Casting your characters

I was chatting over the weekend with a writer friend who was having difficulty creating one of the characters in the book she was working on.

He was a real person from several centuries ago: an estate manager who fell in love with and married the boss’ daughter, resulting in her disinheritance from the family fortune. She couldn’t figure out what he looked like, how he spoke, walked, and so on. So I asked her when she sells the film rights to this as-yet-unwritten masterpiece, who she would cast in the role, which set us off into a flurry of googling thirty-/forty-something actors who could play both tough and tender, with a bit of the Four Musketeers thrown in.

My first suggestion, Tom Hiddleston, was rejected because he looked too ‘nice’, though I tried in vain to explain to my friend that his Coriolanus was far from ‘nice’. (That was just as well as I rather fancied him to play George Matcham, the tall, rich and elegant gentleman who appeared in my book.)

George Matcham
George Matcham
Tom Hiddleston Huffington Post
Tom Hiddleston (

That got me thinking about who might play Claudia in my as-yet-to-be-published novel The Unlikely Adventures of … People from Glenda Jackson on complain still about the lack of parts for mature actresses, but I struggled to think of a suitable one. Vanessa Redgrave (a tad too old), Maggie Smith (too mannered), Judi Dench (perfect, if she was younger), Charlotte Rampling (at a pinch). I ended up eventually with Penelope Wilton.

Penelope Wilton (
Penelope Wilton (
Cover low res
Claudia Faraday (sketch by Anna de Polnay)

This is not just a fun game, it’s a useful exercise for writers. If you can see your character, hear what she/he sounds like, it might just help to create him or her in the first place.

2 thoughts on “Casting your characters

  1. I always do that and keep the images in my Scrivener project so I can see them as I write. I don’t worry about the age though – I just find a photo of them young. My work in progress features Eddy Redmayne in one role – but mostly I use old photos of unknown people (I write historical – currently 19th C).

    1. Ah, Eddie Redmayne, yes, he’s a busy man. Along with Tom and Benedict and Damien and Dominic, they’ve pretty well got the market cornered!

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