Like it or lump it, the success of a biopic often lies in the physical resemblance of the actor to the personality they are channeling on the silver screen, possible even more so than the actual acting.
The stars below have all undergone chameleon-like transformations to metamorphose into the people they have put their blood, sweat and tears into portraying, but who do you think is the most convincing?
Bernie Tiede Played By Jack Black - Bernie (2011)
Quote: Listen to both Bernie Tiede himself and Jack Black talking about portraying the funeral director come murderer in the video below:
Dorothy Dandridge Played by Halle Berry - Introducing Dorothy Dandridge (1999)
Quote: Playing Dorothy Dandridge clearly affected Halle Berry deeply because she mentioned the pioneering actor of color in her Oscar speech, she said:
"This moment is so much bigger than me, This moment is for Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll...It's for the women that stand beside me, Jada Pinkett, Angela Bassett, Vivica Fox...and it's for every nameless, faceless woman of color that now has a chance, because the door tonight has been opened."
Abraham Lincoln Played by Daniel Day‑Lewis - Lincoln (2013)
Quote: British Daniel Day-Lewis admitted that he immediately had regrets about taking on the mantle of America's 16th President, Abraham Lincon, he explained to the NY Times that:
"I thought this is a very, very bad idea. But by that time it was too late. I had already been drawn into Lincoln’s orbit. He has a very powerful orbit, which is interesting because we tend to hold him at such a distance. He’s been mythologized almost to the point of dehumanization. But when you begin to approach him, he almost instantly becomes welcoming and accessible, the way he was in life"
Little Edie Played by Drew Barrymore - Grey Gardens (2009)
Quote: Drew Barrymore was clearly a huge fan of the cult documentary Grey Gardens because she was desperate to portray the socialite fallen on rough time. She explained to Elle that:
"I just put it out there. I said, Look -- I have all of this inside of me, and I promise you that I will change my face to be her. I will learn how to stop talking out of the side of my mouth. I will go to school to relearn body language. I will shut out the world. I will not talk to my friends. I will give up my life for this, because I dont think you can play this character and have a social life and balance the two mentalities. I wont act. Ill become this person."
Check out the original trailer for the bizarre and touching documentary below to see what inspired Drew so much:
Adolf Hitler Played by Bruno Ganz - Downfall (2004)
Quote: It's a pretty tough descision to portray one of the most evil men in history on screen, especially if you are also a German actor, but Bruno Ganz decided to bite the bullet. He said:
I asked people I've known a long time and whom I trust, and they all advised me against it. We've internalised a kind of taboo against playing him."
Selena Quintanilla Played by Jennifer Lopez - Selena (1997)
Quote: Selena was one of the first latino singers to break into the mainstream before she was tragically shot and killed by the former president of her fan club at the age of just 23. Jennifer Lopez was dedicated to doing the influential singer's memory justice, she told Bilboard that:
"Right after I got the part, I knew I would be traveling to Corpus Christi and spending time with her family, but that wasn't going to be for a few weeks, so they sent me tons of tapes to watch. I sat on my couch watching them for days and all of a sudden, the tape cut off on me. I was shocked. And I thought to myself, "That's what happened." This amazing, beautiful spirit, full of joy and music and so much feeling, was just cut off in the middle of being. It affected me so much and made me realize the importance of what I was doing."
Steve Jobs Played by Ashton Kutcher - Jobs (2013)
Quote: Who would have thought that Ashton Kutcher was capable of channelling the Apple maverick so perfectly? Listen to Kutcher speak about taking on the role in the interview below:
Jimi Hendrix Played by André 3000 - Jimi: All Is by My Side (2013)
Quote: Andre 3000 spent hours researching how to resemble fellow musician Jimi Hendrix in personality as well as appearance, he spoke out to Vogue Magazine and explained:
"Honestly, I watched everything I could. I’ve seen every performance, every interview, even Jimi audio that I had never heard before. And the best audio that I heard was where I couldn’t see him. It was just backstage interviews after a show. You hear the crowd in the background, you hear people coming up, saying hey to Jimi. Just like we’re sitting here. Clapton may walk up. And those kind of interviews—you can hear Hendrix’s confidence. And he was so confident in his playing. He’d be ballsy. Some writer asked him, they said, “You and so-and-so have similar styles.” And Jimi kinda snapped, like, “Nah, I’m not like him, I do my own thing.” It’s funny to hear the human side."
HM Queen Elizabeth II Played by Hellen Mirren - The Queen (2006)
Quote: Peter Morgan watched The Queen being filmed and noticed that Helen's regal transformation was so convincing it got the crew on set acting differently around her, he said:
"At first, it was just Helen in a wig. But it changed gradually. At first people on set addressed her like this [he mimes slouching against a wall] but soon they were like this [standing upright, hands clasped respectfully behind the back]. She became the Queen."
