Best actor/actress (lead or support) Oscar winning portrayals of real life characters

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by Vash01, Nov 26, 2012.

  1. Vash01

    Vash01 Well-Known Member

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    It seems that often when a best actor/actress Oscar nominee portrays a well real life character, the chances of winning are quite high. Of course there are some that don't win, but those seem to be fewer in number. I don't have the stats on it, but here is a list of Best actress/actor Oscar winners that played real life characters (lead or supporting roles). I am sure I forgot a lot of them.

    Men:

    Ben Kingsley - Gandhi (1982)
    Adrian Brody -Wladislaw Szpillman (sp?) in The Pianist -2002
    Jamie Foxx- Ray Charles (2004) in 'Ray'
    Sean Penn- Milk (2008)
    Colin Firth- King George VI in 'The king's speech' (2010)
    George C. Scott - Patton (1970)
    Geoffrey Rush - David Helfgott in 'Shine' (1996)
    Philip Seymor Hoffman - Capote (2005)
    Jeff Bridges- Crazy Heart (2009) (can't remember the name)
    Forest Whitaker- The last king of Scotland (2006) - did he play Idi Amin?
    Jeremy Irons- Claus Von Bulow in Reversal of Fortune (1990)

    I am not sure if the actor who played Mozart's character in Amadaeus (sp?) won.

    Will Daniel Day Lewis win this year for playing Lincoln, or will it be Anthony Hopkins for playing Hitchcock?

    Those who did not win:

    Russell Crow - John Nash in 'Beautiful mind' (lost to a fictional character, I think)
    Joaquin Phoenix - Johnny Cash in 'Walk the line'
    Leonardo di Caprio- Aviator
    Denzel Washington - Hurricane (lost to Kevin Spacey's fictional character)


    Women:

    Meryl Streep- Margaret Thatcher in 'The iron lady' (2011)
    Helen Mirren- Queen Elizabeth (2007)
    Charlize Theron - 'Monster' (2004)
    Hillary Swank - 'Boys don't cry' (2000)
    Reese Witherspoon- June Carter Cash in 'Walk the line' (2006)
    Sissy Spacek - Loretta Lynn in 'Coal miner's daughter' (1980)
    Sandra Bullock - The blind side (2010)
    Julia Roberts - Erin Brockovich (2001)
    Cate Blanchett- Katherine Hepburn in 'The aviator'? (I can't remember the year)
    Judi Dench - Queen Elizabeth in 'Shakespeare in Love'

    Those who did not win-

    Salma Hayek- Frida Kahlo (I don't remember who she lost to)
    Michelle Williams- Marilyn Monroe (lost to Streep's Margaret Thatcher)
    Cate Blanchett- Queen Elizabeth (lost to Gwyneth Paltrow's fictional character)
    Meryl Streep- Karen Silkwood, Isaac Dinesan(Karen) in Out of Africa, and the Australian woman in 'A cry in the dark'
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2012
  2. jenny12

    jenny12 Well-Known Member

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    Also, Robert De Niro for Jake La Motta in Raging Bull. Really great performance that was not afraid to portray its subject unsympathetically.
  3. Zemgirl

    Zemgirl Well-Known Member

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    He did.

    F. Murray Abraham, who played Salieri, won. Salieri is the more interesting role, or at least the more showy one.

    If you look at supporting actor/actress winners as well, there will also be plenty of portrayals of real people. This is not surprising - winning for playing a real person is an Oscar tradition, going back to the early years of the award: (George Arliss won for playing Benjamin Disraeli back in 1930, Luise Rainer for her role as Anna Held in 1936)). And I think everyone knows that a lot of these biopics are Oscar bait type movies.
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2012
  4. skateboy

    skateboy Well-Known Member

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    Patty Duke as Helen Keller; Anne Bancroft as Annie Sullivan in The Miracle Worker.
  5. essence_of_soy

    essence_of_soy Well-Known Member

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    Susan Hayward as convicted murdered, Barbara Graham in I Want To Live.
  6. falling_dance

    falling_dance The Scarlet Unlettered

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    Paul Scofield as Sir Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons
    Daniel Day-Lewis as Christy Brown in My Left Foot
    Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood
    Marcia Gay Harden as Lee Krasner in Pollock
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  7. Wyliefan

    Wyliefan Well-Known Member

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    In 1968, there was a Best Actress tie between two women playing real people -- Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine in The Lion in Winter, and Barbra Streisand as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl.
  8. Jenny

    Jenny From the Bloc

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    Another that comes to mind is Will Smith in Ali - he was nominated but did not win. He was excellent in the role though.
  9. GarrAarghHrumph

    GarrAarghHrumph I can kill you with my brain

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    What do they do in the case of a tie? Do they give the award to the actor with the higher technical score? ;)
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  10. Nan

    Nan Just me

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    I haven't seen Hitchcock yet, but Hopkins will have to go some to out-do Day-Lewis in Lincoln. Fantastic!
  11. Vash01

    Vash01 Well-Known Member

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    I did mention a couple of supporting actress Oscars (Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett for supporting roles). I don't know some of the real life people, so I may not have thought of them. I had not heard of the real life people you mentioned. It's great that the list is expanding with inputs from posters like you and others.

    Couple of supporting winners I did not mention were:

    Christian Bale - The Fighter (his brother)
    Melissa Leo - The Fighter (his mother)

    I did not mention them because I had no idea what the real people were like. The actors were great in their screen roles.
  12. Vash01

    Vash01 Well-Known Member

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    I can't imagine anyone out-doing DDL (Lincoln) this year.

    I caught on TV the other day that there is a movie about Teddy Roosevelt. I did not catch the name of the movie or the actor who played him. Does anyone know?
  13. Wyliefan

    Wyliefan Well-Known Member

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    The Washington Post has an interesting article on Helen Mirren and how she had to find a way to portray Alma Hitchcock when there's only a split second's worth of footage of Alma to be found anywhere.
  14. Vash01

    Vash01 Well-Known Member

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    Talking of those who did not win (but should have):

    Christopher Plummer (supporting role) as Leo Tolstoy in 'The last station'
  15. julieann

    julieann Well-Known Member

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    I think Cate Blanchett was the first person/only person to win an Oscar for playing someone who won an Oscar.
  16. Artemis@BC

    Artemis@BC Well-Known Member

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    Bad Blake was a fictional character. Although you'd be forgiven for thinking that he was real, and he was based on elements of several real-life musicians including Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, and Kris Kristofferson.

    The fact that these were real-life characters is somewhat moot here, as they're relatively obscure and unknown. So any advantage their "real-lifeness" has in terms of recognition and Oscar-bait is lost.
  17. Karina1974

    Karina1974 Well-Known Member

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    F. Murray Abraham won the Oscar for playing Salieri. Tom Hulce played Mozart.
  18. attyfan

    attyfan Well-Known Member

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    Charles Laughton won "Best Actor" in 1933 for the title role in "The Private Life of Henry VIII"

    Wasn't Helena Bonham Carter nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of the Duchess of York (later Queen) in "The King's Speech"?
  19. Artemis@BC

    Artemis@BC Well-Known Member

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    Yes she was. As was Geoffrey Rush for his real-life role (though there was a lot of talk at the time that the role was too big to be classified as "supporting"). The winners in both supporting acting categories that year were from The Fighter -- Christian Bale and Melissa Leo.
  20. PeterG

    PeterG Argle-Bargle-ist

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    Wow. Just wait until Hayden Panettiere wins for "The Cate Blanchett Story".
  21. Alixana

    Alixana recovering Oly-holic

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    Never! :rofl::rofl:
  22. Wyliefan

    Wyliefan Well-Known Member

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    How about Lindsay Lohan playing Liz Taylor? :D Man, that was a hoot and a half.
  23. my little pony

    my little pony snarking for AZE

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    i got the best drinking game from gofugyourself, but i had to abandon it before it was over, my liver was ossifying so fast it was almost audible
  24. Rob

    Rob Beach Bum

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    i taped Liz and Dick. Can't wait till I have time to watch.
  25. Seerek

    Seerek Well-Known Member

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    7 of the past 10 Best Actresses were real life people

