In recent years, actors portraying real people in what have come to be known as biopics have produced some of the best movies and performances. Finding the right actor to play the lead role after the story has been chosen can be challenging. In addition to having the acting skills necessary to portray these real people on screen, actors must also possess the appropriate physical attributes.
Many of these actors receive top-dollar compensation for learning the habits and mannerisms that will help them become more convincing in their roles. However, it should be noted that the team’s work on the actors’ prosthetics and makeup to make them look like the real people they are portraying is nothing short of amazing. Here are some of the best movie representations of real-life figures, along with the pay these famous actors received for taking on such significant roles. Did they look the part and were these the right decisions? Your choice.
Walk the Line (2005)
Based On the Life of: Johnny Cash
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix
Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix are the stars of the Oscar-nominated drama Walk the Line. Phoenix, who portrays the legendary singer-songwriter and one of the most well-known musicians of all time, Johnny Cash, is of course the Man in Black himself. Cash wrote about many of the difficulties he faced in his autobiographies, Man in Black and Cash: The Autobiography, and the movie depicts many of them.
The autobiographies of Johnny served as the inspiration for this film, which Fox acquired the rights to and which raked in $187 million at the box office. In Walk the Line, Witherspoon portrays the real-life story of Johnny Cash and his wife, June Carter, along with the effects of his battle with addiction and alcoholism on their relationship.
Based on the Life of: Selena Quintanilla-Perez
Starring: Jennifer Lopez
In Selena, Jennifer Lopez portrays singer Selena Quintanilla Perez, who was born into a musical family in Texas and has a tragic life story. The Tejana singer achieved international success and, while doing so, fell in love with her guitarist, which enraged her father Abraham, who is portrayed by Edward James Olmos.
Music lovers will be familiar with Selena’s story, if only for its tragic conclusion, which is described in the movie. A $60 million box office hit for Selena. The movie was directed by Gregory Nava, and it received multiple Golden Globe nominations.
American Sniper (2014)
Based On the Life of: Chris Kyle
Starring: Bradley Cooper
In the Clint Eastwood-directed movie American Sniper, Bradley Cooper plays US Navy SEAL Chris Kyle. The deadliest sniper in American history, according to both combatants and Middle Eastern civilians, was Kyle. The military record that served as the basis for the movie was later found to have been exaggerated by the sniper himself.
The movie American Sniper did well at the box office and received six Oscar nominations. Later, while helping a PTSD-suffering Iraq War veteran, Kyle would be killed. Kyle served a total of four tours of duty. The total box office revenue for American Sniper was $547.4 million.
The Pianist (2002)
Based On the Life of: Wladyslaw Szpilman
Starring: Adrien Brody
Roman Polanski was the director of The Pianist, which was released in 2002. Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Jewish radio station pianist who lived in Poland during World War II, is portrayed by Adrien Brody. The film depicts Szpilman’s struggle as he witnesses the Nazis raze his beloved Warsaw.
Despite being briefly imprisoned in the Warsaw Ghetto, he is eventually freed after Operation Reinhard separates him from his family. The pianist then runs away into the city’s ruins, barely escaping Nazi capture. The movie is set in the years 1939 to 1945. Ronald Harwood directly adapted Szpilman’s autobiography into the screenplay.
Catch Me If You Can (2002)
Based On the Life of: Frank Abagnale, Jr.
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio
Another Steven Spielberg success starring actors like Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks was inspired by the unbelievable tale of con man Frank Abagnale, Jr. Before the age of 22, Abagnale, a notorious imposter, got away with pretending to be a lawyer, a doctor, and even an airline pilot.
With its broad appeal, this suspenseful yet lighthearted movie dominated the box office, earning an impressive $350 million globally. Universal Pictures is a significant investor in Spielberg’s successful production company, Amblin Entertainment, which produced and distributed the movie Catch Me If You Can.
Based On the Life of: Muhammad Ali
Starring: Will Smith
Will Smith had to put on weight, learn boxing, and study Islam in order to fully inhabit the role of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali in this film. Smith’s performance in the 2001 biopic Ali would demonstrate his talent as a potent dramatic performer.
The movie, which was written and directed by Michael Mann, centers on the ten years between 1964 and 1974 in Muhammad Ali’s life. Ali’s life experienced a lot during that brief period, despite it being brief: he regained his title from Sonny Liston, opposed the Vietnam War, and became a Muslim.
My Week With Marilyn (2011)
Based On the Life of: Marilyn Monroe
Starring: Michelle Williams
The focus of My Week with Marilyn was on a brief time in the life of Marilyn Monroe, the famous actress. The film starred Michelle Williams as Monroe and Eddie Redmayne as Colin Clark, an aspiring filmmaker who was Monroe’s friend and who wrote a book about his experiences showing her around London while The Prince and the Showgirl was being filmed.
Behind the façade of her legacy, the real Marilyn is examined in the film. Not the glittery, glamorous, larger-than-life character that everyone is familiar with, but the authentic, complex human being, complete with struggles and a complex relationship to fame.
