Sunday, January 08, 2012

Impersonating celebrities on screen

Impersonating celebrities on screen is so difficult and actually impossible that is is no wonder that the attempts usually fail. Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris is full of such failed attempts, but the viewer can enjoy them as jokes.

The bigger the star's charisma the more useless it usually is to attempt a biopic about him or her.

Michelle Williams succeeds in My Week with Marilyn because she avoids straight imitation and instead creates a playful and personal impression of the love goddess. My two other favourite Marilyn Monroe impersonators have been Mira Sorvino and Ashley Judd - both in the same movie, Norma Jean & Marilyn, representing two sides of the troubled star. In My Week with Marilyn I also admire Kenneth Branagh's memorable study or essay on Laurence Olivier.

I have also liked Eric Elmosnino as Serge Gainsbourg in Gainsbourg: Vie héroïque, Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison in The Doors, Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles in Ray, and David Bowie as Andy Warhol in Basquiat.

Anthony Hopkins is a chameleon who has played memorably Richard Nixon and Pablo Picasso without surface likeness but with a lot of charisma.

Another chameleon is Gary Oldman who has played both Sid Vicious and Ludwig van Beethoven.

The best movie performance of W.A. Mozart is by Innokenti Smoktunovsky in Mozart and Salieri based on the Pushkin play.

A Finnish chameleon is Martti Suosalo who repeated the Gary Oldman stunt of playing both a rogue singer (Irwin Goodman) and a classical composer (Jean Sibelius).

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