This Is What Famous Book Characters Would Look Like in Real Life
An artist uses police-sketch technology to build a case against the way Hollywood casts literary icons. The results may surprise you.
Claire Benoist for Reader's Digest, Sketch: Courtesy Brian J. Davis
It’s a reader’s favorite complaint: “The movie casting was all wrong—that’s not at all what I imagined [insert name of beloved literary character] to look like!”
But for New York artist Brian J Davis, imagining is only the beginning. Using verbatim character descriptions from famous novels and a law-enforcement sketch program called FACES, Davis builds composite portraits of literary characters one detail at a time, picking from a library of 2,000 unique facial features. The result: The Composites, an uncanny art project that challenges our ideas of what famous fictional characters might really look like. Here’s a lineup of our favorites.
Clarice Starling from the novel Hannibal
Snap/Shutterstock, Claire Benoist for Reader's Digest, Sketch: Courtesy Brian J. Davis
Author: Thomas Harris
A description from the book: “FBI Special Agent Clarice Starling, thirty-two, always looked her age, and she always made that age look good, even in fatigues … She saw herself clearly, saw the crinkles of age beginning in the corners of her eyes … Grains of burnt powder from the revolver of the late Jame Gumb marked her [left] cheekbone with a black spot … Her hair was a shapely platinum helmet.” Find out why your brain needs you to read every single day.
Count Dracula from the novel Dracula
Sketch: Courtesy Brian J. Davis,Universal/Kobal/Shutterstock,
Author: Bram Stoker
A description from the book: “Within, stood a tall old man, clean shaven save for a long white moustache … His eyebrows were very massive, almost meeting over the nose … The mouth, so far as I could see it under the heavy moustache, was fixed and rather cruel-looking … 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.” These are 20 books you really should have read by now.
Carrie White from the novel Carrie
United Artists/Kobal/Shutterstock, Sketch: Courtesy Brian J. Davis
Author: Stephen King
A description from the book: “She was so pretty, with pink cheeks and bright brown eyes, and her hair the shade of blonde you know will darken and get mousy … Her face was round … and the eyes were so dark that they seemed to cast shadows beneath them, like bruises … The lips were full, almost lush … Her hair stuck to her cheeks in a curving helmet shape … At sixteen, the elusive stamp of hurt was already marked clearly in her eyes.” Learn the debates behind the 13 most controversial books of all time.
James Bond from the novel Casino Royale
Snap Stills/Rex/Shutterstock, Sketch: Courtesy Brian J. Davis
Author: Ian Fleming
A description from the book: “As he tied his thin, double-ended, black satin tie, he paused for a moment and examined himself levelly in the mirror. His grey-blue eyes looked calmly back with a hint of ironical inquiry, and the short lock of black hair which would never stay in place slowly subsided to form a thick comma above his right eyebrow. With the thin vertical scar down his right cheek the general effect was faintly piratical.” You’ll want to read these 18 classic books you can finish in a day.
Nurse Ratched from the novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Sketch: Courtesy Brian J. Davis,Moviestore/Shutterstock
Author: Ken Kesey
A description from the book: “Her face is smooth, calculated, and precision-made, like an expensive baby doll … a calm smile stamped out of red plastic … 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.” These are the 50 books you should read before you’re 50—how many have you finished?