By Beth Clark • December 31, 2018
Instead of doing a typical "year in review" post like everyone else, we thought it would be fun to close the door on 2018 from a different angle: by looking back at the books that played roles in the careers of the year's biggest stars. Everybody has to start somewhere, but with hard work and a few lucky literary breaks, these household names didn't stop there.
Between being the voice of The Grinch, playing Doctor Strange in the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe), and his role as posh Patrick Melrose in the miniseries based on Edward St. Aubyn's novels, Benedict Cumberbatch had a phenomenal year. Not to mention his prior success as Sherlock in seasons 1-4 of that series. But back in 2002 when he was just starting out, he played a working class young man named Freddy in one scene of one episode of Tipping the Velvet, based on Sarah Waters' novel.
First, if you're a Marvel fan and you haven't seen Black Panther yet, go see it. Just do. Nyong'o is epic as Nakia, and the rest of the cast is phenomenal. She's played many parts in her career, but her breakout role was Patsey in the 2014 screen adaptation of Solomon Northup's Twelve Years A Slave. She won an Academy Award, Screen Actors Guild Award, Critics' Choice Movie Award, Independent Spirit Award, BET Award, and NAACP Award, all for Best Supporting Actress, AND she won the Glamour Woman of the Year and Breakthrough Awards. Her next big role was the recurring one of Maz Kanata in the Star Wars movies, starting with The Force Awakens. (Clearly, the Force is with her because she seems unstoppable at this point.)
A Game of Thrones' Ned Stark lives! (Just kidding, George R.R. Martin.) Bean got his start playing Billy in D.H. Lawrence's Samson and Delilah in 1985 and hasn't stopped since. Roles in Patriot Games, Lady Chatterly, Black Beauty, Scarlett, and The Canterbury Tales followed, along with that of Boromir in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and The Fellowship of the Ring, which was…his favorite death scene (he's had LOTS), on account of defending Hobbits was heroic. Jacopo de Pazzi, his character in this year's Medici: Masters of Florence, met with a less noble fate (no spoilers allowed on New Year's Eve).
You don't get to be People magazine's 'Sexiest Man Alive' for nothing, but Idris Elba can also act. Which he has done many, many times, and done it well. As Heimdall, the Norse God and Asgardian gatekeeper, in Avengers: Infinity War this year, Thor: Ragnarok last year, and Thor in 2011, his spot in the Marvel Cinematic Universe seems fairly secure. One of his earliest roles was a single appearance as Robert Gabriel in The Inspector Lynley Mysteries TV series, based on the novels by Elizabeth George.
The House with a Clock in Its Walls by John Bellairs is a classic YA goth fantasy novel, so if you're a purist, the screen adaptation may not be for you. BUT…Cate Blanchett does a fantastic job as Florence Zimmerman. :) A chosen one when it comes to Thor and J.R.R. Tolkien classics, she's also played Daisy in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Queen Elizabeth I, and Meredith in The Talented Mr. Ripley. (Her actual first role was ‘Blonde Cheerleader' in a 1990 Egyptian movie called Kaboria…true story.)
Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow is the first book in the Kindle County Legal Thriller Series. It was also Jeffrey Wright's first film...26 years before his Westworld fame. (He played one nameless "Prosecuting Attorney" of six and had one scene.) Other book-based roles in Wright's career trajectory included "Gravedigger" in Hamlet, The Manchurian Candidate's Al Melvin, Felix Leiter in Ian Fleming's Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, and Betee in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Mockingjay (Parts 1 & 2).
We're always down for fun trivia if you feel inclined to share, and however you're ringing in 2019, Happy New Year! (P.S. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and/or Pinterest so you don't miss anything in the coming year.)