These days, biopics make up a huge chunk of mainstream and indie cinema and are usually tipped off to win big during awards season, this could be anything from Eddie Redmayne’s oscar-winning portrayal of Stephen Hawking in this year’s The Theory of Everything or Fassbender and Hardy’s upcoming outings as Steve Jobs and the Kray Twins. Biopics can re-kindle the love of a person in society, or make them aware of an average person with outstanding achievements. It’s also often found that women, LGBT+ and PoC are a lot less likely to get a film about their life than your average male. So here, SQ looks at some of the most interesting biopic proposals we can think of…
AN UNKNOWN as Bruce Springsteen: I would love to see an incarnation of The Boss on the big screen. Springsteen’s life doesn’t have your typical chaotic rock and roll lifestyle fodder as films as Walk the Line and Ray do. He has never done drugs, and was never an alcoholic. His only destructive behavior lay in rock and roll itself. During the late 80s he dealt with depression and a turbulent love life. He would do 4 hour shows out of a self-loathing need to burn himself out. Springsteen’s childhood, growing up quite poor in 1960s New Jersey, is the biggest influence on his music. My dream biopic would focus on exactly that. His strict Catholic school education is a big part of his life and music. (There’s incident where a nun called him “trash” and told him to sit in a garbage can for being naughty.) Bruce’s painful shyness blossomed when he first picked up a guitar, I would show the events that inspired him, watching Elvis and The Rolling Stones on the Ed Sullivan Show. The biopic would follow Bruce as a teenager in his first band, The Castiles. The most important dynamic of the movie would be his relationship with his mother and father. I would cast Chris Cooper as his unstable and depressed father, who was constantly at war with Bruce for his music, long hair, pretty much everything. His mother, I would cast as Amy Ryan, nurtured Bruce’s talent, buying him his first guitar. The soundtrack would be Springsteen songs of course, The Wish, Shut out the Light, Blinded by the Light, Born to Run, I could go on…! As for Bruce himself, I would scour the country and cast a newcomer. –Caroline
NINA ARIANDA as Betty Friedan: Far too often in Hollywood the subjects for biopics are white men. There are few women (as well as POC) chosen to have their stories told. One woman in particular very much deserves a film, Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique which sparked the second-wave movement of feminism. Described as a “driven, super aggressive dynamo” that “rocked the world” Friedan singlehandedly changing the course of history. I would cast Nina Arianda as for this role. Nina is a Tony Award winning actresses who has appeared in memorable supporting roles in films such as The Humbling, Win Win and Midnight in Paris. She has a quick wit and charismatic presence that would work well for the resilient Friedan. My dream biopic would depict the interviews Friedan conducted in the late 1950s with college graduates-turned housewives deeply unhappy with their lives. Betty Friedan was passionate in fighting against arguments from the media, educators, and psychologists who vowed that women were not capable for work. The film would depict her founding of The National Organization for Women a.k.a NOW. NOW helped lobby for the Equal Pay Act of 1963. The biopic would also include the National Women’s Strike for Equality, a march led by nearly 20,000 women. Betty Friedan was instrumental in changing America’s minds which was deeply rooted in sexist societal roles. It would be wonderful to see a film showing how far women came in America from the 1950s to the 1970s. But the film would also illuminate how far we still have to go today in 2015. There are many women’s stories out there that deserve to be depicted on film, and Betty Friedan is certainly one of them. –Caroline
TILDA SWINTON as David Bowie:
I feel like a Tilda Swinton as David Bowie biopic is my god-given right. It was probably an 11th commandment that some whiny piss-baby decided to cross off last minute, which is why we haven’t had one yet. Another reason that (thank god), Bowie is still alive and being incredibly mysterious, a biopic would only mess up that mystery. Perhaps in maybe a 100 years when his body is taken back to the planet it came from, we would be deserving, Tilda, of course, is immortal and would still make this work. Any Bowie fan knows that his career is genre-spanning and across a multitude of identities. The film would not start with Bowie as a child, born David Robert Jones, but instead, the arrival of Space Oddity in 1969. Bowie’s arrival was alien, new and very mysterious, despite his previous musical work. He sang about space and aliens and looked like one too. The film would initially focus on the media and critical attention the man from outer space had gathered and how his persona fit in around mainstream culture. The film’s focus would then shift to Bowie’s shifting interests and styles from the albums The Man Who Sold The World, Hunky Dory, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spider’s from Mars and ending with Aladdin Sane. It would focus largely on his relationship with those around him and his band-mates specifically, finishing up with the gig at Hammersmith Odeon in 1973 when Bowie ended his Ziggy Stardust persona. By not covering Bowie’s entire life I feel like you would still have the air of mystery and wonder that Bowie himself exudes, and who better to do this than Tilda Swinton, a woman so mysterious and chameleon-like she can slip in and out of any character with ease. Also, Tilda and Bowie are IRL mates, so, she’s pretty much already got the seal of approval from the man himself. Hopefully this could be directed by The Runaways director, Floria Sigismondi. -Chloe Leeson
MARION COTILLARD as Alice Guy Blache:
Personally, I have not seen a single film by Alice Guy Blache, the first ever female director. This wonderful French lady is who so many of us women-director lovers owe our passions to, without her determination, we may not be where we are today! Blache is completely neglected in regular film conversation and her efforts are regularly dismissed and un-appreciated, a film about her seems only fair, and films about films are always cool.
