- Actors have long been earning award nominations for portraying celebrities and historical figures.
- For example, Daniel Day-Lewis portrayed Abraham Lincoln, and Helen Mirren played Queen Elizabeth.
- Most recently, Gillian Anderson took home an Emmy for playing Margaret Thatcher.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
“Since Fanny herself cannot be brought back, the next best thing is to get Barbra Streisand to sing and strut and go through comic routines à la Brice,” The New York Times wrote. “Miss Streisand is well on her way to becoming a splendid entertainer in her own right, and in ‘Funny Girl’ she goes as far as any performer can toward recalling the laughter and joy that were Fanny Brice.”
“Loretta Lynn, played with captivating daintiness by Sissy Spacek, climbs onto the stage at a Grange hall, at the urging of her husband,” The New York Times wrote at the time. “Her singing is wispy at first, but it grows clear and confident as she takes command of the stage.”
“Ben Kingsley’s performance as Gandhi, aging 50 years in three hours, from dapper, status-conscious lawyer to emaciated ascetic in a loin-cloth, is certainly as fine as anything Muni ever did, and likely to take its place among the cinema’s great historic portraits,” the Guardian wrote at the time.
“Pesci gives a masterful performance as a crudely fearless, paranoid runt who’s constantly in need of demonstrating his own power,” Entertainment Weekly wrote at the time. “And Scorsese is better than any director alive at bringing out the casual unreasonableness of those who live by violence. As Pesci beats […] a perfectly innocent restaurant owner, the moment escalates into brutal, slapstick horror.”
“Julia Roberts marches through ‘Erin Brockovich’ like a force of nature,” The Hollywood Reporter wrote. “The actress seizes the film’s eponymous role with fire-in-her-eyes possessiveness and injects the character with all the energy and drive she can muster. Her performance is a true star turn.”
“Jamie Foxx suggests the complexities of Ray Charles in a great, exuberant performance,” Roger Ebert wrote. “What Foxx gets just right is the physical Ray Charles, and what an extrovert he was.”
“Cate Blanchett has the task of playing Katharine Hepburn, who was herself so close to caricature that to play her accurately involves some risk,” Roger Ebert wrote. “Blanchett succeeds in a performance that is delightful and yet touching; mannered and tomboyish, delighting in saying exactly what she means, she shrewdly sizes up Hughes and is quick to be concerned about his eccentricities.”
“Witherspoon delivers a knockout performance as a woman who must temper her passion with an unwillingness to witness her man’s self-destruction,” The Hollywood Reporter wrote.
“How heavy that crown and how very lightly Helen Mirren wears it as queen,” The New York Times wrote. “She delivers a performance remarkable in its art and lack of sentimentalism. Actors need to be loved, but one of Ms. Mirren’s strengths has always been her supreme self-confidence that we will love the performance no matter how unsympathetic the character.”
“He is played here by Sean Penn with the kind of ferocious virility and detailed concentration that only Penn can bring to a role,” the Guardian wrote about the actor. “You can almost feel the energy with which this actor reproduces learned camp mannerisms — yet miniaturises them, clamps them down, brings them just below the stereotype level.”
“Mr. Redmayne’s performance — from the gnarled, paralyzed fingers to the mischievous spark that lights an otherwise frozen face as he savors a joke or a bon mot — is spot on,” The New York Times wrote.
“Firth doesn’t just make a British king vulnerable and insecure, he shows the fierce courage and stamina beneath the insecurities that will see him through his kingship,” The Hollywood Reporter wrote. “It’s not just marvelous acting, it’s an actor who understands the flesh-and-blood reality of the moment and not its history. It’s an actor who admires his character not in spite of his flaws but because of them.”
“Margaret is played with cunning and gusto by Meryl Streep, and it is a pious critical convention to praise performances like these on the grounds that they go beyond mere impersonation,” the Guardian wrote.
“It’s a performance that is subtle. It’s not the Lincoln you expect. It’s a different interpretation of Lincoln than we have seen and we feel, wow! This could be the way Lincoln was,” Deadline wrote about the movie.
“There’s something uncanny, even brilliant, about Michael Douglas’s impersonation of Liberace in Steven Soderbergh’s biographical film ‘Behind the Candelabra,'” The New York Times wrote.
“Sarah [Paulson] just gets under her skin so much. And you feel such empathy for her. It’s an extraordinary performance,” Vanity Fair wrote. “Paulson was likely able to get under Clark’s skin so easily because, like most actresses, she’s experienced her fair share of sexism in her industry.”
“Mr. Criss is impressive and haunting as the mediocre con man and murderer, but ‘Assassination’ is never quite sure what to make of its central figure, his narcissism or, perhaps, his sociopathy,” The New York Times wrote about the show.
“Put Rami Malek high on the list for best film performances of 2018. As Freddie Mercury … the ‘Mr. Robot’ star performs miracles, catching the look, strut, and soul of Mercury, who died of complications from AIDS in 1991,” Rolling Stone wrote.
“‘Judy’ is just such a sturdy, dependable vehicle which, in this case, carries the precious cargo of Renée Zellweger in a dazzling portrayal of Judy Garland at the end of her life,” The Washington Post wrote. “Tough, vulnerable, resilient and wrecked, Zellweger’s Garland both leans into the myth … and slyly subverts it, with moments of self-aware humor.”
In her first major acting role outside of being a musician, Andra Day brought the icon back to life, according to critics.
“Admirers of Day’s interpretative skills as a recording artist won’t be surprised to learn she’s a born actress who can catch every gradation of Holiday’s fragility and strength,” Peter Travers at Good Morning America wrote. “You won’t be able to forget her voice or take your eyes off her.”
Day was also nominated for an Academy Award for this role.
“In ‘Judas and the Black Messiah,’ Daniel Kaluuya gives an electrifying performance that raises the hairs on the back of your neck,” Odie Henderson at Roger Ebert wrote. “As Fred Hampton, the murdered chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party, Kaluuya is riveting as he prowls the stage inspiring his audiences. His speeches burn with intensity and conviction.”
“Colman plays Elizabeth with a dignified embarrassment, forcing smiles through her obvious disappointment,” Shirley Li at The Atlantic wrote in 2020.
“Anderson plays Thatcher with such close attention to her mode of being that it’s like seeing the corpse of the baddie reanimated, long after the movie finished,” Zoe Williams at The Guardian wrote in 2020. “It’s unheimlich, a bit scary. That mode of being, furthermore, is so idiosyncratic, the voice unlike any other, the predatory stealth of her gait and frankness of her gaze, that you’re constantly testing the mirage against your memory, thinking, ‘can she really have been like that?'”