Skip to main content

30 Awesome Actors Who Deserve Biopics

Harrison Ford

The Actor: Best known for playing gruff men of action, from whip-cracking archaeologists to arse-kicking presidents. For our money, Indy is the seminal role, but we’re sure there are plenty of Han fans who’d disagree with us…

Their Amazing Life: You could make a pretty solid action movie out of Harrison’s secondary career as a helicopter pilot. Ford doesn’t just use his chopper to jet in and out of premieres you see, he also indulges in a spot of off-duty heroism. Notable exploits include finding a missing boy-scout in the woods and airlifting volunteers in Haiti. Indy would be proud.

Key Scene: A stranded hiker is delivered from a mountainside in a recreation of one of Ford’s real-life adventures. Not only did the lucky blighter have his life saved, he got to meet a movie star into the bargain!

Klaus Kinski

The Actor: The wild-eyed German actor starred in over 130 films throughout his long-running career, with his frequent collaborations with Werner Herzog making him something of a household name.

Their Amazing Life: Where to start? His military career seems as good a place as any, with one of the most famous Kinski stories coming during his time with the Wehrmacht in WW2. Tiring of army life, Kinski deserted his unit during service in the Netherlands and was consequently captured by British forces. Facing the death penalty, Kinski escaped his captors before eventually ending up in a British POW camp, where he attempted to appear insane by drinking his own urine and eating cigarettes. It was an impression he would struggle to shed throughout the rest of his life!

A post-war career in the theatre was blighted by notoriously erratic behaviour, which led to a diagnosis of schizophrenia in 1950. His cinema career was similarly marked by on-set hysterics and bizarre behaviour, although in director Herzog he found something of a kindred spirit. When they weren’t pointing weapons at each other that is…Enough material for a biopic? Good, let’s have it then.

Key Scene:
It has to be the gun-waving face-off between Kinski and Herzog on the set of Aguirre . It’s the stuff of Hollywood folklore!

Robert Mitchum

The Actor: A looming, physical presence, Mitchum’s career saw him alternate between tough, hard-boiled heroes in Build My Gallows High and Crossfire , and deranged nutjobs in Cape Fear and The Night Of The Hunter . It’s a tough call, but we prefer him in the latter category. Villains are always more fun, aren’t they?

Their Amazing Life: It starts in pretty amazing fashion, with a 14-year-old Mitchum arrested for vagrancy during the Great Depression and forced to work as part of a chain gang. Unimpressed by this turn of events, Mitchum made a run for it when his manacles were loosened, and escaped to freedom. A pretty gutsy move for a kid!

Following that, he was a semi-professional boxer, ghost-writer for a celebrity astrologist (arguably the weirdest episode of all) and temporarily went blind, before eventually recovering. Never a dull moment, eh?

Key Scene: His arrest for possession of marijuana, making him one of the first celebrities ever caught in the act, and upping his reputation as a model of anti-authoritarian cool.

Oliver Reed

The Actor: A brooding, larger than life presence on screen, Reed was famed for a string of tough performances in films like The Three Musketeers and Oliver! He also managed the not inconsiderable feat of making nude, man-on-man wrestling seem macho in Women In Love . Well played sir.

Their Amazing Life: A renowned hellraiser and womaniser, Olly Reed’s life would make for cracking entertainment, from the bar-room brawl that left him needing 63 stitches in his face, to the legendary drinking contest he had with Steve McQueen in the early ‘70s. Even his death has a certain heroism to it, with a chronically ill Reed spending his last night drinking and scrapping with a group of sailors in Malta. He died of a heart-attack the following day.

Key Scene: Whilst filming the wartime drama Hannibal Brooks , Ollie endears himself to the locals by tearing down the Austrian flag from outside the crew’s hotel and urinating upon it. As the shoot moves on to Germany, there is more of the same, as Reed enters a bar decorated with every national flag save Britain’s. Grabbing the terrified manager, Reed snarls, “I’m coming back tomorrow night. If you haven’t got a Union Jack by then I’m going to trash this place.” There is no Union Jack the following night so Reed puts a bar stool through the window.

Samuel L. Jackson

The Actor: The bad motherfucker of modern cinema, whose ultra-cool delivery has brought a touch of class to everything from mega-budget blockbusters like Jurassic Park and Star Wars , to low-key indie fare such as Black Snake Moan . Put simply, he’s just the man.

Their Amazing Life: Uncle Sam wasn’t always the cuddly cat he is today. Back during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, he was a radical member of the Black Power movement, falling firmly on the side of violent protest after the murder of Dr. King. When the FBI are investigating you and your family, you know you’ve got the attention of The Man.

