Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave.

Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave.

Films about fascinating, real-life people are always in style, and currently a slew of significant real-people roles are in full effect. Bravely taking on the responsibility of pulling off the essence of another person is always a little risky because you can never completely resemble another human even with the industry’s top makeup artists and hair stylists. After all, you are you, and you will always get in the way of being someone else. But audiences have an insatiable curiosity about charismatic people’s lives, so they are eager to give actors a fair chance at assuming a new identity. The drive to know what daily life is like for remarkable individuals will keep this art form alive forever.

On a hot streak and becoming a household name, Benedict Cumberbatch played the controversial Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange in the recently released, The Fifth Estate. He underwent numerous tricks to appear like Assange including a bleach-blond wig, blue-grey contact lenses, as well as prosthetic teeth. Cumberbatch acknowledges he did “a lot, an awful lot” of research on Assange which seems to have paid off as many reviewers assert he managed to convincingly portray Assange.

Naomi Watts was challenged to pull off Diana, Princess of Wales in the biopic Diana to be released early November. The mostly fictionalized account of Diana’s secret love affair with Pakinstani surgeon, Dr. Hasnat Khan has received a number of poor reviews from the U.K.–including criticism from the real-life Khan–often because of problems stemming from the dialogue. But Watt’s ability to capture Diana’s essence has been praised, as well.

Chiwetel Ejiofor portrays a freeman named Solomon Northup who was abducted before the Civil War in 1841, and sold as a slave in the recently released drama, 12 Years a Slave. The film is based on the real Northup’s memoir. Ejiofor says, “To tell someone the story is one of the most deeply enriching experiences that I have ever had as a performer or an actor.” As the real-life Northup is not someone instantly recognizable to most Americans, Ejiofor didn’t need to go to great lengths to match a specific look. But he did need to deeply delve into the tragic experiences of a real person. Historian David Blight liked the film very much, saying, “Slavery is only rarely ever depicted effectively in Hollywood pictures. This film stays quite loyal to the narrative itself. It’s accurate in that sense. I also found the acting terrific.”

Helena Bonham Carter plays Elizabeth Taylor in the BBC television movie, Burton & Taylor. To prepare for the role, Bonham Carter explains, “I felt I couldn’t do an impersonation because I don’t really look like her, and my job was to capture some essence. I read her biographies and met with some girlfriends of hers, and I met with an astrologist to help distill somebody and their qualities. My aunt analyzes handwriting so she was a great distiller of somebody’s character. I went around collecting characteristics.” Ultimately, she sought to create a hybrid of herself and Taylor, saying her portrayal was going to be its own kind of creature. “It was not going to be Elizabeth. It was as if Elizabeth and I had a baby. A collage,” she laughed.

Additionally, Tom Hardy has been cast to play the pop icon, Elton John, in the upcoming biopic called Rocketman. And considering the recent award-winning films such as Lincoln, My Week with Marilyn, and The Social Network, Hollywood seems to be on a biopic role.

Is there anyone you’re itching to play? If so, who? And is it because you believe you look like this person or because you feel you could convincingly capture his or her essence in another way?

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