Malcolm X Played by Denzel Washington - Malcolm X (1992)
Quote: Widely regarded as one of the best biopics of all time, Denzel Washington channeled the Black Panther leader Malcolm X with stunning conviction. Just check out the monumental speech from the movie below to see what I mean:
Frida Kahlo Played by Salma Hayek - Frida (2002)
Quote: Salma Hayek fought off both Madonna and Jennifer Lopez for the role of Frida Khalo and she has nothing but praise for the spirited woman behind her Oscar nominated role, Hayek told The Guardian:
"What I respond to with Frida is her courage to be unique; her courage to be different," says Salma Hayek, who beat off Madonna and Jennifer Lopez to become Hollywood's Frida, and whose performance in the film she produced herself has just won Hayek an Oscar nomination for best actress. "She lived her life exactly as she wanted and never apologised. She was bisexual at a very young age - well before she was in a group of people with whom it would have been more accepted. I think she got caught with the librarian of her school right before the accident."
Alfred Hitchcock Played by Anthony Hopkins - Hitchcock (2012)
Quote: Howard Berger was responsible for crafting to prosthetics that transformed Hopkin's into Hitchcock, but it wasn't an easy ride, he told Co Create that:
"We did six different versions. The first one looked like Hitchcock, but it was super heavy."
You can see the extent of the transformation in the incredible side-by-side photo below:
Bruce Lee Played by Jason Scott Lee - Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (1993)
Quote: Although Jason Scott Lee shares a surname with Bruce Lee, the pair are no relation despite their physical similarities. You can see Jason training to embody Lee in the video below:
Sarah Palin Played by Julianne Moore - Game Change 2012
Quote: Julianna Moore is almost unrecognizable in her role as Sarah Palin and, despite the fact that they do not share political ideals, Moore came to admire the Alaskan governor, she said:
"I think whatever you do, you have to have a real amount of compassion for your character as a human being. She had an incredible natural charisma and a crazy innate confidence."
Hunter S Thompson Played by Johnny Depp - Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
Quote: Unlike many people on this list, Depp actually knew Hunter S. Thompson personally and even stayed with him in his Kentucky home for a length of time. When Thompson committed suicide in 2005, Depp wrote at about him at length, he explained:
"He knew I worshiped him, and I know that he loved me, so he may have been part father figure, part mentor, but I’d say the closest thing is brothers. We were like brothers."
Marilyn Monroe Played by Michelle Williams - My Week with Marilyn (2011)
Quote: You don't get much more iconic than Marilyn Monroe, but Michelle Williams managed to channel the tragic Hollywood starlet magnificently thanks to some stunning '50s hair and makeup. Williams spoke at length about becoming Marilyn to Deadline, she said:
"In watching everything she ever did, I saw her experimenting and forming Marilyn Monroe over time. In her early work, her face doesn’t have the same kind of agility that it does in her more famous roles. Early on, she hasn’t mastered how she positions her mouth or raises her eyebrows but you see it gestate over time. Her voice is much lower, the sexy husky thing is in a lower register and it became breathier and higher as she developed her persona. So I could actually see it being built and follow her steps. It gave me courage: This didn’t come naturally to her, so I didn’t have to expect it to come naturally to myself."
Stephen Hawking and Jane Wilde Hawking Played by Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones - The Theory of Everything (2014)
Quote: Eddie Redmayne's incredibly convincing transformation into the genius that is Stephen Hawking won the British actor an Oscar and it's easy to see why. Check out Redmayne's speech in the video below:
Bob Dylan Played by Cate Blanchett - I'm Not There (2007)
Quote: Cate Blanchett is well-known for dazzling with her unbelievable transformations, but her gender-bending turn as Bob Dylan is truly memorable. Becoming a representation of a stage of Dylan's life wasn't easy for Cate though and the star explained to The Guardian that:
"Dylan was quite spiderlike. I lost an awful lot of weight"
Andy Kaufman Played by Jim Carrey - Man on the Moon (1999)
Quote: Paul Giamatti was in Man on the Moon alongside Jim Carrey and reportedly the star went full method to portray the late SNL and his alter ego, Tony Clifton. He explained to Buzzfeed:
“It was a very strange experience. It was one of the weirdest experiences I’ve had making a movie, to be honest with you. It was just wacky. Jim was wacky during it. He did this whole thing where he was Andy Kaufman all the time when he was on set and when he was in the costume, and was Tony Clifton all the time when he was Tony Clifton."
Princess Diana Mountbatten-Windsor Played by Naomi Watts - Diana (2013)
Quote: Naomi Watts might have done an excellent job of physically representing Princess Diana, but she told Harper's Bazaar that she had regrets about the way the movie turned out:
I got seduced by the fantastic character. Diana did a lot of things that had positive and negative results. She was multifaceted. But ultimately there were problems [with the film] and it ended up taking a direction that was not the one I was hoping for."
Charlie Chaplin Played by Robert Downey Jr. - Chaplin (1992)
Quote: Listen to Robert Downey Jr. talk about taking on the incomparable British silent movie star in the interview below: