Don’t Knock It Until You See It: Celebs Who Were Side-Eyed For Biopics Because They Didn’t “Look” The Part

May 20, 2013 ‐ By Clarke Gail Baines


Before Zoe Saldana signed on to play Nina Simone, or Idris Elba said he would try his hand at doing Nelson Mandela, or even before there was any kind of talk of Lenny Kravitz playing Marvin Gaye (which he eventually changed his mind about), actors were getting major side-eyes from movie fans and critics alike for trying to portray certain people on-screen. It’s always going to be something, and it has always been something for people to complain about: She’s too light, she’s not the same culture as that person, he’s not light enough, he’s not cool enough. People are often shut down by folks before there’s a trailer, a scene–anything to judge by. But as these actors went on to prove (some didn’t though), talent can trump a lot of that criticism. Here are nine people who initially were counted out from their biopic roles but ended up either killing it, or embarrassing themselves.

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  • Tenia

    Um I don’t know what movie ya’ll were watching but Beyonce was NOTHING like Etta James. She didn’t even go and consult with her about her life at all and Etta was still ALIVE! All that damn leaning she did smh. She looked like Beyonce in a wig end of story

    • carolyn bratton

      Etta James didn’t enen appreciate that dumb beyonce playing her.

  • Child_Puhleez

    Bey / Etta James … #ell No
    D Cheadle / Sammy Davis Jr … Um, No

    A Mackie / 2Pac … #ell No

    N Naughton / Lil Kim … MEH. She did nail some of Queen B’s mannerisms & speech [Sorry, Kim]

    JLopez / Selena … A begrudging YES

    A Basset / Tina Turner … YASSSSS [Bassett needed to gain weight for that role, tho. smh]

  • Jacquiline Perkins

    I HAVE SEE THEM ALL…they were good acting and there was great performances ”and just plan bad…no one stood out like Mr. Jeffery Wright Mr. Washington Mr.Cheadle Mrs. Bassett they are memorable…till today

  • Never

    That pic of Selena that girl Demi Lavotto looks a lot like her.

  • Hello86

    Look at Don Cheadle, he looks so handsome and cute.

  • Deej

    This article is essentially pointless, in the context of the Nina Simone / Zoe Saldana controversy. The author points out in the beginning, “there’s always something to complain about”–damn straight, there’s something to complain about when Hollyweird snubs Black actresses yet again, and in favor of an actress who has no sense of the African-American struggle that NIna Simone was all about ameliorating. According to Zoe herself, race is a “minute issue” compared to gender issues.

    P.S. Did anyone notice in the movie, Lincoln, that Harriet Tubman was about 30 shades lighter than the real Harriet Tubman? An accident? Another move in favor of “art” over some actual resemblance? You be the judge. But yeah, I got something to “complain about”, as the wildly misled author of this article suggests–wake up, people!

  • Diana Ross as Billie Holiday. She took a lot of cr#% but ended up with an Oscar nomination.

  • Mercedes

    Are y’all serious beyonce did a good job and Anthony Mackie didn’t?? If you ask me Beyonce has no business in the acting world let alone do a biopic. Like Kevin Hart say stay in your lane B &thats not the acting lane bc you need several seats. P.S the only reason she got nominated is bc shes Beyonce and Jay pulled some strings for her I bet.

    • carolyn bratton

      Wendy Williams said it best, she talks like she has a 5th grade education.

  • What The Hell Ever

    They should’ve put Flex Alexander playing Michael Jackson on this list. Big buff a s s Michael Jackson. lol

    • NeaJ

      Lol. OMG! That was possibly the worst “movie” ever made. Shame!!

  • Baddvixentype

    Anthony Mackie as Tupac REALLY pissed me off. I just felt like they were being sooooo disrespectful. its a shame because now everythime i see anthony mackie in anything im disgusted. Always be aware of the roles you take on, if you dont know for sure you can do justice dont even make the attempt becasue it will affect how some will take your future work smh.

  • I know I wasn’t the only person singing all of Selena’s songs in spanish and to this day, doesn’t know a lick of the language except maybe counting to TEN! LOL!! LOVED that movie! J-Lo did a great job!

    • soinlove13

      nope! me too! haha i sang all her songs in spanish and dont know spanish, but I sound like i do when Im singing it.

    • Shanice

      My nieces watched the movie with me a few weeks ago and haven’t stopped singing the chorus to Como la Flor. It’s adorable lol

  • I_am_a_Gladiator/Scandalista

    All these nominations and no wins. Typical

  • Candacey Doris

    The whole Notorious movie cast was badly done. I didn’t think it was done well at all. Don Cheadle was great as Sammy Davis JR. He really is a good actor.

    • kisstheringfool

      I’m still waiting for don cheadle’s oscar he has done some great roles.

    • bigdawgman

      Don Cheadle so good he could play Obama and you still wouldn’t notice! The dude gets no effin’ respect!!

      • Candacey Doris

        I agree! Looks nothing like the man but he would be amazing. He gets roles he has no business playing if you go by his looks but his skills are always good enough to wipe that away.

  • Lil Kim always throwing shade. I thought Natori did pretty well consider the whole cast was a joke (except faiths character who was dead on) and she need be happy she had any relevance in the wack movie. Mexican or Puerto Rican jlo was dead on to Selena. And Janet for Tina? She’s way too soft spoken. Angela did the thing!

  • NeaJ

    Lil Kim can have several seats. Her input was not wanted in that movie for a reason. When you’re sleeping with a married man, ppl are gonna see you as a jump off & nothing else. Even though Naturi didn’t look the part, I think she did an ok job.

  • “However, people in Egypt were outraged by his casting, as they didn’t want an African American actor (or anyone not South African) playing the role.” Ummm…Why would a South African be any better than a talented African-Amercian actor in portraying an Arabic-descendant North African??

    • LMJ82

      I know I peeped that. I think that’s the author’s mistake. Whoever wrote this article clearly believes Egypt is in South Africa! SMH……Oh Madame Noire….

    • Guest

      Umm…Because south africa is in Africa

  • Shay n Scrappy 4 ever! Lmao

    Y’all should include the TLC biopic… it hasnt aired yet (right?) but i mean they on here too…

    • ijs

      I think they posted this count down bc ppl are already talking smack abt it. once it airs then comments and countdowns will fly in