The Success of the Biographics.

What is it that America loves so much about true stories on film?
Why is it that, from 2000-2012, 9 of the 13 winners of the ‘Best Actress Academy Award’ have been for portrayals of real people. From serial killers to royalty, we have watched 9 different actresses receive this award for their portrayal of people who really did exist.

Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich (2000)

Now, it is no secret that the Oscars just can’t resist royalty. Helen Mirren collected the ‘Best Actress’ award in 2007 for her portrayal as Queen Elizabeth II in the appropriately named The Queen and we have also witnessed Judi Dench receive the ‘Best Supporting Actress’ award, in 1998, for her performance as Queen Elizabeth in Shakespeare in Love,despite only being in the film for several minutes. Plus, of course, who could forget Colin Firth’s glorifying exposure and recognition for the role of King George VI in The King’s Speech.

Colin Firth at the 2011 Academy Award Ceremony
with his Oscar for ‘Best Actor’ for his role in
The King’s Speech.

In regards to the ‘Best Actress’ award, we have only seen royalty win in this category once in 13 years. However, real character roles, handled by an array of Hollywood’s finest, have successfully beaten off the competition and won this award over and over again. So what is it about these roles and performances that make them so prone to triumph during award season? Here is a list of the winners of the ‘Best Actress Academy Award’ from 2000-2012. The roles that were biographical have been emphasised:

2000: Hilary Swank – Boy’s Don’t Cry

Charlize Theron in Monster (2003)

2001: Julia Roberts – Erin Brockovich
2002: Halle Berry – Monster’s Ball
2003: Nicole Kidman – The Hours
2004: Charlize Theron – Monster

2005: Hilary Swank – Million Dollar Baby
2006: Reese Witherspoon – Walk the Line
2007: Helen Mirren – The Queen

2008: Marion Cotillard – La Vie En Rose
2009: Kate Winslet – The Reader
2010: Sandra Bullock – The Blind Side
2011: Natalie Portman – Black Swan
2012: Meryl Streep – The Iron Lady

Now, it is important to point out that, personally, I do not respect the Oscars. I enjoy watching them and reading about them but I do not feel that they are relevant to the world of film or that their nominees and winners are ever very accurate. An example of this would be the fact that Martin Scorsese, who’s greatest work consists of Casino, Goodfellasand George Harrison: Living in the Material World, only won an Oscar for the first time in 2007 for his film The Departed. The Departed, which was still an impressive film, does not stand up against the masterpiece’s of Scorsese’s earlier days.

Hilary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry (1999)


The only actress to win the ‘Best Actress’ award twice, over the past 13 years, is Hilary Swank, once in a fictional role, once in a biographical role.There is no doubt that Swank should have won for her biographical role in Boys Don’t Cry as Brandon Teena, a transgender teen who was murdered in 1993. However, when we look at other winners, it is not so easy to believe that the award was always deserved. For example, Sandra Bullock’s performance in the sickly sweet The Blind Side was pretty forgettable in comparison to her fellow nominees; in particular Meryl Streep and Carey Mulligan.

I think it is safe to say that if you want to win an Oscar, you will be doing yourself a huge favour if you choose to portray a person from musical, political or social history. I would like to finish by quickly sharing one of my opinions that I know nobody agrees with:

Reese Witherspoon is a good actress. I am a huge fan of her and a lot of her work. However, her performance in Walk the Line was not Oscar worthy, a bit like the film itself. Apologies.

Thanks for reading and let’s all keep supporting our beloved film industry.

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