Musical icons have been brought to the big screen for decades—and for good reason! Most musicians and artists have a natural charisma but only a lucky few become famous by having an incredible stage presence. Oh, and being photogenic helps too.
Though we’ve been served with both mind-blowing and mediocre biopics, it should be noted that finding actors who can accurately portray those artists is no easy task—it often requires some musical training, studying of mannerisms and physical transformations. And while some actors didn’t go further than learning a few dance steps and spending an hour or two in the makeup room, others really gave it their all. Jamie Foxx having his eyes glued shut to portray blind musician Ray Charles comes to mind, for example.
Keep reading as we’ve rounded up ten of the most notable transformations.
Welsh actor Taron Egerton played English singer, pianist and composer Elton John in the 2019 movie Rocketman. Though Egerton nailed all of his singing in the movie, he did require some training in order to properly pull off playing parts of John’s famous songs while also learning how to perform as naturally as the singer himself.
In Baz Luhrmann’s highly-anticipated 2022 biopic titled Elvis, 30-year-old Austin Butler faced a major challenge: how do you capture the humanity of the most widely impersonated, parodied man of all time while also nailing his voice, style and moves?
Well, we can’t really tell you how Butler did it, but he certainly received acclaim “left, right and centre for his starring turn as the titular rock ‘n’ roll king,” as stated by British GQ. And oh, he also got majorly trolled online for keeping his ‘Elvis voice’ even after filming ended. He still speaks like ‘The King’, if you were wondering…
The Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody was a huge box office success, raking in $50 million its first weekend in the US. The movie offers a glimpse into the rise of the band Queen and into the life of its legendary frontman. However, it also received mixed reviews, mainly for some historical inaccuracies and its lack of focus on some aspects of Mercury’s HIV diagnosis as well as his sexuality. All that being said, Egyptian-American actor Rami Malek exceeded everyone’s expectations with his stunning performance.
In this 1997 biographical drama, Selena Quintanilla, played by Jennifer Lopez, is born into a musical Mexican-American family in Texas. Her father realises that his young daughter is talented and begins performing with her at small venues. Quintanilla finds success and falls for her guitarist, Chris Perez (played by actor Jon Seda), who draws the ire of her father. Seeking mainstream stardom, the singer begins recording an English-language album which, tragically, she would never complete.
Before her death in 2018, Aretha Franklin personally selected Grammy-winning Jennifer Hudson to play her in Respect. But even if the ‘Queen of Soul’ hadn’t left behind such a clear instruction, producers might have picked Hudson anyway—not only could she sing and act, but she had performed a Franklin song in her audition for American Idol, the show which catapulted her to fame in 2004.
Sure, actors Sebastian Stan and Lily James did a great job at playing the 90s icons that were Tommy and Pam—Stan even dined with Lee in Malibu after the TV series came out—however, reviews were mixed to say the least.
Following his much-talked-about cameo in Spider-Man: No Way Home, Andrew Garfield had also been making the rounds online for his performance as American composer, lyricist and playwright Jonathan Larson in the 2021 biographical musical tick, tick…BOOM!
Garfield was praised for his incredibly charismatic performance and perfectly embodying the role of a struggling artist with a quirky and eccentric personality that viewers couldn’t help but empathise with.
I’m Not There is a 2007 musical drama film inspired by the life and music of American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan. Six actors were tasked with depicting different facets of Dylan’s public personas: Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Marcus Carl Franklin, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger (his final film to be released during his lifetime) and Ben Whishaw. A caption at the start of the film declares it to be “inspired by the music and the many lives of Bob Dylan.”
Interestingly enough, this is the only mention of Dylan in the film apart from song credits, and his only appearance in it is concert footage from 1966 shown during the film’s very last moments.
