As Hollywood prepares for its latest surge of biopics, yesterday's New York Times featured a very interesting article that posed the folllowing question: When it comes to acting in a biopic, is is better to mimic or transcend? As the Times points out, back in the day, there wasn't much of a debate. Despite not looking much like their characters, folks like Robert Redford (All the President's Men) and Warren Beatty (Bonnie and Clyde) had no problem convincingly portraying historical figures without dramatically alter their appearances.
However, you can't help but be blown away after witnessing the transformations Nicole Kidman (The Hours) and Charlize Theron (Monster) completed as part of their respective takes on Virginia Woolf and the real-life serial killer Aileen Wuornos. Sure, Theron did a nice job of capturing Wuornos through her acting, but let's face it -- there's no way she would have won an Oscar without all that make-up.
Some would argue a great actor shouldn't have to completely change his or her look in order to capture the essence of a person. This past year, Philip Seymour Hoffman (who looks nothing like the writer) dazzled as Truman Capote, despite barely changed his appearance for the role. Same goes for Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon when they took on Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash in Walk the Line.
So, I ask you: Is it important to you for an actor (or actress) to change their appearance when starring in a biopic, should they look nothing like the person they're portraying?