It’s no secret to Oscar-watchers that playing a real-life character is a major advantage in the awards derby. For example, 10 of the last 20 Best Actor champs, including the last three in a row, won for portraying a real-life person. But are actors who take on biographical roles really more worthy?
Our forum poster WildforFilm wonders, “Even this year, many predictions are favoring those performances that are depicting real people (i.e. Michael Fassbender as Steve Jobs). While many of these are great performances, does anyone else think it’s kind of unfair when recognizing these performances? Think about it, these actors have source material to base their performances from and are able to spend time studying their character. Actors playing an original character have nothing to go off of other than the script and are responsible for creating that performance on their own.”
What do you think? Read more of our forum posters’ comments below, and click here to join the debate. And make sure to predict whether Fassbender will be the fourth man in a row to win Best Actor for playing a real person.
FilmGuy619: I usually prefer when they award original performances because these days, when an actor is awarded for playing a real person, they tend to reward those that use the roles as shortcuts to the podium (Eddie Redmayne in “Theory of Everything,” Meryl Streep in “The Iron Lady,” Geoffrey Rush in “Shine,” Daniel Day-Lewis in “Lincoln,” etc.). In other words, those that get the impersonation right and then call it a day. But when the actor gives a more fully-realized performance, like Day-Lewis in “My Left Foot,” Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Capote,” and even Michael Fassbender in “Steve Jobs,” then I don’t mind.
Eddy Q: I don’t think performances of original characters are necessarily more awards-worthy than those of real people or vice versa, but I agree that it’s frustrating if a biopic wins an acting Oscar seemingly by default. It goes without saying really that there are times when I would vote for the biographical performance and times when I wouldn’t.
Babypook: I generally feel for actors attempting biopics. They can’t win (except for Oscar….). If they’re too spot-on, with the mannerisms and voice, they’re just freaking “mimics.” If they’re off, don’t look similar or sound the same, then they suck. Biopics are tricky as well, since it’s subject to comparison and (someone’s version) of history.
Atypical: I don’t think there is necessarily a bias over biopic characters vs. original characters with the Oscars. We just have to accept the academy’s tastes as a whole, which tend to shift toward the prestige in established mimicry roles over original characterizations.
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Michael Fassbender Photo Credit: Universal Pictures
Eddie Redmayne Photo Credit: The Moviestore Collection Ltd/REX