How Well Did These 10 SAG Nominees Transform Into the Real People They Played?

From Queen Elizabeth II to Joan Crawford, you won't believe how well these stars channeled these legendary people

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Margot Robbie in "I, Tonya" and the real Tonya Harding.
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In order to play the disgraced Olympic figure skater in I, Tonya, the Aussie actress did 5 months of figure skating, put on 15 lbs. of muscle, and used cheap hair dye and drugstore makeup in order to channel Harding from the early 1990s. "To me, the hair and the aesthetic, the way she put on makeup — it told the story beautifully,” Robbie told PEOPLE. “It was about embodying the life of someone who grew up the way she did.”

"Our makeup artist only used makeup that she bought really cheap from a strip mall, only makeup that Tonya could have worn. And the hair was dyed with only cheap hair dye, and she permed it time and time again. For me it wasn’t about replicating the looks, it was embodying the spirit of Tonya," she added.

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Neon; Steve Slocum/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Meanwhile, Janney struggled to find the inspiration to play Harding's abusive, intense mother, LaVona Golden, as the former waitress had disappeared off the grid and couldn't be interviewed for the film. “[Screenwriter Steven Rogers] tried everywhere, everywhere led to a dead end,” Janney recalled to EW. “Tonya wasn’t really interested in knowing where her mother was, or didn’t really care.” Janney studied Golden's appearance in the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary The Price of Gold before filming, and auditioned three birds in order to find one who could play Golden's beloved parakeet. (And yes, Golden did, in fact, wear that fur coat and pet bird in old interview footage.)

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Alex Bailey/Netflix; PA Images/Getty

Foy has a great deal of pressure when it comes to playing Queen Elizabeth II in Netflix's The Crown, as there are actual members of the royal household on the show's set at all times for authenticity's sake. "We have people on set who have worked for the royal house," Foy confessed to W Magazine. "We have an amazing manon set, Major David, who is incredibly vigilant about, 'That footman would never open that door;' 'the badges would never be on at that angle.' … Because we'd never get it right on our own."

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Becoming the former British prime minister for The Darkest Hour took 200 hours of makeup work, according to Deadline. “It’s a lot to wrap your arms around. Not only the physical, but he is arguably the greatest Brit who ever lived … a kind of iconic figure. It was daunting but once I started to find out who the man was, it was … well, I never enjoyed anything so much in my life … I couldn’t wait to get to work and be him,” Oldman said. The sinewy actor also told the outlet he “carried around half my body weight” in prosthetics to look more like the heavier Churchill.

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In true Dench fashion, the legendary actress credits her ability to portray Queen Victoria in Victoria & Abdul entirely to the elaborate costumes that she had to wear on set. “The whole business of getting ready and into that huge suit and then to the corsets and then to the dress and then having got your wig on and everything else, it conditions entirely the way you walk, the way you sit,” Dench told Entertainment Weekly about getting into character. “All you have to do then is just, you know, remember your lines and get on with it.”

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The funnyman was determined to find the humanity in Bobby Riggs' over-the-top obnoxious persona when he was cast in Battle of the Sexes. "I spent a lot of time with his coach Lornie Kuhle, who was really his best friend. For two or three months, we'd get together and play tennis and talk about him," Carell told GQ. "Obviously he was a showman, but he made a distinction between his gambling and the fact that he was a hustler. … He loved the action, and it wasn't really so much about the money as it was about the action. It was about the joy of the action itself."

Carell also told the magazine that he had always enjoyed watching Riggs play tennis growing up, as he could tell that his whole persona was always meant to be a jerk. "He didn't take himself very seriously," the actor revealed. "He didn't mind playing the clown, although I just don't think he was. He's been described as a buffoon, but he wasn't a buffoon. He was a really smart guy. He was an excellent promoter. That, to me, is the heart of him. He was somebody who wanted to generate interest."

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Kurt Iswarienko/FX; Reinhard-Archiv/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Crawford may primarily be associated with the monstrous mother in Mommie Dearest, but when Lange went to step into the legendary actress' shoes for Feud: Bette and Joan, she was influenced by Crawford's own difficult childhood. “When she was Joan Crawford, she was Joan Crawford and that was a creation. But, I think, as time went by, what became more and more evident was that she was always Lucille LeSueur,” Lange told PEOPLE. "She was always this poor, abused, wretched child from San Antonio that no one wanted."

Lange also said that she tried to imbue a sense of sadness into her performance, in order to capture Crawford's career frustrations at the time she decided to star in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. “She was a great beauty, but she really worked hard. I don’t know anybody that worked harder than Joan Crawford. To be Joan Crawford and to sustain this career and to create this kind of iconic mythology? There’s a lot to admire about her, especially when you think about what she had to overcome, where she came from.”

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Kurt Iswarienko/FX;ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images

Sarandon admitted that playing Crawford's rival, Bette Davis, was "terrifying" for her — especially when it came to mastering the actress' distinctive accent. To prepare, Sarandon worked with a dialogue coach and listened to Davis' interviews for three week straight. “All I did was wake up in the morning and start listening,” she told EW. “Go to work, come home, and do it again.”

Another big challenge was recreating the film's scenes for Feud. “The hardest thing was re-creating those scenes gesture to gesture,” said Sarandon, “and trying to get exactly the cadence of the voice to match.”

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Craig Blankenhorn/HBO; TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

Though De Niro never met with Madoff before production began on The Wizard of Lies, the Oscar winner did have a small recording of the con man's voice that he played on repeat as part of his preparation. "There's little on him but there was one thing that I played over and over again," he told Business Insider.

"My hair is similar to his. And as far as the baldness in the front, we looked at that very carefully and shaved the front of my scalp. … And doing it this way is a commitment because you then know there are things you can't do later in reshoots because the hair grows back. "

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Justina Mintz/A24; Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

In order to play the mysterious, confusing writer/director/producer/star of The Room in The Disaster Artist, Franco listened to the hours and hours of audio recordings that Wiseau had made of himself while driving around Los Angeles in the early 2000s. And in order to ensure that all of his Room dialogue matched Wiseau's exactly, he trained himself to hear the inflections as if they were a song, and rehearsed them before shooting in order to get the cadence of Wiseau's strange accent down perfectly.

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