VIDEO: Michael Fassbender as Steve Jobs vs. Ashton Kutcher as Steve Jobs – and 9 Other Instances of Dueling Biopic Roles
Fassbender and Kutcher's takes on Steve Jobs aren't the first instance of two actors playing the same historical figure
This month, audiences get to see Michael Fassbender’s performance as the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs. And while we can easily compare Fassbender in the role to what we remember of Jobs in interviews and addresses he gave while he was the public face of the technology company, it will be hard not to recall that other Steve Jobs biopic, 2013’s Jobs, which starred Ashton Kutcher in the title role.
Fassbender as Jobs:
Kutcher as Jobs:
It’s just the latest instance of dueling biopics, a curious phenomenon in which two different biographical movies about the same person are released relatively close to each other. Just this week, Fassbender himself joked about the faux competition, saying he prepared for his role by studying Kutcher.
Below, check out nine other instances of actors who portrayed the same real-life person – and set themselves up for comparisons as a result. Even without making a judgment about whose performance rings truer, it’s fascinating to see two different actors’ interpretations of the same role.
1. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Toby Jones as Truman Capote
In 2005, Hoffman starred as the famed author in Capote, which told the story of him writing the true crime classic In Cold Blood. Just a year later, Jones played the role in Infamous, which covered roughly the same period in Capote’s life. Hoffman ended up winning the Oscar for Best Actor for his performance, but Jones received accolades as well. While critics differed on which film better captured the subject’s essence, both were generally deemed successful. That’s win-win.
2. Catherine Keener and Sandra Bullock as Harper Lee
A byproduct of the dueling Truman Capote films was dueling takes on To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee, who’s famous in her own right yet also assisted Capote in researching the murders that inspired In Cold Blood. Bullock’s performance in Infamous was touted as a highlight. Keener, however earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
Sandra Bullock’s Changing Looks!
3. Toby Jones and Anthony Hopkins as Alfred Hitchcock
The 2012 HBO film The Girl aired just a month before Hitchcock hit theaters. The former follows the famed director as he masterminds The Birds and Marnie with Tippi Hedren (Sienna Miller), while the latter has Hitchcock making Psycho with Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johansson). In this case, the former may have been more successful (if more controversial in the way in portrayed the director as being abusive toward Hedren): Both Jones and Miller were nominated for Golden Globes for their roles, and Jones and Imelda Staunton (who played Hitchcock’s wife, Alma Reville) were nominated for Emmys.
Comparing a BBC film to a Lifetime original movie is like comparing apples to well, apple-scented bathroom spray. However, Lohan’s Liz & Dick aired just eight months before Bonham Carter’s similarly titled Burton & Taylor, and comparisons were made. Clearly, Bonham Carter came out on top in this face-off, winning multiple nominations for her performance, but you know what? Lohan’s performance makes for fun viewing, provided you can assemble the right crowd. And they bring drinks.
5. Kurt Russell and Kevin Costner as Wyatt Earp
First, Russell starred as the famed gunslinger in Tombstone, and then six months later to the day, Costner starred in Wyatt Earp. Critics ended up favoring Russell’s performance, and Tombstone ultimately pulled in twice the box office that Wyatt Earp did. Costner’s film, which he also directed, earned Razzie nominations for Worst Picture, Worst Director, Worst Actor and Worst Onscreen Couple (Costner and “any of this three wives”).
6. Beau Bridges and Anthony Hopkins as Richard Nixon
The USA original movie Kissinger and Nixon aired just 12 days before the Oliver Stone-directed Nixon hit theaters. And while Beau Bridges’ performance as Tricky Dick is fine, today Hopkins’ turn as the president is remembered as one of his best and one of the finest ever in a biopic. (This writer, however, has to recommend Dan Hedaya’s take on Nixon in 1999’s Dick, opposite Michelle Williams and Kirsten Dunst.)
7. Jared Leto and Billy Crudup as Steve Prefonatine
Of all the dueling biopics on this list, this pair is probably the most curious. Every other film tells the story of a figure well-known to most people. However, Olympic runner Steve Prefontaine isn’t exactly a household name. Nonetheless, Leto’s Prefontaine and Crudup’s Without Limits were released within two years of each other. They’re both solid and both alternate between inspiring and tragic as they tell the story of an athletic talent whose life was cut short, but in this case it’s the latter film that overall earned more critical praise than the former.
8. Jeanne Tripplehorn and Katie Holmes as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
Released two years apart, the HBO movie Grey Gardens and the Reelz miniseries The Kennedys document very different time periods in the life of the First Lady. In the former, Tripplehorn plays Jacqueline Onassis in a supporting role in the story of her cousin and aunt, the two Ediths Beale. In the latter, Holmes plays Jacqueline Kennedy in a more sizable role in an eight-episode miniseries about the extended Kennedy family. However, proving it’s not the size of the role but how you play it, Tripplehorn’s turn got her a nomination for an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie. In 2014, however, it was announced that Holmes would reprise the role in a sequel miniseries.
9. Charlotte Sullivan and Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe
Both The Kennedys and My Week With Marilyn came out in 2011. Williams, of course, was the bigger-name star, and her performance earned her both a Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination. However, only Sullivan’s performance as Monroe in The Kennedys will elicit the response “Whoa, is that the mean girl from Harriet the Spy?!” It is, in fact. They grow up so fast – and then play Marilyn Monroe, apparently.
Just in case you might think that dueling biopics is a passing trend, there are currently plans for rivaling biopics about Lyndon Johnson, Tupac Shakur, Enzo Ferrari, Mary Shelley, Jeff Buckley, Janis Joplin and J.R.R. Tolkien. Whether they end up facing off in theaters remains to be seen.