perfect portrayals.

August 5th 2012 marked 50 years since the passing of Marilyn Monroe. 50 years on and people still adore her. For me, the fascination lies in the unknown… in not understanding what was really going on behind her doe eyes. Fame is fickle and it feels strange to me that someone I have never met, nor even seen in the flesh, can be so hypnotising. Because of people like me, there’s a market to tell Monroe’s story, along with the stories of other Hollywood personas who reached dizzying infamy.

My Week With Marilyn was a recent cinematic release based on the book The Prince, The Showgirl and Me by Colin Clark. These are Clark’s true recounts of events from a week on set with Marilyn during which he had varying interactions with her. While this movie is not Monroe’s biography, it told her story perfectly. Perhaps this was because Michelle Williams did the role such justice. I’ll be honest, no matter how well written the script, as a fan of Monroe I probably wouldn’t have been able to enjoy this movie if I didn’t believe or enjoy the work of the actress cast in her part. I have always found Michelle Williams to be a captivating and meticulous actress but I was admittedly skeptical. However, she knocked this one out of the park Joe DiMaggio style! It helped that she had incredible support on-screen, including Kenneth Branagh as Sir Laurence Olivier, Julia Ormond as Vivien Leigh and Dougray Scott (pictured with Williams below) flawlessly filling the thick rimmed glasses of Arthur Miller.

It was heart wrenching to witness the obvious emotion and longing shown by Williams, blanketed by the false confidence provided when assuming the role of ‘Marilyn’. In honour of Monroe and Williams’ stellar portrayal of her, I have listed my five favourite Hollywood actors/actresses playing other famous personalities. Williams is obviously my number 1.

So that brings me to number 2. Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Elvis Presley in the TV movie Elvis.

Elvis, like Monroe, has had and will continue to have his story told time and time again. Big names have portrayed Presley such as Kurt Russell (who I also adore) but it was the curled upper lip of Meyers who truly convinced me he could be the King.

Number 3. Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash in Walk the Line.

And for that matter, Reese Witherspoon as June Carter-Cash as well. I’m not the biggest Cash fan but I do think Phoenix and Witherspoon told their story beautifully. Phoenix was such a spot on casting move.

Number 4. James Franco as James Dean in the TV movie James Dean.

These two heart-throbs certainly share more than just the first name. Franco plays the rebel without a cause with such ease, that you don’t for one second doubt he could actually be James Dean.

Number 5. Greg Kinnear as John F. Kennedy in The Kennedys.

I remember seeing the shorts for this TV miniseries and being blown away by the resemblance between JFK and Kinnear. Kinnear is a charming actor and fit the bill for this role perfectly.

Okay so I said my top 5 but I do have to list Cate Blanchett here. Anyone as fair and ethereal as her who can pull off both the strong and glamorous Katharine Hepburn (in The Aviator) and grungy Bob Dylan (in I’m Not There) has to get special mention.


125 thoughts on “perfect portrayals.

  1. I love Michelle Williams — yet I somehow managed to miss this movie! Thank you for bringing this omission to my attention …

    Phoenix and Witherspoon in Walk the Line, IMO, were practically perfection. He channeled Cash’s intensity and broken-ness so beautifully.

    • You’re so right! Such a beautiful disaster!

      Let me know what you think of the movie when you see it. If you like Williams then it’s a safe bet you’ll love it 🙂

  2. I enjoy lists when I read blogs and this was a fun topic. I recently watched My Week With Marilyn and couldn’t agree more with what a wonderful job Michelle Williams did and what an enjoyable film it was. Williams blows me away in everything I see her in. It’s safe to say I’m a huge fan.

    • Haha I’m constantly making lists. Helps to make me feel more organised than I actually am!

      Isn’t she beautiful to watch!? Such a great movie.

      • Mommy Dearest was awesome. She did a wonderful job as Crawford….a little unnerving, in fact.

  3. Thanks for this. You brought a couple movies to my attention that I didn’t know anything about and mentioned a few that I own and adore. Joaquin Phoenix was my favorite you mentioned. I thought he was spot on, and I’m a critical Johnny Cash fan. Nice post.

