Oscar voters have shown from the beginning that they love actors who portray historic people. Perhaps it’s because they can make easy comparisons. Or, more likely, it’s because they are often heroic figures. Tour our photo gallery of every single woman who has won the Best Actress category at the Academy Awards for playing a true life character.
The very first woman to win the illustrious prize for stepping into a real person’s shoes was Luise Rainer, who portrayed entertainer Anna Held in the biopic “The Great Ziegfeld” (1936). Rainer, who died in 2014 at the age of 104, was the first performer to win back-to-back Oscars for acting, taking this prize the very next year for “The Good Earth.”
Since then, actresses as varied as Olivia Colman (“The Favourite” in 2018), Meryl Streep (“The Iron Lady” in 2011), Sandra Bullock (“The Blind Side” in 2009), Marion Cotillard (“La vie en Rose” in 2007), Helen Mirren (“The Queen” in 2006), Reese Witherspoon (“Walk the Line” in 2005), Charlize Theron (“Monster” in 2003), and Nicole Kidman (“The Hours” in 2002) have all triumphed for effortlessly disappearing into the role of a recognizable figure.
Renee Zellweger was the latest actress to mine Oscar gold for playing a real life person with “Judy,” a biographical drama about the last days in the life of legendary performer Judy Garland. The role brought her a second Academy Award sixteen years after her first for “Cold Mountain” (Best Supporting Actress in 2003).
Tour our photo gallery of every woman who won Best Actress for playing a real life person.