What Gandhi, Alfred Hitchcock Have In Common
Sometimes the thin line between existing and imagined transcends to become one.
Playing real-life personalities fascinates Hollywood no end. From historical characters to sportsmen, onscreen adaptations of fascinating icons has led to critically-acclaimed fare and a clean sweep at award functions. But what's truly astonishing is when an artist resembles the actual deal so much; it's hard to tell them apart.
Here's a look at some of the most memorable mirror images on screen.
Daniel Day Lewis, Lincoln
Two-time Oscar winner employs his famously perfectionist ways to embody the 16th US President Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg's biopic.
Not just relying on the uncanny resemblance to the President enhanced by cosmetic procedure, DDL worked on the part/Kentucky accent for more than a year and kept himself in isolation (and in character) throughout the filming to convey the body language of a man bearing the burden of running an entire nation on his own.
Image: Daniel Day Lewis in and as Lincoln
Anthony Hopkins, Hitchcock
Speaking of Oscar winners (who's played former US President Richard Nixon), Anthony Hopkins slips into the shoes of the one and only master filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock.
The fitness conscious veteran refused to pile on weight to play the chubby director who redefined the genre of suspense.
Instead he wore a specially designed padded bodysuit and carefully positioned latex to become Hitchcock.
Image: Anthony Hopkins in Hitchcock
Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
After playing a very believable celebrity chef Julia Child in Julie & Julia, the reliably fabulous Meryl Streep shifts her focus to play British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher with award-winning conviction in The Iron Lady.
Her voice, gestures and physicality, with controlled use of prosthetics, successfully capture the essence and core of one of the most significant women in British history even when the script cannot.
Image: Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady
Helen Mirren, The Queen
Helen Mirren got it so right playing Queen Elizabeth II in Stephen Frears drama, she almost couldn't believe it herself.
Needless to say, it won her a much-deserved Academy Award for Best Actress.
Opting for as little make-up intervention as possible, the stunning Dame watched a lot of footage around Her Majesty and picked up her minutest mannerisms for authenticity.
Image: Helen Mirren in The Queen
Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn
Playing the greatest sex symbol of the world is a massive responsibility but Michelle Williams takes the challenge and delivers with pizzazz.
Apart from watching movies and reading about the Gentleman Prefer Blondes star, the slim-framed Williams tried to put on some weight to look the buxom babe.
Eventually though, she had to pad her hips to get that curvy Monroe figure.
Image: Michelle Williams in My Week With Marilyn
Forest Whitaker, The Last King Of Scotland
Apart from his strong physical resemblance to the fierce Ugandan President and brutal dictator Idi Amin, the mild-mannered Forest Whitaker shares nothing in common with the man he played to award-winning results on celluloid.
The actor picked up some Swahili to acquire a genuine accent and mingled with the locals for around a month in Uganda as part of his preparation for the role.
Image: Forest Whitaker in The Last King Of Scotland
Ben Kingsley, Gandhi
A lot of eyebrows were raised when a foreigner (well partly so, he's half Gujarati) was picked over an Indian to play the symbol of pacifism, Mahatma Gandhi in Richard Attenborough's biopic.
Kingsley, however, managed to win over everyone including skeptics and Oscar jury with his faultless performance -- be it in appearance, emotion or nuances -- as possibly the best ever on-screen portrayal of Bapu.
Image: Ben Kingsley in Gandhi
Jamie Foxx, Ray
Yet another instance of Oscar-winning real-on-reel, this time from Jamie Foxx for his inspiring turn as as the young American musician Ray Charles.
Apparently the Django Unchained star spent a lot of time with the man himself to understand the fine notes of playing the piano without sheet music.
He also applied silicone to keep his eyelids shut all day during filming to achieve a complete sense of his blind character.
All that hard work was suitably rewarded around the awards season.
Image: Jamie Foxx in Ray
Robert Downey Jr, Chaplin
Before rocking that rugged, cocky attitude in and as Iron Man or Sherlock Holmes, a 20-something Robert Downey Jr played it adorable with passion in Richard Attenborough's Chaplin.
The actor took great pains to learn pantomime for the part.
Still, it's not just his exterior but the incredible instinct with which he captures the spirit of the Tramp that makes it memorable.
Image: Robert Downey Jr in Chaplin
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote
No role is out of bounds for an actor of Philip Seymour Hoffman's magnitude.
And further bolstering that reputation, Hoffman delivers a superlative performance as the complex American writer Truman Capote and his questionable ethics while working on the novel Cold Blood.
But, more importantly, how well does he look the part?
Hoffman insists otherwise, 'If you can get them to be more invested in the story they're watching than in the character, then you've succeeded.'
Image: Philip Seymour Hoffman in Capote
Johnny Depp, Ed Wood
Johnny Depp has transformed himself with extreme enthusiasm to play all sorts of quirky characters in a Tim Burton film.
But for the latter's Ed Wood, which chronicles the ups and downs of a terrible filmmaker and madcap personality, Depp (who already looks a great deal like the man) gets under his skin with admirable gusto.
But it's Martin Landau's prosthetics-aided transformation into Bela Lugosi that earns Ed Wood a justified Oscar for Best Make-Up.
Image: Johnny Depp in Ed Wood
Salma Hayek, Frida
To play the legendary Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, Salma Hayek immerses herself with single-minded commitment to feel the individualism, intensity and anguish of a headstrong character.
Hayek comes close to being Frida with the trademark unibrow and flamboyant styling.
Image: Salma Hayek in Frida
Val Kilmer, The Doors
In Oliver Stone's retelling of the Jim Morrison story, Val Kilmer plays the sensual frontman of influential band The Doors to the hilt.
Not only does he capture the damaged, destructive soul of a deep mess but his tousled locks and mind-boggling likeness to Morrison's countenance doubles the credibility of Stone's feature.
Image: Val Kilmer in The Doors
Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth
Indian filmmaker Shekhar Kapur knew he had found a perfect candidate to essay Queen Elizabeth I in the enormous talents of Australian powerhouse Cate Blanchett.
Blanchett garnered a lot of recognition and accolades for her robust performance, resembling the monarchial figure both on the surface as well as inside.
The sequel, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, despite rave responses for Blanchett, failed to recreate the magic of its predecessor.
Image: Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth
Marion Cotillard, La Vie En Rose
The gifted French actress pays a befitting tribute to French songstress Edith Piaf in a biopic that covers her epic life story in La Vie En Rose.
Incredible detail to make-up and costume along with Marion Cottilard's profound understanding of her character and her changing graph makes this one a triumph of artistry.
Image: Marion Cotillard in La Vie En Rose
In the works
Meanwhile, Nicole Kidman is giving her best to embody Hollywood actress turned royalty Grace Kelly in Grace of Monaco, which was recently in news after Monaco's royal family accused director Olivier Dahan of taking liberties and dismissed his film as 'pure fiction.'
Also, Sherlock Holmes star Benedict Cumberbatch is slated to play WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in Bill Condon's eagerly awaited, The Fifth Estate.
And it's truly stunning how both these actors look so close to the reality they portray.
Image: Nicole Kidman as Grace Kelly