Films

Actors And The Real Life Characters They’ve Played

It's a rite of passage for any actor in search of an Oscar/acceptance. Putting the alien bounty hunter roles to the side for once and focusing on the truth.

We've assembled 50 actors who've kept it real and paired them up with their non-fictional counterpart. We want you to let us know which actor looks the most and least like the real-life character they've played.

  • Actors And The Real Life Characters They've Played

    Keira Knightley (Domino)

    Character: Domino Harvey

    Year: 2005

    Trivia: The real Domino died from an accidental overdose just months before the film was released.

  • Actors And The Real Life Characters They've Played 1

    James Franco (127 Hours)

    Character: Aron Ralston

    Year: 2010

    Trivia: Cillian Murphy was director Danny Boyle's first choice to play Aron.

  • Actors And The Real Life Characters They've Played 2

    Angelina Jolie (A Mighty Heart)

    Character: Mariane Pearl

    Year: 2007

    Trivia: Despite criticism of a white actress playing a mixed-race role, Mariane Pearl herself had asked Jolie to play the part

  • Actors And The Real Life Characters They've Played 3

    Joaquin Phoenix (Walk The Line)

    Character: Johnny Cash

    Year: 2005

    Trivia: Johnny Cash approved Phoenix for the role after he saw Gladiator yet Cash is 6" taller than him.

  • Actors And The Real Life Characters They've Played 4

    Warren Beatty (Bonnie & Clyde)

    Character: Clyde Barrow

    Year: 1967

    Trivia: Before deciding to play the role himself, producer Beatty wanted Bob Dylan to star.

  • Actors And The Real Life Characters They've Played 5

    Chris Cooper (Breach)

    Character: Robert Hansenn

    Year: 2007

    Trivia: The real Hansenn was obsessed with Catherine Zeta-Jones. This is referenced in the film when investigators find a couple of her films in his belongings.

  • Actors And The Real Life Characters They've Played 6

    Meg Ryan (Against The Ropes)

    Character: Jackie Kallen

    Year: 2004

    Trivia: Michelle Pfeiffer turned down the role.

  • Actors And The Real Life Characters They've Played 7

    Robert De Niro (Raging Bull)

    Character: Jake LaMotta

    Year: 1980

    Trivia: Jake LaMotta thought that De Niro was such a good boxer that he would have been happy to be his manager.

  • Actors And The Real Life Characters They've Played 8

    Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote)

    Character: Truman Capote

    Year: 2005

    Trivia: In 2006, the role of Truman Capote was also played by Toby Jones in Infamous.

  • Actors And The Real Life Characters They've Played 9

    Denzel Washington (Malcolm X)

    Character: Malcolm X

    Year: 1992

    Trivia: Oliver Stone was originally set to direct and Washington was his first choice as well.

  • Actors And The Real Life Characters They've Played 10

    Angelina Jolie (Changeling)

    Character: Christine Collins

    Year: 2008

    Trivia: Both Hilary Swank and Reese Witherspoon lobbied for the role of Christine Collins.

  • Actors And The Real Life Characters They've Played 11

    Michael Sheen (The Damned United)

    Character: Brian Clough

    Year: 2009

    Trivia: Clough's widow was against the film as she said the majority of the events depicted didn't happen.

  • Actors And The Real Life Characters They've Played 12

    Eric Bana (The Other Boleyn Girl)

    Character: Henry VIII

    Year: 2008

    Trivia: Bana avoided all other films and TV shows featuring Henry VIII to keep his portrayal independent.

  • Actors And The Real Life Characters They've Played 13

    Kevin Costner (The Untouchables)

    Character: Eliot Ness

    Year: 1987

    Trivia: Harrison Ford was offered the role but turned it down.

  • Actors And The Real Life Characters They've Played 14

    Hilary Swank (Amelia)

    Character: Amelia Earhart

    Year: 2009

    Trivia: Although Swank was a pilot-in-training, movie bosses opted for professional pilots for insurance reasons.

  • Actors And The Real Life Characters They've Played 15

    Robert Downey Jr (Chaplin)

    Character: Charlie Chaplin

    Year: 1992

    Trivia: Jim Carrey was originally considered for the role.

