Preparing for the role of a fictional character is relatively easy. You might be able to read the book a film is based on, or you can dive into the script. But at the end of the day, the character is still built out of the actor’s imagination. Things are a little more difficult when an actor has to represent a real historical figure.
Some actors will rely heavily on hair and makeup, while others will spend hours watching old films and listening to recordings to perfect the character’s tone and mannerisms. One actor actually spent a year living exactly like the hard-rock musician he starred as in The Doors. These actors transformed into historical figures for their films, and the resemblance is creepy.
It Wasn’t Just Daniel Day-Lewis’ Looks That Freaked People Out
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Day-Lewis is known to be a method actor, but hair and makeup can only go so far. Anyone who has seen Lincoln knows that the strangest part of Day-Lewis’ portrayal of former President Abraham Lincoln is the high-pitched voice.
But apparently, Day-Lewis did his homework. There are no recordings, but historians say that others had described Lincoln’s voice as “shrill.”
Michelle Williams Was The Only Actress Considered To Play Marilyn Monroe
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When producers began casting for My Week With Marilyn, they only had Williams in mind for the role of Monroe. Williams called the task of playing an American icon like Monroe “daunting” but exciting.
Williams even worked with a dance choreographer to perfect Monroe’s signature walk.
Ray Charles Personally Approved Of Jamie Foxx Being Cast In His Biopic
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Even though Charles couldn’t see the amazing physical resemblance between him and Foxx, the entire script for Ray was translated into braille. After reading the text and hearing Foxx’s performance, Charles approved.
Coming up, it was only two years after a famous technology mogul died that an actor did an incredible job playing him.
Selena Quintanilla’s Family Critiqued Jennifer Lopez’s Performance
To prepare for the role in the biopic Selena about the Latin singer, Lopez became very close with Selena’s family. Lopez asked the family to watch her scenes and critique her performance so it would be as accurate as possible.
It must have worked because I can barely tell who is who in the two photos above.
Val Kilmer Lived As Jim Morrison For A Year Before Shooting Started
Kilmer didn’t need much help to look like Morrison for his role in The Doors. But he went above and beyond to perfect Morrison’s mannerisms. Kilmer lived like Morrison for a year.
He even wore his old clothes and went out to the same bars in Los Angeles that Morrison did.
No One Expected Ashton Kutcher To Look This Much Like Steve Jobs
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No one believed it when they heard Kutcher had been cast to star in Jobs, but the resemblance is uncanny. Most of us were used to the Steve Jobs in a black turtleneck with grey hair, but Kutcher is serving serious young-Jobs vibes.
The actress coming up is one of the sexiest on the silver screen, but she looks terrifying in her role as a serial killer.
Salma Hayek’s Personal Career Goal Was To Play Frida Kahlo
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Hayek was so determined to play the surrealist Mexican artist Frida that she spent years securing the rights, becoming close with Kahlo’s family, and assembling an all-star cast.
Hayek’s years of hard work paid off when she was nominated for an Academy Award for her incredible performance.
Some People Though Denzel Washington Had Too Dark Of A Complexion To Play Malcolm X
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To the naked eye, Washington seems like a dead ringer to play activist Malcolm X in the biopic Malcolm X. But people had a lot of issues with his performance. They said Washington was too short and had too dark a complexion to play Malcolm X.
The skeptics didn’t matter though. Director Spike Lee said he never envisioned anyone but Washington for the role.
Charlize Theron Is Basically Unrecognizable As Serial Killer Aileen Wuornos
Theron wanted to pursue the role of serial killer Wuornos in Monster to prove she was more than a pretty face. She gained more than 30 pounds for the role, shaved her eyebrows, and wore fake teeth to transform.
Bruno Ganz Wanted To Capture The Soft-Spoken Side Of Adolf Hitler
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In most portrayals of Hitler, the actor is yelling and angry. But when Swedish actor Ganz took on the role for the film Downfall, he wanted to figure out the other side of Hitler.
Ganz listened to the only recordings of Hitler’s normal speaking voice that exist so that he could speak in a conversational tone.
Ben Kingsley Was Called ‘Gandhi’s Ghost’ Because His Acting Was Flawless
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It’s no doubt that Kingsley physically transformed into Mohandas Gandhi for Gandhi. Kingsley is a British actor, but he is actually of Indian heritage.
But people began calling him “Gandhi’s Ghost” thanks to his acting. It was no surprise when he took home the Best Actor award at the 55th Academy Awards.
Only Cate Blanchett Has The Jaw Line To Play Bob Dylan
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It might sound strange at first to cast Blanchett as folk singer Bob Dylan in I’m Not There, but after you see her performance, it all makes sense. Blanchett knew the role would be tough, so she learned guitar and would shove a sock down her pants to practice a manlier walk.
Keep reading to see which young actor managed to capture the look and attitude of James Dean.
Robert Downey Jr. Looks Just Like Charlie Chaplin Without The Hat And Makeup Too
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It’s easy to look like someone when you put on a fake toothbrush mustache, eye makeup, and an iconic bowler hat. But Downey Jr.’s entire performance in Chaplin won “universal acclaim.”
But RDJ wasn’t the first choice for the role. Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, and Jim Carrey were all considered before him.
Jim Carrey Would Only Answer To ‘Andy’ While Shooting Man On The Moon
Carrey was honored to play the legendary comedian Andy Kaufman, but according to his co-star Courtney Love, he never broke character. Carrey would only respond to ‘Andy’ throughout filming, even at home.
He also would play pranks on friends similar to Kaufman. Even though the film did poorly, Carrey won a Golden Globe for the performance.
James Franco + James Dean = The James Combo We All Wanted
I imagine most baby boomers would argue that James Dean could never be replicated, but James Franco did a pretty great job of it in the biopic James Dean. Leonardo DiCaprio was originally slotted to play Dean, but I think we can all agree Franco was a perfect choice.
Michael Douglas Had To Find His Inner Diva To Play Liberace
Liberace is one of the most unique entertainers in history, so when Douglas signed on to play him in Behind the Candelabra, he knew it would be a challenge.
Douglas tried to embody a more personal side of Liberace, rather than his usual flamboyance. He also had to learn how to rock all the incredible stage outfits Liberace would wear.
Adrien Brody’s Resemblance To Salvador Dali Is Surreal
Even though Brody only had a small role as surrealist artist Salvador Dali in Midnight In Paris, his performance was definitely memorable.
Brody’s naturally tall and thin build was the perfect form to work with. A thin mustache and some slicked back hair completed the look.
Hilary Swank Might Look Like Amelia Earhart, But Her Performance Was A Flop
It doesn’t matter how much you look like someone if you can’t embody the character. Swank was the lead actress and executive producer for the biopic Amelia.
Her resemblance was uncanny, but many people critiqued the historical accuracy and called Swank’s performance “dull.”
Philip Seymour Hoffman Won The Best Actor Oscar For His Role As Truman Capote
On the flip side, Hoffman might not look exactly like Capote but his performance was so incredible that he won a Best Actor award for Capote.
Hoffman spent hours watching interviews and video of Capote to pick up even the small mannerisms, like when Capote would rest his hand on his face.
Jared Leto Gained 67 Pounds To Play John Lennon’s Killer
To play Lennon’s shooter Mark David Chapman in Chapter 27, Leto gained an unhealthy amount of weight. Leto said that he would eat microwaved pints of ice cream with olive oil and soy sauce every night to gain the weight.
After filming was done, Leto said it took more than a year to feel “semi-normal” again.