The casting of actors and actresses for a film is a key aspect of any production. Choosing the right person helps to make a film more believable, enjoyable, and impactful. However, when it comes to casting roles for a biopic film, it is more crucial than ever. There is a lot of pressure on that actor to live up to the expectations of portraying somebody who really existed. They must learn everything about them and be able to copy it all in order to sell the character and do the person’s life justice. Here’s a list of some actors that absolutely nailed their role in a biopic film and the work they put in to do so. You won’t believe the lengths some of these actors went to in order to play these roles.
Val Kilmer Brings Jim Morrison Back to Life
At a glance, it can be difficult to differentiate these pictures as two different people from two different eras. One is the deceased frontman and poet Jim Morrison of The Doors, and the other actor Val Kilmer playing Morrison in the semi-biographical 1991 film The Doors. At first, people questioned if Kilmer was going to be a good fit for the character, but Kilmer proved them wrong.
He learned over 50 of Morrison’s songs and took over a year to get into character learning everything he could about Jim, even the way he walked and talked. He had to go to therapy after filming to get out of character.
Daniel Day-Lewis Is Abraham Lincoln
It’s no surprise that Daniel Day-Lewis won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 2013 for his role in Lincoln. Even without all of the makeup, the two naturally share very similar features, and apparently a surprisingly similar temperament. Although Day-Lewis did lose some weight required to achieve Lincoln’s frame, he did not require flats in order to meet his height requirements.
Day-Lewis also used his personal method acting technique that says he does not fully understand. Nor does he try to explain to others how to fully come into character. It’s safe to say he’s the most convincing Lincoln filmdom has ever seen and will maintain that title for the foreseeable future.
Ben Kingsly Read 27 Books To Become Gandhi
When referring to his role in the Academy Awarding winning 1982 film Gandhi, Ben Kingsly noted that “I wonder if the actor chases a role, or of the role finds the actor”. He recalls reading a biography about Gandhi while working on a play in London when he received a phone call saying that the movie was going to end up happening.
He spent two years preparing and read 27 books in order to get ready for the part but says it was still not enough time for him. He practiced yoga in the mornings, acted in the evenings, and took spin classes at night. He also pored over every biography and picture he could get his hands on in order to fully immerse himself in the role.
Will Smith Trained His Mind, Body, and Soul
For eight years, Will Smith refused to take on the role as Muhammad Ali because he didn’t believe he would do “the greatest figure over the last 100 years” justice. He believed that he wasn’t intellectually strong enough and that he didn’t want to be the guy to mess up Ali’s story. The boxer himself and his family even asked Smith personally if he would be the one to play the role in the film Ali.
After he was convinced, he spent two years training his body, voice, and soul in order to embody Ali. He even went so far as understanding the basic tenets of Islam, the religion Ali eventually converted to. When Ali saw Smith acting as him for the first time he said, “He is the perfect actor, I even thought he was me”.
Hellen Mirren Becomes A Queen Of England
In order for Hellen Mirren to become Queen Elizabeth II in the 2006 film The Queen, there were numerous steps she had to take in order to accomplish a correct portrayal. Mirren actually looks nothing like Queen Elizabeth II except for a similar resting facial structure, yet through a little movie magic even she was even shocked upon the release of the film.
Aside from just looks, there were numerous other things she needed to research and learn firsthand from The Queen in order to get the part right. She regularly reviewed film and photographs and took voice coaching lessons. By the end of the film, crew members were showings forms of respect as though she was the actual Queen.
Senn Penn Feels A Close Connection To Harvey Milk
In order for Sean Penn to become Harvey Milk, the first ever openly gay elected official in California in the 2008 film Milk, he had a lot of research to do. He notes that in order to master Milk’s mannerisms and gestures he watched the Oscar-winning documentary The Times of Harvey Milk over and over, as well as archival footage. He said that he kept it playing in the background so it was always in the back of his mind.
He clearly also developed a close connection with Milk and his ideologies as his performance earned him the Academy Award for Best Actor. He even pushed to have California legally recognize Harvey Milk’s birthday.
Nelson Mandela and Morgan Freeman Were Friends
Morgan Freeman greatly embodies the political leader of Nelson Mandela in the 2014 film Invictus. However, just because Freeman slightly already looks like Mandela and is already a few years older isn’t what made his performance so stunning. Before Invictus was even a thought, Morgan Freeman had been arranged to play Mandela upon the request of Mandela himself after the release of his memoir Long Walk to Freedom.
However, the original movie project was eventually abandoned. Yet, years later, Freeman was approached with the idea for Invictus. After having had correspondence with Mandela for years already, he was perfect for the part. It was because Freeman had spent so much time with him that he was able to portray him so well in the film.
Denzel Washington Became Malcolm X
In the 1993 3-hour film Malcolm X, Denzel Washington portrays and covers the life of the civil rights advocate Malcolm X. Washington underwent an extreme preparation process for his Academy Award-nominated performance and even admits that his research developed into a type of obsession. Aside from looking strikingly similar to him, he researched Malcolm X’s life for an entire year poring over every little bit of information that he could get his hands on in order to give the character justice.
Director Spike Lee commented, saying that “Every day, Malcolm X just grows in stature. I mean, the performance…Denzel, Mr. Washington, stopped working on other stuff for a year before, to prepare for that film.”
Becoming Princess Di
For Naomi Watts’ role as Princess Diana in Diana, she went to great lengths in order to essentially become the former princess herself. She notes that since she had finally convinced herself to agree to take the “daunting” role, she “saturated herself in everything that she could find”. She read books she had never read before, old news articles, watched old footage, and relied heavily on the Martin Bashir interview.
She also focused on the small idiosyncrasies of the princess and took special note of things such as her mischievous sense of humor, her compassion and more. And then there’s the perfectly done makeup of course.
Tom Hanks And Disney
In the 2013 film Saving Mr. Banks, Tom Hanks plays the role as Disney’s founder Walt Disney. He said one of the hardest parts of becoming Disney was that the two don’t look similar at all, so his mustache had to be just the right fit. Not too wide, and not too narrow. He said that the creative team had close-up photograph’s of Disney’s face so they could try and get his features as close as possible using very little movie magic.
However, it has been revealed that Tom Hanks was really only ever considered for the role. He had to capture Disney’s whimsy and charisma which others have described as not being too hard to accomplish because Hanks has a very similar disposition.
Foxx Goes Blind To Play Ray Charles
In preparation for his role as Ray Charles in the 2004 film Ray, Foxx completely immersed himself into Charle’s life. After Foxx had actually met with Charles, he began to make his physical transformation by getting a similar haircut and copying his mannerisms.
He also began to study and listen to soul, jazz, and blues recording and attended classes at the Braille Institute. During the weeks of rehearsal production and during filming, he wore prosthetic eyelids over his eyes to render him blind so he could have a sense of what it felt like. That’s really doing the most for originality.
Robert Downey Jr. Played An Idol
Unless you have a trained eye, it’s almost impossible to differentiate Robert Downey Jr. portraying Charlie Chaplin. That’s just how convincing he was in the biopic Chaplin in 1992. In order to prepare for the role, Robert Downey Jr. was known to endlessly watched Chaplin’s movies and managed to get his hands on some obscure material as well. In addition, he had two dialect coaches as well as two others for movement.
He even had a coach to help him learn how to play tennis left-handed. He noted that it was important to bring Charlie into himself rather than try to bring himself into Charlie. He was also known to print out digital images of his facial expressions and tape them to the wall so he could practice them all the time.
Andre Benjamin Learns To Play The Guitar Left-Handed
According to Andre Benjamin, there was a lot that went into the transformation of becoming Jimi Hendrix in Jimi: All By My Side. He realized he had a lot to learn about the sensitive, introverted man behind the guitar. He had to perm his hair and learn to walk in heels in order to capture Hendrix’s swagger.
He said it was not unusual to be seen in his house wearing heels and curlers in hair at all times. He also went so far as to learn how to play the guitar like Hendrix when there was an easier option to for the producers to just flip the image on the screen.
