Our colleagues at Sound of the City have already advised you give Steven Soderburgh’s Che a miss, but we expect the film will draw because, as everyone has been saying since it was announced, it’s perfect casting — “Benicio Del Toro is Che Guevara.”
Audiences love to see celebrities impersonate other celebrities. Hence the big swoon over Tina Fey as Sarah Palin. And in the past three years, five of six Best Actor and Actress Oscars went to biographical performances.
But this “Is” Factor is as much a matter of pre-performance perception as of skill — both actor and role must click in the public mind. We’re not sure Josh Brolin will hit the George Bush sweet-spot in W — not because he won’t be great, but because he doesn’t have a sufficiently solid public image of his own; no one hears about this casting and feels its rightness the way you did when you first heard that Philip Seymour Hoffman is Truman Capote.
We can think of five pairings that, once green-lit, would ring this same kind of bell. We’re sharing them with you because no one in Hollywood will take our calls.
Oliver Platt IS Francis Bacon. Ever notice how Platt always has at least one scene in everything he does where he gets fucked up? That’s because he’s so good at it. The best parts of the shitty TV show “Deadline” were the frequent scenes of Platt getting Dunleavy-drunk, maddened by his own journalistic genius. Now picture him as one of the all-time great dissolute painters, stumbling through a picturesque, filthy atelier. And they’re both fat! If that’s not enough to make people forget Derek Jacobi we don’t know what is.
Eva Longoria IS Posh Spice. This could be the Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde of the 21st Century. Longoria looks frighteningly like the 90s pop starlet, but what will really flip people out is when she gets to the “Victoria Beckham” end of Posh’s career, for which Longoria will do one of those heroic weight-loss regimens like Tom Hanks did for Philadelphia, and dunk her face in shellac. And the worse Longoria’s acting is, the more audiences will think she has captured her subject’s essence.
Javier Bardem IS Anthony Quinn. Here’s some exoticism that old and young alike can get with. Bardem can play the young Latin lothario, the art-house striver of La Strada, and the tragic prisoner of Zorba to Oscar-worthy effect. And Kenneth Branagh can fulfill a lifelong dream by playing Olivier in the section treating the Broadway production of Becket.
Eric Bogosian IS David Geffen. Geffen has had a hell of a life — first a music, then a movie mogul, with a life-threatening diagnosis and a big comeback to boot. Bogosian, currently mired in a “Law & Order” series, should relish the opportunity, and Hollywood will leap at the chance to film a biopic with cameo impersonations of Neil Young (Jack White?), Donna Summer (Beyonce?), Barbara Streisand (Sarah Silverman?), et alia. Plus, portraying the gracefully-aged Geffen will require Bogosian to eat a few extra meals. Everybody wins!
Robert Downey Jr. IS Robert Downey Sr. Because, we mean, come on.