The Actor: Hammer Horror stalwart Lee enjoyed a second lease of life in the noughties with roles in not one but two mega-franchises in the form of Star Wars and Lord Of The Rings . Not bad going for an actor in his twilight years!
Their Amazing Life: Asides from the 260 films listed on his CV, there’s the small matter of his wartime involvement in the Special Operations Executive, a crack squad of commandos commissioned by Churchill to “set Europe ablaze”. The details of Lee’s service remained classified to this day…
Key Scene: The credits roll to a music video from Charlemagne, Lee’s heavy metal side project. Awesome.
The Actor: A box-office heavyweight during the ‘70s and ‘80s, Beatty will perhaps best be remembered for his earlier turn as snarling wrong’un Clyde Barrow in Bonnie & Clyde . Or maybe for Town & Country , depending on your age…
Their Amazing Life: Beatty’s political diversions are well documented, but it’s his pre-fame hunger that would make for a truly engaging biopic. So desperate was Beatty to make it as an actor that the star reportedly turned down no less than ten football scholarships in order to enrol in drama school. Then, in order to get his foot in the door in the acting world, he took on the role of official rat-catcher at the National Theatre in Washington DC. That’s dedication…
Key Scene: A montage of Beatty’s womanising days, featuring a selection of famous names including Madonna, Cher, Julie Christie, Goldie Hawn, Joan Collins, Diane Keaton and Elle MacPherson. Phew.
The Actor: The bewitchingly beautiful actress who became a screen icon thanks to her performance as charming socialite Holly Golightly in Breakfast At Tiffany’s .
Their Amazing Life: During her younger years, Hepburn was working as a ballerina in Nazi-occupied Holland. Nothing so remarkable about that you might think, except for the fact that many of her performances were “black performances”, staged to raise money for the Dutch Resistance. She also volunteered for many a dangerous mission, transporting illicit correspondence secreted within her ballet shoes. Balls of purest brass…
Key Scene: The heart-stopping episode where Hepburn set out to liase with a British paratrooper in the forests near Arnhem. Covering her back with the excuse of picking wildflowers, she even managed to charm her way out of an encounter with a suspicious Nazi, fluttering her eyelashes and successfully completing her task!
The Actor: From precocious young buck to wily old sage, there’s one defining characteristic that seems to link all of Paul Newman’s many big-screen performances…an ineffable sense of cool. You can’t teach it…
Their Amazing Life: Asides from the obviously thrilling detour into the world of salad dressing, Newman’s career as a racing driver would make for a thrilling big-screen story, the actor having caught the adrenaline bug after his role in race movie Winning . ““I just decided one day, why not do it?” said Newman. “I can’t be competitive about acting…what are you competing against?” Fair point.
Key Scene: The crowning moment of his newfound talent, in which Newman finished second in the energy-sapping endurance test of the Le Mans 24-hour race. He was 54 at the time!
The Actor: Need a loveable everyman the audience are guaranteed to root for? Then Jimmy Stewart is your man, having cornered the market in upstanding, moral heroes across five decades of filmmaking.
Their Amazing Life: Stewart was every bit as heroic off-screen as he was on it, working hard with MGM’s in-house physio Don Loomis to bulk up his slight frame in order to exceed the minimum weight required to enlist in the United States Air Force. A skilled pilot, Stewart rose to the rank of Major, ignoring plans to keep him out of the line of fire by piloting the lead B-24 on a number of missions deep into Nazi-occupied Europe. Way to step up Jimmy!
Key Scene: A training montage showing Stewart bulking up in readiness for war.
The Actor: Acclaimed as the fresh-faced naïf in Platoon , a household name after his turn in Wall Street and one of the best-paid stars on television thanks to Two And A Half Men …pity then that Charlie Sheen is likely to be remembered for the last few years of drug-fuelled mania. Let’s hope he gets his life together sooner rather than later.
Their Amazing Life: A famous family, an A-list career in the movies, a hat-trick of divorces, problems with alcohol, chronic drug addiction, a shameless addiction to porn stars and the public meltdown conducted under the banner of Winning. If anything, there’s too much to crowbar into one film!
Key Scene: A dramatisation of the anecdote he tells about Keith David saving his life during filming on Platoon . Reportedly, the pilot banked too hard during a helicopter scene, sending Sheen hurtling toward the open side-door. David was thankfully on hand to grab his co-star’s arm and haul him back to safety.
The Actor: Known for playing cold-blooded, beady-eyed nutcases, with a nice sideline in humorous parodies of those characters. Compare and contrast True Romance and Wedding Crashers to see what we mean.
Their Amazing Life: Before making it as a big-time movie star, Walken was a trained dancer (check out that Fatboy Slim video for a few of his choicest moves) and enjoyed a stint as a backup performer to actress turned nightclub crooner Monique Van Vooren. Not that Chris was phased by the limelight…he and his two brothers were child stars throughout the ‘50s. Truly a life lived in the spotlight.
Key Scene: A scene charting Walken’s brief time with the circus. Brilliantly, Walken was once a performer in a lion-taming act!
The Actor: One of Hollywood’s most reliably likeable screen presences, Rosario Dawson has proven she’s got range as well as beauty, with badass turns in Sin City and Death Proof played off against girl-next-door jokiness in the underrated Clerks 2 .
Their Amazing Life: Rosario had something of a tough upbringing, born to a seventeen-year-old single mum, and spending many of her formative years living in squats. In one of the more implausible stories of Tinseltown fortune, she was spotted sitting outside her apartment one day by Larry Clark, who approached the teenager out of the blue and said he wanted her to read for a role in his new film. Now in nine out of ten cases, this story could have had a very unsavoury ending, but Clark was legit, Dawson read the script and bagged herself a career-launching role in Kids !
Key Scene: A hilarious comedy interlude in which Dawson’s agent floats the idea of The Adventures Of Pluto Nash …
The Actor: Hollywood’s favourite beefcake throughout much of the ‘70s and ‘80s, Sly showed that he was more than just a pair of biceps by both writing and starring in seminal underdog flick Rocky . Not bad for a supposed meathead…
Their Amazing Life: Stallone’s early life would make for a superb biopic, particularly given the fun you could have with his astrologer-cum-wrestling promoter mother, the monstrous Jackie Stallone. Then there’s the troubled school life to cover, with various suspensions and expulsions accrued for behavioural problems. Finally we’d get to the barely credible story of how Stallone carved out his biggest role from a script he had written himself…it’d be quite a ride!
Key Scene: His now infamous stint on soft-core porn movie The Party At Kit & Stud’s . Great title…
The Actor: A LAMDA-trained star of both stage and screen, Harris was twice nominated for Oscars in This Sporting Life and The Field , was widely feted for his portrayal of Oliver Cromwell and even found time to play some bloke named Dumbledore.
Their Amazing Life: Another legendary boozehound cut from the same cloth as Oliver Reed, Harris’s personal life was marked by sustained bouts of drinking and womanising. Even in comparison with fellow Hellraisers Reed and Peter O’Toole, Harris’s antics were something else. In an interview with David Letterman he revealed his driving license had been permanently revoked, not just for drunk driving, but for knocking over a double-decker bus. Whether or not this actually happened is another matter, but it makes for a great story!
Key Scene: The less glamorous side of Harris’s lifestyle is revealed when a cocaine overdose very nearly puts him in the morgue.