The long tradition of actors playing historical figures often banks well at the box office.
Jared Leto has been tapped to play the Playboy.
Actor Jared Leto, of Dallas Buyers Club and American Psycho fame, signed onto the project this week, after Playboy founder Hugh Hefner passed away on September 27th at 91. Brett Ratner is set to direct the film, whose release date is yet unknown, per The Hollywood Reporter.
“Jared is an old friend,” Ratner told THR. “When he heard I got the rights to Hef’s story, he told me, ‘I wanted to play him. I want to understand him.'”
Leto isn’t the first A-lister to portray a giant of pop culture or American history. “Certainly, the biopic goes back a long way,” said Syracuse University pop culture professor Robert Thompson. “Back in the golden age of Hollywood, we had people playing Thomas Edison, Abraham Lincoln, big long strings of people. The idea of playing famous people was a natural for movies and TV shows.”
But, Thompson cautioned, playing these characters is about portraying them as they were in real life. “When you portray a famous figure that we’ve seen on TV, that we’ve seen on the news, actors have got this huge challenge of now being a different person, but who is a person we already know. Finding the right equation to make that both believable but not sound like a nightclub act — that would be incredibly challenging,” Thompson opined.
Jared Leto will play Hugh Hefner in an upcoming film — and 5 other celebs who have played pop culture giants https://t.co/TpwQOtloOG
— Moneyish (@Moneyish) October 8, 2017
Here’s a look at previous instances when Hollywood titans have brought pop culture figures to life.
- Meryl Streep as Julia Child: The 2009 film Julie and Julia, directed by Nora Ephron, starred Oscar winner Meryl Streep as the late Julia Child, the woman who is credited for spawning the age of celebrity chefs on television. The film grossed $129 million at box offices worldwide.
- Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles: The 2004 film Ray looked back at the life and music of Ray Charles, the iconic rhythm and blues singer. Foxx’s performance earned him an Academy Award — and the film raked in more than $124 million.
- Jennifer Lawrence as Joy Mangano: The 2015 movie JOY starred Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence as American inventor Joy Mangano, creator of the Miracle Mop, Huggable Hangers, and a fixture on HSN to this day. The film earned $101 million.Also read: “Miracle Mop inventor Joy Mangano tells Moneyish how you can create your own billion product”
- Daniel Day Lewis as Abraham Lincoln: In 2012, Daniel Day Lewis delivered a legendary performance as the 16th President of the United States of America in Lincoln, seeing Honest Abe through the dark days of the Civil War. The performance won Lewis an Oscar for Best Actor, and the film grossed $275 million.
- Philip Seymour Hoffman as Truman Capote: The 2005 film Capote saw Philip Seymour Hoffman portray the author Truman Capote on screen, and garnered Hoffman a Best Actor win at the Oscars. The film pulled in $49 million.
As for whether Leto’s Hefner revival is expected to do well at the box office, Thompson is predicting it could. “Because Hefner is attached to it, the whole world of Playboy and celebrity and the mansion… I could see this being a big release.”
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