Meet the Characters: My “Sleepy Hollow” Retelling

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Well met, everyone, and welcome back to the blog! I’ve noticed with fans and writers alike that it’s fun to put real-life actors to the characters in books, and it’s interesting to see why people see the actors they chose as those characters. I like to write my book like I’m making a movie; I want to be as descriptive as possible as well as have a dynamic pacing that keeps the reader engaged and rooting for the characters. As a result, it helps to have actor’s likenesses linked to character names, since it gives me a clearer image of how the scene will appear.

As I’ve been writing my manuscript for The Hollow Bones, a sequel/retelling of Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, I’ve been thinking of who I’d want to play the characters of the story, if it were completely up to me. So, here’s my dream cast for The Hollow Bones:

Evangeline “Lina” Van Brunt: Lily James in BBC’s War and Peace 

Image source: Harper’s Bazaar

Like her mother Katrina in many film adaptations of the story, Lina is blonde, and I mention this because a lot of the reference photos I saw of women in Regency-era films like the Jane Austen movies were brunette (with the exception of Rosamund Pike as Jane Bennet in Pride and Prejudice). As a result, I ended up using photos of Lily James as Natasha Rostova in BBC’s War and Peace as reference images for Lina.

Runner-up: Elle Fanning in Mary Shelley

Michael von Essen: Tom Mison in FOX’s Sleepy Hollow

Image source: POPSUGAR

It feels strange “casting” Tom Mison because he played Ichabod Crane in FOX’s TV series Sleepy Hollow, but after listening to his audiobook narration of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” (affiliate link), now I can only imagine his voice as that of Mr. von Essen.

Runner-up: Aidan Turner in BBC’s Poldark

Washington Irving: (tentative) a dark-haired version of Jack Lowden in BBC’s War and Peace 

Image source: Wikimedia

For reference, I used a painting of Washington Irving by John Wesley Jarvis dated to 1809, but I wasn’t finding actors that were enough of a likeness of our favorite writer for me to go, “That’s it!” When I saw photos of Jack Lowden as Nikolai Rostov in BBC’s War and Peace, all I had to do was imagine him with darker hair to be satisfied for the time being. I’m open for suggestions on who would be best to play Washington Irving—I don’t want to mess this one up, considering he’s the author of the original story!

Image source: Pinterest

Sarah Van Ripper: Miranda Richardson in Phantom of the Opera

Image source: IMDb

Sarah Van Ripper’s household owned Gunpowder, the horse that Ichabod Crane rode on that fateful autumn night, and she likely knew more of the town’s secrets during the time Mr. Crane would have been there—almost two decades before the timeline of The Hollow Bones. Possibly because of her knowledge of the Hollow, I drew a connection to Miranda Richardson’s portrayal of Madame Giry in the movie Phantom of the Opera, due to the similarities in their characters. (Interestingly enough, Miranda Richardson was also in Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow as Lady Van Tassel. What a coincidence!)

Katrina Van Brunt (née Van Tassel): Hayley Atwell in Disney’s live-action Cinderella

Image source: Pinterest

While Katrina Van Tassel is eighteen in 1790 when the original story takes place, I had to take some creative liberties to make the timeline work for The Hollow Bones (sorry, Mr. Irving). Even if Katrina is older in my version of the story, I believe she’d still have her charm, wit, and beauty almost twenty years after the events of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”.

Abraham “Brom Bones” Van Brunt: (tentative) Oscar Isaac

Image source: IMDb

Say what you want about the new Star Wars movies (which brought Oscar Isaac to my attention), but in some of the photos I’ve seen of him, it seems like he would be old enough to be Lina’s father, but also would have been young, lively, and handsome when he married Katrina.

Baltus Van Tassel: Donald Sutherland

Image source: SuperiorPics

I first knew Donald Sutherland as Mr. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice (seen above), so that along with his performance as President Snow in the Hunger Games series sealed the deal for him to be who I imagine as playing Katrina’s father and Lina’s grandfather.

Ichabod Crane: Matt Smith in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Image source: Pinterest

When I thought of who would be Ichabod Crane, my mind went straight to Matt Smith as Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, because he looked so similar to how Washington Irving describes Mr. Crane in the original story. If you aren’t familiar with the story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, you can find the Amazon Kindle and Audible versions here (Amazon affiliate link).

This is not a list of all the characters in the book, but those are the main characters. Have you done this for your stories? What else would you want to know about the story? Let me know in the comments section below!

Thank you so much for reading! Until next time, stay magical, everyone!

Meet the cast_.png

Edit: I previously wrote that Katrina Van Tassel is blonde in the original story. I have not found reference to Katrina’s hair color in Washington Irving’s story, but in Tim Burton’s 1999 film Sleepy Hollow and the 1949 Disney cartoon, Katrina is shown with blond hair. The relevant parts of this article have been edited accordingly.


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