127 Hours (2010)
Based On the Life of: Aron Ralston
Starring: James Franco
A compelling film about Aron Ralston is 127 Hours. James Franco portrays Ralston, a canyon explorer who was accidentally crushed by a boulder in the slot canyon of Bluejohn Canyon in southeast Utah. The story, which was documented like a video diary, is absolutely engrossing.
You observe Ralston making futile attempts to free himself before it is too late. Ralston explored his 127-hour ordeal while stranded in the canyon in his autobiography Between a Rock and a Hard Place, which served as the basis for the film. After a long, terrifying entrapment, Ralston was forced to make a cruel decision in order to survive.
Based On the Life of: Aileen Wuornos
Starring: Charlize Theron
The serial killer Aileen Wuornos, who was ultimately executed in the state of Florida, is the subject of the biographical movie Monster. Monster examined Wuornos’s life from the time she started her killing spree up until the moment she was apprehended by the police. Wuornos experienced horrific abuse as a child at the hands of her male family members, which led to the development of her mental illness.
Theron, who is renowned for her commitment and willingness to fully commit to a role, had to gain thirty pounds, shave her eyebrows, and wear dentures to play Wuornos, who was hated more than any male serial killer. She won an Oscar for her startling performance and amazing transformation.
The Big Sick (2017)
Based On the Life of: Emily V Gordon
Starring: Zoe Kazan
In this Oscar-nominated movie, Kumail Nanjiani plays a Pakistani comedian who falls in love with Zoe Kazan’s Emily, a graduate student. Nanjiani is worried about what his religiously conservative parents will think of her because they are Muslim. After Emily becomes ill and enters a coma, Kumail forms a close relationship with her parents.
Judd Apatow’s quirky love story brought in $56.4 million at the box office. It received a Critics’ Choice Movie Award, Independent Spirit Award, and Prix du Public UBS nomination in addition to an Oscar nomination. It is based on the real-life romance between Nanjiani and Gordon.
Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Based On the Life of: Jordan Belfort
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio
Based on Jordan Belfort’s autobiography, The Wolf of Wall Street depicts the crazy and extravagant lives of Wall Street stockbrokers in the 1980s. Martin Scorsese directed the adaptation, which starred Leonardo DiCaprio as Belfort and is regarded as a masterpiece.
One of the most dishonest companies on Wall Street was Stratton Oakmont, which was known for defrauding both its customers and the government. Naturally, Belfort was apprehended, and he went from being a wealthy stockbroker on Wall Street to a prisoner. Jonah Hill plays Belfort’s business partner, Margot Robbie plays his wife, and Matthew McConaughey makes a memorable cameo.
Saving Mr. Banks (2013)
Based On the Life of: Walt Disney
Starring: Tom Hanks
This behind-the-scenes look at the creation of Mary Poppins, one of Walt Disney’s most well-known stories, is a must-see if you’re a Disney fan. Tom Hanks plays Walt Disney in the lead role, and Emma Thompson plays P.L. Travers, the author of Mary Poppins. The story revolves around two weeks of tense discussions regarding the copyright approvals for the film between Disney and Travers.
Walt Disney Pictures was able to profit from a story they had sitting around, waiting to be told, and the film was a runaway success. The movie about the creation of another cherished movie, cherished by generations, was able to sell nostalgia for $117.9 million on a $35 million budget.
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Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)
Based On the Life of: Freddie Mercury
Starring: Rami Malek
One of the most well-known songs ever is “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which Queen fans will recognize right away. The biographical drama about Queen’s mysterious lead singer Freddie Mercury is also called Bohemian Rhapsody. The movie, which is directed by Brian Singer and stars Rami Malek as Mercury, depicts Mercury’s struggles with coming to terms with his sexuality as well as Queen’s struggles to succeed in the rapidly evolving music business.
Rami Malek won the Best Actor Oscar for his leading man role as Freddie Mercury. Of course, this wasn’t the movie’s only triumph. The movie eventually brought in an astounding $903 million at the box office.
The Social Network (2010)
Based On the Life of: Mark Zuckerberg
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg
The Social Network, based on Ben Mezrich’s The Accidental Billionaires, follows the life of Mark Zuckerberg, played by Jesse Eisenberg, and his friends and college classmates as they found the social media behemoth Facebook, which would later give Zuckerberg a total net worth of $69.2 billion.
The film also looks into the lawsuits that the Winklevoss twins brought against Zuckerberg because they thought the young social media mogul had stolen their idea. It earned $224.9 million at the box office and was nominated for eight Oscars, winning three of them.
The Theory of Everything (2014)
Based On the Life of: Stephen Hawking
Starring: Eddie Redmayne
The Theory of Everything is a biopic about the life of Stephen Hawking, who is portrayed by Eddie Redmayne. Hawking was a physicist and researcher whose numerous discoveries altered the course of science. The scientist’s life is given the full Hollywood treatment in the movie, with equal attention paid to his relationships and illness as it is to his achievements.
The movie, which borrowed ideas from a book about Hawking and his first wife’s relationship, won several Oscars and brought in $123.7 million at the box office. Focus Features, a distributor of independent and foreign films, distributed it.