Jimi: All Is by My Side tells the story of Jimi Hendrix’s career beginnings, his arrival in London, the creation of The Jimi Hendrix Experience and the beginning of his fame prior to his performance at the Monterey Pop Festival. Sadly, the film does not include any songs written by Hendrix as the filmmakers’ request to use them was denied by the late musician’s surviving estate.
Joaquin Phoenix played American country music singer-songwriter and crooner legend Johnny Cash in the 2005 movie Walk The Line. In it, both Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon (who played June Carter Cash) did their own singing. The film received five nominations at the 78th Academy Awards: Best Actress (for Witherspoon, which she won), Best Actor (for Phoenix), Best Sound, Best Costume Design and Best Film Editing. Not bad, huh?
Every employee has at least one co-worker who they can’t stand. Be it sneaky, unrequited or mutual beef, having an insufferable colleague is bound to affect your zen and performance in the long run. Instead of focusing on the work you have to do together, you may end up wasting time and energy trying to keep your emotions in check and correcting their behaviour instead.
Well, as it turns out, Hollywood is not immune to the ‘detested co-worker’ archetype either. Over the years, some celebrities have earned a serious reputation among their co-stars, so much that they have sworn not to work together in future projects.
From name-calling to slamming each other’s attitude while filming, here are ten actors and actresses with infamous beef on-set and how it all started.
When Marvel kicked off Iron Man, one of the most successful franchises in Hollywood history, Terrence Howard was cast as Tony Stark’s sidekick, Colonel James “Rhodey” Rhodes—also known as War Machine. At the time, Howard took his role so seriously that he spent several hours at a US Air Force base hanging out with pilots and learning about F-22 Raptors. But instead of joining Robert Downey Jr. for future Marvel movies, Howard was fired before Iron Man 2 even went into production.
Now, it’s worth noting that industry insiders have previously described Howard as a “hothead” and someone who “has to be in control of everything, all the time.” The fact that he has a history of assault accusations doesn’t help his case either. At the end of the day, however, Howard ultimately blames Downey for his departure from the series.
According to the actor, Marvel wasn’t interested in Downey because of his past struggles with drug addiction. But Howard wanted his buddy to get a second chance and claims he vouched for Downey and took a $1 million pay cut so Marvel would give him the gig. After Howard was recast, however, he admitted that his Tony Stark friend let him down. In an interview with Rolling Stone in 2015, Howard claimed that he called Downey multiple times—looking for help and leaving messages like, “Look, man, I need the help that I gave you.” But Downey reportedly never called him back. “And guess who got the million I was supposed to get?” Howard continued. “He got the whole franchise, so I’ve actually given him $100 million, which ends up being a $100 million loss for me from me trying to look after somebody.”
Although ridden with clumsy and outdated clichés, The Notebook is undoubtedly one of the most popular romantic dramas of all time. According to director Nick Cassavetes, however, the drama was so intense that it continued even after he yelled ‘cut’—with co-stars Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling clashing in front of the crew.
“Maybe I’m not supposed to tell this story, but they were really not getting along one day on set—really not,” Cassavetes told VH1. “And Ryan came to me, and there’s 150 people standing in this big scene, and he says, ‘Nick, come here’. And he’s doing a scene with Rachel and he says, ‘Would you take her out of here and bring in another actress to read off camera with me?’ I said, ‘What?’ He says, ‘I can’t. I can’t do it with her. I’m just not getting anything from this’.”
Producers then called a ‘clear-the-air’ meeting after Gosling refused to shoot a big scene with McAdams. “They started screaming and yelling at each other,” Cassavetes said, admitting that he later “walked out” of the room. “They had it out… I think Ryan respected her for standing up for her character and Rachel was happy to get that out in the open. The rest of the film wasn’t smooth sailing, but it was smoother sailing.”
