The factor biopic exists. At least in Hollywood. Between creating a character from scratch, without a role model, or recreating the movements, look and inflection of the voice of a character who has already traveled the Earth in real life, be Famous or not, it seems that in Mecca of the cinema they prefer the latter, given the frequency with which Academy members reward with their Oscars to the interpreters of biopics, as biographic films are known in the world of cinema. Since the years begin with the digit 2 of the new millennium, the main actors and actresses in biopics They have taken more than half of the awards: 20 of 38 possible between 2000 and 2018. Specifically, 11 men and nine women. And, nevertheless, these types of roles are not the majority in the group of those that are filmed, nor among those that are finally nominated (32% in the cited period).
In the memory they will remain forever Meryl streep in 2011 for her interpretation of Margaret Thatcher in The woman of iron; or Marion Cotillard in Life in Pink, where he plays the French singer Édith Piaf; Or until Julia Roberts embodying the woman fighter who gave name to the film Erin Brockovich. In the men’s section, they have also marked a milestone victory in the last edition of Rami Malek, which gave birth to Queen leader Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody; Eddie Redmayne in 2014, in the skin of scientist Stephen Hawking in The theory of everything; or Jamie Foxx in 2004, as Ray Charles in Ray.
“The biopic It is an ancient genre that emerged in the thirties in American cinema, ”explains the writer and film historian Roman Gubern, which sets an example of a famous 1936 film about the scientist Louis Pasteur, directed by William Dieterle and which was an Oscar for actor Paul Muni. “And it has become fashionable in recent years because it offers some models of behavior with which one can identify: the patriotic, military, scientific, emotional virtues of the character become types that lead to the identification of the public with them “
Is it fashionable now? “Indeed, I am sure of it,” says Gubern emphatically. “The cinema works through fashions, and just as there has been a recent one about World War I, there is a certain fad about the value of exemplary characters, for their value, for their beauty, for their tragedy, see Dreyfus or see Judy Garland… ”, he explains in reference to the recent Roman Polansky movie The officer and the spy (J’accuse, 2019), which recreates the Dreyfus case, already Judy (2019), by Rupert Goold. A film, the latter, where the role of actress and singer Judy Garland has been played by Renée Zellweger, nominated for an Oscar in this edition and main favorite to obtain it after winning prestigious awards such as the Golden Globe, awarded by the foreign press of Hollywood, or Bafta, the British Academy Award.
“Not for having a reference when playing a known character you go safer, it is more, I think the risk is greater,” he explains Karra Elejalde, nominated for the last edition of the Goya for his interpretation of Miguel de Unamuno in the film While the war lastsby Alejandro Amenábar. And he states that they are two very different types of papers, each with its risks. “When you have to make a character from nothing you have to create it, and since you have no references there is that freedom but there is also the effort to elaborate something that does not exist, and when you have to make a character that already exists you have to recreate it, you have to to have that capacity as an imitator, you have to study that character who lived ”, adds Elejalde (Vitoria, 59 years old), who points out that in his life he has made many more fictional characters than real ones.
As for the possibility of greater public recognition and criticism of the roles in a biopicElejalde qualifies him: “It is recognized only if it is right, in the case of Unamuno it was a high-risk role.” But he points out that each role is a world and that there is no easy recipe: “The characters there are times that come out and other times that you make them, and many times the effort is inversely proportional to the result.”
In the case of While the war lastsHe laments that he was not lucky enough to have more documents that would allow him to know better the gestures, the way of walking or the inflections of the Basque philosopher’s voice, but he is very satisfied with the welcome that the film has finally had .
If the forecast of the criticism is fulfilled, it will be Zellweger who will raise the statuette next Sunday (early Monday morning in Spain), although this year he will face two colleagues enrolled in that nominated poker biopics, Charlize Theron, who plays a real journalist, Megyn Kelly, in Bombshell, and Cynthia Erivo, who plays Harriet Tubman, a fighter for the rights of enslaved African Americans, in Harriet.
Jonathan Pryce may have it harder on Sunday, in the role of Jorge Mario Bergoglio in the film The two potatoes. Pryce, nominated for the Golden Globes but surpassed days ago by favorite Joaquin Phoenix (Joker), faces as the only real character four fictional roles, by Phoenix, Antonio Banderas, Leonardo DiCaprio and Adam Driver. Only the factor biopic I could give him the victory at the Oscars. Although if you dig a little, in two of these contest papers there are many autobiographical aspects of their own directors. This is the case of the role of Banderas in Pain and gloryby Pedro Almodóvar; and Driver’s in Story of a marriage, from Noah Baumbach. But the fake biopic It is another story.
Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu.
Role: Hugh Glass (circa 1783-1833), hunter, explorer and fur trader in the United States. His life already inspired The man of a wild land (1971), of Richard C. Sarafian, with Richard Harris as the protagonist.
Rivals: Bryan Cranston, Matt Damon, Michael Fassbender and Eddie Redmayne.
Director: Steven Soderbergh.
Role: Erin Brockovich (1960), an employee of a fundamental US legal office in the victory of an ecological claim against a company.
Rivals: Ellen Burstyn, Joan Allen, Juliette Binoche and Laura Linney.