#TOpicks: Fantasy Book Casting

February 22, 2019 | Book Buzz

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On Sunday, February 24, the 2019 Oscars will be given to the films determined by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to be the best in their respective categories. Maybe you'll agree with their selections – and some cases, perhaps not.

Whenever you read a book, your imagination is the movie studio and you get to be the filmmaker making all the decisions: from casting all the characters, setting the scene, doing the cinematography, editing and special FX.

So we've done a little bit of that here: each of our of our Twitter librarians has chosen a book they like, and made a case for a fantasy casting for that title.

Join the Conversation

Do you have a favourite book you'd like to see as a film? You can join us for a Twitter Live Chat on fantasy casting (and other movie-adaptation-related topics) for your favourite books on Wednesday, February 27 from 12:00 – 1:00 pm. Follow us @torontolibrary and join in with #TOpicks! 


Brendon's Fantasy Cast List


You can find Brendon on Twitter @TPLBRNDN.


Book: Neuromancer by William Gibson.

Director: Chris Cunningham is a visionary music video director who seamlessly blends sound and image with shocking futuristic style. He was also working with William Gibson on a screenplay for a feature film of Neuromancer (but has unfortunately abandoned the project).

Casting: I'm interested in the cyberpunk dystopia William Gibson painted, and the artists who can bring his vision to the screen. I have chosen these performers for their aesthetics and how they would integrate into Gibson’s indelible world. This is a fantasy cast list, so I will be choosing actors and actresses both living and dead, when they were in their prime.

Case: I cast the original Rebel without a Cause era James Dean.

James Dean

Runners Up: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Cillian Murphy.

Molly Millions:

Nic Endo is an electronic music artist. She has a unique style, and practically lives in a Neuromancer world separate from ours. She is half Japanese and German and as an electronic music artist is always around computers.

Runners Up: Emily Blunt, Olivia Wilde, Toni Halliday (singer of the band Curve).

Armitage: Daniel Day Lewis is an actor’s actor. He also has an edge, intensity and mystery which are characteristic of Armitage. 



Runners Up: Heath Ledger, Ryan Gosling.

Soundtrack: Andre Soboda, Aphex Twin, Autechre.


Wendy's Fantasy Cast List


You can find Wendy on Twitter @TPLWendy.

Generation X

Book: Generation X by Douglas Coupland.

Bear with me, now. This won’t be a literal adaptation of Douglas Coupland’s 1991 snapshot of disaffected youth. I'm thinking of more of an update: Claire, Dag and Andy are now fiftysomethings. Are they still in California? Still tending bar? Still living outside the merry-go-round of status and materialism?  

The Breakfast Club

Screenwriter: I’ll leave it up to Coupland to figure out the details – he'll be writing the screenplay.  

Plot: Three friends have a picnic in Palm Springs, and tell each other stories about their lives.

Director: Richard Linklater. Dazed and Confused (1993) felt like sort of a companion piece to Generation X. Since then, he’s shown a fascination with the ways people change over time, in the Before Sunrise trilogy and, especially, in Boyhood. 

Cast: While Richard Linklater is the ideal director for this project, Generation X also has a quality of moral melodrama that's more in line with the tone of a John Hughes movie. So let's cast this movie with actors from Hughes' teen-angst classic: The Breakfast Club.



Andy: Emilio Estevez. The book's protagonist, disaffected bartender Andy, is now running a nonprofit advocating biofuels.



Claire: Molly Ringwald. She's now a librarian. (I've always liked Claire).



Dag (the sensitive one): Anthony Michael Hall - still a bartender. Still preoccupied by the threat of nuclear war.

Tobias (Claire’s yuppie boyfriend): Judd Nelson (but not the bad-boy Judd Nelson of yore; the Billionaire Boys' Club Judd Nelson). Went bust in 2008; is now an instructor specializing in business yoga. 



Elvissa (Claire’s best friend and Dag’s love interest): Ally Sheedy. Always trapped in the past, Elvissa now runs a small and struggling chain of VHS rental shops.


Christie's Fantasy Cast List


You can find Christie on Twitter @TPLChristie.

Defending Jacob

Book: Defending Jacob by William Landay.

I first read this crime drama for a book club at my home branch, and I became hooked from the onset. The unexpected twists and the insertion of the courtroom transcripts kept me intrigued until the very end. It is, to me, the perfect suspenseful fiction, and I could just picture the scenes coming together on the big screen, or on a small screen as a miniseries, in the style of the UK miniseries Broadchurch.

In September 2018 it was announced that Apple would be producing a miniseries based on Defending Jacob, and so far the director and the lead actor have been released:

  • Director and Executive Producer: Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game (2014)
  • Protagonist, Andy Barber: Chris Evans.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I very much like Chris Evans. I just wouldn’t have cast him as my part of my fantasy cast list for an adaptation of this book. For one, I believe the roles of Andy, and his wife Laurie Barber are of a couple in their early 50s.