On-screen, the Riddler and Two-Face in 1995’s Batman Forever may have become best buds to defeat the Dark Knight, but it was an entirely different story for the actors behind the curtains. When Jim Carrey starred as the Riddler, he was at the height of his comedic career. His co-star Tommy Lee Jones (who played Two-Face), however, was not a huge fan of Carrey’s slapstick style.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly in 1996, Director Joel Schumacher confirmed that Jones had an attitude on the set. “Jim Carrey was a gentleman, and Tommy Lee was threatened by him,” he said. “I’m tired of defending overpaid, over-privileged actors.” Carrey also recounted a time when he ran into Jones at a restaurant the night before filming a scene together. “The maitre said, ‘Oh, I hear you’re working with Tommy Lee Jones. He’s over in the corner having dinner’,” The Truman Show actor recalled when he appeared on Norm Macdonald Live back in 2017.
“I went over and I said, ‘Hey Tommy, how are you doing?’ and the blood just drained from his face,” he continued. “And he got up shaking—he must have been in mid kill-me fantasy or something like that. And he went to hug me and he said, ‘I hate you. I really don’t like you’. And I said, ‘What’s the problem?’ and pulled up a chair, which probably wasn’t smart. And he said, ‘I cannot sanction your buffoonery’.”
When Vin Diesel and his Fast Five co-star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson started feuding in 2016, fans claimed that it was a promotional tactic at the time—until the actors themselves confirmed the alleged beef.
It all started when Johnson took to social media around the end of shooting The Fate of the Furious in August 2016. In it, he slammed an anonymous colleague by stating, “There’s no other franchise that gets my blood boiling more than this one. My female co-stars are always amazing and I love ’em. My male co-stars, however, are a different story. Some conduct themselves as stand up men and true professionals, while others don’t. The ones that don’t are too chicken shit to do anything about it anyway. Candy asses.”
Although Johnson didn’t mention who he was talking about, he later confirmed that the post indeed addressed Diesel. According to reports, Diesel repeatedly showed up late to the set, which clearly didn’t sit well with his co-star in question. “Vin and I had a few discussions, including an important face-to-face in my trailer,” Johnson told Rolling Stone in 2018. “We have a fundamental difference in philosophies on how we approach moviemaking and collaborating… I wish him all the best, and I harbour no ill will there, just because of the clarity we have. Actually, you can erase that last part about ‘no ill will’. We’ll just keep it with the clarity.” Ouch.
Soon after the film was released, eagle-eyed viewers also noticed the pair’s scenes were shot in such a way that they might not have been on set at the same time. “That is correct,” Johnson confirmed in the same interview. “We were not in any scenes together.” Family tings, huh?
1990 sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air has resulted in one of TV’s great feuds in history. If you’re a hardcore fan of the series, you’ll remember how Janet Hubert portrayed Aunt Viv on the show only until 1993, when she was mysteriously replaced with Daphne Reid who continued in the role till the show ended its course in 1996.
At the time, audiences were given very little explanation as to why Hubert was recast in the series—until Will Smith struck the first blow in an Atlanta radio show. “I can say straight up that Janet Hubert wanted the show to be ‘The Aunt Viv of Bel-Air’ show… She’s mad now but she’s been mad all along. She said once, ‘I’ve been in the business for ten years and this snotty-nosed punk comes along and gets a show’. No matter what, to her, I’m just the Antichrist.”
In 2010, however, Hubert claimed that it was Smith who had made it difficult for her on set. She told BlackAmericaWeb, “I was a dark-skinned, African-American mother, and Will used to tell the ‘you’re-so-black’ jokes to the audience before the show, and at one point, I came out and stopped him… He didn’t understand how unbelievably disrespectful that was to women like me.” The following year, Smith released a photo of what he called a “Fresh Prince reunion” without the original Aunt Viv. And that’s when Hubert’s comments really took a fiery turn.
“There will never be a reunion… as I will never do anything with an asshole like Will Smith,” she said in an interview with TMZ. “He is still an egomaniac and has not grown up. This constant reunion thing will never ever happen in my lifetime unless there is an apology, which he doesn’t know the word [for].”