Who Should Play The Lead Role In These 25 Biopics?

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    Get this: Aubrey Drake Graham, better known by his mononym Drake, wants to play the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama.

    “I hope somebody makes a movie about Obama’s life soon because I could play him,” Drake said in a recent interview with Paper magazine. “I watch all the addresses. Anytime I see him on TV, I don’t change the channel, I definitely pay attention and listen to the inflections of his voice. If you ask anyone who knows me, I’m pretty good at impressions. Slowly but surely, I’m not in the study mode because nobody’s called me about anything, but I just pay attention so when the day comes I’m not scrambling to learn how to speak like him.”

    The state of the world is changing and several men and women of color have done a lot to alter the landscape of pop culture. But with a few of figures in cinema, stage or music, it’s interesting that there is a legion of lookalikes in LaLa land. For those who have made a lasting impression in their art, influencing thousands with their style and raw talent, wouldn’t it be cool to see their lookalikes play them in a big-budget movie? We thought so too. Whether we hate them, or love them, here are the people we’d love to see captured on film by some of our favorite (and not-so favorite) actors.

    1.

    Richard Pryor – played by Marlon Wayans

    Marlon Wayans has been cast in the role of one of the most influential comedians of all-time, the ever relevant Richard Pryor. Known as “The Picasso of Comedy,” Pryor was known for his obdurate inspection of racism mixed with graphic language is exactly what Wayans needs, especially after shocking audiencesw ith a magnificent delivery in Requiem for a Dream. Let’s only hope we’ll see him accepting the Academy Award for Best Male.

    2.

    John Coltrane – played by Donald Glover

    After launching a self-campaign to star in the 2010 reboot of the Marvel Comics emblem Spider-Man, the unthinkable happened: Donald Glover got positive feedback. People were thrilled at the concept of having an African-American Peter Parker. While the NYU grad did not land the coveted role, we’re nominating him for an Oscar-worthy role as jazz luminary John Coltrane. The saxophonist bandleader who struggled with drugs and other ailments (as most geniuses) has not gotten the green light and who better to play him than a comedian? After all no one knows pain more than a comedian, right? While most would nominate Nate Parker, who may resemble the star in some aspects, Glover who is also an instrumentalist would give the icon an air of charm.

    3.

    Miles Davis – played by Wesley Snipes

    So Snipes was sentenced 36 months in prison for tax problems. But, can’t we see an effort behind bars? If rap artists can make records behind bars, why can’t actors? It’s simple: Get a big production superpower company and mock up a few scenes of the biopic in a stoneyard! It’s brilliant… or if a studio decided to wait 36 months on the critically-acclaimed actor to play the megastar multi-instrumentalist trumpeter Davis, that wouldn’t be too shabby either.

    4.

    Oprah Winfrey – played by Viola Davis

    There are icons that have gone above and beyond the brightest stars and became a hypergiant, but the struggle for some has been no crystal stair, but in fact, a hell on wheels rollercoaster. Known by her mononym, Oprah is the most influential talk show host in history. In fact, the syndicated Harpo mogul has topped Forbes most powerful list and has been noted by Time.com and CNN as “the most powerful woman in the world.” Vanity Fair even noted she is so influential that she’s only second to the Pope in followers.  If you need someone to play powerful and sophisticated with serious bravissimo acting techniques, well who better than her doppelgänger, two-time Tony Award winner Viola Davis? The Oscar-nominated star would tell a visceral tale and give an air of humanity to the superwoman façade of the confession culture queen.

    5.

    Rush Limbaugh – played by Mel Gibson

    How apropos! This role could get Gibson on track to Oscar gold, while winning support from insensitive, racially-nescient ultra-conservative fans and getting press coverage of weekly protests at several cinemas from au courant chest-beating liberals. With constant claims of racism (he referred to Latinos as “wetbacks,” and blacks as “niggers”), pro-colonialism (Apocalypto), anti-Semitism (The Passion of the Christ), Homophobia (his interview with Spanish newspaper El País), misogyny (the Oksana Grigorieva tapes) and xenophobia (Braveheart), Gibson is a sugar pill for the tabloid junkie and a pin cushion for liberal political pundits. Sound familiar? With a little makeup, this aficionado of cigar culture—who battled with alcoholism—is a shoe-in for the part.