So my fantasy cast list?

Damien lewis

Andy Barber: Damian Lewis.

He's played the honourable Major Dick Winters in Band of Brothers; Nicholas Brody, a brainwashed marine in the TV series Homeland; and hedge-fund billionaire Bobby Axelrod in Billions. When I began reading Defending Jacob, I could picture Damian Lewis playing this role to perfection: calm and collected on the outside, but paddling like mad underneath.

Marisa Tomei TIFF 2012

Laurie Barber: Marisa Tomei.

I can really see her in the role of struggling mother Laurie. The character is absolutely, 100% in support of her son at the onset of the allegations against him, but as the book progresses, her character is arguably the most impacted, and I see some great moments where Marisa Tomei would shine!

Jacob Barber: Ty Simpkins (Jurassic World, Insidious, Revolutionary Road) has demonstrated his diversity in his movie roles thus far. It would be great to see him playing the shy but mysterious Jacob Barber.


Bloody Bill Barber: Ed O'Neill. Yes, he is known more for his comedic roles, as the classic Al Bundy and more currently as Jay Pritchett on Modern Family, but Ed O’Neill has also played non-comedic roles with ease. I can see him as Bloody Billy Barber, Andy’s father, who was convicted of murder. 


Neal LoGiudiceChristian Bale. When the trailer first came out for Vice, a biopic of Vice President Dick Cheney, I had no idea the man playing the lead role was Christian Bale until his name flashed across the screen. The man can transform himself into any role! I would love to see him opposite Damian Lewis as the antagonist DA, that pushes and prods his former colleague, all the while trying to mask his dire need to prove himself.

Sam waterston

Paul Duffy: Sam Waterston. Law and Order was one of my all time favourite drama series, and one of my favourite characters was Assistant District Attorney Jack McCoy. Played brilliantly by Waterston, he immediately came to mind when I was reading Paul Duffy’s dialogue in the book. As a mentor and friend of Andy, as often the voice of reason, I think Sam Waterston would play the role brilliantly.

Harrold perrineau jr

Judge French: Harold Perrineau Jr. Perhaps a bit younger than the character of Judge French, but if you’ve seen the way Harold Perrineau transforms himself into roles, such as the character of Lee, a drag queen, Dolly Parton performer, in Dumplin’, it as villain Damon Pope in Sons of Anarchy, taking on the role of a smooth talking, well-known judge will be a cake walk for him. 

Director: Christopher Nolan I just really enjoy his work! If the book had more of a fantastical element to it, it would be Peter Jackson, hands down.

Pssssst, Apple...? ;)

Maggie's Fantasy Cast List


You can find Maggie on Twitter @TPLMaggie.

Book: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson starring: The Muppets.

Haunting of hill house

The Haunting of Hill House has been made into movies twice: in 1963 starring Julie Harris and in 1999 with Lili Taylor. Netflix released a really good television show called The Haunting of Hill House in 2018 but other than the characters' names and the haunted house theme, it bears little resemblance to the book.  

The Muppets

Why The Muppets? 

Why not The Muppets?  

The Plot: A group of people, led by paranormal investigator John Montague, agree to spend the summer in Hill House, a mansion with a history of mysterious deaths.  

Director: Terry Gilliam because his films demonstrate a deft touch with both magic realism and human drama. 

Principle Cast:

Eleanor Vance: a sheltered young woman who has spent much of her life caring for her recently deceased mother. She has an extreme reaction to being in the house. Is she mentally ill or is she being influenced by supernatural forces? Muppet musician Janice has the right look for this part and although the role will be a stretch as Eleanor begins to lose touch with reality her spacey, laid back personality will be perfect.

Theodora: a flamboyant artist, she and Eleanor bond while in the house. Miss Piggy will be disappointed that she's not playing Eleanor, but she will excel in the role of Theodora where she can use her colourful personality to its fullest. 

Luke Sanderson: current owner of Hill House, he is a descendant of Hugh Crain who built the property. This is a great role for Kermit. As with Miss Piggy, this is not a starring role, but it will be a good opportunity for Kermit to stretch his acting skills.

Dr. John Montague: paranormal investigator. Bert has the right gravitas for this part. 

Secondary Cast:

Mr and Mrs Dudley: housekeepers who refuse to stay overnight in the house and provide some moments of comic relief. These should be perfect parts for Statler and Waldorf

Mrs Montague: Dr. Montague's wife. She and her friend Arthur Parker spend a weekend at Hill House and provide some comic relief. Camilla the Chicken will make a good Mrs Montague (there aren't enough female muppets!) and Ernie, known for being a great friend, will play Arthur. 

What's Your Fantasy Cast List?

Join our chat on Twitter on Wednesday, February 27 at noon by following @torontolibrary and using #TOpicks or tell us in the comments below!