As it stands now, the state of Hollywood sort of feels like that one famously charitable episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show”: only instead of cars, they’re handing out biopics. From Elton John to Freddie Mercury, Winston Churchill to Harriet Tubman, the good old-fashioned historical biopic is alive and well. In fact, you could be forgiven for asking, “Has Hollywood already made all the biopics with stories worth telling?”
The answer is no, of course not. There are plenty more celebrities waiting in the wings for their chance at a biopic, the greatest of all Hollywood compliments.
Really, the biggest impetus for there needing to be a Paul Newman biopic is that it would require a casting call for an unknown(ish) actor capable of pulling off the blue-eyed charm of one of our greatest ever movie stars. We want all the adventures of a young Paul Newman, including but not limited to the time that he trolled Richard Nixon with a note in his rental car. Also, if there could be a heavy focus on the adorable fairy-tale romance between him and Joanne Woodward, who had the rare 50-year marriage in Hollywood, audiences would eat it up.
We truly need at least a few more solid Harlem Renaissance films, specifically centered around the early career of Billie Holiday. Let’s get a jazz movie out there without Ryan Gosling interrupting a set to loudly explain to his girlfriend why jazz is good. (Sorry, “La La Land.”) Beyond just the stylistic elements that would make a film like this gorgeous, Holiday had a compelling rags-to-riches story, a fascinating career, and an untimely fall from grace: all the hallmarks of a great biopic.
The world is conspiring against Amy Adams, there’s just no other explanation for it. A Janis Joplin biopic has been in production hell for the past nine years when back in 2010 Adams was attached to play the lead with “Dallas Buyers Club” director Jean-Marc Vallee at the helm. Since then, the production has faced legal troubles over funding and lost both leading lady and director. But it’s hard not to think about what could have been and really no good reason why they shouldn’t try again. What’s the worst that could happen?
How is it even possible that there has been no Frank Sinatra biopic? He is such an iconic, larger than life figure who would have had three biopics, at least. Martin Scorsese had apparently been in talks to direct one such film a few years ago, but issues with Sinatra’s estate prevented the project from moving forward. Still, the past is the past. It would probably be worth renewing conversations. Sinatra led a unique, interesting life and to be fair, that’s probably part of the reason his family are so reluctant to see it on the big screen.
The story of a silent film star unsure of his place in a suddenly very noisy world is perhaps not an entirely original one: we’ve all seen “Singin’ in the Rain” and “The Artist.” But there’s a melancholy to Buster Keaton that is incredibly cinematic. A physical comedian with a trademark stone face, the things that he put his body through for the sake of a picture are mind-boggling. And then we have the inevitable fall from grace, as Keaton begins to drink more heavily and takes on progressively smaller bit parts to pay the bills. But most importantly, if you ever want to see Tony Hale win an Oscar, you cast him in this movie.
Simon & Garfunkel
Heroes of the early 1970s folk-rock movement, they were one of the most famous musical duos of their time or any other. But then they broke up and have rarely performed together since. That sort of relationship drama combined with artistic genius is the stuff that musical biopics are born for. Good luck trying to get them to sign the rights to their life away, though. Their rifts are legendary but, in their minds at least, perhaps best not explored too thoroughly.
Cary Grant was a working-class kid from Bristol who completely reinvented himself to be the suave, sophisticated leading man audiences know and love. His accent, his style — all learned. Then on top of that, once he became a famous Hollywood star, the studio system further cultivated his public image, including – if the stories are to be believed – covering up a twelve-year romantic relationship with fellow actor Randolph Scott. Who is the real Cary Grant, or indeed, does a real Cary Grant even exist?
Here’s what you do if you’re Hollywood. You cast John Boyega as a young Sidney Poitier, and half of your work is already done. After his performance in “Detroit,” there’s little doubt he can pull off the nuance of a black actor consistently elevating the sort of roles that are meant to portray an image of male blackness carefully designed to appear non-threatening to white audiences of the 1950s and 1960s.
Marlene Dietrich is the bisexual, Nazi-fighting starlet that quite frankly we don’t deserve. Getting her start in Germany, she later emigrated to the United States to get away from the fascist Nazi regime. She made a lot of movies, contributed to the war effort against her home country despite more or less constant suspicions that she was working as a double agent, left behind some pretty scintillating diaries, and could wear the hell out of clothes. What more could you want?
We sort of owe it to the memory of David Bowie to make a delightfully bizarre, opulent film about his life. It should be told in an avant-garde style, looking like the entire production team has just done all the coke they have access to. Sure, we realize that “Velvet Goldmine” already exists, but that’s only sort of about David Bowie. There should be aliens, and Tilda Swinton, and Tilda Swinton as an alien. That is all.