    2011 Meryl Streep The Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher
    2009 Sandra Bullock The Blind Side Leigh Anne Tuohy
    2007 Marion Cotillard La Vie en Rose Édith Piaf
    2006 Helen Mirren The Queen Queen Elizabeth II
    2005 Reese Witherspoon Walk the Line June Carter
    2003 Charlize Theron Monster Aileen Wuornos
    2002 Nicole Kidman The Hours Virginia Woolf
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  26. my little pony

    my little pony snarking for AZE

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    it's awful in a hysterically wonderful way, watch it with someone to make fun of it. if you dont have a drinking game in place, just drink each time you see a different bar cart or turban.
  27. duane

    duane New Member

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    Don't know if this counts, but Jodie Foster's Oscar-winning role in The Accused was based on a true character.
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  28. essence_of_soy

    essence_of_soy Well-Known Member

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    I thought Babs would win by a nose, but there you go.
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  29. rjblue

    rjblue Re-registered User

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    One of my favourite performances- Susan Sarandon won the Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of Sister Helen Prejean, in Dead Man Walking.

    Sean Penn was also nominated for his character, but his was an amalgamation of two people.
  30. duane

    duane New Member

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    Oh, and how can we forget the great 1993 Oscar nominated performances of Angela Bassett and Lawrence Fishburne as Ike and Tina Turner in What's Love Got To Do With It.
  31. Simone411

    Simone411 aka IceSkate98

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    They talked about this on The View this morning and showed screenclips. They mentioned it was more like a comedy than anything else. :lol:
  32. screech

    screech Well-Known Member

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    Jennifer Connelly won for A Beautiful Mind in 2002.
    Ingrid Bergman as Anastasia (1956)
  33. Artemis@BC

    Artemis@BC Well-Known Member

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    Again, I see those as 2 separate categories. Leigh Anne Tuohy and Aileen Wuornos (and Sister Helen Prejean) were real people, but not in any way famous. Few people outside their own circle knew who they were or what they did. So there's far less pressure for the actor to play the character in a way that's recognizable and expected.

    To me the really impressive task is when the actor goes beyond mimickry. Take away the wow-she/he-really-looks/sounds-like-the-real-person aspect, and ask yourself if the acting performance stands on its own. Sadly, IMO a lot of best acting winners won only because they were playing a famous person. Marion Cotillard is a case in point: the mimickry of Piaf was superb ... but beyond that the performance was only pretty good. Meryl Streep, Colin Firth, and Helen Mirren, oth, gave performances that transcended their famous characters.

    And of course Meryl Streep had the added challenge of working with a medocre-at-best script :rolleyes: ... but that's a whole other thread. "Actors who've won best actor awards in bad movies." (Pretty short list mind you.)
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  34. screech

    screech Well-Known Member

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    Another winner is Dame Judi Dench for QEI in Shakespeare in Love. IIRC her win made news because she had such a small amount of screen time and so few lines. But she's just awesome.
  35. Artemis@BC

    Artemis@BC Well-Known Member

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    She was indeed awesome in that role (when is she not?). But folks also saw it as somewhat of a consolation prize, as she should have won best actress the previous year for her role as Queen Victoria in Mrs. Brown.
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2012
  36. my little pony

    my little pony snarking for AZE

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    it looked like an SNL skit. everyone aged decades and talked about how they were getting fat but they did not use aging makeup or padding so they looked exactly the same. at one pt they did put some grey in the wigs.
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  37. duane

    duane New Member

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    Who would have ever imagined that Caesonia, the "most promiscuous woman in Rome" who became Caesar's wife in 1979's controversial Caligula, would have such a successful and an honored career. The movie reportedly destroyed many careers (tho I must admit it's one of my guilty pleasures, and I love Mirren's performance!).
  38. falling_dance

    falling_dance The Scarlet Unlettered

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    Joseph Schildkraut as Capt. Alfred Dreyfus in The Life of Emile Zola
    Mary Steenburgen as Lynda Dummar in Melvin and Howard
  39. Vash01

    Vash01 Well-Known Member

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    I too think she should have won for Mrs. Brown, but I think she played QE I (not QE II).
  40. falling_dance

    falling_dance The Scarlet Unlettered

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    Dench portrayed Queen Victoria in Mrs. Brown.