The Top 10 Celebrity Film Portrayals
It seems like one of the surest ways to score an Oscar nomination is to play a real, flesh and blood, human being of historical significance, preferably a singer. Whether they were after that elusive gold gent or not, we've seen some pretty remarkable transformations over the years that have illuminated many a treasured existence.
Source: Warner Bros. Pictures
The trick with this list was selecting celebrities that have been captured on film or video enough to provide a viable comparison. So...delightful as their performances were, anyone playing Mozart, Spartacus, T.E. Lawrence, or Butch Cassidy has to wing it when it came to true authenticity. We graded the 10 below on raw accuracy. Did they make you believe?
By Brandon Jones
10. Denzel Washington as Malcom X in X
Just one look at the poster and you can tell Spike Lee wanted someone that not only preached passionately like Malcolm X but an actor that stared intently like him too. The film was its own media movement, sparked off the fired-up careers of Lee and Academy Award-winner Denzel Washington. Denzel actually joined other heavyweights like James Earl Jones and Morgan Freeman in playing the irreplaceable African-American idealist. But there was something about Washington's intensity that made musicians and fans embrace Malcolm's Islamic message, not to mention fashion trends.
9. Salma Hayek as Frida Kahlo in Frida
Source: Miramax Films
Considered more of a traditional Hollywood beauty that the exotic and often misunderstood Kahlo, Salma Hayek bore a bold brow to completely immerse herself in the Mexican artist's world. If there's one thing that the surrealist icon and Hayek have in common, they're both obsessed with Frida Kahlo, and it showed. Both their boyishness and sultriness were the same, but above all else, their passion for her life was indistinguishable. Most celebrities of Frida's magnitude would be ashamed or disinterested in the story of their life, but Hayek and director Julie Taymor's fiesta would have made its true creator proud.
8. Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland
Source: Fox Searchlight Pictures
It takes a larger-than-life performance to upstage the actor technically cast as the lead in the film to upgrade from Best Supporting to Best Lead Actor at the Academy, Golden Globe, and SAG Awards. Sadly, the movie theater lobbies were not buzzing about James McAvoy. It would have been easy for the atrocities of Idi Amin to define any one actor's take on the outspoken dictator, but there's something about how Forest Whitaker can seem completely taken - mind, body and soul - by his work. To mimic the mind of madness you have to be a little mad yourself.
7. Ben Kingsley as Mohandas Gandhi in Gandhi
Source: Columbia Pictures
Sir Kingsley has made himself known to the masses on more than one occasion throughout his epic four-decade acting legacy. Looking back most don't remember it was the 1982 biopic (his second feature film) that gave him the choices to mold the future of his career...along with a shiny Academy Award. Gandhi's visage is visually married to peace and patience, but to break through vague perceptions and stereotypes and humanize such a gifted thinker has got to be as intimidating as it gets for an actor. Both critics and audiences agreed that Kingsley made it look effortless.
6. Jennifer Lopez as Selena Perez in Selena
Source: Warner Bros. Pictures
Most of these actors would consider it an incredibly humbling experience to step into the shoes of these characters that changed the course of our history. In the case of Jennifer Lopez, however, she was just getting started when she slipped on the denim and sequins of the young Latina pop sensation. Lopez didn't revitalize Perez's legacy, she nearly displaced it. This happened even after the late singer's fans were outraged that a New York City native born to Puerto Rican parents was the new face of the Mexican superstar. After they saw the film, most of these cries faded into the crowd.