Actors in biopics: How close the resemblance?

And, more importantly, how much do you care?

Assuming that the appearance of the real-life person is not in some way inextricably tied to his/her story, do you notice or care how much the actor playing the movie role resembles him or her? If so, are you swayed at all by how well the actor pics up on other aspects - mannerisms, speech, etc. - of the person?

I ask because I just read that Angelina Jolie is going to be playing Mariane Pearl in a movie.

And aside from the fact that they’re both totally gorgeous, I . . . don’t really see it.

How much it will bother me, however, will depend, I think, on the movie.

I mean, I never would have chosen Philip Seymour Hoffman to play Truman Capote . . .

Oh - I guess it may be obvious by now, but I’m talking strictly about *physical * resemblance, here . . .

Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison was, AFAICT, pretty scary in terms of resemblance.

In a good way, or a bad way . . . ? :wink:

I think it definitely enhances the movie experience if the actor looks a lot like the person, but not at the expense of his/her ability to act like the person.

Not a whit. It’s the performance that counts.

If it’s a well-known person, I think it’s kinda neet if they look somewhat similar.

Just some recent ones that I’ve seen:

Kris Kristofferson looked absolutely nothing like Lou Smit, a detective who had a role in the JonBenet Ramsey case—but he was not a well-known person, so who cares.
In a Mike Tyson biopic, the guy they had playing Teddy Atlas basically was Teddy Atlas. Amazing that they could find someone so close.
Same with an Ali biopic. The guys they had playing Jackie Gleason and Bundini were dead-on perfect.
In the Robert Crane biopic “Auto Focus,” Kurt Fuller did a bang-up job as Col. Klink.
In the Deirdre Hall biopic “Never Say Never,” the guy that played her (now ex-) husband Steve Sohmer, was a much better looking fellow than the real thing.

I like a passing resemblance atleast for the major parts. Especially bugs me when there’s an actor who springs instantly to my mind as “looking the part”

For example:
Greg Kinnear didn’t strike me as looking anything close to Bab Crane. Anthony LaPaglia I think actually resembles him.

A lot of biopics don’t even try. Pretty boy Peter O’Toole as lantern-jawed T.E. Lawrence of Arabia? Tall handsiome James Caan as short homely Billy Rose? Much as I love William Daniels as John Adams (and Sam Adams), he doesn’t really look like either one.
On the other hand, Matthew Broderick looks eerily like Robert Gould Shaw in Glory. Donald O’Connor looks surprisingly good as Buster Keaton in his biopic.

I felt like Joaquin Phoenix in “Walk the Line” looks passably similar to Johnny Cash, but far more importantly he nailed the vocal mannerisms which really sold the performance. Likewise with supporting players as Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley-- closely mimicing the performance style, which they did, was more helpful to believability than getting the look exactly right.

Norma Shearer really did look eerily like Marie Antoinette.

John Wayne looked NOTHING like Genghis Khan.

If the subject is someone I could recognize (especially if they’re known for acting or something else that is very looks-based), I do find it distracting if the actor is too much unlike the subject in appearance.

For instance, I thought Robert Downey, Jr. as Charlie Chaplin was good - both the performance and the resemblance.

On the other hand, I have no idea what J. M. Barrie looked like, so who really gives a rip how much Johnny Depp may or may not look like him.

IMHO, it doesn’t get any better than Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood . One of the most deserved acting Oscars. Ever.

Denzel Washington in X was another strong resemblance.

I think the most laugh-out-loud casting choice in a biopic was casting Valerie Bertinelli as aviatrix Pancho Barnes (she’s on the right) in the TV movie of the same name. I don’t remember anything about her performance (I really didn’t care about the performance - it was Valerie Bertinelli), but I did know that Pancho Barnes was a singularly unattractive woman. It was hard for me to take the movie seriously based on that alone.

I was amazed at how well Gary Sinise fit into the role of Harry Truman in the made-for-TV film Truman. He nailed the voice and mannerisms of HST. Sinise was too tall, but so are most of the actors I can think of, with the exception of Peter Dinklage. I met Harry Truman when I was ten years old, and I was almost as tall as he was.

Stephen Fry as Oscar Wilde in the 1997 movie Wilde. Truly uncanny resemblance (and of course the resemblance is by no means limited to physical appearance; Fry is also a piercingly intelligent, eloquent, witty writer, conversationalist and humourist, not to mention homosexual)

Two who nailed it for me:

Jon Voight as Howard Cosell in Ali (even though Cosell was a supporting character, I thought Voight’s was the best Cosell impression I’d ever seen).

Brad Garret as Jackie Gleason in Gleason.

One who failed: Jürgen Prochnow as Arnold Schwarzenegger in See Arnold Run. Although Roland Kickinger was passable as Arnold in hios Pumping Iron years.

And to Push You Down: I bought Greg Kinnear as Bob Crane. I thought there was more than a passing resemblance.

Kinnear is playing a famous football coach in an upcoming flick… of course, now I can’t think of who it is… figures…

I always thought it was amazing how much Sissy Spacek actually looked like Loretta Lynn.

You can’t beat the guy who played the title role in The Jackie Robinson Story, uncanny!