Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Top Ten: Future Biopics

tuesday top ten. for the list maker in me and the list lover in you

Christian Bale, my friend, is blowing in the wind

I’ve developed a reputation for hating biopics and whilst perusing a list of them the other day I realized that I actually don’t. In the recent past I’ve loved Ed Wood (1994), Marie Antoinette (2006), The Aviator (2004) and loved pieces of others like Ali (2001) and Hilary & Jackie (1998). It turns out I just hate what most filmmakers do with the genre. My theory is this: They're dangerous movies to make because they're too easy to phone in. The storyline is written for you if you don’t feel like shaping it into a dynamic structure. No film genre is more boring if a lazy or uninspired writer / director is behind the wheel. Those birth + arm chair psychology friendly life shaping event + event + event + event until death screenplays? Wake me up when the movie is over. The performance blueprints are also mostly in place for the actors so if they don’t have any ideas about the character they can just copy the real mccoy and still win accolades.

So for today’s top ten, I am opening my heart to the genre. Here’s ten biographical pictures I’d love to see. Some are really happening. Others are lost dreams.

Biopics I Want To See

10. I’m Not There (2007)
For all intents and purposes this should be #1. Writer/director/genius Todd Haynes has never made a bad film. More promising than that (considering the type of film under discussion) he’s never made a film that isn’t highly interesting. “Highly interesting” is even more rare than “great” when biopics are involved. I'm Not There, Haynes' multi-actor rumination on Bob Dylan, is #10 rather than #1 because I am tired of being anxious to see it. I’m trying not to think about it until the day I sit down in the theater. I'm even attempting to ignore the trailer. Don’t even tell me about it in the comments!

09. Kirsten Dunst in Blondie (200?)
About a year ago Kirsten Dunst, arguably the most hated young actress in Hollywood --or at least on the internet, was rumored to be signing on to a Debbie Harry biopic. Nothing concrete has happened since. I'm hoping she lands a high profile demanding role soon. Any open minded perusal of her work outside of the Spider-Man series and Elizabethtown could only bring the viewer to one conclusion: this girl can act! I’m so tired of reading bitchy comments to the contrary. It’s sheer ignorance given that we’ve seen her work wonders with drama (crazy/beautiful, virgin suicides), genre pieces (interview with e vampire) light comedy (bring it on) and, yes, biopics. She's great in the underseen Cat’s Meow (old review) and she's just what Sofia Coppola ordered in Marie Antoinette (top ten 2006). I may be the lone member of the Kiki fan club but I'm OK with that.

08. The Young Victoria (2008) More on this one here

07. Monty (development hell)
Montgomery Clift is a dark celluloid legend. A movie about him could potentially make for a great film --provided that the filmmaker had something to say about all sorts of touchy subjects that swirl into the Clift mix: homosexuality, Hollywood beauty and the loss of it, the death of old Hollywood acting and the birth of the method, as well as all sorts of topics covered by almost every other biopic made (addictions, early death, rise and fall of the famous)

Even if Monty didn't have something deep to say it could be gorgeous to look at. As recently as The Aviator we were reminded that recreations of classic Hollywood are unbeatable eye candy for movie lovers. But this dreaming is all for naught since this project has been dead for years. Even if it weren't there's a huge elephant of a hurdle for the production to jump. Good luck finding an actor to measure up to the man in question (all of the people who've played him in the past --he's been a character in other Hollywood biopics-- haven't). Reminder: The Clift Blog-a-Thon is coming in October.

06 Robert Moses
I once asked the Cinemarati (RIP) readers about what biopics people they'd like to see. Somebody brought up this polarizing 20th century behemoth and I thought it was a great answer. Why hasn't some ambitious filmmaker thought to devote a biopic to the man who helped build New York and who shaped the future of the modern city in general? He seems like an ideal fit for the movies. Other brilliant and influential men who accomplished impossible feats have had movies made about them. Why not Moses? He's a colorful enough figure to fill out a movie and he was a mover and shaker in a cinematic time and place (early 20th century New York).

05 Georgia O'Keefe
You'll have to travel back in time for this one. A long time ago in a Hollywood far far away a goddess named Michelle Pfeiffer wanted to play the famous artist in a movie. I've learned to not hold my breath when Pfeiffer expresses interest in something. Even if she does so repeatedly (see also: Jodie Foster as Leni Reifenstahl... which I forgot about while cooking up this list)

I'm not sure if this project ever truly had a pulse but for a long while after its maybe death, I held out hope. After all the photos one sees of O'Keefe are almost always of an older regal looking woman. I would watch Pfeiffer do anything. Why not watch her paint absurdly closeup images of flowers? I'm dialing up moviefone right now for tickets.