We would follow Blache from when she began working as Leon Gaumont’s secretary, learning the in’s and out’s of the film business, which was obviously an up-and-coming market in Europe. After seeing the film projection for the first time in France, she then realises her potential and drive to create her own narrative films. Being one of the first pioneers of narrative film ever, she was able to stumble through and create many short motion pictures. We would see her in the process of filming her first film, ‘La Fee Aux Choux’ and her marriage to Herbert Blache. The two became partners and the focus of the film would be the pairs rocky relationship, Alice would be working whilst she had children and Herbert was always keen to compete, their financial troubles would also be thrown into the mix
Set in the late 1800’s, this would make for some amazing period costume, which I would love to see Marion Cotillard in. The film would be french, and Marion would be sure to deliver an amazing performance to this forgotten-about hero and pioneer, which could hopefully inspire an entirely new generation of female directors. -Chloe Leeson
AMANDLA STENBERG & RIHANNA as Josephine Baker:
Josephine Baker was the darling of 1920’s high society. She was once one of the world’s most highly regarded entertainers, and a pioneer of black women entertainers too. Because she is such an amazing lady, I’ve decided to look at her entire life, splitting it in two. Amandla Stenberg would play her as a teen in St. Louis, working as a maid for white families and dancing on street corners. This would be the foundation of Baker’s talents and passion. The we would swap to Rihanna playing Josephine as she makes her journey to Paris in 1925, and performing her infamous ‘Danse Sauvage’, wearing nothing but a skirt made of bananas. Her ‘exotic’ and exuberant dance styles were loved by the French and she became a very respected member of society and the #1 entertainer in Paris. Rihanna would have no issues baring some skin and being cheeky performing multiple renditions of Baker’s much loved shows. A large chunk of the film would follow her socialising and performing with members of the elite, mingling with the likes of Dior and Ernest Hemingway (insert amazing cameos here).
From upbeat costume drama to sexy spy thriller, Josephine in her later years was a correspondent for the French military in WW2. Her links to members of society allowed her access to many parties and meetings where she could get the dirt on enemy forces. She would travel around Europe, passing on information to military officials about other countries- amazing! This would then follow her back to the U.S.A in the 1950’s where she was actively engaged in the start of the civil right’s movement, refusing to entertain segregated crowds, her work with the NAACP and speaking with MLK at the March on Washington. -Chloe Leeson
LINDSAY LOHAN as Courtney Love:
Lindsay Lohan as Courtney Love is perfect for several reasons. First of all, both women have suffered overwhelmingly negative press attention whilst dealing with their own personal issues. Secondly, Lindsay’s iconic performance in Freaky Friday shows she can perfectly portray a frontwoman (obviously this would be dialling up the punk rock quite significantly, but I know you can do it, Lindsay.) Courtney Love has had a very diverse life; there are hundreds of anecdotes about her personal life available online, all of which have the potential to fuel a biopic. These stories, whether rumours or facts, are controversial, just as Love herself is. But her power resides in her ability to carry on doing what she wants, regardless of what people think. Something that isn’t up for debate, however, is Love’s impact on music through her band Hole. Beginning in 1989 with an ad in a music zine, Love wrote “I want to start a band. My influences are Big Black, Sonic Youth, and Fleetwood Mac.” Since then, Hole have gone on to influence and inspire a wave of women in the industry of rock music. A soundtrack consisting of late 80s/early 90s rock music, a scene of Lohan performing a show as Love, and Courtney-inspired costume designs, all add up to a film that would truly explore the concept of punk rock as well as Courtney Love herself. Possible directors include Floria Sigismondi (The Runaways) or Sini Anderson (The Punk Singer.) –Georgia Berry
JODIE FOSTER as Sally Ride:
A biopic for Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, is long overdue. Her work at NASA, beginning in 1978, would be the main focus for the film. Not only for some really cool space shots, but because Ride’s mission into space was a massive accomplishment for women in science. Despite the misogyny that she faced, including blatantly obvious sexist remarks at a press conference, Ride remained dedicated to her field and knew that first and foremost, she was a scientist and an astronaut. I think Jodie Foster could be a great option as Sally Ride, especially after her work on Contact. As for other roles in the film, it would be wonderful to see Annette Bening portray Ride’s partner and successful novelist, Tam O’Shaughnessy. After dedicating a large portion of the film to Ride’s work at NASA and her missions into space, the biopic could (and should) end by addressing Sally Ride Science, a company that creates science programs for middle school students, with a particular focus on girls. The influence of a Sally Ride biopic would, just as Sally Ride herself had been, be tremendous on young women everywhere pursuing science. Dear Hollywood: a space-centred biopic about an LGBT female scientist and astronaut is something that absolutely needs to happen. Oh, and if you can get Hoyte van Hoytema on board for cinematography, that would be swell. –Georgia Berry
LUPITA NYONG’O as Grace Jones:
Grace Jones is an international fashion and music icon and a biopic about her life would be so extremely fascinating. After conquering the fashion industry as a model, appearing on the covers of magazines such as Elle and Vogue, Jones went on to dominate the music industry with chart topping hits as well as staring in huge films in the 80’s. Jones lived with Jerry Hall and Jessica Lange in Paris and partied with the likes of Karl Lagerfeld, Giorgio Armani and Andy Warhol who could make for some really interesting supporting characters as well as some incredible party scenes. She was also in a relationship with her bodyguard during the 80’s, which could make for a really intriguing romance subplot. Overall, the film would explore how Grace Jones became the icon she remains to be to this day.
Lupita Nyong’o would be my choice to take on this role and I think she’d really do it justice. She’s of the best young actresses working right now and I’m really excited to see what’s to come from her. It would be so exciting to see her in the crazy makeup and fashion looks that Grace Jones is so well known for and she’d also be able to play Jones really well as she’s such a great actress. –Shaianne Hugh
JENNIFER HUDSON as Nina Simone:
Netflix recently released the incredible documentary, What Happened, Miss Simone? about the singer’s life and struggles as an artist and activist. Simone started out as a classical pianist and became an international star by writing and performing her own music in order to support her family. She wrote hit songs that touched many about love, life, and also about race issues, which led her to become a huge part of the Civil Rights Movement. She faced abuse from her husband and lived most of her life living with bipolar disorder without knowing about it. Her career had its ups and downs but at one point she was music’s biggest star and she’ll always be a music legend.
After watching the documentary, I found out that Zoe Saldana is going to play Simone in an upcoming biopic and has received much backlash about the part as many were angered by the casting decision to “lightwash” Simone. So I have taken it upon myself to cast instead, Jennifer Hudson. Hudson is the a great pick for Simone and she’s had experience with a similar role in Dreamgirls and her life as a successful singer which is why I think she’d be perfect. She is by no means an exact Nina Simone look alike either but she does resemble her a bit more than Saldana and she’s an amazing actress as well. Also, I’m sure the right makeup team could help make her look the part. As for a director, I think Ava DuVernay would do this film justice.
Sidenote: After writing this, it’s come to my attention that Mary J. Blige was originally cast as Nina Simone but had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts and oh my god, she would have been perfect!
