In today’s vlogbrothers video, Nat Wolff discusses all the feedback (a gentle word) he has received regarding his lack of blond hair in his role as Isaac in the movie The Fault in Our Stars.
I noted that I couldn’t care less about such things (and in fact was THRILLED when Nat was cast as Isaac). So here’s why, and of course all of this is offered with the acknowledgement that I might be wrong.
1. The physical appearance of a character in a novel is not to me the most interesting or important facet of that character. So if you have a guy like Nat, who understands Isaac profoundly and has the ability to bring him to life but does not have blond hair, do you cast him over someone who will “look like” Isaac on a movie poster but not in fact be able to embody who Isaac is? I think not. We weren’t casting a movie poster. We were casting a movie, and we needed great actors who could portray complex characters convincingly. And that ain’t easy. Trust me. I tried acting today. It’s hard.
I think in the end hair color is not a huge part of who we are. Like, if you ask me to describe myself, I will say things like “husband” and “father” and “nerdfighter” and “person with anxiety problems” and “brother” and “Mountain Goats fan” and about 10,000 other things before I ever get to “brown hair haver.”
1a. But on the other hand, I understand that when people are responding to casting news, the physical body is all they have to go on, because they have not seen the auditions, and that it’s a little unfair of me to be like, “Trust me, Nat Wolff is an amazing Isaac and who cares about his hair color.” And I get that. But trust me, Nat Wolff is an amazing Isaac.
2. Movie adaptations are not, and should not attempt to be, visualizations of a novel. They are movies. They need different kinds of structure, and different metaphors* and different ways of expressing thoughts and ideas because you’re moving from text to the visible/audible world. EXAMPLE: In the book, Augustus Waters has blue eyes. Hazel at one point calls these eyes “waterblue,” and there are a bunch of little connections between Gus’s eyes and water, and that’s hopefully a nice little thing to help the reader think about the weird relationship that Hazel—and actually all humans—have with water. But to make that connection in the movie would be cheesy as hell, because everything is visible in a movie, and so that connection would lack any subtlety and it would just be obvious and distracting, and that’s why I honestly prefer that Ansel Elgort (who is playing Gus) doesn’t happen to have waterblue eyes. (That said, I would’ve lobbied the studio to cast him even if he did have blue eyes, because I thought he was a brilliant and nuanced Augustus.)
Physical appearance only matters if it is a significant plot point. Otherwise, no worries! :]