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"To be honest, you and Rupert and Emma are all too good-looking!"
J. K. Rowling, A Conversation with J.K. Rowling and Daniel Radcliffe

You've just learned that your favorite book, The Life And Times Of Alice and Bob, is being made into a movie. In the book, Alice is average-looking and slightly overweight, and Bob is a balding middle-aged guy. So why does it star Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt?

An adaptation and biopic trope, Adaptational Attractiveness is when a someone who was originally fat, plain, or even downright ugly is played by a much more conventionally attractive actor. This also applies to clothing: characters whose attire is described as grotesque will become fashionably dressed.

Although sometimes it's who can play the part best, while finding actors who look like the way the characters are described can be problematic.

Related to Hollywood Homely. See also Race Lift, which normally doesn't have the same effect, and Progressively Prettier, when something similar happens without an adaptation. When this is done to a real life person, it's Historical Beauty Update. Frequently occurs when a character is Promoted to Love Interest. See also Big Bra to Fill and Beauty Inversion.

The fandom version of this is Self Fanservice.

Examples of Adaptational Attractiveness include:


Anime and Manga

  • Therru from Ursula LeGuin's Earthsea fantasy series is so disfigured by third-degree burns as to make people unwilling to look at her. In the Studio Ghibli adaptation Tales from Earthsea, she's a cute young girl with some bad sunburn.
  • While Jonah Matsuka in the Toward the Terra manga was far from ugly, he was not quite the Bishonen that he became in the anime .
  • The anime adaptation of Fatal Fury 2 turned Wolfgang Krauser from a mustachioed middle-age man to a clean-shaven young man who is only a few years older than Terry.
  • The live-action adaptation of Nana to Kaoru. The short and ugly Kaoru was transformed into an average-height, moderately attractive young man; moreover, the actress playing Nana is shorter.
  • Scar is younger in the Fullmetal Alchemist anime. Ed, while not ugly at all in the manga, doesn't quite have the same sort of facial structure as his manga counterpart originally did; it's less square. While Ed in the manga and second anime hits a growth spurt eventually, towering over Winry, in the anime he becomes taller by The Movie but is still shorter then his biologically thirteen year old brother despite the fact he's 18-19 (the movie takes place 2 years after the series). He also seems to only be about Winry's height.
  • In Oniisama e..., Mariko's mother is pretty, but she is rather Hollywood Homely. But in the anime version, she is an outright Hot Mom.


Fan Fiction

  • One Discworld fanfic has the canonically overweight Agnes and her Split Personality Perdita separate into two slim, beautiful women.
    • Which actually makes a crazy amount of sense since Perdita is the "thin girl" accompanying Agnes' "a lot of chocolate" and she's gotta get the mass from someplace.


Film - Animated

  • While arguably still not attractive, Quasimodo from Disney's version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame is upgraded from hideous to Ugly Cute. Presumably, if they added the little details of how ugly he is, it would be a pain on the animators, and would have scared the children in a movie that's already pretty dark to begin with.
  • John Smith from Disney's Pocahontas was actually changed from a short, fat ugly man to a tall, muscular, handsome-looking man.
  • In The Black Cauldron, Gurgi is changed from a hideous gorilla-like monster in the original books to a cute badger-like animal.


Film - Live-Action

  • Gerard Butler as the Phantom in the musical The Phantom of the Opera is an extreme example of this. The nature of the Phantom's deformity is already different from the source novel's in the stage version (in the novel his face resembles a skull, and the stage version it's only half of his face affected), but still, he's alarming to look at unmasked. Butler's deformity in the film is commonly described as resembling third-degree sunburn at worst. On top of this, while the Phantom is usually played by middle-aged actors on stage - in part because a key plot thread is Christine seeing him as a father figure - Butler was 34 when the film was shot. Hotter and Sexier, sure, but this is supposed to be one character whose entire point is that he is not at all hot or sexy!
  • Julian Sands played the Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera with his regular face.
  • In the X-Men films:
  • Frank Lucas and Ritchie Roberts weren't much to look at, but they were played by Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe in American Gangster.
  • In the Annie Proulx short story Brokeback Mountain, the two protagonists are described to be ordinary-looking, even unattractive. In the movie adaptation they're played by Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger.
  • In Annie Proulx's The Shipping News, the protagonist is described as overweight, sloppy, and with a face wrinkled like a crenshaw melon. In the film adaptation, he is portrayed by Kevin Spacey.
  • In Louis Sachar's Holes, Stanley is explicitly described as fat on repeated occasions. Shia LaBeouf, the actor playing him in the movie, is quite lanky. A part of the original story was that Stanley would gradually get more fit by all the work at Camp Green Lake, however this had to be dropped for continuity reasons.
  • Ralph Fiennes playing Dolarhyde in Red Dragon. According to the book, Dolarhyde, though plain, is nowhere near as hideous as he thinks he is (certainly not ugly enough for every woman to automatically reject him based on looks), but he still doesn't look like Ralph Fiennes. Dolarhyde's insecurity about his looks is (at least according to the movie) rooted in him having a cleft palate, which he corrected later with surgery.
  • In the book Psycho (yes, there was a book), Norman Bates was fat, bespectacled, and middle-aged, unlike Anthony Perkins in the movie. In fact, he resembles his real-life inspiration, Ed Gein. The change in the film was intentional, because Hitchcock thought that an attractive Norman would be easier to sympathize with.
  • Even the original illustrations of Sherlock Holmes made him too good-looking for Conan Doyle's liking. In film he ends up being played by such handsome leading men as Basil Rathbone, Jeremy Brett, Rupert Everett and Robert Downey Jr.
    • In one such film, the tall, thin ascetic and 'reptilian' Professor Moriarty is played by Jared Harris, and not made to look especially frightening on the outside. This does kind of work in his favour, though, as it makes him more intimidating due to his personality in the film.
  • In Jane Eyre, Rochester is downright unattractive and well into middle age. Jane Eyre herself is young, but extremely plain. These are actually important character traits, as they love each other for their inner character and each pass up on a more attractive prospective mate. In adaptations, however, Rochester is usually a rather handsome, if gruff, older gentleman, while Jane Eyre is at worst Hollywood Homely.
  • In the Philip K. Dick short story Minority Report, the first three things we learn about the protagonist are that he's fat, bald and old. The fact that he's reaching retirement age is a plot point in the ending. The movie cast Tom Cruise, though amazingly they allow him to be bald at the end. Also, the mutants in the story were explicitly stated to be hideous. You know, kind of like how you'd expect mutants to look. On screen they're buzzed and pale, but otherwise normal.
  • In the novel of Little Children, the character Ronnie bears very little physical resemblance to Jackie Earle Haley, being an overweight, balding chain-smoker who wears glasses. While Haley is no George Clooney, he brought a far more sympathetic interpretation to the character than what was probably intended. Sarah Peirce was also described as being not very pretty in the book. In the movie they worked over time to make Kate Winslet seem frumpy but their best efforts made her look Hollywood Homely.
