Every so often, we get a biopic that moves us. It causes us to think and view the star character being portrayed in a new light. This is felt through various types of movies, whether it be positive or negative. Even movies that portrayed individuals that brought hurt and harm to innocent people, viewers manage to generate feelings for that individual. One reason is because a movie goes beyond the shell that we see for the most part. In a biopic, you get to see the actual person. You witness a human being with feelings. We don’t just see a corrupt leader or a star athlete. We see people just like us with flaws, mishaps, and vulnerability. In a way, you witness why a person made certain decisions in life. Their struggles, desires, and weaknesses are put on display. At the same time, Hollywood adds a little “fluff” to the film. A couple going out on a date for the first time doesn’t show two people, nervously having a meal. It displays action, suspense, excitement, and much more. Along with these extras is masterfully composed music. We don’t get what ordinarily happens. We get the extra-ordinary version. And, we love it!
Another reason we were able to connect with these individuals was because of the people portraying the character. Not only did they give us a great performance, but they gave us a reason to believe that the person was actually on the screen, that they were playing their own roles, and that we were experiencing their life at that very moment. Another key element is how well the actor/actress resembles the character they’re portraying. At some point, it should be important to select someone based on their resemblance and not just their acting ability. Although Leonardo DiCaprio is a great actor, I couldn’t see myself accepting Leonardo as Muhammad Ali. The two just wouldn’t mesh. This example displays the importance of selecting the right actor/actress. Focusing on the acting ability isn’t enough, when it comes to portraying a person that actually lived and breathed on this earth. At some point, some of us have witnessed the person in our lifetime. Whether it be live footage or recorded images of the person, we know how this person should look.
The soon to be released biopic of Nelson Mandela has brought forth this topic. Mandela has been a part of history for the past 50 years. His life and experiences will make a great story on any format. It is the type of life he lived that inspires some, while causing others to think. The story itself is powerful enough to draw millions of people in attendance. The only issue that exists is who will portray Mandela. When it was reported that Idris Elba would be the leading man, some questions came about. To begin, there was never a reason to question Elba’s acting ability. Thinking back to the television series, The Wire, Elba excelled in his role. But in The Wire, Elba was an artificial character. So, Elba could’ve dressed and acted in any way he wanted. We would’ve never known the difference. But, the platform changes, when the character is the portrayal of an actual human being. Instantly, I saw no resemblance of Mandela as I viewed clips of Elba in his starring role.
This latest film made me think of some of the past biopics that had actors/actresses that resembled the individuals, while putting on a stellar performance. I created my own list of the top 5 best portrayals in an autobiography film. Are these your Top 5? What do you think about Idris Elba portraying Nelson Mandela? Can you look past how much the actor/actress resembles the actual person?