We've all heard it at least once before: actors rarely live up to what some fans might hope to see when their favorite books hit the big screen.
While for some cases that may be undoubtedly true (Jennifer Garner playing Elektra? Come on, people!), the image of characters that we conjure up in our heads might not actually be what the author was intending.
But how can we know for sure?
One artist, Brian Joseph Davis, set out to answer just that. Using a law enforcement composite sketch software called FACES ID, Davis was able to create dozens of composite sketches of some of the most beloved book characters of all time. He then took these incredible depictions to his Tumblr page, The Composites.
"I started with my bookshelf, which seemed the obvious place," Davis told the Atlantic when he started the site. "Then I had to find writers who described their characters enough — which required either knowing books' contents really, really well" ... or scanning them and looking for keywords such as "eye" or "hair."
Some of the descriptions came from searching for those keywords in ebooks, but Davis didn't feel great about going about it that way.
"When I did that I started feeling a little bit wrong, like I really was using technology to invade the writer/reader relationship."
Regardless of his methods, the results of the sketches are truly astonishing.
"I still can't believe no one has done this before," Davis said.
While some characters like Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest fit most people's expectations, there are a few that may surprise you.
Marla Singer from Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
My power animal is Marla…Black hair and pillowy French lips. Faker. Italian dark leather sofa lips…Marla stares up at me. Her eyes are brown. Her earlobes pucker around earring holes, no earrings…She actually felt alive. Her skin was clearing up…Marla never has any fat of her own, and her mom figures that familial collagen would be better than Marla ever having to use the cheap cow kind…Short matte black hair, big eyes the way they are in Japanese animation, skim milk thin, buttermilk sallow in her dress with a wallpaper pattern of dark roses…Her black hair whipping my face…The color of Marla’s brown eyes is like an animal that’s been heated in a furnace and dropped into cold water. They call that vulcanized or galvanized or tempered. (Multiple suggestions)
Billy Pilgrim from Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Billy was preposterous-six feet and three inches tall, with a chest and shoulders like a box of kitchen matches…He was the only one of the four who had a beard. It was a random, bristly beard, and some of the bristles were white, even though Billy was only twenty-one years old. He was also going bald. Wind and cold and violent exercise had turned his face crimson…He didn’t look like a soldier at all. He looked like a filthy flamingo…He didn’t want the animal to drop into his face and maybe claw his eyes out or bite off his big nose…At that moment, Billy’s high forehead is in the cross hairs of a high-powered laser gun. (Multiple suggestions)
Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
Her face is smooth, calculated, and precision-made, like an expensive baby doll, skin like flesh-colored enamel, blend of white and cream and baby-blue eyes, small nose, pink little nostrils—everything working together…Her face is still calm, as though she had a cast made and painted to just the look she wants…Confident, patient, and unruffled.
No more little jerk, just that terrible cold face, a calm smile stamped out of red plastic; a clean, smooth forehead, not a line in it to show weakness or worry; flat, wide, painted-on green eyes, painted on with an expression that says I can wait, I might lose a yard now and then but I can wait, and be patient and calm and confident, because I know there’s no real losing for me.
Sherlock Holmes from A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
His very person and appearance were such as to strike the attention of the most casual observer. In height he was rather over six feet, and so excessively lean that he seemed to be considerably taller. His eyes were sharp and piercing, save during those intervals of torpor to which I have alluded; and his thin, hawk-like nose gave his whole expression an air of alertness and decision. His chin, too, had the prominence and squareness which mark the man of determination.
Lisbeth Salander from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
A pale, skinny young woman who had hair as short as a fuse, and a pierced nose and eyebrows. She had a wasp tattoo about an inch long on her neck…On those occasions when she had been wearing a tank top, a dragon tattoo can be seen on her left shoulder blade. Her natural hair colour was red, but she had dyed it ivory black…Crooked smile. (Suggested by Anna Bressanin)
Jack Torrance from The Shining by Stephen King
Ullman folded his neat little hands on the desk blotter and looked directly at Jack, a small, balding man in a banker’s suit and a quiet gray tie… Danny’s face, so much like his own had been, his eyes had been light blue while Danny’s were cloudy gray, but the lips still made a bow and the complexion was fair…His eyes were far away and cloudy. His hair hanging in his eyes, like some heavy animal. A large dog… or a lion.
Count Dracula from Dracula by Bram Stoker
A tall old man, clean shaven save for a long white moustache…His face was a strong, a very strong, aquiline, with high bridge of the thin nose and peculiarly arched nostrils, with lofty domed forehead…His eyebrows were very massive, almost meeting over the nose, and with bushy hair that seemed to curl in its own profusion. The mouth, so far as I could see it under the heavy moustache, was fixed and rather cruel-looking…For the rest, his ears were pale, and at the tops extremely pointed. The chin was broad and strong, and the cheeks firm though thin…The blue eyes transformed with fury. (Multiple suggestions)
The Monster from Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
As the minuteness of the parts formed a great hindrance to my speed, I resolved, contrary to my first intention, to make the being of a gigantic stature, that is to say, about eight feet in height, and proportionably large. After having formed this determination and having spent some months in successfully collecting and arranging my materials, I began…How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form? His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing… but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun-white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion and straight black lips.
Banner Image Credit: Brian Joseph Davis/Tumblr