    6.

    Sam Cooke – played by Anthony Mackie

    So, it’s settled: Anthony Mackie is a successful working actor with an outstanding craft to hone his skills in the right direction. He even charmed the pants off of critics for his charismatic performances as the king of Thug Life, Tupac Shakur. But we see gold, if he were to play the riveting role of Civil Rights soulman Sam Cooke. Cooke’s murder and conspiracies afterward have become one of the most iconic pop culture conspiracy theories ranking with the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Muhammad Ali’s phantom punch and George W. Bush’s 2000 election. It’s bound to be great storytelling at its finest.

    7.

    Lena Horne – played by Paula Patton

    Lena Horne, celebrated for bridging the gap in bringing a presence to the growing power in African-American artists in cinema, as well as being an emblem of the Civil Rights era, a film was supposed to made. In fact, dance-pop queen Janet Jackson was scheduled to portray her. Then, Alicia Keys, but the project has since been in development hell. Why not get an experienced actress that looks like the celebrated jazz singer. After all, Tony-winner Leslie Uggams portrayed an older Lena alongside Nikki Crawford as a young Lena in the stage musical adaptation of Stormy Weather, not long ago. Patton would bring heart to the role and with a quick study of the Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music, Patton may make a star turn a la Angela Bassett in What’s Love Got To Do With It.

    8.

    Ethel Waters – played by Jill Scott

    Ethel Waters was a phenomenal five-star tour de force singer with bell tower pipes and an old soul that could make one sit in a dark corner and cry into a pillow within moments of the first note. Her epic rendition of “Stormy Weather” was placed in the Grammy Hall of Fame and the Library of Congress. Her performance in Cabin in the Sky was also a huge victory at time, as she was nominated for the prize. Jill Scott, known for her airlifting, motto vibrato soprano and her big-time actor chops is perfect for the role, not just in appearance but her enviable depth. Note her standout performance in Why Did I Get Married: her bloodcurdling cry after discovering her philandering husband was cheating on her with a close friend… epic.

    9.

    Debbie Harry – played by Charlize Theron

    Okay, this may seem like a wild card, but one has got to admit that Theron has got moxie. The Oscar-triumphant Afrikaan chameleon has played sexually-harassed class action icon and a grotesque street-walking serial temptress with ease and to play the queen of new wave punk, Blondie’s Debbie Harry would be fantastico. She’s got spunk, flair, fashion, and a back story that will give you goosebumps. Theron, a cineaste by trade, would have critics and audiences drawn to the role like a moth to the flame.

    10. & 11.

    Richard “Cheech” Marin & Tommy Chong – played by Michael Peña & Javier Bardem

    Think about it. Where would films The Big Lebowski, Friday and Pineapple Express be without Nice Dreams and Still Smokin’? Hip-hop also has the lovable droogs to blame for tours like Up In Smoke that featured artists Dr. Dre, Eminem, Ice Cube and Snoop Dogg. Bardem, a stellar thespian who has also taken home the Oscar, would work as a young Chong on merit alone, while Peña who is a skinnier carbon copy of Cheech, would surprise critics with his diehard honesty and laugh-out-loud comedic timing.

    12.

    Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell – played by Chiwetel Ejiofor & Taraji P. Henson

    Wouldn’t this pairing be terrific: Briton Chiwetel Ejiofor as the changling Prince of Motown and Jersey City girl Taraji P. Henson as the dynamic doo-wop princess? It’s a match made in heaven, and we’ve only got one question: why aren’t studios getting the hint?

    13.

    Smokey Robinson – played by Terrence Howard

    Motown megalith and quiet storm pantheon Smokey Robinson knew a thing or two about struggle and if you listen to the Motown 60s-heyday, you can tell. The Hustle & Flow leading man can cry on cue (and we’re sure to see plenty of those in this film), and isn’t too far off from the Hitsville U.S.A. legend when it comes to appearances.

    14.

