Minor Book Characters Who Got a Boost on Film or TV
While there's something to be said for a faithful book-to-screen adaptation, TV networks and movie studios often want their adaptation of a beloved novel or series to possess some unique element. In many cases, that element is a minor character who gets a bigger role to present a new subplot or spin off the story into new directions. TV Tropes calls this the "Ascended Extra"--and it's a trope that exists in nearly every literary genre. From the one woman who bested Sherlock Holmes to a minor villain in "The Hunger Games," we round up characters made more attractive, more laugh-out-loud funny or more nefarious through some onscreen enhancement.
"Hunger Games" fans welcomed director Gary Ross' vision of the Capitol, gleaned from Suzanne Collins' descriptions of the citizens' absurd outfits and hairstyles. But, one very specific detail that Ross brought to the movie was Gamemaker Seneca Crane's whorled, fastidiously maintained beard. Some fans have joked that "Seneca Crane's beard" became a more memorable character than Wes Bentley's portrayal of him. Though President Snow has Crane executed after Katniss and Peeta win the Hunger Games, the beard lives on for fans.
In Arthur Conan Doyle's original story "A Scandal in Bohemia," Irene Adler is notable because she manages to trick Sherlock Holmes. She never reappears in the original canon, yet she features predominantly in most adaptations as both an intellectual rival and love interest for Holmes. The BBC's "Sherlock" TV series took a provocative turn in portraying Irene (Lara Pulver) as a dominatrix who (rather inexplicably) falls for the curt, emotionally detached Holmes, which causes her downfall. The American series "Elementary" gives Irene slightly more credit, bringing in "Game of Thrones'" Natalie Dormer in the series' biggest twist yet: as Holmes' nemesis "M." a.k.a. Moriarty.
In translating Gigi Levange Grazier's novel about Molly--a Hollywood studio executive's wife, who finds herself suddenly single--to TV miniseries, producers had to condense some roles and adjust characters' motivations. For instance, some readers were upset that Molly's friend Cricket abandons her so easily early on in the miniseries. However, it's later revealed that Cricket drops her friendship with Molly because of Jorge, a movie director involved with Molly's husband. Jorge is a much more minor character in the book, but by beefing up his presence, producers changed the tide of another character's evolution.
"Interview" is primarily the story of vampire Louis; Lestat, the villainous vampire who turned him, is absent for a fair amount of the novel. However, Anne Rice recognized how readily readers related to Lestat, and made him the star of subsequent "Vampire Chronicles" novels. Aiding his rise in popularity was the 1994 film version of "Interview," in which Tom Cruise's performance as Lestat was more highly regarded than Brad Pitt's portrayal of Louis.
In Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot novels, the detective describes his secretary Felicity Lemon as "unbelievably ugly and incredibly efficient." However, the long-running TV adaptation presents Miss Lemon as a pretty, fashionable and emotional woman. That said, the trade-off appeared to be that by making her more attractive, she also became a much more indispensable character.
To give credit where it's due, J.K. Rowling seems to have always intended to elevate Neville from punching bag to fearsome young wizard in the latter half of the "Harry Potter" series. "The Order of the Phoenix" revealed that Neville and Harry were equally fated to be The Boy Who Lived, with Voldemort choosing to attack Harry after Peter Pettigrew betrayed the Potters. However, it wasn't until the last few "Potter" movies were released--and actor Matthew Lewis' baby fat melted away to reveal a teen heartthrob--that fans recognized just how self-sufficient Neville had become.
In J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy trilogy, the lovely half-elf Arwen is merely a part of the backstory--a bit player in the larger stories of her half-elven people and of her lover Aragorn. But, when Peter Jackson began to adapt the iconic series for three films, his production team pulled from Tolkien's appendices to flesh out the world and the characters. Stories including "The Tale of Arwen and Aragorn" provided plenty of detail that helped construct the on-screen character that many fans remember better than the book.
A character who hardly gets a passing mention in Charles Frazier's novel, Bosie was elevated to one of the most entertaining characters in the film adaptation. Then-newcomer Charlie Hunnam was cast to play Bosie only in the end of the film, but, as he explained in an interview, "the part just kept getting bigger and bigger." By the time "Cold Mountain" hit theaters, Hunnam's Bosie was an acerbic, acrobatic albino--and a consummate scene-stealer.