Famous novels that are critically acclaimed and loved by the general public usually get several movie adaptations. Many directors want to make the perfect movie, and of course, they want to hire the best actors and actresses possible for the roles of the classic characters.
1. Sherlock Holmes
Back in the day, the genius English detective was portrayed by Vasily Livanov in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson (1979–1986), Robert Downey Jr. in Sherlock Holmes (2009), and Benedict Cumberbatch in Sherlock (2010).
In Russia, Vasily Livanov is believed to be the best Sherlock, and Conan Doyle’s daughter agrees with this sentiment. She said that her father would’ve totally approved of the character the actor portrayed on screen. Vasily Livanov is also the only actor that played Sherlock to receive the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire from the Queen for his work.
The Sherlock that Robert Downey Jr. portrayed onscreen is very far from the classic variant, but the actor won a Golden Globe for it in the Best Actor category.
Benedict Cumberbatch showed Sherlock the way he would look today and it took viewers a long time to accept this way of telling such a classic story. Because the only thing that was the same as the books was the direction of the story. But the charm of the super-insightful Sherlock, in the duo with Martin Freeman as Doctor Watson, eventually won everyone over.
2. Conan the Barbarian
Conan the Barbarian was portrayed by 2 actors: Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1982, and Jason Momoa in 2011.
Critics thought that the character of Conan was one of the best roles Arnold Schwarzenegger has ever done. Together with the director, Schwarzenegger worked on his pronunciation and facial expressions. He practiced constantly to build up his sword fighting skills and look as natural as possible in these scenes. Let’s not even mention the fact that the movie had almost zero special effects — all the visual splendor was created by the crew and the actors.
Jason Momoa was “the second Conan.” So, of course, it was impossible to avoid being compared to Schwarzenegger. Momoa disappointed critics with his Conan portrayal because he seemed to be too thin and awkward. But fortunately, not everyone thought this. Other critics praised the actor for showing a totally different side of Conan. And of course, the acting was a bit debatable, some people thought it was far from perfect, while others said that the actor showed the character in a different light.
3. Scarlett O’Hara
Vivien Leigh portrayed Scarlett O’Hara from the original novel Gone With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell. And Joanne Whalley portrayed Scarlett from the sequel to the story written by a different author, Alexandra Ripley, whose novel is called Scarlett.
So, while the actresses portrayed very different characters, the viewers still compared them. Vivien Leigh portrayed a young Scarlett — selfish, explosive, persistent, and scandalous. It’s interesting that Margaret Mitchell actually planned for Scarlett to be a negative character, opposite Melanie. Margaret Mitchell described herself in Melanie’s character. But the viewers loved Scarlett, who became a symbol of the power of spirit, a strong temper, and the ability to survive. Mitchell was very disappointed with this.
The older Scarlett, portrayed by Joanne Whalley, was very different. She became wise, balanced, and calculating. It’s possible that Margaret Mitchell would’ve portrayed her this way, but unfortunately she never made part 2.
4. James Bond
Sean Connery, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig have become some of the most famous actors to ever portray James Bond. However, throughout history, this character was portrayed by at least 7 different actors in film alone, in addition to radio and television versions of the character.
Connery is the only actor among those that played Bond that has an Oscar and his portrayal of this character is claimed to be one of the best. The famous Scottish actor was scared that he would forever remain in this singular role, yet he still appeared in 5 movies.
Pierce Brosnan appeared in 4 movies and left the franchise at the age of 49. After Timothy Dalton, Mel Gibson was supposed to be Bond, but he refused to take the role. In the end, viewers said that the Bond played by Brosnan seemed to be the most reliable, confident, and trustworthy.
5. Hercule Poirot
David Suchet from Agatha Christie’s Poirot (1989–2013) and Kenneth Branagh from Murder on the Orient Express (2017) are the most famous actors that played the unusual detective.
David Suchet got into the character right away — he even said that he literally wanted to “become Poirot.” His acting was praised by Agatha Christie’s descendants and her grandchild Mathew Prichard, even said, “Personally, I regret very much that she never saw David Suchet. I think that visually he is much the most convincing.”
Kenneth Branagh portrayed the detective surrounded by an amazing cast: Penélope Cruz, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Derek Jacobi, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Daisy Ridley. Despite the mixed reviews, the movie earned more than $351 million worldwide and Branagh’s Poirot will return in a sequel that is supposed to be released in 2020. A lot of viewers complained that the actor hid his acting under his big mustache.
The romantic Emma from Jane Austen’s Emma has been portrayed by Kate Beckinsale, Gwyneth Paltrow (both movies were released in 1996), and Anya Taylor-Joy (2020).