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Literary characters as police e-fits

Literary characters as police e-fits

Could you pick out Les Miserables’ Inspector Javert from this police line-up?

Ever found yourself reading a book and having a very real picture of what the characters look like, only to have it ruined when the film comes out later and somebody completely wrong is cast? Well here to settle the bet once and for all is The Composites, a Tumblr which creates police e-fits based on the descriptions of characters from popular novels and publishes the results.

Yes, now you can progress your argument that Anthony Hopkins was completely wrong for Hannibal Lector, before realizing that no Hollywood A-listers look quite like the composite as described in the book:

Literary characters as police e-fits

“Dr. Lecter’s eyes are maroon and they reflect the light redly in tiny points… He is a small, lithe man. Very neat.”

The project is the work of Brian Joseph Davis, who uses Faces ID to match faces based on around 10,000 individual facial features. Of course, not every element of a character’s face is described in fiction (not beyond creepy internet fan-fiction, in any case) so Davis used educated guesswork for the gaps, based on the era, or the setting of the novel.

Speaking to The Atlantic, Davis explained his process as finding books he knew really well, or scanning texts for keywords like ‘eyes’, ‘hair’ or ‘mouth’. He tried using ebooks for a while, but didn’t like it: “When I did that I started feeling a little bit wrong, like I really was using technology to invade the writer/reader relationship.”

Literary characters as police e-fits

Lady Chatterley. “Being a soft, ruddy, country looking girl, inclined to freckles, with big blue eyes, and curling, brown hair, and a soft voice, and rather strong, female loins she was considered a little old-fashioned and “womanly”…”

Some books have their limitations: “I made an honest effort to do a Cormac McCarthy character, but you just can’t work with ‘Man. Medium. Two eyes.'”

If nothing else, it tells you that anyone who is ever made into a police e-fit will inherently look pretty creepy. That said, the likes of Norman Bates in Psycho really don’t help their cause:

Literary characters as police e-fits

Norman Bates as described in Psycho. It’s always the one you don’t suspect, right?

Browse the full collection of literary e-fits on The Composites.

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