Actors Who Looked Just Like the Historical Figures They Played in Biopics
Hollywood knows audiences love a biopic that shares the secret life of a beloved celebrity. Whether it’s Marilyn Monroe, Queen Elizabeth II, Stephen Hawking or Abraham Lincoln, film lovers can’t get enough of watching these true stories come to life on screen. Take a look at 30 actors who look remarkably similar to the person they were cast to portray. The resemblance is uncanny.
Robert Downey Jr. as Charlie Chaplin
Charlie Chaplin was an icon of Hollywood’s silent film era, so it’s no surprise that Hollywood made a biopic about him. The 1992 film Chaplin needed a star who had the same charisma and sense of physical comedy as Chaplin, and that person was Robert Downey Jr.
Hilary Swank as Amelia Earhart
Amelia Earhart’s story continues to fascinate and puzzle people even more than 80 years after her disappearance. The 2009 biopic Amelia depicted Earhart’s journey as an aviatrix. She attempted to become the first woman to circumnavigate the globe by airplane, but she never returned.
Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy
The 2016 historical drama Jackie depicts what happened to First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy after the assassination of her husband, President John F. Kennedy. Traumatized, Jackie realized the next seven days would determine how history defined her husband’s legacy.
Bruno Ganz as Adolf Hitler
Bruno Ganz had the difficult task of portraying the notorious Nazi Germany dictator Adolf Hitler in the 2004 historical drama Downfall. In the film, Traudl Junge (Alexandra Maria Lara) landed her dream job as secretary to Hitler at the peak of his power. The real-life Junge narrated Hitler’s final days and his ultimate downfall.
Tom Hiddleston as F. Scott Fitzgerald
In the 2011 fantasy romance Midnight in Paris, Tom Hiddleston didn’t get much screen time, but he had an important role: Scott Fitzgerald. As one of the most influential voices in literary modernism, Fitzgerald is no easy person to impersonate.
Hannah Taylor-Gordon as Anne Frank
Everyone has seen a picture of Anne Frank, which makes casting her in film all the more challenging. However, the 2001 biopic mini-series Anne Frank: The Whole Story found the perfect person to play the tragic girl. Hannah Taylor-Gordon not only beautifully performed Frank’s story, but she also closely resembled the historical figure.
James Franco as James Dean
James Dean was just 24 years old when he died tragically in a car accident, but he managed to capture viewers’ attention before his untimely death with classic movies like Rebel Without a Cause. In 2001, James Franco attempted to recreate the Hollywood heartthrob’s appeal in the made-for-TV biopic James Dean.
Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett
In 2010, Kristen Stewart tried to shed some of that Twilight sparkle by starring in The Runaways, the coming-of-age biographical film about the 1970s all-girl rock band of the same name. In the film, Stewart plays legendary rocker Joan Jett — and she did more than just pull on a wig to do so.
Adrien Brody as Salvador Dali
Woody Allen’s 2011 fantasy romance, Midnight in Paris, featured many famed figures from the 1920s: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, Gertrude Stein and many more. For one brief scene in the film, Adrien Brody stepped in as the Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dali.
Ashton Kutcher as Steve Jobs
In 2013, Hollywood decided to make a biopic, Jobs, about tech mogul Steve Jobs and how he founded Apple Inc. Portrayed by Ashton Kutcher, the film received fair reviews. Not everyone was impressed with the quality of the film, but they had nothing but nice words to say about Kutcher’s performance.
Anthony Hopkins as Alfred Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock was one of the most successful and talented directors of all time. The 2012 biopic Hitchcock followed the director’s success with his memorable film North by Northwest and how he made the daring choice to create his next project, Psycho.
Andre 3000 as Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix was one of the greatest rock musicians of the 1960s and all time. The 2013 biopic Jimi: All Is By My Side showcased how Hendrix evolved from an unknown guitarist to become an influential rock sensation.
Sean Penn as Harvey Milk
Sean Penn already resembled politician Harvey Milk without the assistance of a wig or makeup. In 2008, he was cast in the biopic Milk, which depicted the rise of California’s first openly gay man elected to public office.