  • In The Princess Bride, Prince Humperdink is ridiculously over-muscled, and Vizzini is a hunchback.
  • A number of isses in Watchmen
    • Some people thought that the overall cast was too young and attractive to portray some of the middle-aged and beaten-down characters. (Although the age issue was out of necessity, to allow the actors to portray their younger selves in flashbacks.) Rorschach in particular is supposed to be "fascinatingly ugly". Compare comics and movie versions.
  • The Wind and The Lion changed the Moroccan bandit, Raisuli, into Sean Connery, and his Greco-American captive, Ion Perdicaris, into Candice Bergen.
  • The titular character from Kaiji is not in the least attractive (considering the art style), in the movies however...
  • In Harry Potter:
    • Even without going into the inevitabilities of with puberty striking the three, at age 11, Harry is supposed to have a skinny face and knobby knees, with his green eyes being his only good feature. It's a similar story for Ron and Hermione. Hermione in particular is rather average until she gets an opportunity to clean up nicely. In the film series, all the lead child characters were played by cute kids. As the characters mature, however, their appearances shape up a bit and the actors correspond a bit better.
      • The later books imply that she is at least moderately attractive as she does attract some male attention from Cormac Mclaggen and Viktor Krum. After Escaping From the wedding She gets unwanted catcalls
    • In the book series, Severus Snape is supposed to have greasy hair, a sallow face, yellowish teeth and a body rather too thin to be healthy. In the film series, he is played by Alan Rickman, whose mature sexiness cannot be obscured by an unflattering wig. This helped the character graduate into his current Draco in Leather Pants role in the fandom. Ironically, author Rowling had Rickman in mind while writing the character, though he is also based on a teacher she didn't like.
    • Dolores Umbridge looked somewhat like a toad. In the movie, she looked as close to cute as a woman can be while also looking like an evil grandmother. This might actually have worked out, since if anything it made her more hateful.
    • The Bellatrix Lestrange of the books is supposed to have lost her beauty along with whatever sanity she had in the first place during her stay in Azkaban. In the film...hello Helena Bonham Carter, though she keeps the rather off-putting teeth in the film.
    • Pansy Parkinson, is perhaps not beautiful in The Half-Blood Prince film, but far from ugly. According to the book, she has a "pug-like face".
    • J. K. Rowling says that she always wondered why fangirls loved Draco Malfoy so much, since she never imagined him as particularly attractive. The answer is Tom Felton's suave, stylish portrayal of the character in the last three-four films, especially in Half-Blood Prince.
    • Viktor Krum is described in the books as gangly and hook-nosed, with a habit of slouching. He was played by Stanislav Ianevski.
  • 21, a movie based on the book about several MIT students gaming casinos in Blackjack. The (actual, still living) MIT students are replaced with vastly more attractive (and all white) actors for the movie.
  • In The Lord of the Rings, hobbits are generally portly, but with the exception of Sean Astin, who is already stocky and gained some weight for the role of Sam, the producers hired slender actors for the Fellowship hobbits. Director Peter Jackson didn't want the characters to look like midgets by being overly stocky. Frodo in the books is described as "stout," and, while he's supposed to look younger than his actual age (fifty), teenage Elijah Wood is definitely stretching it.
  • In Isaac Asimov's robot stories, Susan Calvin is described as middle-aged and unattractive. In the movie, she was portrayed by a former model, Bridget Moynahan (although that film was only very, very loosely based on Asimov's work.)
  • In the film of Avatar: The Last Airbender, Zuko's scar has changed from covering half his face to a barely noticeable red line over his eye.
  • In the novel of Children of Men, the descriptions of Theo do not exactly call to mind a Clive Owen. Then again, about the only thing the two of them have in common is their name and a few backstory elements, the film being a very loose adaptation.
  • In Jane Campion's Bright Star, incredibly gorgeous Ben Whishaw plays John Keats, who really wasn't as gorgeous as Whishaw.
  • Speaking of Whishaw, he was also cast as Grenouille in the film adaptation of Patrick Süskind's Perfume. In the novel, Grenouille is described as ugly before a dirty, dangerous job at a tannery and successive bouts of disfiguring illness mar his appearance even further.
  • Ned Kelly
    • This is Australian outlaw Joe Byrne. Not a bad looking guy, actually. This is Joe Byrne as portrayed by Orlando Bloom.
    • This is what Ned Kelly looked like. This is what he looked like being played by Heath Ledger. (though Heath did get a beard later on in the film).
  • L in the anime/manga Death Note is not intended to be a sight for sore eyes and is noted in universe for being pretty odd looking. The live-action actor, on the other hand...
  • In the book Jurassic Park, protagonist Alan Grant is described as short, pot bellied, and bearded. A tall, thin, and clean shaven Sam Neill dashingly plays him in the movie. Similarly, Ian Malcolm is described as a "thin, balding man". Who plays him in the movie? A studly Jeff Goldblum.
  • In the book The Little White Horse, Sir Benjamin Merriweather is described as fat, bowlegged, and past his prime. In its film adaptation, The Secret of Moonacre, he's played by the lean, sinewy Ioan Gruffudd, who's also considerably younger than the character.
  • In the Master and Commander film of the Aubrey-Maturin series, both Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin are far more attractive than their book counterparts. Something of a Pragmatic Adaptation, however, because in the books Stephen is 5'6" and "indefinably odd-looking" or "pitifully small and distorted", and Jack more than 6 feet tall, but Paul Bettany is, at 6'3", four inches taller than Russell Crowe. Jack in the books is usually more than 16 stone, but Russell Crowe only gained a little for the role.
  • Sleepy Hollow. The original description of Ichabod Crane is nothing like Johnny Depp. However, virtually nothing about Crane is the same as his original character in the short story. Originally, they did a few test runs with Depp wearing facial prosthetics, but Tim Burton ended up changing his mind, saying that in this case, it was Crane's personality quirks that made him unattractive.
  • In the Tom Ripley novels, Tom's housekeeper/MoralityPet Madame Antoinette is a middle aged-elderly Frenchwoman of friendly but average appearance. In the film Ripley Under Ground, which is a somewhat Lighter and Softer Pragmatic Adaptation, Antoinette is a pretty young woman who is the maid (not a French Maid though except in a literal sense) of Tom's future wife, but is also friendly with her/likes Tom as in the novels.
  • In Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, typically scrawny, geeky Scarecrow is played by Cillian Murphy. He goes from this to this.
  • In War and Peace, Pierre Bezukhov is overweight and in the beginning, a socially awkward delinquent. In the 1956 version of the movie, he's played by Henry Fonda and is anything but overweight and socially awkward.
  • In The Gormenghast Trilogy, both the text and the original sketches by Peake himself, depict Steerpike as a short, thin, bowed, unattractive youth with tow-coloured hair and blood-red eyes. In the BBC adaptation, he is played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers, who is considered to be handsome.
  • In the novel They Shoot Horses Don't They?, Gloria is described as short, looking older than she is and not really pretty. In the movie, she's played by Jane Fonda, who fits none of those qualifications.
  • In the manga Ooku, the shogun's best friend and right-hand woman is plain and pudgy with a sort of rectangular face. The live-action movie cast Wakui Emi, who bears little resemblance.
  • While the original Clash of the Titans ups Medusa's hideousness by making her a Snake Woman, the remake has a snakelike Cute Monster Girl - she even illustrates the Gorgeous Gorgon page!.
  • An odd example happened in the film version of Sin City where the fat, balding, middle-aged serial killer named Kevin was played by Elijah Wood. The fanbase was still very pleased with the result.
  • In the novel Taffin, the title character is overweight and unattractive. In the movie, he's played by PIERCE BROSNAN.
  • Partially lampshaded in American Splendor, when Joyce talks about how Harvey is depicted in his comic:

  Joyce: You know, I don't really know what to expect. Sometimes you look like a younger Brando... but then the way Crumb draws you, you look... like a hairy ape, with all these wavy, stinky lines undulating off your body. I don't really know what to expect.

  • In the novel Running with Scissors, Natalie is described as being plain and significantly overweight. In the movie, she's played by Evan Rachel Wood.
  • Dracula. In the book Dracula was old and ugly, with hairy palms, whilst most of the films make him younger, suave, and Tall, Dark and Handsome. The most extreme example must be the 1979 version, which makes Dracula look like this and have a voice that could melt butter.
    • Also applicable to Renfield in one known adaptation of the novel. While he's normally interpreted by older-looking men, more similar in appearance to the character in the books; he was played by the handsome Dwight Frye in the 1931 version.
  • The novel of True Grit describes Mattie as ugly on multiple occasions, as well as describing Rooster as old and fat. Neither film adaptation really held to this. The 2010 adaptation made it even more jarring by keeping all the dialogue about ugliness and fatness. Hailee Steinfeld wasn't made up like a beauty pageant entry or anything, but has flawless skin and shiny hair; she's at worst Hollywood Homely. Jeff Bridges had something like a visible gut, but was hardly fat. (Both actors performed admirably, but the insistence that they were ugly and fat, respectively, remained jarring.)
  • Justin Hammer in Iron Man 2 goes from an old man to a middle-aged man (42-year old Sam Rockwell).
  • In the Gyakuten Saiban film, Gumshoe is played by Shunsuke Daito. That's right, Dick Gumshoe is played by Ohtori Kyoya from the live action Ouran High School Host Club.
  • In Quiz Show, John Turturro plays Herb Stempel and Ralph Fiennes plays Charles Van Doren.
  • In the second Silent Hill film, Vincent is being played by Kit Harrington.
  • Amanda Seyfried as Linda Lovelace.
  • Bonnie and Clyde were played by Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, both much prettier than the Real Life originals.
  • In the novel Relic, the character of police lieutenant Vincent D'Agosta was portrayed as overweight and near middle age. In the film adaptation, he was played by Tom Sizemore.


Literature

  • Sherlock Holmes is described as being tall and thin, with thin lips and and hawk-like nose. Contemporary illustrations made the character Progressively Prettier, causing author Doyle to object. In films, Holmes is often played by handsome leading men such as Christopher Lee, Rupert Everett, and Robert Downey, Jr.. Interestingly, the reverse is usually true of Watson, who in the books is contrasted against Holmes for his skill with the ladies, but is often portrayed in adaptations as a rotund little man (except the one with Downey Jr., where he's Jude Law). Mocked nicely by Kate Beaton here.
    • The new BBC series Sherlock averts this: Watson is played by Martin Freeman, whose nice but average looks have been securing him everyman roles for the past who-knows-how-many years. Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays Sherlock, may or may not be unconventionally attractive (there has been serious debate and Fan Wank on this issue), but he is not a stereotypically handsome leading man like the others listed above. Played straight with Lestrade, who's a handsome Silver Fox rather than a thin, ferret-like man the way he is in the books.
  • In Dozerfleet Comics' Gerosha universe, Hester Prynne is remarkably more like a Disney Princess than Nathaniel Hawthorne ever described her being. Makes Dimmesdale that much more sympathetic. Hero Machine render here.
  • For Chinese literature, this tends to happen to the main characters in modern Asian adaptations of Jin Yong's work. One rather noticeable example can be found in a 2008 adaptation of Legend of the Condor Heroes, where the protagonist Guo Jing is played by teen idol and heart throb Hu Ge. Guo Jing is normally described as being a rather stout, muscular man who is not exactly known for being incredibly handsome or refined. Hu Ge, on the other hand, is pretty much a Real Life equivalent of a Bishonen. Needless to say, it can be rather unnerving for certain fans to see other characters mention how "manly" and "plain" Guo Jing is, when [[media:U 1735 P 28 T 3 D 1319149 F 326 DT 20061108153936.JPG|he]] looks prettier than some of the female cast.
  • In the novelisation of Star Trek First Contact the Borg Queen is described as being dark-haired and beautiful, while Data with human skin grafted to his body is described as being brown-eyed, tanned and handsome.
  • Averted with Erin Brockovich as Julia Roberts and the real life Erin Brockovich look enough alike that they could be mistaken as sisters.
  • Bridge of Birds has an in-universe example: Lotus Cloud is described as not being conventionally beautiful, having "thick legs" and a "flat face" and her only exceptional feature being her bewitching grin, but the ancient myth about her true goddess identity describes her as "the most beautiful girl in the world". When this discrepancy is pointed out to Master Li, he dismisses it as a "mere literary convention" and says that physical beauty has always been a highly overvalued trait.


