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Miscast Actors in Movies Based on Famous Novels: The Natural by Bernard Malamud

November 1, 2020

When the movie version of The Natural came out in the 1980s, I thought Robert Redford was miscast, even though I hadn’t read the book. Back then, I probably didn’t even know The Natural was a book.

At some point I found out that The Natural wasn’t just any book. It had been a highly acclaimed book. It had even received a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1952.

In the 1980s, Robert Redford was considered an aging stud, but he was still a stud. The Roy Hobbs character should have been played by an actor who wasn’t such a stud. The book doesn’t describe the younger Roy Hobbs much, except as “white faced, long-boned boy” and that second part doesn’t quite fit Robert Redford. I didn’t need that description, though, to know that Roy Hobbs shouldn’t have looked like a stud.

Roy Hobbs (in the book) has lots of self-doubt, and Robert Redford never looks like he lacks confidence. Even when his characters state that they lack confidence, they seem self-assured. That’s the movie producer’s/director’s fault, not Robert Redford’s.

And it’s not the book’s fault either. I usually don’t blame books for the faults of movies (unless I’m in a bad mood and want to pile on an author whom I dislike).

The Natural by Bernard Malamud (I guess I should mention the author’s name) is one of those books where readers will know within a few pages whether or not they’ll like it. It definitely reads like literary fiction from the 1950s. There’s a lot of overwriting(?) in older literature that feels awkward by today’s standards, and sometimes it seems like authors tried too hard to be wordy. Here’s an example from page 6 (in my paperback copy):

*****

After a troublesome shave in which he twice drew blood he used one thin towel to dry his hands, face, and neck, clean his razor and wipe up the wet of his toothbrush so as not to have to ask for another and this way keep the bill down.

*****

I’m not going to rewrite this sentence in a way that I like better. This was the style that 1950s literary fiction was expected to be written in, and I’m not a fan of it.

All that means is that I have no chance of winning a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in the 1950s. And I might not finish reading this book.

*****

Enough about me! What do you think? Was Robert Redford miscast in The Natural? What other famous actors/actresses have been miscast in movies based on famous novels? Do you like/appreciate the kind of sentence that I excerpted?

8 Comments
  1. I like the sentence – it is very flowery – but I would have just said, He inadvertently cut himself twice while shaving, but quickly abated the bleeding. Whats up with saving the toothbrush, isn’t that what we all do – use toothbrushes multiple times. Am I missing something? I bet Robert Redford could stop brushing his teeth altogether and they would still be perfect and brilliantly white.

  2. I like the sentence – it carries a lot of information about the character, maybe his meticulousness, but possibly his financial situation as well as the type of place where he is staying, its not just padding.

    One of the worst miscastings was Kevin Spacey in the film of Annie Proulx’s “The Shipping News” – he was totally the wrong shape.

    • Oh yeah, Kevin Spacey; I forgot he was a movie draw for a while.

      As for The Shipping News, several people have mentioned it to me recently. I might have to try reading it again (I tried in the 1990s, but I didn’t get very far).

  3. Redford was definitely miscast. And there were way too many exploding lights at the end, as I remember. That sentence does carry some valuable character info, but I think it gets lost or jumbled because there’s too much for one sentence.

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