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50 Best Portrayals Of Real People

Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett are Ike and Tina Turner

The Real People: Anna Mae Bullock joined Ike Turner's blues band in 1957. They married, she changed her name and they had a string of hits - however, their relationship was plagued by Ike's persistent domestic abuse and they divorced during the 1970s, after which Tina became a mega-star in her own right.

The Actors: Laurence "Larry" Fishburne made his name as a teenager in Apocalypse Now before growing into an acclaimed character actor. Bassett rode the early 1990s' wave of "New Jack Cinema" with breakthrough roles in Boyz 'N Da Hood and Malcolm X before the two were partnered in 1993 biopic What's Love Got To Do With It? Both were Oscar nominated.

Most Stunning Element: Fishburne turned down his role five times. What changed his mind? Finding out that Bassett had been cast as his on-screen wife.

Paul Giamatti is Harvey Pekar

The Real Person: Harvey Pekar, by his own admission, was nobody special - but he essayed those Everyman qualities into American Splendor , a series of wry autobiographical graphic novels that changed attitudes towards comic books.

The Actor: Paul Giamatti was "that guy" from a raft of Hollywood movies including The Truman Show and Saving Private Ryan . His role as Pekar in American Splendor put a name to the face and led to Giamatti becoming a heavyweight actor in American independent film.

Most Stunning Element: When filming scenes of Pekar's appearance on the David Letterman Show , Giamatti was given the exact same jacket that Pekar had worn in real life.

Tom Cruise is Ron Kovic

The Real Person: Marine Ron Kovic was injured during his second tour of duty in Vietnam, leaving his paralysed from the chest down. His experiences transformed him into a vocal and influential anti-war activist.

The Actor: Still in his 20s, Tom Cruise had already starred in America's biggest box office hit during two years ( Top Gun and Rain Man ) when Oliver Stone cast him as Kovic in 1989's Born On the 4th Of July . Cruise wowed the critics but his first Oscar nomination didn't translate into a win.

Most Stunning Element: Tom Cruise's birthday is actually 3rd July. We kinda wish his mother had waited the extra day.

Will Smith is Muhammad Ali

The Real Person: Cassius Marcellus Clay was already an Olympic gold medallist and world heavyweight champion when he converted to Islam, changed his name, refused to serve in Vietnam, was stripped of his title and then regained it during the famous Rumble in the Jungle fight against George Foreman. No wonder they call him The Greatest.

The Actor: Now, this is a story all about how Will Smith's life got flipped-turned upside down when the rapper and star of The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air became a Hollywood superstar, and then showed his dramatic chops playing Ali in Michael Mann's biopic of the same name.

Most Stunning Element: Not only did Smith train up to seven hours a day and put on 35 pounds, he also took Islamic studies to help himself get into Ali's head.

Julia Roberts is Erin Brockovich

The Real Person: Erin Brockovich was a legal clerk who brought a successful class action against an energy firm for water pollution without any formal legal training.

The Actor: Julia Roberts earned a then-record $20 million to play Brockovich in Stephen Soderbergh's understated biopic. Her likeable performance was a shoo-in for Best Actress.

Most Stunning Element: Roberts is left-handed, and had to learn to write with her right hand to replicate Brockovich.

Ian McKellen is James Whale

The Real Person: James Whale was the openly gay film director who revolutionised Hollywood horror in the 1930s with Frankenstein and The Invisible Man . His career subsequently declined and he committed suicide in 1957, aged 69.

The Actor: Ian McKellen brought his own experiences as an openly gay actor to play the retired Whale in 1998's Gods And Monsters (named after a line from Whale's Bride Of Frankenstein ). McKellen earned his first Oscar nomination.

Most Stunning Element: McKellen knew nothing about Whale's life until he researched the role for the film.

Jesse Eisenberg is Mark Zuckerberg

The Real Person: Mark Zuckerberg is the founder of Facebook, having invented the social media platform in 2004. Or perhaps he didn't invent it at all - plenty of people were willing to take him to court over the intellectual rights.

The Actor: Twentysomething Jesse Eisenberg had perfected the role of geeky-teenager-with-attitude over nearly a decade (via Roger Dodger , The Squid And The Whale and Zombieland ) when he answered David Fincher's call to play Zuckerberg in The Social Network , the Aaron Sorkin-scripted drama about Facebook's courtroom battles. Eisenberg was Oscar-nominated.

Most Stunning Element: How's this for serendipity? Eisenberg's cousin actually works for Facebook as a product designer.

Tom Hardy is Charles Bronson

The Real Person: No, not that Charles Bronson. Michael Peterson changed his name in honour of the movie star, and achieved his own kind of fame as Britain's most notorious jailbird, moved 120 times from prison to prison for being such a disruptive, violent element.

The Actor: Despite his breakthrough role as Picard's evil clone in Star Trek: Nemesis , Tom Hardy was still largely a well-kept secret known only to connoisseurs of great acting when Nicolas Winding Refn cast him in 2008 biopic Bronson . His startling physical transformation (which won him Best Actor at the British Independent Film Awards) gave him the reputation of being the thinking man's hard man. Bane and Mad Max have followed.

Most Stunning Element: Hardy's training regime - 2,500 press-ups a day for five weeks.

Charles Laughton is King Henry VIII

The Real Person: Henry VIII ruled England from 1509 until 1547. However, what you really want to know is what happened to his six wives, right? The answer, of course, is: divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived.

The Actor: Charles Laughton was a titan of British theatre when he was lured to Hollywood. His exuberant playing of the king in The Private Life Of Henry VIII made Laughton the first British winner of the Oscar for Best Actor.

Most Stunning Element: Period films were considered such a risk that Laughton had to defer his fee until after the premiere. The film, of course, was a hit.

Sigourney Weaver is Dian Fossey

The Real Person: Dian Fossey was a zoologist who pioneered research into gorillas during 18 years of close study in the Rwandan jungle, before her protests against poaching inflamed local hostilities and she was murdered in 1985, aged 53.

The Actor: Sigourney Weaver had changed attitudes to genre with her Oscar-winning performance as Ellen Ripley in Aliens , when Michael Apted cast her as Fossey in 1988's Gorillas In The Mist . Weaver was nominated for Best Actress (as well as Best Supporting Actress, for Working Girl ) but won neither award.

Most Stunning Element: Weaver obviously loved filming with real gorillas; she is now honorary chairwoman of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.