Live Action TV

  • The miniseries adaptation of Stephen King's The Stand most notably suffered from this with the character Harold Lauder. In the book Harold was primarily defined by how overweight, pock-marked, and basically hideously unattractive he was at the start, and a major part of his arc centered upon how he began to lose weight and take care of himself later in the story. In the film he was played by the quite handsome actor Corin Nemec, who wore a slightly nerdy hairdo and outfit for the first episode or two before a subtle attack of The Glasses Gotta Go. (Though, if you saw Thinner, you might call this a Pragmatic Adaptation.)
  • Funnily enough, this may have led to the American version of the Australian comedy Kath and Kim being a flop. The title characters were played by Hollywood Homely actresses[1] rather than properly translating the premise. It should have been about a trailer trash mother and daughter. The mom won't admit how old she is and the daughter is in denial about her weight.
  • In the Inspector Lynley novel series by Elizabeth George, Barbara Havers is clearly described as short, ugly, overweight and poorly dressed. Sharon Small, who played her in The BBC series The Inspector Lynley Mysteries, is trim, pretty and better dressed (but still short). Elizabeth George openly disliked the casting choice, until she was ultimately won over by Sharon Small's performance.
  • In the TNT series Rizzoli & Isles, Jane Rizzoli is played by the gorgeous Angie Harmon, despite the fact that in nearly every book that the TV series is based on, Rizzoli is consistently described as plain or average looking and so hung up on this that she frequently displays an irrational hatred of women who ARE beautiful. Similarly, while Isles is described in the books as being attractive, as played by Sasha Alexander, she's now a knockout.
  • In the Mrs Bradley novels by Gladys Mitchell, she's described as "a hag-like pterodactyl". In The BBC's The Mrs Bradley Mysteries, she's played by Diana Rigg.
  • One of the many problems with the American Red Dwarf pilot. Lister has all his negative qualities removed, like his slobbishness and his laziness. The actor is the Adonis-like Craig Bierko, as opposed to the average looking Craig Charles.
  • If artwork is anything to go by, samurai Uesugi Kenshin was rugged, large and hairy. In the TV drama Fuurin Kazan Uesugi Kenshin was played by Bishonen rock star Gackt, who looked even prettier than most of the female cast.
    • This is especially noticeable since the other actors actually resemble the large, grizzled warlords they are playing.
  • In the CBC miniseries of Anne of Green Gables, in which Anne is supposedly unattractive, she's played by Megan Follows..

Video Games


Western Animation

  • Terra from Teen Titans. In the source comics she has buck teeth, short fluffy hair, and is otherwise a rather (while exaggerated) "normal" teenage girl. In the cartoon she's petite and has long hair. It's a bit hilarious though, since cartoon's version of Terra is everything the original hates.
  • In the early Bionicle movies, the animators took a number of liberties with the characters' appearances, making them look quite different to the toys. In Mask of Light, Gali's figure is less bulky and she now looks more like a FemBot. Pohatu is also considerably more handsome there than in his toy form.
    • In Legends of Metru Nui, they even went as far as giving Nokama what can only be described as a robo-cleavage. Seems unnecessary, after they had already turned her ugly toy-mug into a quite nice-looking, feminine face.
  • In Thundercats the token evil Thundercat Grune is quite homely compared to his fellow Catfolk, a textbook example of Beauty Equals Goodness. In ThunderCats (2011), he's given the severe good looks and Heroic Build of a Barbarian Hero, a reputation to match, and a promotion to the series Dragon.
  • Superman vs. the Elite's Manchester Black, while still retaining the thuggish look of the character from the comics, has him be a little bit thinner and having a much less gaunt face.

Notes

  1. And that's if you consider Molly Shannon and Selma Blair homely at all
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