiyan.

    • Hollywood doesn’t cast blacks as fictional characters that were traditionally white out of the goodness of its heart. It’s not a charity. At the time of the “Wild West” movie, will smith was the most bankable star in Hollywood. He probably still is. The people behind the decision felt that money could be made.
      Regarding Madea, she’s always been black, so there’s no need to accuse Tyler Perry of taking a “white” role. Additionally, I don’t think Eddie Murphy ever played a fictitious character that was originally white. I may be wrong.

      I’d love to see an all black “lord of the rings.” If Hollywood thought they’d profit from it, it just may happen. At the end of the day, there’s no black or white in Hollywood. The only color that matters is green.

      • The heritage does come into part of it. Whenever I watch The Avengers I look at Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and immediately think “That is a tasty burger! Have you eva tried a Big Kahuna burger?” They’re ruining comic book movies with actors race and attitude. The new Spiderman? That is in no way Peter Parker. Anyways I hope this deadpool movie lives up to my expectations and the punisher tv show theyre working on.

        • Tobey = better Peter. Andrew = better Spider-Man.

        • Wait…you do know that the Nick Fury in the Avengers movie is Ultimate Nick Fury, right? Ultimate Nick Fury was written and drawn to be Samuel L. Jackson.

        • if you can’t separate an actor from a character they’ve played before then that is a personal issue. that’s like saying all actors can only play one role, lol. they will always be cast to play a role. I also think of roles they have portrayed but I don’t hold that against them.

          • Many of our favorite actors only play themselves.

      • Nutty
        Professor, original actor was white

        • Also Doctor Doolittle.

    • One last thing Jermfire… What about the movies where the actors actually did look like characters they were portraying… Specifically Rue and Cinna from the Hunger Games? When “fans” of the book saw black actors on the screen, some protested. Which is odd, considering the author gave many indications that the characters were black. Google it.
      But I guess that proves your point: some characters have their own existence…their own universe… In the minds of the readers.

      I don’t mind a response, if you keep it “on topic.”

    • TO bad its white business men(ETC), that dictate how most should act and dress.

      Don’t want to get riled up so ill just say, it’s very disappointing the way society is structured.

    • Wow, that is your view of African American as ghetto or rapper like then for you to deem that is the only way they can be viewed when playing a “white” roll. I am guessing Heimdall in Thor, played by Idris Elba, was “ghetto or rapper-like”. They are just acting boss. Adding their personal style or delivery attune to their ability or their culture,being natural. If they are to bring a different dimension or more regimented form required from the Director, I am sure they can accommodate. It is my assumption that Hollywood, aside from just trying to Bank on Will Smith, just figured he could pull the roll off and attemped to create a fair and equal Wild Wild West. It is a movie. The potential to change things are always present. Its a roll. I have no problem with a Caucasian playing a role that in a book was an African American character. It was done for years but it always degraded the people they portrayed. To me these days things are a little more measured and there is less acceptance of degradation of the races, at least on the Big Screen. The stories written by people tend to encompass their heritage or writing styles they grew into or are interested in or what is popular. Most African Americans are not big on Sci Fi, at least not the ones who write and if they do write the Genre, it takes a lot to bring it to the Screen as an All African American Cast. It will probably bomb unless Caucasians flock to it. I am into Fantasy movies but seems not so much my Race. So, they create what the people will likely venture to see. Just some incite for you.

      • *this and last comment toward JERMFIRE* they are just blurring the “color line.”

  4. Oddly enough, Tim Burton chose Keaton because he was smaller and not super-handsome. Burton said he could not imagine some Mr. Universe guy ever wanting/needing to put on a scary costume to intimidate or feel confident.

  5. great site for film lovers…

  6. Two movies that I would love to see sequels of are, The Last Airbender and Eragon. I feel that is it’s a series of books or T.V. shows that the movie come from, then the movies should be finished…some people may not agree but that’s my opinion. I would love to know what happens next.

    • Only if they re-cast and … actually nearly everything needs to change only then i would consider paying money. Because the first was a huge disappointment. The changes were just to big and not in a good way

      For Eragon I`m not sure where to begin there to make it enjoyable for the audience after that movie…

  7. The naivety of your comment is amazing. There are many black actors and directors wishing to be able to make Lord of the Rings.
    How many are afforded that opportunity? When studios decide to make these movies do they call black directors and actors for lead roles? How many black directors pitch an excellent idea and are turned down?
    The same director you put down for that new slave movie as you put it actually was nominated for the golden globes for his prior film on sex addiction. I can guarantee there are 100 more black directors doing other high concept movie ideas that have to be released independently.
    As far as the rapper type casting, a la Will Smith in Wild Wild West, come on. That was not the case. It was in fact they cast an actor who was happened to be a rapper. Nothing in that role said rapper except that he was rapping on the soundtrack.
    Finally, you cannot cease slavery movies. It is part of history. That is like ceasing war movies, medieval movies, movies about Abraham Lincoln. It is culture and history. WORLD culture and history.

  8. What? That’s all? Could have built a much bigger list if you included comic book characters. I saw one publicity still of Hoagy Carmichael. He looked a lot closer to Sean Connery than the one you used.

  9. DragonBall Evolution takes the cake in my book….

  10. How about Malcom McDowell as Alex in A Clockwork Orange? HE seems to be a tough older punk in the film. The book however, has a surprise ending. The last line is (paraphrasing) “I’ve seen a lot in my time and me but a lad of fourteen.”

    Yes, Alex, the convicted raping-murdering thug is only 14 at the end of the book, making him 12 when the book opens!

  11. Actually, Aang is the correct pronunciation, as is Iroh, and Sokka in the movies. The names are Asian. The pronunciation of the names in the anime are Americanized, meaning mispronounced, like how you all botch karate, karaoke, samurai, and other words.

    • Thats exactly what M.Night said about the names… M.Night, is that you????? And just so you know, the show originated in the US which means it is not an anime.

    • The cartoon has an Asian aesthetic to it, but is not an anime. It was created in America. It’s set in a fictional world where they pronounce the names a certain way, and that particular way is considered canon. I do not see why Asian pronunciation is automatically considered “correct” pronunciation in this instance when the original cartoon’s canon declares differently.

  12. What about Fred Ward as “The Destroyer” in the movie “Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins”? I read nearly all of those mini-novels about the former police officer turned super martial artist, who as trained by an aged, but extremely powerful Korean master assassin by the name of Chuin.
    I was so disappointed by the script and it’s lack of amazing stunts. I understand Hollywood didn’t have access to the superior graphics of today, but I certainly wish there was a redo on this otherwise great story.

  13. What about Dragonball:Revolution?

  14. No mention of Deadpool in Wolverine Origins???

  15. Somebody PLEASE address the utterly ridiculous NON GREEK/AEGEAN casting in Immortals. Being a volunteer for the LGBTQ Community, I have no problem with stuff being a TRIFLE “Sir Ian McKellan in Vicious”, but there were almost no Greek looking people in the film and the Olypian costumes would have been rejected from Sydney mardis gras floats.

  16. Very few movie adaptations of a TV series upset me as much as “The Last Airbender”….That Dragon Ball movie was just as bad if not worse though in terms of characters not matching up, and overall awfullness.

  17. Lestat and the queen in Queen of the Damned? That was a mess compared to the book.. They included half of The Vampire Lestat, and got a lot of it wrong.

  18. Jack Nicholson looked nothing like R.P. McMurphy from the novel “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

  19. To Mickey
    I’m little behind on this, but funny you should mention Liam Neeson. I have always pictured him, and no one else – as Jack Reacher. Also as John Sandford’s Lucas Davenport.