It’s disappointing now to see tabloid photos of England’s Queen Elizabeth. There’s something not quite right about her. She’s just not … Helen Mirren enough.

Christina Choi
TOP TO BOTTOM: Courtesy of New Line, Columbia, Gramercy and Warner Bros.
Christina Choi
Christina Choi
Christina Choi
The fresh faces of ancient history sometimes become their permanent ones.

Nor do photos of Uganda’s actual Idi Amin now seem all that intimidating. The real Ugandan dictator responsible for slaughtering hundreds of thousands of his own people? Sooooo much more menacing with Forest Whitaker’s crazily uneven eyes.

Memo to history textbook authors everywhere: Hollywood has developed a zest for biopics, so when it comes to portraits you might as well start printing headshots. Forget those stilted 18th-century courtly paintings of a blandly smiling Marie Antoinette.

Everyone knows she’s now Kirsten Dunst. Mozart could never have been as serious as those scowling busts favored by high school music teachers everywhere – not when he’s got the hooligan grin of Tom Hulce in “Amadeus.” And the stiff stoicism typical of William Wallace statues seems downright silly ever since “Braveheart” forever hunkified the Scottish hero into a dreadlocked, face-painted Mel Gibson.

Hollywood has its way with everything – screenwriters, ticket prices, the dignity of any attractive female under the age of 30 – so why not add the general public’s conception of history to the list? With biopics fast becoming Oscar’s safest bet (a staggering 50 percent of acting wins in the past seven years have gone to portrayals of real-life people), count on a few more replacements in your mental image bank of famous figures. Many probably picture Gandhi as Ben Kingsley and General Patton as George C. Scott already.

Those who object to giving history the glossy Hollywood treatment have any amount of inaccuracies to bemoan. There’s always the surface trend toward beautification, although that’s arguably an inherent cinematic quality – and not necessarily a bad thing, either. After all, Bonnie and Clyde couldn’t ask for a more picturesque immortality than their Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty incarnations, and Frida Kahlo posthumously received an undeniable upgrade in the form of Salma Hayek. Granted, Disney may have taken creative license a little too far with its supermodel-ish Pocahontas, but beautiful 14-year-old Q’Orianka Kilcher’s portrayal in “The New World” at least restored the famous teenager’s na’vet

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *