Angela Bassett played music legend Tina Turner in the 1993 biopic What’s Love Got to Do With It. While she didn’t have to do any of her own singing in the film, she did do a lot of dancing. Bassett won a Golden Globe for her performance, and was nominated for an Oscar.
Beyoncé Knowles as Etta James
Beyoncé Knowles portrayed crooner Etta James in Cadillac Records, the 2008 film about the growth of the Chicago-based record company Chess Records. Darnell Martin, the writer and director of the film, said the role of James was written with Knowles in mind.
Cate Blanchett as Bob Dylan
In 2007’s I’m Not There six different actors portray Bob Dylan. Within the company of male actors, Cate Blanchett was the only woman to play Dylan. In her portrayal as Jude Quinn, one of Dylan’s fictional alter egos, she played Dylan in one of his most provocative times of his career when he took up the electric guitar straying away from his folk music fan base. Blanchett told W Magazine, “I just strapped those breasts down and went for it.”
Dennis Quaid as Jerry Lee Lewis
In 1983’s Great Balls of FireDennis Quaid brought rock n’ roll icon Jerry Lee Lewis to life on screen. Quaid practiced playing piano for 12 hours a day in a six-month span. A rock singer/songwriter and guitarist himself, Quaid has performed all over Southern California with his band, the Eclectics. Lewis and Quaid had played music together before shooting began. Lewis was against the actor singing his music in the movie, so the 1950’s rocker re-recorded his hits featured in the movie and on the film’s soundtrack.
Gary Busey as Buddy Holly
Gary Busey played Buddy Holly, a leader in the beginnings of rock and roll music, in the 1978 biopic The Buddy Holly Story. Busey did all of his own singing in the film, and lost weight to portray the musician who died in a plane crash when he was only 22 years old.
Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles
For his portrayal of Ray Charles in Ray, Foxx received his first Academy Award for best actor. He is the second male in history to receive two Oscar nominations in the same year for two different movies, Collateral and Ray. Prior to shooting, Foxx and Charles met at RPM Studios in July 2002. Jamie learned Charles’ music by playing his greatest hits alongside the legendary soul singer. To closer channel Ray, Jamie insisted on working blind in the movie, prompting the makeup artist to apply silicone to the actor’s eyelids.
Jennifer Lopez as Selena
In the 1997 film Selena,Jennifer Lopez played Tejano music sensation Selena Quintanilla, better known by just her first name. Lopez was expecting to provide her own vocals, however the movie was so soon after Selena’s untimely death that producers decided it was better to have Lopez lip sync to the original.
Jessica Lange as Patsy Cline
Sweet Dreams, a 1986 biopic about Patsy Cline, saw Jessica Lange playing the title role. Her portrayal of the country music star led to an Oscar nomination for Lange. Original Cline songs were used in the film, with Lange lip syncing along to them.
Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon as Johnny Cash, June Carter
In 2005’s Walk the Line, Joaquin Phoenix plays the Man in Black. In the film, which started filming after Cash’s death in 2003, Phoenix sang all the songs, and practiced long hours on the guitar to resemble the sound of Cash’s hits. Phoenix was nominated for an Oscar for best actor for his work. Reese Witherspoon played June Carter, and went on to win an Academy Award for best actress. Reese told MTV News, “I knew more about the Carter family, actually, than I did about Johnny Cash as a child. We had to study the history of country music in the fourth grade, and that’s who we learned about.”
Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett
Kristen Stewart portrayed rocker Joan Jett in the 2010 movie The Runaways. Jett didn’t hand-pick Stewart, but she did say, “I found us to be really, scarily similar, just in our physicality, the way we move through space. When we were hanging out together on set, it was like I had a mirror image. Even just sitting around, we'd do the same thing at the same time. It was just great — and it wasn't creepy. It was wonderfully special.”
Marion Cotillard as Edith Piaf
In 2007’s French film La Vie en Rose, Marion Cotillard played international star Edith Piaf. Cotillard won her first Academy Award for best actress, becoming the second French actress to win the honor. It was also the first time an Academy Award had been given for a film entirely in a language other than English. To study for her role, Cotillard read books on Piaf’s life, watched tapes and listened to many interviews. She also worked with a vocal coach to learn how Piaf sang, from her breathing to how she moved her tongue.
Sam Riley as Ian Curtis
Sam Riley, in the 2007 film Control, plays the lead singer of English punk-rock band Joy Division, Ian Curtis. While the band members have said that some of the film’s information is factually inaccurate, critics gave the film riveting reviews.
Sissy Spacek as Loretta Lynn
Sissy Spacek was hand picked by Loretta Lynn to play the country music star in the 1980 film Coal Miner’s Daughter. The role led to a best actress Oscar win for Spacek in the same year. She, along with costar Beverly D’Angelo who played Patsy Cline, did all of her own singing in the movie, which earned Spacek a Grammy nomination.
Tom Hulce as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
The story of composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is told in the movie Amadeus, with Tom Hulce playing Mozart. Hulce was nominated for both a Golden Globe and Academy Award, but lost both to costar F. Murray Abraham, who played Mozart’s secret rival Antonio Salieri.
Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison
The Doors, a 1991 film directed by Oliver Stone, stars Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison. Growing up, Kilmer’s male nanny was the first person to introduce him to Morrison’s music. The actor spent six months rehearsing Doors songs every day, learning 50 songs. He performs 15 in the film.
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