"Did you have a good world when you died? Enough to base a movie on?" -- Jim Morrison
Fortunately Morrison did have enough to base a movie on (the inappropriately titled The Doors), but thousands of dead celebrities and historical figures would make horrible subjects for biopics. Just because they led famous lives doesn't mean they led dramatically entertaining lives. Of course, Hollywood is good at making up or manipulating events for dramatic purpose and therefore just about any person could be given the formulaic biopic treatment.
Some people are better served with made-for-TV movie, others with big-budget studio epics. The easiest subjects to imagine are those who would provide great soundtracks; the more difficult personalities are those without current relevance or some fitting resonance today. I picked seven dead people (and a bonus: one living dog) who don't already have films in development (as far as I know) whose lives we need to see on the big screen as soon as possible.
- Sam Cooke - Most musical biopics simply need a good crop of songs to fill a soundtrack, and Cooke has plenty hits to fill up a feature-length movie. Another thing that works for Hollywood is a young death. Cooke was killed at the age of 33 in a mysterious case ruled as justifiable homicide. Uncertain details can be problematic for such a life story, but other figures, including Morrison, have worked fine without proper closure. I imagine a Rashomon-style court case interspersed with other significant moments from his career.
- Nikola Tesla - A lot of people who saw The Prestige, myself included, are now intrigued about the life and work of Tesla. There have been some productions about the inventor made in Yugoslavia, but he's never gotten his due in Hollywood until appearing as a supporting character in Christopher Nolan's magician movie. Of course, after watching David Bowie's portrayal, it is hard to imagine someone else in the role. I'd personally like to see him reprise his character in a proper biopic, preferably with Andy Serkis again playing his assistant.
- Pericles - He led Athens during one of the most exciting periods in all of history, and unlike with many ancient figures there is a lot about his life on record. Audiences would be drawn to an epic feature that showcases the Peloponnesian War, the building of the Acropolis and supporting characters such as Socrates, Sophocles and Aristophanes. Plus, I think some of the responses to Pericles and the war could be seen as allegorical to modern times.
- Don Drummond - Another interesting figure who could provide a great soundtrack, although a less familiar one, is this trombonist and composer for the 1960s Jamaican band The Skatalites. I'm not sure how much of his life would be interesting to audiences, but I've always been fascinated by the story of his downfall: On New Year's Eve, 1964, he murdered his girlfriend while the rest of his band was expecting him to show up for a gig. He was promptly arrested and spent the next four years in an asylum, missing out on enjoying the success of some of his biggest hits. In 1969, he either comitted suicide or was murdered in the asylum. It's kind of like Sid and Nancy for the ska crowd.
- Liz Renay - A movie about this recently deceased actress would have everything audiences want in a biopic: a rise and fall and rise again plotline; a fanatically religious background; gangsters; women in prison; a mother-daughter striptease tour; cameos of Hollywood icons (or actors portraying them); and a cult-status revival helped by John Waters. I would like to suggest that Waters not direct the film since I don't like his movies, but I'd love to see him play himself (who cares that he's 30 years older) since I do like him as a personality.
- L. Ron Hubbard - Hollywood's scientologists would probably rather not make a movie about the founder of their religion and at the same time they probably wouldn't allow an outsider to make one either. But both sides would make for interesting depictions. Paul Haggis, a scientologist, could write and direct the pro-Hubbard version while Trey Parker and Matt Stone should do the parodic take. Actor Jeffrey Jones would have to portray Hubbard in both, though I imagine either John Travolta or Tom Cruise would fight over who got to dye his hair red for the favorable biopic.
- "Classy" Freddie Blassey - I needed to fill one of these slots with a sports figure, but I don't actually know anything about sports so I picked a professional wrestler. I don't know much about this "sport" either, but I've enjoyed every movie I've seen about it, especially the documentary Beyond the Mat, and I think a movie about this most hated man in wresting could be brilliant if done right. His autobiography "Listen, You Pencil-Necked Geeks" is hilarious, and his biopic would probably be funny as well.
- *BONUS* Faith the two-legged dog - She isn't dead, so she doesn't fit in with the rest of the seven slots, but a posthumous biopic of this amazing animal would just not work. Well, it could be made with special effects but then it wouldn't make any sense. See, Faith has only two legs, which she walks on upright as if she were a human (don't believe me? check out this video). Hollywood loves stupid dog comedies, and nothing would be funnier than a movie starring Faith. Actually, it doesn't even need to be a biopic.