Captain Tightpants (theshadowpuppet) wrote in ohnotheydidnt,
Captain Tightpants

The winners and losers when actors play real people

Actors taking on biopics can be a mixed blessing. While many who have portrayed real people on screen have produced uncanny likenesses and gone on to win awards, others have been rubbished for their work. So who matches up and who makes a mockery of it? Let's run a few from the list…

Morgan Freeman
Nelson Mandela, Invictus (2009)

Does He Get It Right? Pretty much spot on, which we suppose is not too difficult when you have the man himself picking you as the only person for the job.
Freeman has met Mandela a few times and had long wanted to play him; he'd even set up a biopic that got pushed aside when his old mucker Clint Eastwood
approached him about the new project.

Freeman certainly had the look already, and he takes on Mandela's mannerisms spookily well. Some in South Africa
have complained about his accent, but he was never going to be able to please everyone.

Awards? Freeman scored an Oscar nomination for the role, as well as being up for a NAACP Image award.

Hilary Swank
Amelia Earhart, Amelia (2009)

Does She Get It Right? Depends. There's certainly a similarity, but while the woman    herself - who vanished in 1937 while attempting to fly around the globe - is in many pictures and some footage, it's not like Swank could chat with her. And despite throwing her all into the research, the film that resulted fell seriously short in both the rounded portrayal and box office departments.

To be honest, we thought Amy Adams made for a pluckier, more enjoyable Earhart in the same year, and that was in the middle of the chaos brought about by Night At The Museum: Battle Of The Smithsonian.

Awards? Nada.

Liam Neeson
Oskar Schindler, Schindler's List (1993)

Does He Get It Right? Largely, though Neeson does so more in terms of inhabiting the role than truly looking like the man he's playing. Schindler in reality looked more like a bank manager than Neeson every truly could - unsurprisingly, since he was a factory owner in real life.

But for all the facial differences, Neeson put in a masterful performance, creating a central focus for Steven Spielberg's film and creating the towering figure of Schindler that we all know today.

Awards? He was nominated for Best Actor, while the film won Best Picture, Best Director and more.

Helen Mirren
Queen Elizabeth II, The Queen (2006)

Does She Get It Right? It's tough to get the extra-wrinkled look that you need to play the-then 70-year-old monarch, but the rather more youthful Mirren's make-up job is at least fairly close. She also has the voice largely down pat, and nailed the enormous sense of duty and obligation to her country that the Queen is always said to have.

Unfortunately for versimilitude, Mirren's paired with James Cromwell, who really doesn't look at all like Prince Phillip. Didn't stop her stealing most of her scenes, though - no small feat when you're up against Michael Sheen's Tony Blair.

Awards? She took home the Oscar, the BAFTA and several critics' award trophies.

Jamie Foxx
Ray Charles, Ray (2004)

Does He Get It Right? Foxx uncannily channeled both Charles' moves at the piano, his speaking voice and his general style. He may not have sung on every track, but he did tickle the keyboard and nail Charles' singing style. He'd proved he had acting chops before, but his Ray Charles was on a whole new level.

If anything, the film that surrounds him just isn't worthy of the effort he puts into portraying the music legend. While Charles enjoys some heroic - yet often unflinching - treatment, other people in his life are stereotypical shadows.

Awards? Jamie Foxx won Best Actor at the Oscars.

Jim Carrey
Andy Kaufman, Man On The Moon (1999)

Does He Get It Right? There was strong competition at the casting stage from the likes of Edward Norton to take on the role of complicated, chaotic comedy legend Andy Kaufman. Carrey won it, but few people went to see the finished product.

It's their loss, however. Carrey did a great job, pulsing with Kaufman's anarchic style even if the film itself was a little too straightforward.

Awards? Carrey got the Golden Globe for Best Actor (Comedy/Musical) and a few critics' gongs.


Forest Whitaker
Idi Amin, The Last King Of Scotland (2006)

Does He Get It Right? Whitaker went the whole hog with his portrayal of Amin, watching videos of the man, talking to friends and family and even learning Swahili. "I had to understand everything so that I could inhabit him in a real way. Not in the way he's portrayed, like a one-dimensional figure, but as a whole person," he told the Independent. "He had kids, he had a family. How do you be honest and show the duality of this man?"

The work paid off: it's a nuanced, deep performance that digs down to find the man behind the historical monster.

Awards? Best Actor at the Oscars and a host more.

Anthony Hopkins
Richard Nixon, Nixon (1995)

Does He Get It Right? Hopkins overcame the fact that he really didn't look much like Tricky Dicky, preferring instead to perfect his guilty, smug smiles and his stance.

But for all the personality quirks, Oliver Stone's film paints a much more balanced portrait of the man than the filmmaker's personal politics might suggest. Sadly, the American public didn't seem all that interested. The Nixon estate might not agree, though: they castigated the film before its release.

Awards? Hopkins got the Oscar nod, but not the gong. Joan Allen, playing the president's wife, received more acclaim.

Empire Online

What's your favorite biopic?
Tags: film, list

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