Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for SXSW
2022 is transitioning into the “age of the all-star biopic,” as evidenced by the forthcoming release of Andrew Dominik’s semi-fictional Marilyn Monroe story Blond with Ana de Armas and the previously released Baz Luhrmann elvis Biopic starring Austin Butler as Presley and Tom Hanks as the infamous manager Colonel Tom Parker. This doesn’t even apply to the films in production, including Bradley Cooper as Leonard Bernstein maestroand Madonna is (of course) directing the film about her own life story, which will star Julia Garner as Material Girl.
All this amazed us; Who are some other American legends who deserve the celebrity biopic treatment? The following five suggestions are coming to Hollywood for free.
While, in true Dolly fashion, the country legend has announced she wants to produce a musical biopic of her own life, Dolly Parton’s life story is rich enough that she could create an entire limited edition series. Beginning with her early life in Little Pigeon River, Tennessee, where she grew up in a one-room cabin with 11 siblings and both parents, Parton’s story is a true American rags-to-riches story. Parton began writing songs as a young child with her uncle and mentor, country songwriting legend Bill Owens, and at age 13 she appeared on legendary country radio show The Grand Ole Opry with Johnny Cash.
All of the best biopics are filled with outrageous, larger-than-life characters, and Parton’s life was certainly full of them, including longtime collaborator Porter Wagoner, the aforementioned Cash, and friends and collaborators like Tanya Tucker, Kenny Rogers, Elvis Presley, and his notorious manager Colonel Tom parkers
Best of all, this story even has a happy ending in which Parton becomes a movie star, successful entrepreneur, producer, and living American sweetheart. Who would play the main role Parton thinks Kristen Chenoweth should play herand who are we to argue?
While Marilyn Monroe remains the gold standard of 1950s film beauties, there is an intriguing story behind her rival, the interesting and tragic Jayne Mansfield.
Mansfield was a contemporary of Monroe, who began her beauty pageant career in Austin, Texas, where she won titles such as Miss Magnesium Lamp and Miss Fire Prevention Week. In early 1955 she posed for the newly launched men’s magazine Playboy, and later that year she landed a good role as movie star Rita Marlowe in the 1955 Broadway hit Will success spoil Rock Hunter?. 20th Century Fox studio head Buddy Adler auctioned off the film rights to the play to get Mansfield out of her stage contract so Fox can prepare her to replace the increasingly difficult Monroe.
As her film career came to an end in the early 1960s, Mansfield continued to play to large nightclub crowds. Her personal life has been equally eventful as she has been married three times to PR pro Paul Mansfield, actor/bodybuilder Mickey Hargitay and film director Matt Cimber. Manfield tragically died in a car accident at the age of 34. Scarlett Johansen would be perfect for the role, and would bring to life Mansfield’s signature blend of bombshell and humor.
Josephine Baker was an American black singer/dancer/actress born in St. Louis, Missouri to former slaves. As a teenager she became a chorus dancer on Broadway and by the age of 19 a big hit in Paris, where she befriended major artists abroad such as Pablo Picasso and Ernest Hemingway. In 1937 she officially became a French citizen.
During World War II, Baker became a spy for the Allies, using her huge global celebrity as the perfect cover, traveling internationally and befriending the wives of various heads of state, who then shared the secrets their husbands had confided in them. Baker went to the toilet at parties and wrote notes of conversations on her arms and then transcribed her notes on her sheet music in invisible ink to give to British Intelligence.
Baker later focused on the civil rights movement and worked with the NAACP. While she was a celebrated celebrity around the world, she couldn’t be served at restaurants like the Stork Club in the US. She eventually refused to work in the US and spoke at Rev. Martin Luther King’s March on Washington in 1963. The perfect person for the role of Baker would be Keke Palmer, who is not only an acclaimed actress but also an acclaimed R&B singer as well.
Breakthrough comedian George Carlin began his life on West 121St Street in Harlem for Irish immigrants. In the early 1960s, Carlin was a clean, uncontroversial comedian who made multiple appearances The Ed Sullivan Show, one of the top-rated television shows of the time. In 1964, Carlin was in a performance of Lenny Bruce at the Cafe Au Go-Go in New York. When police arrested Bruce for obscenity, partially aided by Carlin’s fellow cop Randy Jurgensen, who was at the club with a cable, Carlin was arrested along with Bruce for refusing to provide police with identification.
By the early ’70s, Carlin had fully embraced the counterculture and was arrested for obscenity in 1972 after performing his “Seven Dirty Words” show at the Milwaukee Summerfest. In 1973, Carlin’s now infamous broadcast on New York radio station WBAI resulted in a fine from the Federal Communications Commission. The WBAI appealed the fine and the case went to the Supreme Court, which upheld the FCC’s decision.
Trouble with the IRS ensued, and Carlin refused to deal with the government for years, subsequently touring extensively to pay his fines. When he died in the late 2000s, Carlin was hailed as a genius, master comedian, and something of a prophet. Playing the legendary Carlin, better than Daniel Radcliffe, who has already proven his mastery of American accents in various stage productions, including the hit Broadway play The lifespan of a fact.
Born one of seven children to a caretaker in the sugar cane fields of Puerto Rico, Roberto Clemente would later be recognized as one of the greatest players in Major League Baseball history.
Clemente was first drafted to play softball in a professional Puerto Rican league at age 14 and was playing for the major leagues by age 21. In 1955 he made his debut with the Pittsburgh Pirates. In 17 seasons with the Pirates, Clemente played in 15 All-Star games and won the Golden Glove Award for Best Defensive Player for 12 consecutive seasons from 1961-1972. In 1971, he helped the Pirates win the second World Series of his tenure with the team, earning the World Series MVP award in the process.
In 1972, an earthquake struck Nicaragua’s capital, Managua, and Clemente donated several planeloads of relief packages to the affected people. After the first flights’ transport aid was diverted by corrupt local officials, Clemente decided to personally escort the next group. This flight crashed and Clemente died in the wreck. His body was never recovered. As far as who could play Clemente, The young Star Laz Alonso would be an excellent choice due to his Afro-Latino descent and athletic ability.