04 The Countess (2008)
I wrote about this one @ Zoom In last week

03 Baz Luhrmann's Alexander (2004 oh, never mind)
You know what would be spectacular spectacular? If Baz would take on his own boy (or girl) wonder directorial apprentice. They could pick up his discarded projects and run with them. The story of Alexander the Great is too cinematic to have Oliver Stone's weirdly tentative and talky misfire as its chief modern vessel.

02 The Mayor of Castro Street (2009)
The last time I read about this biopic of slain politican Harvey Milk, out gay director Bryan Singer (X-Men, Superman Returns) had it on his schedule shortly after Valkyrie (now filming with Tom Cruise). I'm glad that a gay director is on board. The famous San Francisco politician has had enough mistreatment in his life, what with his murderer getting off lightly with that infamous "twinkie defense". Hopefully a queer director will understand how to tell the story without cheapening it or misrepresenting it. The Times of Harvey Milk is one of my all time favorite documentaries. If the live action feature telling of his life is anywhere close to as good and moving we're talking Oscar nominations.

01 Toni Collette as Liza Minelli
(now playing on every screen in the multiplex in Nathaniel's head)
Ever since I first imagined this dream role for Toni it's been my #1 favorite movie fantasy. Think about it: Toni can sing and dance, she has a weirdly bulbous lower lip and so does Liza. They've both got huge eyes and kooky beauty. In one musical swoop, Toni Collette could finally win that deserved Oscar and Liza-mania could be reborn!

recent top tens
Fall Film Preview * Oscar Nominationless
sort of unrelated but...
I just watched Volver again and now I want a biopic of Pedro Almódovar. Love that man.


Anonymous said...

By "The Young Victoria (2008 --more on this one tomorrow)" you mean a Hump Day Hot with Emily Blunt????

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Toni...sigh. Love her!

Liza with a "T".

Anonymous said...

A new GENERAL GORDON...? One that takes into account a broader perspective on his life than the Charlton Heston - Lawrence Olivier KHARTOUM film? Would be very interesting to see someone get to the bottom of Gordon's complex do-gooder single-male persona.

To star: I have no idea who would even begin to suit a part too legendary for most modern actors.

Two biopics I definitely am looking forward to:
- Michael Mann's take on the poisoned Russian spy with Johnny Depp involved in some way.
- The Golden Age - I want to see where this story goes.
- Profits of War - the self-narrated tale of professional arms dealer and liar Ari Ben-Menashe is dying to be told.

par3182 said...

and now i'm terrified bryan singer will cast tom cruise as harvey milk

Anonymous said...

Nat, I read in the LA Times, maybe last year, that Pfeiffer was still pursuing the Georgia O'Keefe project.

Anonymous said...

I'll be glad when Spike Lee does the Joe Louis story.

The Jaded Armchair Reviewer said...

And ever since I read you suggest the Toni as Liza biopic some time ago, I've been waiting in line to watch it. (After finding out about the Chicago dropping, I've been wanting Toni to get her due for a long time. Sort of like your search for Joan Allen's Oscar.)

One biopic that's been playing in my head for so long has been Isabella Rosellini as her mother Ingrid Bergman. They just look so much alike but yeah, it would definitly be weird to be in a scene where you were being made.
Isabella did sorta play her mother in an episode of Tales from the Crypt but that's....... well, just something else. Too bad, the idea is past it.

Neel Mehta said...

Got a Top Ten idea for you. I was over at Low Resolution commenting about how Ed Harris excelled in The Truman Show, seeing as how he was a last-minute replacement for Dennis Hopper, who walked off the set.

There's probably a list to be made of great performances by last-minute replacements, but I'm not the one to write it.

I can only think of two more off-hand: Viggo Mortensen replacing Stuart Townsend as Aragorn, and Hugh Jackman replacing Dougray Scott as Wolverine.

Glenn Dunks said...

You know what biopic I can't wait for. It'll be filled and surrounded by a multitude of controversy and also, most likely, a stunning lead performance.

Jodie Foster in the biopic of Leni Reifenstal. I'll be amazed if they make it, I'll be amazed if they don't.

That Liza/Toni thing though. Yowza. They need to make it right this second. Toni is perfect. Perhaps it could be the greatest casting ever? :P

Also, I've been gunning for a Michael Hutchence biopic starring Noah Taylor for ages and all the news that comes out about that movie sounds dreadful. Johnny Depp! Hutchence as a ghost leading his daughter through life! Kylie Minogue not to play Kylie Minogue! grrr

Anonymous said...

Wow! Ever since I saw Velvet Goldmine I just thought Toni reminded me of Liza in Cabaret, and now that you mention it, YES she could make a marvellous Liza in a biopic.
I'm in.

Cinesnatch said...

Adrian Brody as Harvey Milk!

Toni as Liza is brilliant!

The Jaded Armchair Reviewer said...

That Georgia O'Keefe biopic. Sounds like something Nicole Kidman would do instead.

Anonymous said...

How about Zooey Deschanel as Janis Joplin???

Anonymous said...

I've warmed to Kirsten Dunst, Nathaniel. I like her too.

But still prefer Scarlett Johansson, Keira Knightley, Maggie Gyllenhaal and, depending on my mood, Julia Stiles.

Glenn Dunks said...

Wait, was that Leni comment in your entry originally or did I just skip it because I didn't know who it was.

Glenn Dunks said...

by "it" I mean Georgia O'Keefe.


i'm not sure. i reposted this like 4 times last night because i was having computer issues

but yes LENI shoulda been on the list. JODIE needs to do something amazingly challenging like that. and quickly

SusanP said...

I'm so there for I'm Not There...

Looking further ahead, I am interested in next year's biopic about Ernie Davis, the first African American to win the Heisman Trophy (the top prize to college football players). While sports biopics tend to be the most obvious in terms of the formula you describe, I'm eager for this one because 1) Davis played for one of my favorite college teams (Syracuse) and 2) Dennis Quaid stars as the legendary football coach Ben Schwartzwalder.

It's a very compelling story and could finally get Quaid a much deserved Oscar nomination.

Anonymous said...

I love biopics, so some of the ones I'd like to see made soon are:

1. James Brown (come on Spike Lee, make it happen!)
2. Margaret Thatcher (this could be the right's actress's "The Queen")
3. Leni Riefenstahl
4. Hillary Clinton (you know it's coming one of these days)
5. Jackie Robinson

Anonymous said...

I want a Freddie Mercury biopic, mostly so I can hear the glorious music in surround sound from a ginormous screen...

Anonymous said...

Is it so wrong of me to think that Leonardo DiCaprio could take on the role of Montgomery Clift in a biography? Successfully?


i don't know if it it's 'wrong' the question is does it feel 'right' because it can't be wrong if it...

um where were we. oh yes freddie mercury. i forgot about that one too. isn't that actually happening with someone or other.

i'm dreading LIBERACE if only for the casting.

Anonymous said...

I remember reading about a Mercury-biopic as well - sometime late in '06 I think it was. I don't remember anything about an actor attached.

The Monty picture has been hanging in the air several years now, I think, and I completely agree: I'd love to see it, but really only if they get it right. Even without "something to say" (as you put it), they'd need a strong lead and I can't think of anyone who has the acting, looks and charisma to pull it off.
Nothing against DiCaprio, great actor, but seriously? Na...

Anonymous said...

Cheers to the guy who said a biopic should be made of Ari Ben-Menashe. Umberto Eco should write the script!

-The Eco-loving Luhrman-hating Australian

Anonymous said...

Johnny Depp and Sacha Baron Cohen were rumored for the Freddie Mercury biopic, but both fizzled there. I would have loved to see Sacha Baron Cohen channel Freddie Mercury in a film.

NicksFlickPicks said...

I've decided Toni Collette should play Rose in a new film of Gypsy. Granted, not right away, but the casting feels right, the whole musicals wave seems to be working, and I'm sure a studio could spin a hit out of this. Little Miss Sunshine seemed to remind a lot of people that they really like Toni Collette.

As for actual biopics, I'm guessing that David Morse's agent is somewhere, at all times, trying to make The Bill Clinton Story happen. I'd love to see a Gene Tierney Story, maybe with Kate Beckinsale, who so seldom gets/takes good roles but can be really arresting on screen (viz. The Last Days of Disco, several moments in The Aviator).

Glenn Dunks said...

But Toni is preggers so she won't really be in the mood for big lead performances for a while. Back* to frumpy supporting sister/mother roles for a bit.

*Did she ever stop?

Anonymous said...

what about Julianne Moore as Barbara Baekeland in Savage Grace?
here is the website with a scene out of the film:

Cinesnatch said...

Freddy Mercury ... if Mika can act ... PLEASE!

As far as Kiki ... I think she's ambitious. She's hard-working and tries to stretch herself by negotiating through diverse genres. She reminds me of a young Nicole Kidman that way. But, like Kidman (and Jodie Foster), she comes off as a little too calculated, hardened and cold (but, not as much as Claire Danes, who just doesn't seem to have a humorous bone in her body).

She's also a little too white bread for me, though. I like more flavor, usually. But, she was quite good in Marie Antoinette, Interview.

But, then, I *LOVE* Maggie Gyllenhaal, who is about as white bread as Dunst. But I think Gyllenhaael loses herself in her characters with complete abandon. You know Gyllenhall has done her homework and figured out all of the mechanics, but she is so naturalistic and open, that her performances are seamless. She has this amazing intellect/ instinct one-two acting punch.

Now, I think I should watch crazy/beautiful. Maybe it holds a candle to Sherrybaby.

Anonymous said...

There's only one biopic I want to see: Amy Sedaris in "Galarina: The Life and Times of Gala Dali". (Stephen Colbert as Salvador Dali. Paul Dinello as Paul Eluard.)

Wake me up when that happens. Until then, I'm napping.