    George Clinton – played by Nelsan Ellis

    Known to True Blood fans as the part-time road crew, part-time short order cooking pusher and gay prostitute Lafayette Reynolds, Nelsan Ellis is known to be one of the most offbeat actors in Hollywood. Before his vampire days, Ellis was a critically acclaimed actor who has played militant brother man in The Express and shared the spotlight among stars Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx in The Soloist. Imagine if he were to be draped in space-age polyester bodysuits, drenched in Technicolor disco wig factory extensions, and smoked enough Buddha grass to land a tin foil mother ship on the Houston, Texas Summit. The Julliard grad would kill the role of the Godfather of Funk, and we would be standing outside of the red carpet on Oscar night with protest signs if he doesn’t get the gold.

    15.

    Minnie Riperton – played by Maya Rudolph

    The expression “Life imitates art” wouldn’t quite cover the term. While, it would be amazing to see a young Esperanza Spalding (arguably this generation’s Minnie Riperton), Jill Scott and Deniece Williams (as both can sing whistle register), her daughter Maya Rudolph is one we’d ask casting agents to phone. Rudolph’s dynamic comedic timing, sensuality and honesty would be the selling point for this film. Portraying the mother that she lost at such a young age, and her rendition of her mother’s signature song “Lovin’ You” on the album’s soundtrack list would be loving and might even win the SNL fave a Grammy.

    16.

    Groucho Marx – played by Adrien Brody

    Adrien Brody has come along way from his Summer of Sam days. With star turns in Love The Hard Way and Dummy, the Queens kid blew up with his thought-provoking performances as Holocaust survivor Władysław Szpilman in The Pianist, getting just about every accolades possible. Why not up the ante with quirky comedy legend Groucho Marx. How can he start? Put on an exaggerated stooped posture, put on a pair of circular glasses, slap a cigar in his mouth, and design a thick greasepaint moustache on his mug with matching eyebrows.

    17.

    LL Cool J – played by Columbus Short

    So, is it too soon to make a film about one of the greatest hip-hop stars of all-time? We say not so. Stomp The Yard standout Columbus Short would slaughter the role of hip-hop icon LL Cool J. Why? Well, other than his beefcake physique, Short is a sophisticated hip-hop choreographer and award-winning actor with the swagger to bust a rhyme and swoon the ladies.

    18.

    Donna Summer – played by Anika Noni Rose

    Tony-Award winner Anika Noni Rose dazzled her way to the top, glimmering upward as Disney’s first black princess and bewitching us all as Lorrell Robinson in the crowning achievement Dreamgirls. Imagine her as the queen of disco! Having gotten a glimpse of the sassy powerhouse in bellbottoms and platform heels, we’d love to see her take the mantle as one of music’s most beloved pop goddesses. Why’d we watch it? Plot: A record-breaking disco queen amongst the dingy denizens of Studio 54 nightlife repents and becomes a gospel artist. Imagine the soundtrack.

    19.

    Ruby Dee – played by Zoë Saldaña

    Ruby Dee, one of the poster children of the 50s black cinema renaissance movement, has been the face of change of what Hollywood has come to expect of an ingénue and a loving mother, taking on callus roles and battling through it. Saldaña, who is one of the leading women in Hollywood has faced prejudice and sexism, has a lot of fight in her… some even say, too much. Saldaña, given the role would not only show Hollywood the example of the “strong, black, powerful Nubian queen” shtick, but also show how Dee became the pre-Civil Rights starlet we now adore and the struggle it took to be taken seriously because of her race and sex.

    20.

    Josephine Baker – played by Kerry Washington

    This one is a toss-up, but either Sanaa Lathan (a courage actress) or Beyoncé (an amazing performer) would be spectacular choices to pick out of a hat, if a tinsel town fat cat decided to run with a well-written script about the life and times of the Bronze Venus. However, when it comes to modus operandi, subtext and of course, beauty… who else better than Kerri Washington. Known to play outrageous roles as a sultry man-eater, transwoman or the youngest wife of a polygamous bloodthirsty dictator, Washington would do well as the bon vivant Black Pearl… While some may argue that she won’t grab gold for it, she’d land on that list of highest paid actresses and the studio would have a sleeper hit on their hands.

    21.

