#Movies & TV
15 Celebrities Who Have Played Their Idols On-Screen
by Jennifer Lafferty
Actors gravitate toward challenging roles, and sometimes the most challenging characters are their own idols. There’s a lot of pressure involved for celebrities portraying a real person especially if it’s someone they personally admire, but if successful it could be the highlight of a career. Here are 15 actors who have played their idols on-screen.
One of Gwyneth Paltrow’s biggest sources of inspiration growing up was the work of acclaimed but tragic poet/novelist Sylvia Plath. Paltrow got to portray her idol in the 2003 biopic Sylvia costarring Daniel Craig. Paltrow’s own mother, Blythe Danner, played Plath’s mother, Aurelia.
The iconic Marilyn Monroe remains a popular idol for young actresses. Michelle Williams, who grew up with pictures of the late sex symbol on her walls, was no exception. Williams impressed audiences with her portrayal of Monroe in the 2011 biopic My Week with Marilyn.
Dynamic actor Joaquin Phoenix wowed moviegoers with his Oscar-nominated portrayal of his idol, country music legend Johnny Cash, in the 2005 biopic Walk the Line, costarring Reese Witherspoon as his wife, June Carter Cash.
Jennifer Love Hewitt
The 2000 TV movie The Audrey Hepburn Story, produced by and starring Jennifer Love Hewitt as her idol, received mixed reviews. Maybe the lesson here is, be careful what you wish for.
Although he ultimately portrayed the idolized Muhammad Ali in the biopic Ali, Will Smith refused the part for years. He explained, “I absolutely, positively did not want to be the dude that messed up the Muhammad Ali story.”
Kevin Spacey may not have been an obvious choice to play 1960s singer and teen heartthrob Bobby Darin, but the biopic Beyond the Sea was a passion project for the actor, and he delivered a critically acclaimed performance.
Along with movie fans everywhere, Nicole Kidman greatly admired actress-turned-princess Grace Kelly. Kidman seemed perfectly cast as Kelly in the biopic Grace of Monaco, but Monaco’s royal family disapproved of the project due to alleged inaccuracies.
When Jennifer Lopez played the title role in Selena, it wasn’t just an opportunity to pay tribute to one of her idols, singer Selena Quintanilla-Pérez; it turned out to be her big break in feature films.
Actress Salma Hayek wasn’t always a fan of celebrated Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, but she eventually came to appreciate Kahlo’s work enough to spend eight years making the biopic Frida starring Hayek in the title role.
The popular TV movie Introducing Dorothy Dandridge was both a chance for Halle Berry to spotlight this trailblazing African-American actress and an important vehicle for Berry, who was able to show her aptitude for drama.
To this day, Angela Bassett is probably best known for her compelling portrayal of her idol, rock music legend Tina Turner, in the 1993 hit film What’s Love Got to Do with It.
Most actors dream of playing their idol, but David Oyelowo, who played Dr. Martin Luther King in Selma, says he got a message from God. Oyelowo reacted by immersing himself in books and documentaries about King. Considering his impressive performance, the preparation must have been worth the effort.
Anne Hathaway was a big fan of Jane Austen novels when she was growing up, and she portrayed the author herself in the biopic Becoming Jane, which was both reminiscent of Austen’s novels and accessible to contemporary audiences.
Known more for his music than his acting, Marc Anthony was excited about portraying his idol, salsa music pioneer Hector Lavoe, in the 2006 movie El Cantante, costarring Anthony’s then-wife Jennifer Lopez.
Not surprisingly, actress Katie Holmes has a lot of admiration for the beloved Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Holmes played the First Lady in more than one project: the TV miniseries The Kennedys and The Kennedys after Camelot.