Name a popular movie you’ve seen recently, staring a mainline actor/actress.
Now, name the character that any of those mainline actors/actresses played.
(This is a grand over-simplification I’ll admit, a gross misuse of the movie venue, but I think the theory merits examination.)
Let’s take Brad Pitt for instance. Here are a few movies that come to mind:
The Big Short,
World War Z.
Essentially Brad Pitt being Brad Pitt, with a little action, drama, intrigue, maybe a tear (I can’t remember). Now, I’m not trying to sell these movies short. They were all excellent entertainment. And there were some great stories told. But I ask you, if you were a creative writer constructing a compelling story with truly moving, approachable and endearing characters, would you want your character creations overshadowed, in anyway, by the personalities of Movie Stars?
What was World War Z about? Well, that’s a poor example as the character was loosely fabricated into a screen play from the thread of the novel. But still, WWZ was Brad Pitt trying to save the world from zombies. Yes? How about the movie Fury? Brad Pitt, and the EvenSteven kid in a WWII tank doing their duty to free Nazi occupied Europe. In their defense they both did super jobs at portraying the characters. But in the end, they were movies where Brad Pitt did his thing.
Historic portrayals, accurate portrayals that is, like Meryl Streep in Julia & Julia or in The Iron Lady, seem to draw out a different aspect of an actor’s ability. Streep WAS Julia Child, she WAS Margaret Thatcher. Neither of those movies were Streep being Streep (not that she hasn’t made movies like that). But it was the character that you remember — above all.
And so it is my opinion that creative fictional stories, novels put to screenplay then put to screen, suffer if the characters within the stories are portrayed by movie stars.
This is not to say that ALL stories suffer. Some stories are written with characters designed to be played by specific people, Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt, Matt Damon as Jason Bourne, etc. (I had to lookup Cruise’s character, while Bourne, we’ll, it’s in the title, duh!)
But as a writer, if you want your story told through the screen, then wouldn’t you want the characters you’ve so lovingly created, agonized over, tuned and perfected TO BE THOSE CHARACTERS IN A THE MOVIE?
(And not Brad Pitt pretending to be your beloved character…?)