  • Actors And The Real Life Characters They've Played 16

    Benicio Del Toro (Che)

    Character: Che Guevara

    Year: 2008

    Trivia: Del Toro had always been the first choice for the lead yet Val Kilmer was considered as a secondary option.

  • Actors And The Real Life Characters They've Played 17

    Dustin Hoffman (Lenny)

    Character: Lenny Bruce

    Year: 1974

    Trivia: Al Pacino was originally considered for the role.

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  • Actors And The Real Life Characters They've Played 18

    Gary Busey (The Buddy Holly Story)

    Character: Buddy Holly

    Year: 1978

    Trivia: Busey had previously been cast as Holly's drummer in a previous attempt at a biopic which was ultimately cancelled.

  • Actors And The Real Life Characters They've Played 19

    Julia Roberts (Erin Brockovich)

    Character: Erin Brockovich

    Year: 2000

    Trivia: The real Brockovich is right-handed while Roberts is left-handed meaning the Hollywood star had to learn how to sign her name with her right hand for the shoot.

  • Actors And The Real Life Characters They've Played 20

    Anthony Hopkins (Nixon)

    Character: Richard Nixon

    Year: 1995

    Trivia: The role was turned down by Tom Hanks, Jack Nicholson, Robin Williams, Warren Beatty and John Malkovich.

  • Actors And The Real Life Characters They've Played 21

    Liam Neeson (Kinsey)

    Character: Alfred Kinsey

    Year: 2004

    Trivia: It was the first film permitted to show human genitalia uncensored in Japan.

  • Actors And The Real Life Characters They've Played 22

    Russell Crowe (Cinderella Man)

    Character: James J. Braddock

    Year: 2005

    Trivia: James J. Braddock's granddaughter Rosemarie DeWitt stars in the film as his neighbour.

  • Actors And The Real Life Characters They've Played 23

    Val Kilmer (The Doors)

    Character: Jim Morrison

    Year: 1991

    Trivia: Prior to the audition, Val Kilmer memorized the lyrics to all songs written by Jim Morrison

  • Actors And The Real Life Characters They've Played 24

    Leonardo DiCaprio (The Aviator)

    Character: Howard Hughes

    Year: 2004

    Trivia: Jim Carrey was originally considered for the role.

  • Actors And The Real Life Characters They've Played 25

    Marion Cotillard (La Vie En Rose)

    Character: Edith Piaf

    Year: 2007

    Trivia: To look the part, Cotillard shaved back her hairline and shaved her eyebrows off.

  • Actors And The Real Life Characters They've Played 26

    Woody Harrelson (The People Vs Larry Flynt)

    Character: Larry Flynt

    Year: 1996

    Trivia: Porn baron Larry Flynt apparently wanted Michael Douglas to portray him on screen.

  • Actors And The Real Life Characters They've Played 27

    Naomi Watts (Fair Game)

    Character: Valerie Plame

    Year: 2010

    Trivia: Nicole Kidman, real-life best friend of Watts, was originally set to star.

  • Actors And The Real Life Characters They've Played 28

    David Strathairn (Good Night And Good Luck)

    Character: Edward Murrow

    Year: 2005

    Trivia: Strathairn, a non-smoker, smoked pipe tobacco in his prop cigarettes while playing Murrow.

  • Actors And The Real Life Characters They've Played 29

    Jim Carrey (Man On The Moon)

    Character: Andy Kaufman

    Year: 1999

    Trivia: Director Milos Forman couldn't decide between Edward Norton and Jim Carrey for the role so left it to the studio to decide.

  • Actors And The Real Life Characters They've Played 30

    James Woods (Ghosts Of Mississippi)

    Character: Byron De La Beckwith

    Year: 1996

    Trivia: The real De La Beckwith was residing in jail, less than a mile away from where the film was being shot.

  • Actors And The Real Life Characters They've Played 31

    Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network)

    Character: Mark Zuckerberg

    Year: 2010

    Trivia: Shia LaBeouf turned down the film saying it wasn't a "Warren Beatty-style game-changer".

