History Lesson: Stars Who Played Historical Characters

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  • Chadwick Boseman, Jackie Robinson
  • Salma Hayek
  • Will Smith
  • Denzel Washington
  • Morgan Freeman, Nelson Mandela
  • Don Cheadle
  • Zoe Saldana
  • Halle Berry
  • Angela Bassett, Mary J. Blige
  • Madonna
  • Forest Whitaker
  • Benicio del Toro

Will Smith in Ali (2001)

It was the Fresh Prince as we had never seen him before. Smith amazed as iconic boxer Muhammad Ali in this powerful biopic, bringing the one-two punch of uncanny physical likeness and deep, nuanced performance to the role. The actor earned an Academy Award nomination for Ali, which was at the time a rare chance for audiences to see Smith in a dramatic role.

(Photo: Peter Brandt/Getty Images) 

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