    • Thank you! 🙂 Like I said, I’m not a diehard Cash fan but knowing how important it was to me that Williams got Monroe right, I’m glad that you loved Phoenix in the role! Walk the Line was a great movie!!

  4. Jonathon Rhys certainly got the vibes to be the king. Hands down for his casting as Elvis. I cant think of any other actor that suited more. 🙂 thanks for this share.

    • Thank you so much! YES!! You certainly can add DiCaprio. I’m ashamed to admit this but the only reason he’s not on the list is because I haven’t seen J.Edgar yet 😦 and the craziest part is that DiCaprio is my favourite actor!! I think I’ll get on to watching it this weekend.

    • Ahh isn’t she wonderful!? So beautiful in every sense of the word. I haven’t read the book yet but I really want to after seeing the movie. I hope you enjoy them! 🙂

    • I just said to einsteinapple above that I completely agree about DiCaprio 🙂 I can’t wait to read your post… I can tell by the title I’m going to agree with it. He’s a seriously fantastic actor. I have to get on to seeing J.Edgar quick smart or I’ll have to stop calling myself a fan!

  5. “My Week With Marilyn” was one of my favourite movies last year. Williams was fantastic – she had Marilyn’s mannerisms and physicality down and offered a subtle and nuanced performance. So glad she was nominated for an Oscar for it – well deserved at the top of the list! For my money, Jeremy Irons might garner an honourable mention in this category for his portrayal of Claus von Bulow in Reversal of Fortune. Pure brilliance!

  6. Cate Blanchett was outstanding as Kathryn Hepburn.
    I loved the film ‘My Week With Marilyn’ – but not so much for Michelle William’s performance – I thought Eddie Redmayne was fantastic – he really took you on ride of a movie enthusiasts dream job come true!

    • You’re completely right, Redmayne really did hold the whole story together! His character and the whole point of the story could have easily been lost but it wasn’t because of that 🙂

  7. Great post! It’s an interesting list to think about. For me, Jaime Foxx as Ray Charles in “Ray” has to be the #1 movie portrayal. It was uncanny how spot on his performance was, including his singing.

  8. I recently posted on a somewhat similar theme but a different vibe running through mine.
    Like you say, you can’t help but feel skeptical about some of these biopics. The point in my post is that you really got have a knock out story, along with all those other factors, for these type of movies to work. Cate Blanchett as Bob Dylan is an excellent example as is Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe. The story has got to be something pretty special or why do it? By the way, I don’t have anything against Steven Spielberg. He has made some amazing movies. I love movies and he’s a great director. But, I’m skeptical about “Lincoln.” I’ll definitely go see it. And, one last thing, you may enjoy, “My Favorite Year,” which is quite a unique flim that has a Douglas Fairbanks-like movie star crossing paths with a Sid Caesar-like comedian:

    • Thanks for the link! I’ll check it out now 🙂 You definitely have to start with a good story. No matter how good the actor is, if they don’t have good material to work with it’s very hard to captivate the audience. I’ll have to get on to seeing ‘My Favourite Year’ too.

  9. I’ve never actually been a Marilyn fan but watching the Michelle Williams movie made me understand why people are fascinated with her.

    • Hmm maybe I should get my partner to watch it then cause I think he’s still trying to understand the fascination 🙂

  10. those are great movies and the way celebrities impersonate these people make the latter even more icons ‘cos u would never have another marilyn .
    anyways thanxx for the post)

  11. When I first read about Michele Williams playing Marilyn Munroe,I was convinced she would not look anything like her..But I was captivated and so happily surprised when I saw how perfectly she “looked” and “played’ Marilyn.
    And your list is indeed true to its content!!!!You are so right about the unknown charm with which Marilyn still rules the hearts and minds-one generation at a time!!
    Lastly,Congratulations on being freshly pressed!