Key Scene: The episode from 1969, when Jackson and a group of like-minded friends held members of the Morehouse College Board of Trustees hostage. They wanted to make some changes to the curriculum you see…

Mel Gibson

The Actor: Hollywood’s most bankable star turned notorious alcohol enthusiast, Mad Mel has smashed records at the box office nearly as many times as he’s smashed his reputation at the off license.

Their Amazing Life:
Whilst his recent lurid exploits would seem the obvious choice, Mel’s breakthrough into the world of acting is actually far more interesting. Legend has it that he got the part of Max Rockatansky through sheer dumb luck.

Having spent the previous night embroiled in a vicious bar brawl, Mel gave a friend a lift to auditions for Mad Max with his face covered in bruises. Director George Miller reportedly spotted him and asked him to come back to a future audition, as the film “needed freaks”. When he did indeed return, his face had healed, and he was allowed to read for the part of Max. The rest, as they say, is history.

Key Scene: Let’s be honest, as great as the above story is, the “sugar tits” incident is always going to be the real crowd-pleaser.

Sean Connery

The Actor: He’ll always be remembered best as the definitive James Bond, but many will also hold a candle for his later, scenery-chewing efforts in action fodder like The Rock and, er, Entrapment . Maybe not that last one…

Their Amazing Life:
Before filling cinema’s most famous tuxedo, Connery tried his hand at a slew of weird and wonderful careers. As well as confirming his badass credentials with a three-year stint in the British Navy, Connery would spend time as a milkman, lifeguard and coffin polisher before settling for a life on screen. He could even have made it as a pro footballer, with Manchester United manager Matt Busby reportedly offering him a £25-per-week contract having spotted him in action.

Key Scene:
A diversion into Connery’s short-lived career as a bodybuilder. He placed third in 1950’s Mr. Universe competition!

Mel Brooks

The Actor: A gifted comic performer himself, Brooks is best known for his writing and directorial skills, notably on the controversy-baiting movie and stage play, The Producers . As legacies go, Springtime For Hitler ain’t too shabby.

Their Amazing Life:
Another Hollywood great with a sparkling military career, Brooks joined the US army at just seventeen years of age in order to fight in WW2. Enlisting as a combat engineer, he was charged with defusing land mines in order to ensure the safe passage of the advancing Allied forces. Anyone who’s seen The Hurt Locker knows just how stressful a job that is…

Key Scene: A classic piece of Nazi-baiting from Brooks following the Battle Of The Bulge. With Nazi propaganda played to the Allies via loudspeaker, Brooks responded by setting up some loudspeakers of his own and pumping out a retaliatory dose of music from renowned Jewish singer Al Jolson. Take that Fritz!

Steve McQueen

The Actor: The cool as ice man’s man, famed for his testosterone-soaked performances in macho movies such as Bullitt , Papillon and The Great Escape .

Their Amazing Life:
Taking the gold-plated Hollywood career out of the equation, there’s plenty to get stuck into concerning McQueen’s off-screen life. Firstly, there’s the rugged upbringing that saw Steve toying with petty crime at the age of twelve, whilst clashing with his “prime son of a bitch” stepfather at home. Then there’s his career in the Marines to cover, particularly the episode which saw McQueen save the lives of five men during an Arctic exercise, pulling them from a tank just before it crashed through the ice. It’s perfect for the big screen!

Key Scene:
The jaw-jutting face-off with his stepfather following an episode of particularly heavy-handed discipline. “You lay your stinkin' hands on me again,” McQueen is said to have growled, “and I swear, I'll kill ya.”

Daniel Day-Lewis

The Actor: An Oscar-hoarding method-actor of the first degree, and arguably the finest performer of his generation. Given half a chance, Daniel Day-Lewis will drink your milkshake…

Their Amazing Life:
The madness is in the method. Day-Lewis’s nutso brand of role preparation is the stuff of Hollywood legend and would make for a cracking biopic. First of all, there was the rigorous boxing training for The Boxer that caused Barry McGuigan to remark that he could have turned pro. Then there was his refusal to get out of his wheelchair on the set of My Left Foot . Not to mention the shoot of The Crucible , when he lived in the film’s replica village throughout, with no electricity or running water. Mad, we tells ya!

Key Scene:
A visit to the set of Gangs Of New York , where Day-Lewis would frequently pick fights with random extras and caught pneumonia due to his refusal to change out of costume.

George is GR's resident movie news person, based out of London. He understands that all men must die, but he'd rather not think about it.