Actors Who Starred In Multiple Biopics
Robert De Niro
Legendary actor Robert De Niro has been in front of the camera for much of his adult life. Most known for playing mobsters and bad guys, De Niro received critical acclaim for portraying boxer Jake LaMotta in the 1980 film “Raging Bull.” He won an Academy award for Best Actor for his efforts. Thirty years later, the New York native is gearing up once again to play a real life person in another film. De Niro has been recently tapped to portray Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff.
Actor Denzel Washington has played many characters throughout his 30-plus years in Hollywood. Spike Lee cast the legendary actor to play Malcolm X in his 1992 biopic about the controversial civil rights leader. This wouldn’t be the only time Washington played a real life character. In 1999, he donned boxing gloves and trunks to play Rubin “Hurricane” Carter. A year later he was Coach Herman Boone, the famed Black coach tasked to integrate a high school football team in the early 70’s.
Meryl Streep is widely regarded as the best actress of her time. During her 35-year career, she’s been nominated for 18 Academy awards, a record than no other actor or actress can claim. In her illustrious career, Streep has played numerous characters including a few real life people. In 2009, she got behind a kitchen stove to portray the first celebrity chef Julia Childs in “Julia & Julia.” The role earned Streep another Oscar nomination but she didn’t walk away with the gold statue. She did several years later, winning her third Oscar award by playing Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady.”
Chadwick Boseman had few roles under his belt when he suited up in a baseball uniform for “42.” Last year the North Carolina native received a lot of praise and accolades for his portrayal of Jackie Robinson, the legendary baseball player who integrated the major leagues. Boseman will once again play another public figure on the big screen. Next month James Brown’s life story will be released when “Get On Up” hits theaters with Boseman as the soul singer.
Angela Bassett starred in several roles before she got her big break by playing legendary singer Tina Turner in the 1993 “What’s Love Got To Do With It” biopic. Her turn as the long-legged “Private Dancer” singer won her a Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination. Bassett also played civil rights leader Dr. Betty Shabazz in “Malcolm X.” Three years later she would once again play the wife of the slain civil rights leader in “Panther.” But for the 2013 television film “Betty & Coretta,” Bassett played the wife of Dr. King instead.
Will Smith started out rapping before he had his own sitcom playing a young Philly native adjusting to life in Bel Aire. Since then he’s become a Hollywood titan starring in numerous box office hits. Smith flexed his acting chops portraying boxing great Muhammad Ali in his biopic. In 2006, he starred in “The Pursuit of Happiness” as the struggling, sometimes homeless salesman Chris Gardner. His offspring Jaden played his son in the film as well.
Actress Halle Berry got her start as a drug addict in Spike Lee’s “Jungle Fever.” Since then, Berry has padded her résumé with a multitude of films. In 1999, Berry played troubled singer Dorothy Dandridge in the television biopic about her life. A year before that she played Zola Taylor, one of the original members of the R&B group The Platters and one of the wives of singer Frankie Lymon in the movie about his life “Why Do Fools Fall In Love?”
Actress Cicely Tyson has been acting for more than 60 years. Getting her start on Broadway, the New York native made the transition to film and television. Throughout her long career Tyson has played numerous characters and portrayed real people. She was abolitionist and humanitarian Harriet Tubman in the 1978 biopic “A Woman Called Moses.” Several years later Tyson played Marva Collins, a Black educator and founder of Westside Prep School.
Jamie Foxx started out as a comedian before landing his own sitcom so when the Texas native was tapped to play Ray Charles many thought the funny many wouldn’t be able to pull it off. His portrayal of the “America The Beautiful” singer was so spot on, Foxx won an Academy award. That same year Foxx played real life incarcerated gangster Stanley “Tookie” Williams in the television biopic about his life. Several years later, Foxx once again played a real-life person. In “The Soloist,” Foxx was Nathaniel Ayers, a talented violinist who developed schizophrenia and became homeless.
Don Cheadle has found consistent work in Hollywood since the early 90’s but it was his role as hotelier Paul Rusesabagina in 2004’s “Hotel Rwanda” that helped Cheadle become a recognizable face. Risking everything to help strangers in the genocide that ravaged the African country in the 90’s, Cheadle was nominated for numerous awards including an Oscar, Golden Globe and SAG award. Next up for the “House of Lies” star is the Mile Davis biopic where the Kansas City native will play the great jazz legend.
Robert Downey, Jr.
Robert Downey Jr. beat out a slew of other actors, including Jim Carrey, for the role of Charlie Chaplin. Donning a mustache and the black bowler hat that the iconic British figure was known for, Downey received universal acclaim for his efforts in the 1992 biopic. He was nominated for both an Academy award and a Golden Globe. In 2009, Downey starred opposite Jamie Foxx in another biopic. In “The Soloist,” Downey played the real life “Los Angeles Times” journalist who discovered that a homeless man suffering from schizophrenia was actually a once forgotten soloist, played by Jamie Foxx.