  • Actors And The Real Life Characters They've Played 32

    Richard Gere (The Hoax)

    Character: Clifford Irving

    Year: 2006

    Trivia: The real Irving was hired as a technical advisor yet asked that his name be taken off the credits as so much was changed.

  • Actors And The Real Life Characters They've Played 33

    Denzel Washington (Cry Freedom)

    Character: Steve Biko

    Year: 1987

    Trivia: Director Richard Attenborough cast Denzel Washington as activist Steve Biko after spotting him in popular US hospital drama St. Elsewhere.

  • Actors And The Real Life Characters They've Played 34

    Hayden Christensen (Shattered Glass)

    Character: Stephen Glass

    Year: 2003

    Trivia: The real Glass turned down the chance to work on the film.

  • Actors And The Real Life Characters They've Played 35

    Matt Damon (Invictus)

    Character: François Pienaar

    Year: 2009

    Trivia: Matt Damon is shorter than the real Pienaar but director Clint Eastwood utilised camera angles to make him look the part.

  • Actors And The Real Life Characters They've Played 36

    Josh Brolin (W)

    Character: George Bush

    Year: 2008

    Trivia: Christian Bale pulled out of the role at the very last minute.

  • Actors And The Real Life Characters They've Played 37

    Johnny Depp (Public Enemies)

    Character: John Dillinger

    Year: 2009

    Trivia: Leonardo DiCaprio was originally set to star.

  • Actors And The Real Life Characters They've Played 38

    Jamal Woodard (Notorious)

    Character: Christopher 'Biggie' Wallace

    Year: 2009

    Trivia: Biggie's son plays a young version of his father in the film.

  • Actors And The Real Life Characters They've Played 39

    Ben Affleck (Hollywoodland)

    Character: George Reeves

    Year: 2006

    Trivia: Hugh Jackman was originally set to play the part but pulled out.

  • Actors And The Real Life Characters They've Played 40

    Kristen Stewart (The Runaways)

    Character: Joan Jett

    Year: 2010

    Trivia: When Jett first heard Stewart singing one of her songs on tape, she thought it was a mistake and the tape was actually her.

  • Actors And The Real Life Characters They've Played 41

    Colin Firth (The King's Speech)

    Character: King George VI

    Year: 2010

    Trivia: The role was written with Paul Bettany in mind but he turned it down.

  • Actors And The Real Life Characters They've Played 42

    Jamie Foxx (Ray)

    Character: Ray Charles

    Year: 2004

    Trivia: During filming Jamie Foxx wore eye prosthetics that prevented him from seeing a la Charles.

  • Actors And The Real Life Characters They've Played 43

    Rhys Ifans (Mr Nice)

    Character: Howard Marks

    Year: 2010

    Trivia: Marks and Ifans are good friends in real life.

  • Actors And The Real Life Characters They've Played 44

    Charlize Theron (Monster)

    Character: Aileen Wuornos

    Year: 2003

    Trivia: The real Wuornos gave the director permission to read through hundreds of private letters.

  • Actors And The Real Life Characters They've Played 45

    Sean Penn (Milk)

    Character: Harvey Milk

    Year: 2008

    Trivia: Penn wore a prosthetic nose, altered teeth, a redesigned hairline and contact lenses for his portrayal of gay activist and politician Harvey Milk.

  • Actors And The Real Life Characters They've Played 46

    Forest Whitaker (The Last King Of Scotland)

    Character: Idi Amin

    Year: 2006

    Trivia: Whitaker stayed in character, even when he was off set.

  • Actors And The Real Life Characters They've Played 47

    Michael Sheen (The Queen)

    Character: Tony Blair

    Year: 2006

    Trivia: Sheen has also played Tony Blair in The Deal and The Special Relationship.

  • Actors And The Real Life Characters They've Played 48

    Denzel Washington (The Hurricane)

    Character: Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter

    Year: 1999

    Trivia: Washington trained for over a year with a boxing coach.

  • Actors And The Real Life Characters They've Played 49

    Liam Neeson (Schindler's List)

    Character: Oskar Schindler

    Year: 1993

    Trivia: Stellan Skarsgård was considered for the role.

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