Anthony Hopkins will play Alfred Hitchcock, Tom Cruise may play Hugh Hefner, and Leonardo DiCaprio is on board to star as Atari founder Nolan Bushnell. Hollywood loves a good biopic, and it seems Tinseltown is finally starting to wake up to some overlooked people who deserve to be profiled in the big screen.
But these three cool biopics in the works deserve another ten, don’t they? A funny thing happened when we set out to write this list: When we came up with our dream list of biopic candidates, we were surprised to find that some had been made (and forgotten) decades ago, and some were already in the works. My favorite upcoming biopic? Meryl Streep starring as Julia Child, in the blog-inspired Julie & Julia, slated for 2009 release.
Without further ado, our top ten list of subjects for biography-based films that we’re dying to see, Oscar winners every one!
Never before has a biopic depicted the life of a slave, not to mention one who went on to become one of the most important figures in American history. From teaching other slaves to read before he was even 17 to his daring escape and eventual rise through the halls of power, meeting with the most influential men of his day, this is a story rife with the elements that make for gripping drama. And for timeliness, he was also the first black vice presidential candidate (on a ticket with the first female presidential candidate, to boot). DT
A proverbial giant in the scientific world, rendered physically helpless by his body’s own science. This could be part Awakenings, part Charly (if you had to sell it to a studio) but a filmmaker would be smart to take another approach — that of the Picasso story model. Because even though Hawking can’t move or speak, he’s infamous for being a cranky womanizer, like so many male, tortured geniuses. And if you think there can’t be a quality cinematic presentation of a guy stuck in a wheelchair, try watching Julian Schnabel’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. NS
While Donald Cammell is perhaps best remembered for his celebrated collaboration with Nicolas Roeg on Performance (starring Mick Jagger), he was an incredibly adventurous director (his White of the Eye is certainly one of the wildest and cleverest serial killer flicks ever made) and an even more adventurous jet setter, with one foot in the swinging ’60s world and another in his own damaged psychoses. KB
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Troubled creative types who die young make for great biopics. (See Pollock, Basquiat, or Sid and Nancy.) Fitzgerald, who died at 44, managed to move through the worlds of Princeton, 1920s expat Paris, upper class New York, and Hollywood (where, among other things, he was a script doctor on Gone With the Wind) while churning out some of the best fiction of the century and simultaneously dealing with his increasingly insane wife, Zelda. Oh, and he was a raging alcoholic, too. I see someone thin and patrician like Edward Norton taking the role. Money gained and squandered, sex, art, insane asylums, booze, dissolution, cameos for Hemingway and Gertrude Stein (played by Kathy Bates, no doubt), great costumes… this movie would have it all. DW
The late frontman of LA’s seminal punk pranksters, The Germs, was a master manipulator and shock artist. During his short life, Darby (nee Paul) and his sycophantic groupies took on the idea of modern living and threw it right into the toilet. His rise from Scientology-schooled acid freak to wild-man punk progenitor would be a nice pairing with Sid and Nancy. KB
‘Daaaaryl! Daaaaryl!’ A spindly kid from Crenshaw, Los Angeles, suffers massive hype as the predestined savior of the New York Mets. At the age of 24, he wins the World Series with a face full of cocaine and then survives 20 years of addiction, terror, disease, comebacks, and loss. A classic rags-to-riches-to-rags story with the subtitle, ‘Escape from Rehab.’ EM
One of the best tennis players of any era — he once went seven years without losing a match of any significance anywhere — Tilden was also an icon. In 1950, the nation’s sportswriters voted him the outstanding athlete of the first half of the 20th century. But Tilden’s life didn’t end well — a closet homosexual with a penchant for young boys, his reputation was so tarnished that he ended up having to beg people for games. Frank Deford’s terrific biography, Big Bill Tilden, provides the tragic story. Throw in a good director and a great actor, and the movie winds up on every year-end top 10 list. PC
A real-life Russian who defied Stalin and lived, Dmitri Shostakovich lost his admiration for the dictator and dared to write non-political music that didn’t satisfy the tyrant’s demand for party-glorifying themes. But this ardent patriot of his homeland stayed alive by feeding his Communist bosses the occasional approved score that they could understand and applaud. His best music enshrines Shostakovich as a giant whose output created an ongoing sensation among the critics, who placed him in competition with the work of another contemporary genius, Sergei Prokofiev. JB
What if he did do it? OK, we kid… The latter-years of the O.J. Simpson story have been taken through the wringer by the likes of Court TV and E!, but a serious look into Simpson’s early years could be something really insightful, and in fact it’s practically a necessity now. How does a man go from being the son of a custodian to the Pro Football Hall of Fame to the cover of every tabloid in the world as an accused murderer? Amazingly, the Simpson story is probably not done yet, what with his continued legal problems and ongoing spat with the Goldman family over the millions of dollars in wrongful death judgments they are owed. How this man’s life might turn out is anyone’s guess. No idea who’d play Simpson, but I see David Duchovny as Kato Kaelin. CN
Potoki was a true renaissance man. Noble by birth, he traveled the Europe, Asia, and North Africa in the late 1700s, ran with secret societies, had five kids, and wrote the stunning and surreal Manuscript Found in Saragossa (filmed as a movie in the late ’60s). Oh yeah, and then he killed himself with a silver strawberry (blessed by his priest) after believing he’d become a werewolf. KB