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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.

Snap/Shutterstock, Claire Benoist for Reader's Digest, Sketch: Courtesy Brian J. Davis

Clarice Starling 
from the novel Hannibal

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.

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Sketch: Courtesy Brian J. Davis,Universal/Kobal/Shutterstock,

Count Dracula from the novel Dracula


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.

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United Artists/Kobal/Shutterstock, Sketch: Courtesy Brian J. Davis

Carrie White from 
the novel Carrie


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.

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Snap Stills/Rex/Shutterstock, Sketch: Courtesy Brian J. Davis

James Bond from the novel Casino Royale


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.

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Sketch: Courtesy Brian J. Davis,Moviestore/Shutterstock

Nurse Ratched 
from the novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest


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?

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest