Adaptational Attractiveness

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Gee whillikers! They're not only nicer-looking in the movie but Sleeping Single, too!

"To be honest, you and Rupert and Emma are all too good-looking!"

J. K. RowlingA 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

  • Lina was flat chested in The Slayers novels, but in the anime adaptation she gained some cleavage, depending on the scene. Bizarrely, all her dialogue relating to complaining about her being flat-chested was left in, often resulting in a fairly averagely endowed Lina Inverse complaining about something that really shouldn't be bothering her.
    • It happened in the manga as well, but it was justified that the men at Slayersverse only like enormous boobs and extremely masculine girls.
  • 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.
  • Tenma from Monster is a milder example. For whatever reason, he gets better looking as the manga progresses, while in the anime, he is good-looking from the start.
    • Well Tenma's change seems to be meant as symbolic
  • 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.
  • Inverted with the Pokémon anime. Quite a few characters have had more simplistic designs than their game counterparts, their designs tweaked to a point where it's more unappealing, or simple design changes which give them a different look (different colorings, eyes not being fully colored in, etc).
    • Also played straight in the transition from games to anime. Ash isn't nearly as scrawny or unruly looking as Red originally was, though they appear to be the same height.
  • 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.
  • Quite a lot of Metal Fight Beyblade characters had their appearances changed from the manga to make them more attractive in the anime. One of the most notable is Ryutaro Fukami. He went from looking like a bratty kid with buckteeth to actually being quite pretty.
  • Compare Motoko Kusanagi's original appearance in Ghost in The Shell, to her later appearance in Stand Alone Complex.
    • Less frizzy hair?
  • 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.
  • The Harpie Lady Sisters used by Mai in Yu-Gi-Oh! are scantily-clad, fanservice-y, Cute Monster Girls, unlike the actual Harpies from Classical Mythology, who were hideous, ugly crones.


  • The painting Ulysses and the Sirens by Herbert James Draper, which shows a dramatic depiction of that event, portrays the Sirens as lovely temptresses, rather than the hideous bird-women they are in mythology.

Fan Works

  • 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 with a bushy beard to a tall, muscular, handsome-looking man with blonde hair and blue eyes. Pocahontas herself was actually changed from a 12-year-old girl to a beautiful model-like Native-American adult woman.
  • Shrek, while rude, crude, and ogreish, isn't really hideous. In the book it was based on...
  • In The Black Cauldron, Gurgi is changed from a hideous gorilla-like monster in the original books to a cute badger-like animal.
  • Dragon Hunters inverts this. In the 2004 animated series Gwidzo is presented as charismatic and moderately attractive whereas the 2008 film adaption portrays him as grimy and unpleasant, even having him describe himself as "mean and ugly" during a break down.

Film - Live-Action

  • In a filmed play of Death of a Salesman, Dustin Hoffman plays the character of Willy Loman, who in the play's original script was described as fat and unattractive. The film edits out references to Loman's weight and replaces them with jabs at his intellect and height. Apparently Arthur Miller told Dustin Hoffman his original vision of Willy Loman was a small man, despite how casting for the first play turned out.
    • And yet averted when Hoffman played the lead role in The Graduate, as his character is described in the source novel as being blonde, tanned and athletic looking.
  • Every single film adaptation of one of Roald Dahl's works can come across as this almost automatically, because of the books' art style for the illustrations, which makes everyone seem a notch or two less attractive than they presumably are supposed to be. If you're beautiful or cute, you look average. If you're average, you look ugly, and if you're ugly, you look like a troll.
  • In Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland
  • 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:
    • Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, who is supposed to be extremely stocky and short. Jackman is so tall that castmate James Marsden had to stand on boxes to not be dwarfed by him. Also, Wolverine in the comic books is not an attractive man, but here, he's Hugh Jackman.
    • Similarly, Toad [dead link] is a short, ugly little hunchback in the comics. In the movie, he's played by Ray Park [dead link] with some very half-hearted attempts at uglying him up. Possibly justified by the fact that prosthetics capable of making him look the part of his comic character yet still able to emote and speak intelligibly would have been pretty expensive given his limited role in the film.
    • The comic version of Deadpool is substantially uglier than the film version [dead link].
    • In the comics Sebastian Shaw, the Big Bad of First Class, is a thuggish-looking, middle-aged businessman with a heavy build best described as "gorilla-like". In the film, he's played by Kevin Bacon.
    • The comic book version of Riptide is nowhere near as good looking as the movie version.
  • 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, red-headed (as are his daughters) and with a face wrinkled like a crenshaw melon. In the film adaptation, he is portrayed by Kevin Spacey.
  • In the Thin Man movies, the main character was changed from an overweight man to handsome Hollywood actor William Powell.
  • 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. Manhunter's Dolarhyde clearly showed the scar from the operation but Ralph Fiennes playing Dolaryhde just looks like--Ralph Fiennes. Not that cleft palate surgery hasn't come a long way since then but Red Dragon is supposed to be a remake, not a reboot.
  • 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 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.
    • In the comic, a deconstruction of the superhero genre, the characters' costumes were intended to look somewhat silly to highlight the inherent absurdity of classic superhero costumes. In the movie, however, the costumes are played straight, and look much more stylish.
    • And possibly inverted with Ozymandias. He's supposed to be the model of western perfection: blonde, square-jawed and athletic. In the film, he's lanky and has a thin face - not that this affects his physical prowess, mind you.
  • In From Hell, in which Inspector Frederick Abberline is a overweight, middle-aged man typical of the Victorian middle-class. The Film of the Book casts Johnny Depp as the Inspector. Similarly, the Ripper's victims generally appear more attractive in the film than they did in the comic or in real-life, as late Victorian streetwalkers in their early-to-mid forties, though most of the actresses were close in age to the women they portrayed.
  • In The Neverending Story, Bastian is fat, and it's one of the key problems he experiences in life with teasing by bullies. In the movies, not only is he thin, but in The Neverending Story 2, he's a lithe athletic swimmer. One of the Aesops of the book was Bastian using his Fantastican powers to wish for an athletic body, which was a symptom of him losing his identity.
  • The Wind and The Lion changed the Moroccan bandit, Raisuli, into Sean Connery, and his Greco-American captive, Ion Perdicaris, into Candice Bergen.
  • In an inversion of this trope Being There: Chance, the gardener, is described as looking like a cross between Ted Kennedy (in the early 1970s) and Cary Grant. Peter Sellers played the character in the film, and is not generally considered to have a dashing appearance. In addition, Sellers intentionally gained weight for the role because he decided that Chance's "sedentary and solitary" life would have left him overweight.
  • 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".
    • Luna Lovegood is a lesser example, in that she isn't ugly in the books, but usually seen as fairly plain and "dotty", wheras Evanna Lynch is highly attractive (though her physical traits do actually match Luna's quite well, and there couldn't have been a better casting character wise).
    • 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.
  • The Film of the Book Twilight
    • James is described in the book as very average and unremarkable in appearance, the producers still cast Cam Gigandet in the role.
    • Bella Swan thinks of herself as rather plain and unfashionable, while Kristen Stewart plays her in the movies. However, some readers infer that Bella is overly hard on her appearance.
  • 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.)
  • A minor, strange case in the film version of V for Vendetta: in the comic, V's mask has a round face and an upturned nose, making him look sort of like a doll with a mustache and a goatee, making some of his panels look more inappropriately cute than usual in especially serious scenes. In the film, he has a longer face and a long, straight nose, making him look more masculine.
  • To quote Miles Kreuger on the film adaptations of Show Boat: "Cap'n Andy's three tarts in the 1936 version are gaudily dressed and made up for their profession: in this (1951) film they are three wholesome extra girls who might be expected at Lady Astor's in their chic finery." Kreuger made similar observations about Helen Morgan (who appeared in the 1936 film) vs. Ava Gardner (of the 1951 film) as Julie in the scene where she sings "Bill".
  • 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 the film adaptation of Let the Right One In, Oskar is played by a reasonably cute and thin child. In the book, however, he is overweight and has major problems with food. Despite being a generally lauded film, the film rather confusingly still has the bullies call Oskar "piggy". The American remake includes his obsession with candy, but also keeps him as a skinny, scrawny kid.
  • In Camp Nowhere, Melody Kay plays Gaby, a girl who is sent to fat camp and whose extra weight is mentioned by love interest, Mud ... except that the girl is average-to-thin. She's pretty much the same size as the movie's hot girl.
  • 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.
  • A extremely rare reverse-example occurs in the Hammer Horror film The Devil Rides Out. In Dennis Wheatley's original novel, the character of Marie Eaton is a young glamorous Russian refugee, while the movie made her into a moderately-attractive middle-aged native-born Englishwoman.
  • 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 [dead link] is what he looked like being played by Heath Ledger. (though Heath did get a beard later on in the film).
  • Leslie Burke in the book Bridge to Terabithia was described as looking more like a boy than a girl and wearing plain clothing. In the film she was played by AnnaSophia Robb, who wore bright, colourful clothes at every opportunity.
  • The play Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune originally starred Kathy Bates and Kenneth Welsh, and was revived with Stanley Tucci and Edie Falco. The 1991 film version, Frankie and Johnny, starred Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer. Yes, that's right, a young Michelle Pfeiffer in a role originated by Kathy Bates.
  • 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, and very not-bald 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.
  • The novel The Hotel New Hampshire makes it clear that Susie the Bear really is ugly, she has major acne scars. In the movie she is played by Nastassja Kinski (with no fake scars or anything) who only thinks she is ugly. This ruins a major plot point, totally changes the character (instead of being ugly and knowing it, she is beautiful and thinks she is ugly), and ruins An Aesop about beauty.
  • 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.
    • Inverted with Detective Flass, who went from a tall, well-built blond jock to a fat, ugly, unkempt slob.
  • 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.
  • Inverted in The Graduate. In the book, Ben is a handsome WASP. In the movie, he's played by Dustin Hoffman. However, Robert Redford and Warren Beatty had been considered for the role.
  • In the novel They Shoot Horses Don't They?, Gloria is described as blonde, 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!
  • All kinds of played with in the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. In the book Nurse Ratched is described as pretty, busty and wearing bright makeup; in the movie she is played by Louise Fletcher, who is none of those things, but won Best Actress for her portrayal, mostly through her subtle facial acting and chilling disposition. Jane Fonda and Anne Bancroft, among others, turned down the role. Played straight in the casting of Jack Nicholson (then considered something of a sex symbol) as McMurphy; in the novel, McMurphy was a stocky redhead with a poorly-stitched gash across his cheekbone and nose. Except for the red hair, Nicholson is none of those things. Yet again, you might say it was averted in the casting of Will Sampson as Chief Broom, a role which called for (and amazingly found) a full-blooded Native American tall enough to tower over Jack Nicholson.
  • 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 Sense and Sensibility, Colonel Brandon is described as being not nearly as handsome as Willoughby. He's described as the 18th century version of "okay looking," and someone that Marianne became attached to because he was kind to her when she was ill. In the 1995 film, he's played by Alan Rickman. Willoughby who? Plenty of women would have snapped up the movie version of Colonel Brandon without a second glance at Willoughby. Kind, honorable and Alan Rickman sexy? Sign us up!
  • Velma in the first live action Scooby Doo film goes from this to this
  • It's difficult to claim this trope for adaptations of theatre productions, because the characters are played by so many different actors it's hard to claim which actor is the "right" amount of attractive. However, comparing the original castings of Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street with the versions shown in movie, and it's hard to claim Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter are accurate, especially given Todd's backstory, and while Benjamin Barker was supposedly attractive before he was exiled at least to Mrs. Lovett, after his ordeal he'd probably look a little more messed up than Johnny Depp with a skunk stripe.
  • 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.
    • A lot of the movies make his personality more attractive as well. In the book he was an old man, tired with immortality, who wanted to take over the world, whose bite seems to be a metaphor for rape and sexually transmitted disease. In the movies, he seduces Mina and/or Lucy, with plently of angst over the loneliness of living forever and being a vampire.
    • 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.
  • Inverted in the Fletch movies. In the books, Fletch was a handsome, young, blond, extremely muscular man who could bed any woman he wanted. In the movies, he was played by a forty-something Chevy Chase.
  • In Stephen King's Carrie, the title character is overweight, has thinning dark hair, acne in her face and chest and back, and possibly hirsutism (she seems to have all the signs of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome- hence explaining her late puberty). In the movie, she is played by Sissy Spacek, who is slender, has thick shiny blonde hair, and clear skin- and thus her late puberty is likely due to something else! Though the filmmakers did at least acknowledge this by having the gym teacher tell Carrie that she is a pretty girl but just needs to work on her appearance.
  • Inverted in Goodfellas. The real Tommy was 6"2", had long hair and a moustache, was built like a boxer and was described as very good looking. In the film, he is played by Joe Pesci.
  • The movie adaptation of Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a great example. In the books, Greg's brother Rodrick was portrayed as a noodle person with a perpetual frown. So... why is he played by Survival of the Dead‍'‍s Devon Bostick in the movie?
  • 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.)
  • Inverted in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. Eddie Valiant in the book has his attractiveness remarked on by several characters, but in the movie, he's played by schlubby Bob Hoskins.
  • 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 [dead link].
  • The Hunger Games has Katniss as a slim girl (given she spent her entire life with scarce food) with dark hair and olive skin, who describes herself as very plain. In the movie, she's played by fair-skinned blonde Jennifer Lawrence, who's attractive and looks pretty healthy (which Cracked mentions/spoofs, even saying they should have cast an Olsen twin instead).
    • Given how the other characters react to Katniss, she could easily be an Unreliable Narrator who cleans up nicely. She's a successful hunter, so she isn't necessarily starving.
  • 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.
  • In The Flintstones cartoon, Fred's mother-in-law was an overweight, dumpy old woman with a double-chin, was usually grouchy and always bossy. In the live-action adaptation, well, she's Elizabeth Taylor, and looks far better. But she's still grouchy and bossy.


  • 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 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 Gossip Girl books, Jenny Humphrey is a sweet, artistic girl whose main appearance anxiety is that she is short, brunet and busty, unlike her tall, slender blond idol, Serena VanDerWoodsen. Who do they cast to play her in the TV series? Tall, slender blond Taylor Momsen. The producers didn't know that fourteen-year-old Taylor Momsen would grow so tall, but they sure knew she was blond and skinny, and looked nothing like the character in the books.
    • Of course, they also changed her character so she really idolised Blair Waldorf... who is short, brunette and beautiful.
  • The TV adaptation of Sharpe cast Sean Bean (a blond northerner) as Richard Sharpe (in the books, a dark-haired Londoner). Although book-Sharpe is fairly handsome, he also has a wicked scar, which the TV version lacks. As above, author Bernard Cornwell was initially strongly opposed before being won over by Bean's performance, which led to Adaptation Displacement going so far as a book Retcon.
  • This is how the author of Gormenghast drew Nietzsche Wannabe Steerpike. This is what his actor looked like in the BBC serial.
    • His looks do disintegrate somewhat towards the end, what with the scarring and everything but admittedly, he still doesn't look nearly as ugly as he should.
  • 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 Discworld series "Nobby" Nobbs is described as so incredibly ugly that he has to carry a certificate (a letter from the Patrician) to prove he's human. In the Hogfather mini-series, he's played by a slightly overweight, slightly bucktoothed man. He strangely looks more like the description of the series' Fred Colon.
  • Doctor Who's Eighth Doctor is 5'8" and 160 lbs fully overdressed and with shoes on ("I just lost twenty pounds!"), with a solid, athletic build. For some reason, a lot of the authors of the books felt it necessary to describe him as if he's a tall, skinny Bishounen. Most other male characters seem to be shorter than him, yet it never comes up that a man who's noticeably shorter than him is quite short indeed. But he's unconventionally gorgeous Mr. Fanservice without being tall, thin, and long-legged. It's even worse in the comics, where you'd think they could just draw him the way he actually looks, but as a matter of fact gave him enormous cheekbones, absurdly long legs, and made his 19th-century three-piece suit inexplicably clingy (although the effect is often to make him look more severe rather than more attractive). Seriously, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
  • 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.
  • The BBC's Adaptation of Sarah Waters’ Tipping the Velvet cast Rachel Stirling (daughter of Dame Diana Rigg) as Nan, who was so plain in the book that she passed successfully as a boy for years on the street.
  • The Girls in Love series by Jacqueline Wilson describes heroine Ellie as a chubby, awkward girl worried about her weight, glasses and frizzy hair, who feels self-conscious next to her pretty friends Magda and Nadine. This is an important part of her characterization, with a whole book focusing on her almost developing an eating disorder. So what happened in the TV adaptation? Ellie was played by Olivia Hallinan, a thin, pretty girl (more conventionally "pretty" than the actresses playing Magda and Nadine), with the character having hang-ups about her red hair rather than her weight.
    • Wilson's best known heroine, Tracy Beaker, is a tomboyish, untidy pre-teen girl who doesn't care about her looks and is described by adults as plain and awkward-looking. In the long-running TV adaptation, she's played by the cute and well-groomed Dani Harmer. Possibly a Justified Trope because due to Adaptation Expansion, Harmer plays Tracy right up to her late teens/early 20s; but even in the earlier series her look is at odds with the character's description in the books.
  • Surprisingly, this trope is inverted in the Live Action Adaptation of The Walking Dead. Carol, who was a fairly attractive woman in her 30s in the comic, for some reason became a more normal-looking, middle-aged woman with a crew cut in the series.
  • 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 Agatha Christie novels that feature her, Poirot's secretary Miss Lemon was frequently described as "ugly" or "hideous". In the Poirot series she was portrayed by Pauline Moran, who was well past her hey-day, but certainly not unattractive.
  • In Brideshead Revisited, Charles' narration describes the adult Cordelia as very unattractive, even ugly. In the mini-series, the actress has bad skin and an unflattering haircut, but is still quite attractive. Possibly justified, in that Charles is obsessed with aesthetics and thus an Unreliable Narrator.
  • Major and minor examples from Game of Thrones. Tyrion Lannister, in the books, is not only a dwarf human but The Grotesque as well, with a misshapen head and mis-matched eyes. In the television adaption, he's still a dwarf, but quite attractive and far from ugly. Minor examples include Arya, who is supposed to have a long, slightly horsey face and overall be quite plain (to the point that she is often mistaken for a boy when not dressed up), but the actress is instead quite cute, though not to the point that she would be considered as attractive as her sister (a defining trait in their relationship, Sansa being the "pretty one"). Other examples fall under Informed Attractiveness instead, not quite living up to their descriptions in the books.
    • It's worth noting that it's somewhat implied that Arya is not actually as plain as she is made out to be in the books, and this is really just a combination the aforementioned lack of "dressing up" (her scruffy appearance obscuring how she really looks), and her own insecurity in her appearance due to her constantly praised sister. Also Arya is described as unique among the Stark children (along with Jon Snow) for having inherited the Stark looks, having a plain face and dark hair as opposed to her auburn-haired siblings who look more like Tullys.
    • More major examples include Eddard Stark and Ser Jorah Mormont, described as plain and "not handsome" respectively, are both played by handsome actors in the series. Here are the TV versions of Eddard [dead link] and Jorah. Sandor Clegane's half burned face is also less severe in the series, now only covering the side of his head and upper left face, but this was for practical reasons, as the actor was unable to see out of more extensive prosthetics, which was impractical for swordfights featuring the character. Jorah in the books is described as being large and powerfully-built, despite being in his forties and balding, as well as being quite hairy - eloquently demonstrated here.
    • In the books, Yoren of the Night's Watch is described as having an extremely disreputable appearance with soiled clothing, a twisted shoulder verging on a hunchback, greasy hair and lice, besides a total lack of social graces. In the series, he's a lot more put together. It makes some sense given that he's a recruiter sent to the royal court, however.
    • Even Magister Illyrio is not all that bad-looking in the TV series, simply looking like a kind, portly older man. In the books, Illyrio is morbidly obese with oiled blond hair and a forked beard and Daernerys notes that his stomach jiggles as he walks.
    • One that was expected from the very beginning is Brienne of Tarth, played by Gwendolyne Christie in the series. For brevity, in the novels everything about her (except her eyes) is homely, at the very best. Her television actress is not. Rather than break Ms Gwendolyne's nose half a dozen times and then rearrange her teeth, the producers instead opt to play up her "butch" looks and attitude.
  • In the CBC miniseries of Anne of Green Gables, in which Anne is supposedly unattractive, she's played by Megan Follows.
  • Sugar, the subversion of the Hooker with a Heart of Gold trope in the novel The Crimson Petal and the White by Michael Faber is gaunt, long-faced and plain with a terrible skin condition. Sugar in the BBC miniseries adaptation is played by Romola Garai, because Viewers are Morons who will clearly not be able to comprehend that Sugar's sexual charisma comes from her personality rather than her physical appearance.