    • Thanks for your comment, it was very exciting 🙂 I was of the exact same opinion. Michelle Williams is beautiful but I didn’t think she’d look anything like her, but she was so stunning and lovable! 🙂

  12. Great list! I loved that movie also because it allowed me to stare at Eddie Redmayne for a while (slight crush going on there). But I have to ask: where is Meryl Streep? Her portrayal of Julia Child was one of the sweetest and most endearing performances I have ever seen. I just adore that lady.

      • thanks for bringing that up, i’ve wanted to watch that for a while. meryl streep, julianne moore and nicole kidman all in one movie…so much yes.

    • You can’t really look past Meryl Streep. She’s stellar in anything she does! The Hours was a superb line-up of actresses. And I completely understand your crush on Redmayne 😉

  13. I would probably put Cate Blanchett first for Hepburn, then Joaquin second for Cash. I think a valid mention here is Kristen Stewart for Joan Jett. (side note, not a typical Stewart fan, and have vowed never to see any of the Twilight franchise. I was very skeptical that she could do Jett, and was blown away by her portrayal.) I would also mention the What We Do is Secret cast for their portrayal of the Germs, particularly Shane West and Darby. Last but not least, I wouldn’t call it an accurate portrayal, but a very hilarious one, my favorite scene in the latest Men in Black movie is Bill Hader’s portrayal of Andy Warhol. priceless.

    • I haven’t seen Stewart (not a major fan either but I’ll give credit where credit’s due :)) as Jett yet although she completely looked the part! I’ve heard Dakota Fanning was great in that movie too!?

      • I thought Dakota Fanning was ok – the Runways movie really was from Cherrie Currie’s point of view, but it was Stewart as Joan Jett, I thought, that stole the show.

  14. I shall have to check out James Franco as James Dean – that sounds like genius casting. Recently I came across this BBC4 film “We’ll Take Manhatten” Aneurin Barnard is truly captivating as David Bailey. I actually have no idea if its a true portrayal of the photographer but it definitely is excellent work. He’s one to watch I feel.

    • It was genius casting! Such a good choice 🙂 I’ll have to take a look at ‘We’ll Take Manhatten’, I hadn’t heard of it til you just mentioned it. Thanks!

  15. maybe this is a stupid question but what was vivien leigh’s role in marilyn monroe’s life? i never knew! i should really watch that movie though!

    also..james franco as james dean..i can’t even. so unbelievably sexy. i can’t.

    • You should definitely watch the movie, mainly because of how good it is 🙂 Leigh was married to Laurence Olivier at the time The Prince & The Showgirl was being filmed. Franco as Dean – genius casting right!?

  16. I just saw “Walk the Line” the other day and thought it was brilliant!! Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon both really did a fantastic job!! Great post!

  17. Don’t you think the secret of Marylin’s popularity is sth else than just her charisma? It’s important, but i believe the fact that she was the very first one, that there were very few people like her at the time (what made her outstanding) made her popular and that it actually wouldn’t work nowadays any more (because there are so many people trying to be shocking/sexy etc)… 😦

    • I completely agree that it probably wouldn’t work nowadays, with so many trying to ‘shock’ society. Most of all though, I feel like she was trying to be loved… not to be a sex symbol and her vulnerability was part of what made her so ‘wanted’. I could talk about it forever 🙂

  18. I absolutely agree with you on this roles! They have picked the perfect actors / actresses to portray these fabulous iconic stars! Finally! Someone realized that Williams was the perfect Marilyn Monroe !

    • She really was the perfect fit. I think she flys so under the radar but is a truly wonderful actress, I can’t say enough good things about her work 🙂

    • I’m all for DiCaprio being top of every list… I wasn’t sure if that would just be me as a biggggg fan being biased if I’d named him.

  19. There’s new Johnny Cash documentary on the internet called My Father and The Man In Black, has anyone else heard of it or seen it? It talks about a side of Johnny Cash’s story that many of us don’t know about. Anyway, this blog reminded me of the film, I thought it was pretty cool and I can’t wait to see it! Heres the link to the trailer:

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