25 Portrayals Of Real-Life Music Personalities That Earned Oscar Noms
Actors have been nominated for playing all-time legends (Johnny Cash, Ray Charles) as well as lesser-known figures (Don Shirley, David Helfgott).
Taron Egerton is getting rave reviews for his portrayal of Elton John in Rocketman, which is set for release on Friday (May 31). The strong reaction raises the distinct possibility that he could receive an Oscar nomination for best actor.
At least 25 actors have been nominated for Oscars for playing real-life music personalities. Ten went on to win. The first to bring home an Oscar for playing a real-life music personality was James Cagney for playing entertainer George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942). The most recent to do so was Rami Malek for playing Queen front-man Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody (2018).
The first woman to win an Oscar for playing a real-life music personality was Barbra Streisand for playing comedienne, singer and actress Fanny Brice in Funny Girl (1968). The most recent was Marion Cotillard for playing legendary French chanteuse Edith Piaf in La Vie En Rose (2007).
The first actor to be nominated for playing a rock star was Gary Busey for his portrayal of rock'n'roll pioneer Buddy Holly in The Buddy Holly Story (1978). The first actor to win for playing a rock star was Malek.
In two biopics -- What's Love Got to Do With It (1993) and Walk the Line (2005) -- both the male and female leads were nominated for Oscars. In Amadeus (1984), both of the male leads were nominated.
Here are 25 actors who have been nominated for Oscars for playing real-life music personalities. The list doesn't include fictional characters that were inspired by real-life stars, such as Rose in The Rose (1979), which was loosely based on the life of Janis Joplin, and Effie White in Dreamgirls (2006), which drew on the life story of Florence Ballard of The Supremes.
Rami Malek as rock legend Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody (2018). Malek won for best actor, and the film was nominated for best picture. Accepting his award, Malek saluted Mercury: "Listen, we made a film about a gay man, an immigrant, who lived his life just unapologetically himself."
Mahershala Ali as Don Shirley, classical and jazz pianist and composer, in Green Book (2018). Ali won for best supporting actor, and the film won for best picture. Accepting his award, Ali praised the man he played: "Trying to capture Dr. Shirley's essence pushed me to my ends, which is a reflection of the person he was and the life that he lived."
Marion Cotillard as Edith Piaf, cabaret singer, songwriter and actress, in La Vie En Rose (2007). Cotillard won for best actress. Accepting her award, Cotillard said, in charmingly fractured English, "Thank you life, thank you love, and it is true, there is some angels in this city."
Reese Witherspoon as country singer/songwriter June Carter Cash in Walk the Line (2005). Witherspoon won for best actress. Accepting her award, Witherspoon praised "this character who is a real woman who has dignity and honor and fear and courage."
Jamie Foxx as pop, R&B and jazz legend Ray Charles in Ray (2004). Foxx won for best actor; the film was nominated for best picture. Accepting his award, Foxx saluted the ground-breaking artist he played: "Give it up for Ray Charles and his beautiful legacy. And thank you, Ray Charles, for living."
Meryl Streep as violinist and music educator Roberta Guaspari in Music of the Heart (1999). She was nominated for best actress.
Geoffrey Rush as Australian concert pianist David Helfgott in Shine (1996). Rush won for best actor, while the film was nominated for best picture. Accepting his award, Rush saluted "the unstoppable" Helfgott. "The front of my script said that this story was inspired by the events of your life. You truly are an inspiration," he said.
Tom Hulce as renowned classical composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in Amadeus (1984). He was nominated for best actor; the film won for best picture.
F. Murray Abraham as Antonio Salieri, Italian classical composer and conductor, in Amadeus (1984). He won for best actor. The film won for best picture. Accepting his award, Abraham thanked his co-star. "There's only one thing that's missing for me tonight and that is to have Tom Hulce standing by my side."
Sissy Spacek as country legend Loretta Lynn in Coal Miner's Daughter (1980). Sspacek won for best actress. The film was nominated for best picture. Accepting her award, Spacek made note of the camaraderie on the set: "I started to work on Coal Miner's Daughter with a bunch of strangers and I finished working on Coal Miner's Daughter with a bunch of friends."
Gary Busey as bespeckled rock'n'roll pioneer Buddy Holly in The Buddy Holly Story (1978). He was nominated for best actor.
Barbra Streisand as vaudeville star Fanny Brice in Funny Girl (1968). Stresiand won for best actress, and the film was nominated for best picture. Accepting her award, Streisand alluded to the fact that the musical took a long time to get off the ground. "Sitting there tonight I was thinking that the first script of Funny Girl was written when I was only 11 years old, and thank God it took so long to get it right, you know," she said.
Daniel Massey as Noël Coward, English playwright, entertainer and wit, in Star! (1968). Massey was nominated for best supporting actor.
Julie Andrews as Maria von Trapp, matriarch of the Trapp Family Singers, in The Sound of Music (1965). Andrews was nominated for best actress, and the film won for best picture. The soundtrack album topped the Billboard 200 for two weeks, logging a remarkable 109 weeks in the top 10.
Eleanor Parker as Australian soprano Marjorie Lawrence in Interrupted Melody (1955). Parker was nominated for best actress.
Susan Hayward as singer and actress Jane Froman in With a Song in My Heart (1952). Hayward landed a best actress nom.
Larry Parks as entertainer Al Jolson in The Jolson Story (1946). Parks was nominated for best actor.
Cornel Wilde as classical composer and pianist Frédéric Chopin in A Song to Remember (1945). Nominated for best actor.
James Cagney as entertainer and composer George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942). Cagney w for best actor. The film was nominated for best picture. Accepting his award, Cagney allowed, "I might say it was a pretty good part."