Legend, Resurrected: How Do 7 Current Stars Look as Hollywood Icons?

Even if the upcoming Marilyn Monroe biopic My Week with Marilyn doesn't live up to its intriguing promo stills, the casting and styling choices that make Michelle Williams and Kenneth Branagh such convincing impersonators of Marilyn Monroe and Laurence Olivier are already stunners. Branagh's Shakespearean gravitas! Williams' sighing loveliness! This inspires us to revisit other famous actors who played Hollywood legends and see how their appearances measured up. Come on, Judy Davis, get happy!

Laurence Olivier and Kenneth Branagh in My Week with Marilyn


Branagh has long been Laurence Olivier's Hamlet scion, but I'm still shocked to see that he bears such a resemblance to the Rebecca legend. Can we take a protractor to that eyebrow arch? Look at those identical parabolas! Like two slips of exotic calligraphy. Surely Olivier could not have asked for a worthier tribute artist, and I guess he couldn't ask for a better doppelganger either. Score: 9 (out of 10)

Marilyn Monroe and Michelle Williams in a promo still for My Week with Marilyn


Williams was an unexpected choice for Norma Jean, but there's a lot going on here that I like: The hair, skin, and lips are all matches, and even if Williams's eyes are smaller (squintier?) than Marilyn's, the Blue Valentine alum nails the exhausted airiness. I hope the movie shoehorns in a rendition of "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" for the sake of our good time. Score: 8

Charlie Chaplin and Robert Downey, Jr. in Chaplin



Chaplin is all about accoutrement, so even if Mr. Downey, Jr.'s facial structure isn't an exact match for the Modern Times marvel, you'd hardly notice it under the preened mustache, top hat, and blackened brows. It's the same principle that allowed standup comedian Gallagher's evil twin brother to masquerade as him without anyone catching on. Score: 7

Katharine Hepburn and Cate Blanchett in The Aviator



The fact that Cate Blanchett looks remarkably like Cate Blanchett here is fitting when you consider how she played the character -- not as a replica of Katharine Hepburn, but as a confident, grand reinvention. It's hard enough to imitate those cheekbones. Damn, Kate! Like Lauren Bacall with samurai sword angularity. Even if it requires more than a half-hour of The Aviator's runtime to get used to Blanchett's vivid, Oscar-winning rendering, it's an admirable guise. Score: 7

Orson Welles and Christan McKay in Me and Orson Welles


Surely Christan McKay's portrayal was less menacing and commanding than the real Orson Welles, but aside from obvious differences in the chiseling department, they're an OK match. All the training in the world can't prepare McKay for reenacting Welles' cameo in The Muppet Movie, I'm afraid, but for a 1937 revamp, he does the job. Score: 5

Judy Garland and Judy Davis in Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows


Here we reenter the Blanchett school of mimicry: Davis is an unforgettable knockout in the Garland biopic miniseries, but it didn't matter if she utterly resembled Liza's mom; her jaunty electricity conjured Garland's spirit on its own. That said, it's a damn good imitation. Her glances, mouth gymnastics, and joy all translate perfectly. Even if no one can recreate the entrancing eyes of the real Garland, Davis pinpointed everything else. Score: 9

Bela Lugosi and Martin Landau in Ed Wood


Bela Lugosi can look left, right, up, down, front, back, or over the camera, and he is always chilling. Martin Landau recreated that wizened severity with impressive ease in his Oscar-winning turn as the aged Dracula. He adds a little Sam The Eagle bone structure to Lugosi's visage, but that's a sternness befitting of Lugosi's legacy. Score: 6

· First Look at Kenneth Branagh as Laurence Olivier [Cinema Blend]


  • G says:

    Angus Macfadyen in "Cradle Will Rock" was undoubtedly the suprior Orson Welles.

  • topsyturvy says:

    The score for Davis as Garland is too high. (As is the score for Williams as Monroe). Blanchett looks more like Hepburn than Davis did Garland. Ditto Downey, Jr. as Chaplin.

  • Rob says:

    You have the wrong picture of Judy Davis as Judy Garland. That picture is of Judy Davis playing serial con artist/murderer Sante Kimes from the Lifetime movie "A Little Thing Called Murder."

  • Emmett Walz says:

    Mariane' Coutard's (sp?) performance and visual replication of Edith Piaf ("La Vie En Rose") was the most convincing of any I have ever, seen and perhaps the greatest acting I have seen. Magnificent!

  • Trafalgar says:

    You picked the wrong Judy. While Judy Davis did a good job, I wouldn't have scored her that high -- whereas I would have given a perfect 10 to Tammy Blanchard, who played the younger Judy in the same film and was incredible.

  • Jeri says:

    The thing for me about Laurence Olivier is his over-large, sensitive hands. Watch him, if he could do anything without using his big mitts he would. It's not just the face that catches your attention in a movie.

  • I taped the Judy Garland bio.YES...Judy Davis WAS Judy Garland in every respect...she did a fantastic job of recreating her every move! I watch the tape for the music and the memorable performanceof Miss Davis.