JOHNNY DEPP as Tommy Wiseau:
I recently read The Disaster Artist- a book about perhaps one of the worst (but also best) films ever made; the cult phenomenon which is The Room. The book is written by Greg Sestero, who co-stars in the film along with Tommy Wiseau- the genius that wrote, directed, produced, and starred in The Room. If you haven’t seen it, you should get really really drunk so that you can truly embrace the film’s awfulness, along with its highly quotable dialogue (for example the life-changing statement, “if a lot of people loved each other, the world would be a better place to live”).
I read that James Franco might be making a film adaptation of The Disaster Artist; therefore I think that Johnny Depp would be the perfect choice to pull off the role of the almighty Mr. Wiseau. Something about him just makes me think he could achieve Tommy’s characteristics. Maybe it’s because the way Tommy Wiseau pounces about the screen, and the way he is described in the book as being totally immersed in his own little world, naïve to the fact that his writing, acting and directing will one day be famously bad, is not too dissimilar to the drunken, care-free but also stupidly oblivious Captain Jack Sparrow Depp portrayed in Pirates of the Caribbean. Not like the characters themselves have much in common, Jack Sparrow being a mere pirate, while Tommy Wiseau created a masterpiece of modern cinema.
The Disaster Artist recounts Greg’s relationship with Tommy; how they met in acting class, went on to form a strong friendship and ultimately how Tommy enabled Greg to have a career in acting, then later destroyed it by casting him in The Room. I would love to see this book adapted for the screen, and Johnny Depp as Tommy Wiseau would be more than worth watching. –Laura Hague
JACK O’CONNELL as Joe Strummer:
It would be brilliant to see Joe Strummer – musical icon and game changer played by the talented Jack O’Connell. O’Connell is perfect for the role as I feel he would be more than capable of bringing Strummer’s tenacity and rawness to the forefront of his performance. Strummer’s story isn’t like most other artists, there was never a ‘big break’ to speak of and even if there had been – it’s not something I believe he would have been that happy about. After all, to him The Clash’s music was about sending out a message on society and it’s problems and being the voice of the frustrated, angry youth of the late seventies – not selling huge numbers of records and being famous.
The film would begin in 1970 when he attended London’s Central College of Art – an important moment in his life, as it was during his time there that his burgeoning interest in music really grew. The main focus however would be on the period between 1977 and 1984, where The Clash came to be and led the way for a new wave of punk music – one with a stronger yet more controlled political focus. The film would obviously cover the highs the band experienced, such as the widespread critical acclaim their third album London Calling garnered. However it is equally important to show the struggles and uncertainty that the group and Strummer faced several times. This is the aspect of the film that I believe Jack O’Connell would really shine in – as he’d certainly be able to show the quiet frustration that Strummer had about the bands increasingly unpredictable drummer Topper Headon. Seething anger being projected in an eerily calm way is something that O’Connell has proven himself more than capable of doing, if his performance as Cook in Skins is anything to go by. To me, him portraying Joe Strummer would be a match made in heaven. –Megan Gibb
JAMIE CLAYTON as Christine Jorgensen:
I have recently started watching the show Sense8, a Netflix Original Series. I must say that this show has the most diverse cast I have ever seen. This is heavily due to the plot–eight people from all over the world are able to sense each others’ experiences. However, someone had to have thought, “You know what? Representation in Hollywood sucks. Let’s change that.” One of the characters, Nomi, is a transgender woman living in San Francisco. Out of curiosity, I decided to research the actor playing her. Jamie Clayton, like her character, is a transgender woman. I instantly rejoiced because I know how important it is to the transgender community to have accurate representation. This then made me think about the film The Danish Girl starring Eddie Redmayne, in which he plays Lili Elbe, the first person to successfully undergo sex reassignment surgery. In an interview, he made the point that a trans woman was not cast because hormone therapy was not available during that time period. I’ve also read responses to his comment explaining that Redmayne is merely “acting” and that people should understand that it is his job to take upon the roles of people he is not. For example, he played Steven Hawking even though he personally did not experience ALS. In Orange is the New Black, Laverne Cox is a transgender woman who plays a transgender woman named Sophia. Sophia has multiple flashbacks that depict her struggle with transitioning. Cox’s twin brother was even cast to play Sophia before she transitioned. The show Transparent follows the route of The Danish Girl. Jeffrey Tambor plays the role of Maura Pfefferman before she starts transitioning. The difference though, is that the creator, Jil Soloway, admitted that the character Maura should have been given to a transgender woman. In the film Dallas Buyers Club, Jared Leto plays Rayon, a transgender woman. When director Jean-Marc Vallée was asked if he ever considered casting a transgender woman, he said “Never.” Aside from Sense8 and Orange is the New Black, there is a pattern here that is important to discuss.
