The biographical picture or ‘Biopic’ has been dominating box offices and awards season for the last number of years. But when do we say enough is enough?
This awards season alone we’ve had Baz Lurhmann’s mega movie Elvis, which is on track to making close to $290 million at the box office, as well as I Wanna Dance With Somebody, the biopic depicting Whitney Heuston’s rise to fame.
Questions can be raised about how ethical it is to recreate a character on screen who has passed away so recently like Heuston, who lives so vividly and recently in all our memories. Some even question why biopics like Rocketman are made when their subjects are still alive. (Trust me, Elton John is still very much alive and kicking, and put on a cracker show in Pairc Uí Chaoimh last summer).
But I have enough of the biopic. Last season alone, both Leading Actor and Actress at the Oscars were awarded to biopics. Will Smith infamously won after that slap for his portrayal of Richard Williams in King Richard, the true story of the man behind tennis prodigies Venus and Serena. Jessica Chastain took home the Leading Actress award for her performance as the very American, all singing all holy televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker in The Eyes of Tammy Faye. Both Oscars were very much deserved, but you have to wonder were voters swaying because of their performances, or their likeliness to the character they’re playing.
The biopic has become a staple in awards season. From Bohemian Rhapsody taking home four Oscars including Leading Actor, to Jamie Foxx getting his Oscar for playing jazz musician Ray Charles, it’s almost a given that an actor will get critical acclaim for a biopic. But I really have to question how much this is affecting original screenplays.
Are they overshadowing work by new talent? The best example I can give is the will they won’t they Madonna biopic. After years of rumours, it was announced Inventing Anna actress Julia Garner would be taking on the role. The rumoured cast dominated Film Twitter for months, but the biopic has since been scrapped as Madonna focuses on her world tour. I can’t help but think there are so many films that need public support, rather than the same one dominating.
There are too many biopics in the works to mention, but some on the horizon include Bradley Cooper as composer Leonard Bernstein (Oscar bate if there ever was one), a Priscilla Presley biopic directed by Sofia Coppola and starring Euphoria’s Jacob Elordi as the King of rock ‘n’ roll, the second time he’s been brought to the big screen in as many years. Tom Holland has even been rumoured to be swapping his spider suit for tap shoes and taking on the role of Fred Astaire.
In a market so saturated you’re almost drowning, can Hollywood not see that audiences need a break? In awards season where bookies’ favourite is an original concept starring minority actors, surely it’s time they take a leaf out of Everything Everywhere All at Once’s book and focus on telling new stories rather than rehashing what we already know.