March 4, 2015
The Oscars are over. Birdman, a fictional story of a washed up actor desperately wanting to be relevant, walked away with the most prestigious awards. Although nominated, American Sniper, while earning the biggest box office, won none, nor did Wild, both of which chronicle actual events.
Still, movies based on true stories did quite well at the 87th Academy Awards. Consider that American Sniper, The Imitation Game, Selma, and The Theory of Everything, all commemorating a person, an event, or both, represented four of the eight nominations for Best Picture.
Bradley Cooper (American Sniper) and Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game) were nominated for Best Actor for their portrayals, respectively, of Chris Kyle and Alan Turing, while Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) won for his depiction of the world-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking. Hawking was so pleased with the film that following a screening he sent director James Marsh an email, exclaiming that “there were certain points when [I] felt [I] was watching [myself.] The Academy also recognized Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher) with the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in the true crime drama.
The fairer half in the best and/or supporting actor/actress categories received kudos as well for playing film versions of real-life people. Although the Best Actress award went to Julianne Moore (Still Alice), the Academy nominated both Reese Witherspoon (Wild) and Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything). Jane Hawking had the same reaction as her ex-husband watching Jones with Redmayne, saying, “’How can I be on the screen and in a cinema seat at the same time?” Nominations in the Best Supporting Actress category included Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game) and Laura Dern (Wild).
The movie-going audience seems to love seeing real-life past or present personalities come to life on the big screen, whether they’re known for their music, their athletic prowess, their survival skills, their idealism, their creativity, or a quirk of fate. The stories come from history books and biographies. Last year’s Dallas Buyer’s Club originated with a lengthy newspaper article and then expanded to interviews with Ron Woodruff, on whose life the movie was based, and his personal journals.
And then there are memoirs. Following in the footsteps not only of Reese Witherspoon, but also, in former years, Diane Lane in Under the Tuscan Sun and Julia Roberts in Eat Pray Love, Jennifer Lawrence plans on producing and starring in The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls’ account of her nomadic childhood with her dysfunctional family. The book was a best seller, and the movie should be a hit. It might even garner a couple of Oscar nominations for its star.
© 2015 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved
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