As I was reflecting on films and shows I’ve watched that portray transgender women–and not always played by transgender women–I decided to do some research. The article “Why Trans People Need to Be Involved in Telling Trans Stories” by Jules Horowitz popped up on my web browser. I was quite thrilled because the author of the article, a transgender man, talked about the films and shows I was attempting to analyze. He spoke about a photography project that he was almost a part of in which a cis-gendered PR firm wanted to showcase transgender identities. When Horowitz asked to include his own narrative to the photo series, he was shot down multiple times. He then explained how transgender stories are often culturally appropriated in film and television by not including transgender people in the storytelling. I had never thought of cultural appropriation outside of racial and cultural identities, but now I feel foolish for this. Just how I take my hispanic identity seriously, transgender people take their identities seriously as well. If Selma Hayek or another Mexican actor was not cast in Frida, I would have been pretty upset. So why can’t transgender people be upset when a transgender character isn’t trans?
Going back to Jamie Clayton, I think it would be awesome seeing her star in a film about Christine Jorgensen. Although Jorgensen was not the first person to undergo sex reassignment surgery globally, she was the first person in the United States to be recognized for doing so. She was also the first person to use female-hormones. After high school, she was drafted into the Army. She then attended school at the Progressive School of Photography and the Manhattan Medical and Dental Assistant School. When she completed school, she went to Denmark to begin her hormone therapy and surgeries. When she returned to the States, the New York Daily News released a story called, “Ex-GI Becomes Blonde Bombshell.” This spotlight opened doors for her; she became an actress, a nightclub entertainer, and a spokesperson for the transgender community. The publicity also had negative outcomes; inappropriate jokes were made in the media about her identity and the news about her transition affected her personal life. Since her birth certificate stated that she was born male, she was unable to get married. The hardships she went through along with the boost in self-confidence she felt after her transition would be great to see through the acting of someone who had similar experiences. –Cristina Vazquez De Mercado
TESSA THOMPSON as Ida B. Wells:
Let me just start off by asking “Why doesn’t this film exist already?!” The story of Ida B. Wells is still relevant to this day, yet it has never been adapted to film. Wells was an investigative journalist and a leader in the Civil Rights Movement. She researched the cause of numerous lynchings that occurred in the United States and eventually started an anti-lynching campaign. The fact that African Americans still face severe brutality and continue to create campaigns to abolish it goes to show that history does repeat itself, and we need society to understand that it will only change if everyone participates. At this day and age, media is heavily prevalent in people’s lives. If people aren’t willing to do research about the past, film is the perfect platform to educate others. Filmmakers even have the help of multiple social media outlets to advertise these historic films, which can then cause tremendous success and awareness for these films. I just think there are so many films and biopics being made that aren’t contributing to social change while many influential stories are being left untold. A while back, I talked to my friend who is Ethiopian about how she feels about the representation of African Americans in film. While she wants to see more films that depict African Americans in everyday roles, she believes it is important to create films like Selma, 12 Years a Slave, and The Help.
Best known for her roles in Dear White People and Selma, I would really like to see Tessa Thomspon as a young Ida. B Wells (especially after finding out she studied Cultural Anthropology in college!) I think it would be interesting if the film began with Wells’ higher education at Shaw University, where she got expelled for angrily confronting the college president. It would then transition to when she began working at a black elementary school to support her siblings after her parents and 10-month old brother died. Although she ultimately began teaching to help her family, it sprung her into a desire to continue her own education. Just like her father, she became interested in politics and fighting for justice. More people should know about the life and work of Ida B. Wells, so a biopic of her is a must. –Cristina Vazquez De Mercado