In my opinion, there is nothing more impressive (in cinema) than a well done biopic. Most of the performances that I consider truly masterful are examples of this, like Cate Blanchett as Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator, Sean Penn as Harvey Milk in Milk, Charlize Theron as Aileen Wuornos in Monster, Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles in Ray, or Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady. The ability of an actor to not only impersonate someone, but fully embody their spirit is a feat only a select few can accomplish.
Did you notice how all of the names I just listed won Oscars for those roles? There's a reason for that – biopics are Oscar bait of the highest order. With the nominations already announced for this year, it's a great time to look ahead in anticipation of performances to come. Here are some biopics currently in development that I can't wait to see.
Don Cheadle as Miles Davis, 'Miles Ahead'
Don Cheadle wrote, directs and stars in this in-depth look at the life and work of musician, Miles Davis. The films 'rapid clip' editing style is supposed to be telling the story through the prism of the subject's mind's eye and reminiscent of his abstract paintings. Although the film won't be in theaters until April of this year, Cheadle's performance is already getting rave reviews.
Kerry Washington as Anita Hill, 'Confirmation'
Confirmation will focus on what went on behind-the-scenes of Clarence Thomas's nomination to the Supreme Court after his former colleague, Anita Hill, accused him of sexual harassment in a landmark case.
Washington is perhaps best known for her work as Olivia Pope in television's, Scandal, but also recently starred in Django Unchained alongside Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio. Confirmation will also feature Grace Gummer, Erika Christensen and Greg Kinear (who will be playing Joe Biden). Confirmation was made by HBO, so it will technically be a TV Movie (similar to Game Change). It does not yet have a release date, but they've finished production.
Cate Blanchett as Lucille Ball
Two-time Oscar Winner Cate Blanchett has been chosen to play the trailblazing comedienne, Lucille Ball, in an upcoming yet untitled biopic. Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network, Jobs) will pen the script and Ball's two children will produce. The film will focus on Ball's 20 year marriage to her I Love Lucy costar, Desi Arnaz.
Blanchett has proven to be a versatile actress and has an impressive track record with playing characters based on real people (Queen Elizabeth, Katharine Hepburn, Bob Dylan). I just know she'll knock it out of the park. Sorkin is an interesting choice to write since the subject matter is vastly different than the asocial male leads he's used to, but Blanchett certainly knows how to deliver a monologue, so all signs point to it being a happy marriage.
Jennifer Hudson as Aretha Franklin
After a long and tumultuous development process, the still untitled Aretha Franklin biopic found its star in Oscar Winner Jennifer Hudson. Halle Berry was considered the front runner to lead for some time, but recently was dethroned by Hudson whose role has been confirmed. The film will be produced by the people who brought us Straight Outta Compton and will focus on 'The Queen of Soul's' rise to fame and relationship to her abusive ex-husband.
Musicians everywhere will attest that Hudson is one of the most talented vocalists currently performing, and so her playing Aretha Franklin seems appropriate.
Tom Hardy as Elton John, 'Rocketman'
In an interesting turn of events, Mad Max's Tom Hardy has been cast as the flamboyant Grammy winner, Elton John. The choice is certainly outside the box, but that's not to say that Hardy hasn't proven his range. Although he's more well known for his "gruff" characters, Hardy has shown his ability to play... well a bunch of different kinds of "gruff" characters. In any case, his turn as identical twins in Legend convinced me of his talent, and I have complete faith in him especially since he confirmed that he could sing.
Rocketman will tell the story of Elton John's entire life, from childhood to the present day and is currently in the pre-production stage.
Jamie Foxx as Mike Tyson
Jamie Foxx has officially signed on to play the controversial fighter, Mike Tyson. The film (which is untitled at this point) will utilize CGI of the same nature as The Curious Case of Benjamin Button used to transform its star.
Foxx previously won an Oscar for portraying Ray Charles in 2004's Ray. Here's a recent interview on Ellen where he spoke at length about playing Tyson:
Jessica Chastain as Marilyn Monroe, 'Blonde'
Although there have been many iterations of the iconic starlet, Chastain is I think the best woman for the job. She has a sort of natural endearing quality that she brings to all of her roles, an earnestness that makes every character likable (or at least intriguing) despite their shortcomings and each performance uniquely believable. Based on her performances in Jolene, Lawless and The Help, I'm confident that she will be able to resurrect Monroe's trademark sensuality (something Michelle Williams failed at in My Week with Marilyn).
Blonde, set to come out in 2018, is based on a book by the same name and will take a unique angle on the life, death and influence of Marilyn Monroe. Here's Chastain's synopsis: