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Top 10 Biopic Performances We Nearly Got

VO: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Michael Wynands

Well… any of these certainly would’ve made for an interesting film. For this list, we’ll be looking at our pick for actors and actresses who came close to playing iconic individuals in biopics. These can include roles that ultimately went to someone else, as well as films that stalled before production or never saw the light of day. Our list includes Eddie Murphy as Malcolm X, Keira Knightley as Coco Chanel, Tom Hardy as Elton John, and more! Join WatchMojo as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Biopic Performances We Nearly Got.


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Script written by Michael Wynands

Top 10 Biopic Performances We Nearly Got

Well… any of these certainly would’ve made for an interesting film. Welcome to, and today we’ll be counting down or picks for the Top 10 Biopic Performances We Nearly Got.

For this list, we’ll be looking at our pick for actors and actresses who came close to playing iconic individuals in biopics. These can include roles that ultimately went to someone else, as well as films that stalled before production or never saw the light of day.

#10: Eddie Murphy

Malcolm X
When you think of this hugely influential civil rights leader, passion and gravitas are probably the first attributes that come to mind. Those are not exactly descriptors associated with Eddie Murphy or his filmography, but once upon a time he came very close to donning those iconic glasses. Murphy’s name was attached to a version of the film scripted by screenwriter and filmmaker David Mamet. Ultimately, this version of the biopic was not to be and Denzel Washington claimed the role, with Spike Lee in the director’s chair. Considering Washington would go on to be nominated for Best Actor at the Oscars, it’s hard not to imagine how the role might have affected Murphy’s legacy.

#9: Danielle Camastra

You probably don’t know this actress and producer by name, but had things played out a little differently during the casting of 1997’s Selena, you likely would have. Just 17 years old at the time, Camastra was one of 26,000 actresses vying to play the famed Queen of Tejano music. Despite the odds and her relative inexperience, Camastra landed among the top 7 finalists. She was in fact the favorite of the late singer’s father, Abraham Quintanilla. In the end, it reportedly got down to her and Jennifer Lopez - the latter claiming the role. Still… we can’t help but wonder how the film would have turned out with an unknown lead.

#8: Keira Knightley

Coco Chanel
Keira Knightley is no stranger to period pieces. From “Pirates of the Caribbean” to “Pride and Prejudice”, she’s proven that she can shine in any era and any character type. Add to that the fact she’s one of the faces of Chanel and you have an obvious casting choice. As Glamour Magazine reports, Knightley was offered the role of the brand’s namesake and founder for the 2009 biopic, but the part ultimately went to actress Audrey Tautou, who turned in a fine performance in an otherwise rather forgettable film. However, Knightley did get to try on the role herself a few years later, albeit briefly, in Karl Lagerfeld’s short film “Once Upon a Time...”

#7: Mike Myers

Keith Moon
With iconic characters like Wayne Campbell and Austin Powers to his name, Mike Myers is a rockstar in the history of film comedy. As such, we would have loved to see his take on Keith Moon, one of rock n’ roll’s most legendary drummers. The rhythm behind “The Who”, Moon was a whirlwind of energy onstage, but the chaos followed him offstage as well. In the mid-2000s, it was announced that Myers would bring the late drummer to life in a film titled “See Me Feel Me (Keith Moon Naked For Pleasure)”. A collaborative effort between Myers and surviving bandmate Roger Daltrey, it likely would have been a one-of-a-kind biopic had it ever materialized.

#6: Whitney Houston

Tina Turner
For the record, we couldn’t be happier with Angela Bassett’s performance as Tina Turner in 1993’s “What's Love Got to Do With It”. She was nominated for an Oscar and won a Golden Globe - both well deserved. With that being said, we’d be curious to see what an alternate reality version of this film would look like had Whitney Houston accepted the role. She was considered for the part alongside Halle Berry and Janet Jackson, among others, but was then actually offered the role. Ultimately her pregnancy made it impossible, but seeing one iconic singer play the other would have made for quite the cinematic and musical treat.

#5: Tom Hanks

Dean Martin
Tom Hanks and Dean Martin are two of the most cherished names in American entertainment. As such, it seems only fitting that one would play the other in a biopic. In recent decades, Hanks has become something of a cinematic historian, doing his part to recreate major moments in history (Apollo 13) and immortalizing famous figures in film (mr rogers). Dean Martin was a legend of music and comedy, a rat pack member and a perfect candidate for a Hanks-led biopic - especially with Martin Scorsese in the director’s chair. In the end however, Scorsese says Martin’s life was just too hard to summarize into a concise film. Sigh.

#4: John Belushi

Fatty Arbuckle
Two comedy legends… both taken before their time. Making a movie about this silent era comedic actor seems almost cursed; all those who express interest in bringing Arbuckle to life inevitably meet an early fate, just as he did. Though John Candy and Chris Farley both reportedly entertained similar hopes, John Belushi’s “Fatty” Arbuckle film is the one we really wish we’d seen. Belushi had a certain edginess to him, which might have helped him handle the controversial dark period of Fatty Arbuckle’s career after he was accused and acquitted of rape and manslaughter. It would’ve been a tough role, but one that could have been a performance of a lifetime for Belushi.

#3: Jim Carrey

Howard Hughes
“Man on the Moon” might not have been for everyone, but then again neither were the comedic stylings of its subject, Andy Kaufman. Regardless, the film proves one thing beyond the shadow of a doubt… Carrey knows how to deliver in a biopic. So it’s a real shame that they keep escaping him. He first lost out on the role of Charlie Chaplin to Robert Downey Jr. for the 1992 film, “Chaplin”. He was later set to play Howard Hughes in a Christopher Nolan directed biopic about the famous aviator, but then Scorsese and diCaprio’s project got greenlit and theirs disappeared. We imagine Carrey’s performance would have been very different, though perhaps no less compelling.

#2: Tom Hardy

Elton John
Seriously… is this actor even capable of turning in a bad performance? From humble beginnings playing a minor role in “Black Hawk Down”, Hardy has built a rock solid resume overflowing with phenomenal performances. Say what you will about “Venom”, his erratic take on Eddie Brock and the symbiote is worth the price of admission. Whatever the role, he throws himself in head first and consistently delivers. All that to say, his take on Sir Elton John likely would have made for one truly unforgettable biopic. Hardy’s “Legend” co-star Taron Egerton has proven himself a more than capable leading man, but we’ll always be haunted by the Tom Hardy version of “Rocketman” that nearly was.

#1: Sacha Baron Cohen

Freddie Mercury
A Freddie Mercury biopic has long been in the works. And throughout much of that period of gestation, we were under the impression that it was Sacha Baron Cohen who’d be bringing the Queen singer to life. Sadly, creative differences over the direction of the film ultimately saw Cohen leave the project. He reportedly disagreed with the wishes of Queen bandmates that the film on them after Freddie’s death, and tone down depictions of Mercury’s partying. Rami Malek is an incredibly talented actor who seemingly shines in the role, but after so much anticipation for Cohen’s take on Mercury, we’ll always wonder.

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