What's more important when picking an actor to portray someone we all know?
The news of several upcoming biopics including films on the lives of James Brown, Marvin Gaye and Aretha Franklin got me to thinking, is it important that an actor look like the subject they're portraying or should filmmakers ignore the looks and try to capture the subject's inner essence?
Reportedly, Franklin wanted Berry to portray her in a film based on her life. Maybe it's not important to Re Re that Berry can't sing a note, but may be able to bring certain traumatic events to the screen in all of their raw and authentic moments. In my opinion, I still think that Jennifer Hudson would be the right choice if for no other reason that she could belt out Franklin's signature songs.
Berry and Jamie Foxx were the best of both worlds in portraying Dorothy Dandridge and Jamie Foxx. Berry used her beauty to portray Dandridge's tragic iconic story and Foxx mastered Ray Charles' mannerism and it also didn't hurt that he could sing and play the piano as well.
While Denzel Washington had no resemblance to Malcolm X, his acting was so strong that EVERYONE assumed that 30 minutes into that film that he WAS Malcolm. Will Smith had a passing resemblance to Muhammad Ali, plus he did a very good job at capturing Ali's speech cadence. For the record, the absolute worst job was turned in by one my favorite actors, Sidney Poitier who played Thurgood Marshall in the laughable TV movie, "Separate But Equal."
Sean Kingston recently was cast as the Notorious B.I.G. Kingston looks a little like Biggie, but the jury is out and I'm skeptical. Cali's Gorilla Black, who has tried unsuccessfully to jack Biggie's style would have been great but we'll wait in see.
If I had to choose between an actor who looks the part or who acts it, I will always go with the actor first. Denzel showed you that if you act well enough it simply doesn't matter.