The Dos and Dont’s Of Biographical Films Part II

Words by Benjamin Pinsent

A sub category of this point is Don’t make it about everything. It is easy to just follow the complete life of a person in a film and show the entire thing. An example of this is would be the 2010 Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, the story of Ian Dury’s rise to fame as well as his relationship with his girlfriend, wife and son. Already it seems to be a jam packed film, but throw in Baxter Dury’s coming of age story and loads of real life events you end up with a crowded mess that doesn’t shed much light on the inner workings of a talented cripple.

Do cast on ability to act like an historical figure. Looking like someone else is a bonus but if an actor cannot act like the said person the whole film falls apart. The reason why Walk the LineSex & Drugs & Rock & Roll and The Kings Speech work is down to the lead actor, Joaquin Phoenix, Andy Serkis and Colin Firth, all act and sound like Johnny Cash, Ian Dury and George VI, the fact that they look like them as well is considered secondary. Colin Firth does not even look like the King yet his performance makes him believable.

Don’t think you can make a bio-pic about anyone. Like any film, it must contain interesting things and characters. The made for TV movie, William and Kate (2011) was a film that most can learn from in how not to make a movie. Instead of the fairy tale romance that the media was pushing for upon the announcement o the engagement what actually arrived was a typical romance with the only the name of the lead characters setting it apart from all the others.

A better example of a good bio-pic was the 2002 Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. It was an intriguing notion a game show host claiming to work as a CIA hitman. It was well shot and acted but most of all it is interesting and follows all the dos and don’ts of making a bio-pic.

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