Salma Hayek as Frida Kahlo
It didn’t take much for Salma Hayek to transform herself into famed Mexican artist Frida Kahlo in the 2002 biopic Frida. She already looks pretty similar to Kahlo, but the additional makeup — and of course, the artist’s trademark unibrow — made her nearly identical.
Jennifer Lopez as Selena
Despite decades passing since her death, fans still love Selena Quintanilla. She was known as "The Queen of Tejano Music," and two years after her murder in 1995, another music queen, Jennifer Lopez, set about recreating her life in Selena.
Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II
Helen Mirren can play any role thrown her way, including Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. In 2006, Mirren starred in the historical drama The Queen, which explored how the royal family (and Queen Elizabeth II) coped with the passing of the late Princess Diana.
Taron Egerton as Elton John
Taron Egerton bravely stepped into Elton John’s shoes for the 2019 biopic Rocketman. It’s rare for a biopic to be produced while the subject is still living, but John’s legendary musical career gave it the needed gravitas to make it feel appropriate.
Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe
It has to be intimidating for anyone to take on the role of the one and only Marilyn Monroe, but Michelle Williams made it look easy. One of Hollywood’s most iconic and beautiful actresses of all time, Monroe’s story came to life in the 2011 historical drama My Week With Marilyn.
Denzel Washington as Malcolm X
In 1992, Denzel Washington portrayed Malcolm X in a biopic of the same name. The film depicted the activist’s struggle for black liberation and how he left a legacy of self-determination and racial pride despite his assassination in 1965.
Renée Zellweger as Judy Garland
It’s hard to replicate Judy Garland. The American Sweetheart has been loved by fans ever since she starred as Dorothy in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. Even so, in 2019, Hollywood celebrated her legacy with a biopic, Judy, about the final years of her life.
Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher
Meryl Streep is one of the best actresses of her generation, so, it shouldn’t be too surprising that she mastered her performance as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the 2011 historical drama The Iron Lady. It was just another day at the office for the actress.
Cate Blanchett as Bob Dylan
You wouldn’t expect a woman to portray Bob Dylan in a movie, but Cate Blanchett’s gender-bending performance in the 2007 film I’m Not There is one that stands out from the crowd. In the movie, several actors portray the musician, but none of them captures his look as well as Blanchett.
Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison
On a normal day, the blonde Val Kilmer wouldn’t look anything like The Doors’ legendary lead singer Jim Morrison. However, with the help of long, dark and wavy hair, he effortlessly transformed into the music legend in the 1991 biopic The Doors.
Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill
While portraying Winston Churchill in the 2018 historical drama Darkest Hour, Gary Oldman disappeared into the role. He spent three hours in the makeup chair every day to become the British Prime Minister.
Philip Seymour Hoffman as Truman Capote
Philip Seymour Hoffman was no doubt the best choice to portray novelist Truman Capote in the 2005 biopic Capote. Focusing on Capote’s journey while writing his 1965 true crime novel, In Cold Blood, Hoffman nailed the beloved author’s hair, complexion and fleshy face.
Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles
Hollywood loves to make biopics about famous musicians. This was evident in 2004 with the feature film Ray, starring Jamie Foxx. The external similarities between the actor and the blind musician were already obvious, and Foxx lost 30 pounds to match Charles’s young frame.
Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury
Bohemian Rhapsody told the story of Freddie Mercury and the band Queen’s revolutionary rise in the 1970s. Even by the high standard of musical biopics, the 2018 movie was a success.
Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking
It would be intimidating to portray English theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, but Eddie Redmayne handled the role like a pro in the 2014 biopic The Theory of Everything. The actor worked his body to play the paralyzed Hawking. He explained, "I had to train my body like a dancer but learn to shorten my muscles instead of stretch them."
Ben Kingsley as Gandhi
Sir Ben Kingsley has had a long and successful film career, but his defining role was undoubtedly playing Indian activist Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi in the 1982 historical drama, Gandhi. Kingsley looked just like Gandhi. Not only did he shave his head, but he also went on a strict vegetarian diet to drop to Gandhi’s weight.
Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln
Actors have played President Abraham Lincoln for decades, but few captured Lincoln quite like Daniel Day-Lewis in the 2012 historical drama Lincoln. The Irish-English actor became the American president in every respect thanks to the film’s makeup artists.