Michelle Williams Radiates Sexuality
In order to become Marilyn, Michelle Williams had a variety of techniques that she used in order to live up to the part. She discovered that “There’s something about her like she’s just sort of woken up and not quite all there yet.” And to capture the little things about her she had little tricks like pretending a small scoop of ice cream was in her mouth or would imagine a balloon was tied to her breastbone while she walked.
She would spend hours in makeup and costume every day and was expected to project a sexual radiance which she said became exhausting. However, overall, her performance as Marilyn has gone down as one of the best.
Philip Seymour Hoffman Became Obsessed
There was a lot that went into Philip Seymour Hoffman’s portrayal of the flamboyant, high-voiced author Truman Capote in the 2005 film Capote. Hoffman noted that when he first began to research Capote, he became semi-obsessed after discovering parallels between the two. There were already physical parallels such his hair and face, but he had to work on the voice and physicality.
He said that he lost a lot of weight and when he finally got the voice and his physical mannerisms down after much coaching and practice, the character began to come together.
Natalie Portman Was The First Lady
In order for Natalie Portman to become Jackie Kennedy in the 2016 film Jackie, she researched obsessively in order to execute a role of such esteem. She notes that with the help of the artists on set, she was able to capture the essence of Jackie physically with the hair, makeup, and clothes, but it was up to her to do the rest. Although she said that looking like her helped to give her the courage to carry out the role, there was still a lot of work to be done.
She watched videos, such as the White House tour, over and over in order to try and emulate her movement and master her accent, which describes was a combination of two speaking styles. By watching these videos, looking at pictures, and learning about the multiple sides of Jackie, she was able to pull off the part.
Julianne Moore Nails The Twang
In order for Julianne Moore to morph into Sarah Palin for the HBO adaptation of the book Game Change, Moore recalls that it was “practice, just a tremendous amount of practice”. Because the two are already strikingly similar, that was not the hard part of the project. After some makeup and hair styling, Moore was looking just like Palin in no time.
However, what was so difficult was Moore mastering Palin’s twang and her mannerisms which she noted as being the hardest when playing someone who is so fresh in people’s minds. In order to do so, she had to listen to Palin’s voice over and over again on her iPod, which she deleted all of her music off of to make room for speeches and interviews.
Johnny Depp Got In-Touch With His Evil Side
To play the notorious gangster murderer Whitey Bulger in Black Mass, Depp said that he really needed to get in touch with his evil side. He is also rumored to have brought a human aspect to the crime boss that was indicted for 19 murders. He said that in order to do this he just approached the character as a human being and not a man driven by pure evil.
On playing the real-life crime boss, he said that he didn’t have much material to work with and even asked if he could visit Bulger in prison which was eventually denied. Regarding the physical transformation, he needed hand-painted blue contacts and a lot of makeup in order to make him look as fierce and uneasy as possible.
Kutcher Studied Computers
Many were surprised when it was announced that it was Ashton Kutcher that was going to take up the role of Steve Jobs in Jobs. However, many were also proven wrong when they saw just how much they looked alike and the extent Kutcher went to in order to master the character. Although the look was mostly up to the makeup team, Kutcher did his own homework.
He studied documentaries and interviews and began to dissect Jobs’ idiosyncrasies such as the way he walked, talked, all the way down to his almost unnoticeable lisp. Kutcher ate the food that Jobs ate, learned about his favorite artists, read biographies, and even read up on the technology being discussed in the film.
Charlize Theron On Becoming A Monster
Charlize Theron has always been regarded as a sexy blonde actress in the film industry. It is because of this that her transformation into the real-life lesbian serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster was so incredible. In order to even come close to looking like Aileen, she chopped off her hair, darkened it, made her eyes brown, gained 30 pounds, and learned to speak with a tough dental prosthetic-induced overbite.
She said that she lived in sweatpants because none of her clothes fit and rarely went out in public. She also managed to get her hands on letters that Aileen had written to a friend over a 12 year period which helped her gain a deeper insight into the mind of Aileen.