George C. Scott is General George S. Patton
The Real Person: Career soldier George Patton became one of the most decisive military leaders of WWII, notably for his rapid pursuit of the retreating Nazis across Europe after D-Day. Ironically, having survived the war, he then died in a car crash later in 1945.
The Actor: George C. Scott's scene-stealing, Oscar-nominated turn in Anatomy Of A Murder paved the way for iconic roles in The Hustler and Dr Strangelove , before Franklin J. Schaffner cast him as Patton in the 1970 biopic of that title. Officially, he won Best Actor. However... read on.
Most Stunning Element: Famously, Scott refused his Oscar, denouncing the whole idea of the Academy Awards as a "two-hour meat parade."
Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke are Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller
The Real People: Partially-blind Anne Sullivan was assigned in 1887 to tutor Helen Keller, a troubled blind/deaf girl - she successfully taught Keller to read and speak, and Keller successfully studied for a degree.
The Actors: Anne Bancroft and teenager Patty Duke were regulars on TV and in film but it was 1959 Broadway play The Miracle Worker , about Sullivan and Keller, that got both noticed, especially for their characters' extraordinary on-stage fights. Arthur Penn cast both in the 1962 film version, and both actresses won Oscars.
Most Stunning Element: United Artists slashed the budget after Penn refused to cast A-listers (Elizabeth Taylor or Audrey Hepburn were fancied to play Sullivan) in favour of Bancroft and Duke, who had played their roles on Broadway.
Helen Mirren is Queen Elizabeth II
The Real Person: The Queen. Y'know, her whose face is on coins and stamps.
The Actor: Helen Mirren - as close to royalty in the British acting profession as we've got - was an obvious choice to star as The Queen , in Stephen Frears' dramatisation of events after the death of Princess Diana. Mirren's third Oscar nomination translated into her first win.
Most Stunning Element: Mirren organised off-screen 'family time' with the actors who played fellow members of the Royal Family, to develop the chemistry of the ensemble.
Ray Liotta is Henry Hill
The Real Person: Henry Hill, Jr was a footsoldier in the New York Mafiosi, who was instrumental in the famous 1967 robbery of an Air France shipment before achieving last notoriety for turning Federal witness to put old friends and colleagues behind bars.
The Actor: Ray Liotta's menace and charisma lit up Something Wild and Field Of Dreams but he wasn't a leading man when Martin Scorsese nabbed him to play Hill in Goodfellas . The role became synonymous with him, although he's matured into a superb character actor in The Place Beyond The Pines and Killing Them Softly .
Most Stunning Element: While Scorsese deliberately kept Liotta and Hill apart, the actor spent hours listening to taped conversations between his character and the book's author, Nicholas Pileggi.
Philip Seymour Hoffman is Truman Capote
The Real Person: Truman Capote was most famous as the author of Breakfast At Tiffany's when he became fascinated by a murder case in Kansas, which led to his pioneering "non-fiction novel," In Cold Blood .
The Actor: Two films about the writing of In Cold Blood appeared within the space of a year. The second, Infamous , starring Toby Jones had the misfortune to follow Bennett Miller's Capote. For the title role, Miller cast his friend Philip Seymour Hoffman, already regarded as one of Hollywood's finest actors thanks to the likes of Magnolia and Almost Famous . The role earned Hoffman the Best Actor Oscar.
Most Stunning Element: Hoffman, famed for his significant size, lost 40 pounds to match the diminutive Capote.
Cate Blanchett is Queen Elizabeth I
The Real Person: Ruler of Great Britain from 1558 to 1603, a turbulent reign that saw Elizabeth see off the threat of Spanish invasion and oversee a golden age in drama thanks to playwrights like William Shakespeare.
The Actor: Cate Blanchett was an esteemed stage actress in her native Australia. Shekhar Kapur's Elizabeth - a political thriller about the early years of the Queen's reign - made Blanchett a star and earned the actress her first Oscar nomination. She reprised the role in 2007's Elizabeth: The Golden Age, by which time she'd won an Oscar playing another real-life figure, Katharine Hepburn, in The Aviator .
Most Stunning Element: The role of Elizabeth I won an Oscar that year... But not for Blanchett. Judi Dench played the same role in Shakespeare In Love and bagged Best Supporting Actress.
Michael Fassbender is Bobby Sands
The Real Person: Bobby Sands was the leader and public face of the hunger strike by IRA prisoners at the Maze prison in 1981 - he was elected to the House of Commons before succumbing to malnutrition on day 66 of the strike.
The Actor: TV actor Michael Fassbender broke into film with 300 before artist-turned-director Steve McQueen cast him in Hunger as Sands, a demanding role that included an unbroken 17-minute take, but which has proved the foundation for one of the brightest acting careers of modern times.
Most Stunning Element: Fassbender went on a crash diet under medical supervision, where he ate no more than 600 calories a day, to replicate Sands' emaciated appearance.
Richard Attenborough is John Christie
The Real Person: John Christie was a serial killer in postwar London who successfully framed his illiterate lodger Timothy Evans for several crimes. Christie was only caught after Evans had been executed.
The Actor: Richard Attenborough, one of Britain's most loved and respected actors, shocked audiences by playing completely against type, in Richard Fleischer's dramatisation of Christie's crimes, 10 Rillington Place .
Most Stunning Element: Attenborough hated the character. However, as he explained, "I do not like playing the part, but I accepted it at once without seeing the script. I have never felt so totally involved in any part as this. It is a most devastating statement on capital punishment."
Liam Neeson is Oskar Schindler
The Real Person: Oskar Schindler was a German businessman who used his status as a supplier to the Nazi war machine to save the lives of around 1,000 Jewish employees. His story was largely unknown until author Thomas Keneally made it the basis of his novel, Schindler's Ark .
The Actor: Steven Spielberg bought the rights to the novel - known as Schindler's List in America - in the 1980s but waited until he was ready to make the film. That allowed Liam Neeson, boxer-turned-actor to develop the craft and reputation to play up Schindler's ambiguous heroism. Neeson was Oscar-nominated, Spielberg won.
Most Stunning Element: Neeson's unlikely inspiration was Steve Ross, the CEO of Time Warner, who Spielberg insisted had the charisma he saw in Schindler.
Marion Cotillard is dith Piaf
The Real Person: French singer, born Édith Giovanna Gassion, who became a symbol of her nation during WWII and a global star afterwards thanks to songs like the iconic Non, je ne regrette rien . An alcoholic, she died of liver failure in 1963, aged only 47.
The Actor: Marion Cotillard was established in France (and a Cesar winner for A Very Long Engagement ) when Olivier Dahan spotted a similarity between her and Piaf's eyes. Their biopic, La Vie En Rose , won Cotillard the Best Actress Oscar and launched her Hollywood career in films like Inception .
Most Stunning Element: Cotillard agreed to have her hairline shaved back and her eyebrows shaved off completely to recreate Piaf's distinctive look.