Movies About Legends: 5 Actors Who Didn’t Fit the Part

Not everyone nails it like Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln.

The release of Lincoln kicks off a stretch of biopics featuring historic figures. After Daniel Day-Lewis tackles Abe Lincoln, Anthony Hopkins will play Alfred Hitchcock. Then a few weeks later, Bill Murray will portray Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Hyde Park on Hudson.

We’ve seen Lincoln, FDR and Hitchcock in textbooks and on television, and when it comes to movies, familiarity breeds contempt. If there were no photographs of Lincoln, Al Pacino could play him and we wouldn’t mind being serenaded with “Fuh scoh and seven yeaz AGO!” The actors in these movies have to look the part.

Murray bears some resemblance to FDR, so that’s promising. Day-Lewis looks like Lincoln, and the guy is such a method-acting nut that he probably built a log cabin at some point. Still, every once in a while, a prominent figure gets portrayed in a way that’s less than honorable. Here, five casting decisions that missed the mark.

1. Rich Little as Johnny Carson in The Late Shift.

About as convincing as if Frank Caliendo portrayed Carson. (Go to the 2:23 mark in the clip.) And with a biopic planned on the late-night king, I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens.

2. Tom Sizemore as Pete Rose in Hustle. He looks like Phil Hartman’s Frankenstein monster playing Rose.

3. Anne Hathaway as Jane Austen in Becoming Jane. Actually this goes in the opposite direction. You would not compare Austen to Hathaway, who is gorgeous even in mousy form.

It’s a bit like Mila Kunis playing Mother Teresa. The film is actually quite good, primarily because Hathaway in it.

4. John Turturro as Howard Cosell in Monday Night Mayhem. Director Ernest Dickinson to the makeup artist (in my mind): “Just find a wig or part Turturro’s hair and we’re good to go.”

5. Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey in 42. Rickey, the forward-thinking baseball executive who brought Jackie Robinson to Major League Baseball, looked more like Bob Gunton, who played the warden in The Shawshank Redemption. But not Ford, who, for this movie that comes out next year, apparently borrowed Steve Martin’s nose from Roxanne.