    Martha Reeves of Martha & The Vandellas – played by Aunjanue Ellis

    Beautiful, refined, talented and yes… out-of-the-box, Aunjanue Ellis is known for her heavily-sophisticated roles in films Ray, The Express and In Too Deep. Having played Zora Neale Hurston in Brother To Brother, singing her little heart out, we’re sure she can play the role of Motown belter Martha Reeves. With a youthful look and an old soul, it won’t hurt her to turn in a box-office star-turn. In addition, Martha and the girls ended on a different note than their more-successful studio sisters The Supremes, and the journey the audience would take with them would be enlightening.

    22.

    B.B. King – played by Blu Mankuma

    Known to many as a supporting actor, Mankuma displays a spellbinding sensitivity to his scene partners, something that is not so bad. With an extensive resume as a voice actor, film and TV star, he’s experienced enough to handle a meaty role. Watch his work with fellow biopic nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor in 2012. No doubt , he will be a great person to cast in role of blues guitarist B.B. King. The Canadian actor may even give Jeff Bridges and Robert Duvall a run for their money for best guitarist in a motion picture.

    23.

    Alvin Alley – played by Brian J. White

    Attractive, a hard-boiled actor, a talented mover-and-shaker and an excellent source for role model material, its time for Brian J. White to get gritty. If asked to play one of the most innovative dancers in history (and obviously one of the most important by far), he should take the role, no questions asked. Sure, he already played gay but has he been nominated for an Oscar?

    24.

    Sammy Davis Jr. – played by Elijah Kelley

    Get ready to make Elijah Kelley a household name because he’s staring in the ultimate football ensemble film Reds this fall and then he’s portraying legendary Rat Pack song-and-dance man Sammy Davis Jr. The film will focus on the younger Davis, Jr., struggling with many racial issues and epithets, including his relationship with white actress Kim Novak and of course, his prime alongside The Rat Pack.

    25.

    Angela Davis – played by Vivica Fox

    Who has more sass, more fire, and who has a sharper wit than Vivica Fox on a set? …We’re still waiting. The Angela Davis project is way over due, and Fox just keeps getting better.

    Other stars we’d love to see get the greenlight:

    1.

    Big Mama Thornton – played by Gabourey Sidibe

    She may not have gotten Oscar gold for her work in Precious: Based On The Novel “Push” By Sapphire, but she’d kill in the role of the woman that gave Elvis his signature hit.

    2.

    Andy Warhol – played by Johnny Depp

    The thespian with a kink for playing quacked, ultramodern eccentrics would blow the cap off of his portrayal of pop art bohemian bellweather Any Warhol.

    3.

    Shirley Chisholm – played by Angela Bassett

    A history maker played by a history maker: the initial major-party African-American aspirant for President of the United States and the first woman to run for the Democratic presidential nomination gets played by the first African-American to win the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. The result, a year of accolades.

    4.

    Tallulah Bankhead – played by Fran Drescher

    It’s perfect. Both women are funny, charming and have smoldering sex appeal (voice withstanding).

    5.

    Mary Wells – played by Gabrielle Union

    The Queen of Motown gets played by the queen bee of black inner-city youth cheer teams! But seriously, have you seen someone more adept at taking on the role?

    6. & 7.

    Akira Kurosawa & Toshirō Mifune – played by B.D. Wong & John Cho

    It’s a shot in the dark, but both men have a name and while the resemblance maybe a tad bit… “off”… the performances will be stellar, the action sequences would be dynamic and Cho would be in the best shape of life!

    8.

    Harry Belafonte – played by Daniel Sunjata

    Belafonte was a beefcake in his prime and with Sunjata taking up the mantle and playing a role that ultimately dictates how people unfamiliar with Belafonte’s work, would be a synch! Not only does Sunjata got the look, he’s got the passion.

    9.

    David Bowie – played by Cillian Murphy

    Honestly, we’re more concerned with whom we will see play Iman than her “Thin White Duke” hubby. If there was a person that could honestly play the extraterrestrial glam rock space invader, the carnivorous scene stealing Murphy should be on speed dial.

    10.

    Desmond Tutu – played by Don Chedle

    It would be a meeting of the minds from one humanitarian to another, as Chedle would share with the world not only Tutu’s struggles as the anti-apartheid Most Reverend, but his experiences in understanding the method behind the madness.

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