  • In Lynn Rigg's play Green Grow the Lilacs, Ado Annie is described as "an unattractive, stupid-looking farm girl" wearing a "very unbecoming" dress. This description was not carried over into the script of Oklahoma!, the musical adaptation of Green Grow the Lilacs; it certainly didn't apply to Celeste Holm of the original cast, who practically qualified as Ms. Fanservice by the production's modest standards.
  • In Wicked, Elphaba is described as having a large nose and otherwise being, appearance-wise, sort of an acquired taste. In the musical version she's Hollywood Homely. Then again, not even green skin can make most of her actresses unattractive.
  • In Phantom of the Opera, the original book has the Phantom (Erik) wearing a full mask, and his face behind the mask extremely grotesque. He is described as deformed. In the stage musical, the deformities are limited to half his face, and the portion of his face not covered by the half-mask is handsome. This was done because full face prosthetics inhibited the actor's singing. It also often makes the deformed side actually look worse in comparison- from a skull in the book to a handsome man who appears to be rotting on one side. The fact that his hair turns out to be a wig, and that he's bald except for a few ratty, diseased-looking wisps of gray hair even on the good side, also makes the deformity makeup pretty effective in the final scene.

Video Games

  • Following on the Minority Report film example: If you really want to see Clone Degeneration in action, look at the Video Game adaptation of The Movie of the short story. Here, the female mutant has breasts which were not in the original. Why? You can probably guess.
  • In Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Zhuge Liang's wife (for all of the one paragraph she appears in) is described as "singularly plain". When Yue Ying got included as a playable character in the Dynasty Warriors series, she looks like this. Given how many liberties Koei takes with the source material, you wouldn't think they'd address this, but they do - her reputation as unattractive is the result of rumors she spread about herself as a Secret Test of Character to prospective husbands.
    • This could be a case of Values Dissonance as in that time period, the ideal beauty had light skin and black hair, like her for example as opposed to Yue Ying's darker skin tone and reddish-brown hair. So while she would be considered beautiful by today's standards, she wouldn't be during that time period.
    • Hell, almost everyone in that series applies. Just google Zhuge Liang's traditional depictions and his character design in the game.
  • A male example: in the 8-bit Family Computer version of Fire Emblem: Ankoku Ryu to Hikari no Ken, Abel (the green-clad half of the Cain and Abel duo) was originally drawn with a buck tooth and shifty eyes compared to the typically handsome Cain. When the game was remade for the Super Famicom as part of Fire Emblem: Monshō no Nazo, he became as handsome as his red counterpart Cain.
  • While Princess Peach is now depicted as looking like this, her sprite from the original Super Mario Bros game, on the other hand, actually looked like this. UUUUGGGGHHHH!!!! Though her official art looks pretty much the same since she debuted, so this is more due to hardware limitations.
    • Inverted with the Dic cartoons. Peach is still pretty, but not to the length of the games.
    • Pauline originally was a blond headed girl with Eighties Hair, and while she was pretty she looked quite (and understandably) distressed. By the Game Boy remake of Donkey Kong, she had been completely revamped.
  • Many Final Fantasy VII fans were surprised at how attractive certain characters were made in Final Fantasy VII Advent Children. Particular mention goes to: The grizzly middle-aged Cid was turned into a handsome, well-muscled man, while the hunched, lanky and gangly Reno was turned into a fanservicey Bishonen.
    • Vincent's Limit Breaks underwent this treatment. Originally, they were supposed to be parodies of classic horror movie monsters: Vincent himself resembles a vampire, Galian Beast resembles a hideous, purple beast, Death Gigas resembles Frankenstein's monster, Hellmasker resembles various slasher-movie killers, and Chaos resembles a winged demon. However, in Dirge of Cerberus, Galian Beast was changed to look much more like an oversized, humanoid dog. And Chaos was changed to look like a winged Vincent in bondage gear. Presumably, the other two limits were too absurd or ugly to be included in the game.
  • Remake Adaptational Attractiveness happens in many Pokémon games. Blue and Red go from young boys to adorable Bishonen's come their remakes, upped to eleven in the Gold and Silver remakes. Several Gym Leaders became more attractive in both remakes.
  • A relatively minor example, but compare Chell in-game to Chell in the Lab Rat comic. The change carries over to Portal 2 [dead link].

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.
    • Starfire is quite attractive in the comics, but suffered from a case of Uncanny Valley due to lacking pupils and had a major case of Eighties Hair. In the cartoon she was updated, and she's since been updated in the comics themselves. Cyborg arguably became more appealing to look at, when it comes to his design.
  • 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 Voltron, Hunk is fat and unremarkable and Pidge is a bit of a Gonk. In Voltron Force, they're both, well, much, MUCH more attractive.
  • Sally Acorn from the Sonic the Hedgehog television series is a slightly complicated case. See, the first game featured many cute animal critters rescued from defeated enemies, their names almost all ending in -cky. One of these characters was Ricky the Squirrel, who was given the moniker Sally Acorn (and a corresponding Gender Flip) in western promotional materials. Ricky/Sally looked mostly like a generic normal squirrel; some early promotional comics gave the latter a red or pink bow to offset this slightly, but that was about it. However, when it came time to make the TV series, Sally's design was completely redone, no longer bearing any resemblance to Ricky but instead being a relatively attractive Funny Animal. The comic book then arguably took it Up to Eleven; Depending on the Artist, she could either be fairly similar to her TV appearance, or have certain aspects exaggerated to make her an even more attractive, Half Dressed Funny Animal Petting Zoo Person.
  • 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, having a much less gaunt face, as well as having Animesque hair.
  1. And that's if you consider Molly Shannon and Selma Blair homely at all