It’s Power Issue month here at Lifestyle Asia, and for today’s Tuesday List, we thought of looking at ten iconic screen performances of actors who played world leaders extremely well. Their undeniable talent didn’t only embody these iconic individuals impeccably, but it is as if they transformed into them, giving us a preview of what life may have been for these brilliant minds.
Cate Blanchett as Queen Elizabeth I in Elizabeth (1998)
In a performance that garnered her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in 1998, Cate Blanchett played the iconic Queen Elizabeth I in a film that portrayed her ascension into the throne. Starting from her early days as a flirtatious maiden to her rise as the steel-faced Virgin Queen, the portrayal vividly paints a portrait of Elizabeth’s transformation to becoming one of the most powerful monarchs in history.
Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II in The Crown (2016-2018)
The slow-burning Netflix original series may be getting a new Queen Elizabeth II through Olivia Coleman come 2019, but Claire Foy’s original British monarch turn in the show is a performance to write home about. Quiet, internal and intense, Claire was given the opportunity to portray Elizabeth II’s rocky early days on the throne, her turbulent marriage with Prince Philip, and ending all the way to the birth of her last child, Prince Andrew. She won the Emmy this year for Outstanding Leading Performance for an Actress in a Mini-Series.
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Colin Firth as King George VI in The King’s Speech (2010)
Queen Elizabeth II’s father King George had a speech impediment that shrunk his confidence and made him feel like he was an unfit ruler. As England entered war with Germany and his ascension to the throne came close, the monarch had to step it up and hire a speech therapist to tell him become the king England deserves. Tom Hooper’s Best Picture-winning film features an Oscar winning performance from Colin Firth. It’s a touching, inspiring tale that tells the general public that monarchs, despite their divine right, are just people with problems too.
Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln in Lincoln (2012)
Daniel Day-Lewis may have retired from acting (yet again), but he leaves screen history with wonderful performances, including three that made him the actor with the most Leading Actor Oscar wins ever. As Abraham Lincoln, Day-Lewis stepped into the shoes of the American president through his intense method acting process. He stopped all telecommunications and wrote only letters, lived with only candlelight, and stayed in costume for the duration of filming. His dedication is shown on screen in a performance for the ages.
Frank Langella as Richard Nixon in Frost/Nixon (2008)
A controversial leader who was in the middle of the Watergate Scandal in the 1970s, Richard Nixon’s greatness is quite debatable amongst the past American Presidents. Still, Frank Langella’s Oscar-nominated turn in this film about Nixon’s iconic interview with David Frost could not be more intense. Call it mimicry, but it totally worked.
Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour (2017)
The reigning Best Actor winner is acting veteran Gary Oldman for his turn as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour. The film chronicles Churchill’s greatest term as England’s Prime Minister, navigating war and making tough decisions for the betterment of his people. Truly remembered now as a hero, many of Churchill’s decisions then were unpopular within the government. This film shows what he was like as a man, and paints more than a caricature of the famous figure we all read about today.
Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen (2006)
Without Helen Mirren’s Oscar-winning turn as Elizabeth II in The Queen, we may never have gotten The Crown. Showrunner Peter Morgan’s obsession for royals had been around for a long time, but his international success with The Queen started it all. Mirren becomes a whole new person as the British monarch. The story all takes place within the first week of the tragic death of Princess Diana and how the Queen and her new Prime Minister Tony Blair (Martin Sheen) navigate through the disastrous event that rocked history.
Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher in Iron Lady (2011)
Meryl Streep’s Margaret Thatcher is a testament to the talents of the woman who is often considered as “Our Generation’s Greatest Actress”. Streep was victorious come Oscar night, winning her third trophy, the most wins by any actress, second only to Katherine Hepburn’s four. The film follows Thatcher’s time as Prime Minster of England, showing how she brought herself to the top of a male-centric government with her strong wit, brains and iron persona.
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Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela in Invictus (2009)
It takes an icon to play an icon. Morgan Freeman had big shoes to fill when he decided to play Nelson Mandela in 2009’s Invictus. The film begins after the leader’s 27-year imprisonment, where he was then elected to be the President of South Africa. After noticing a divide between the races in his company, Mandela commissions the national rugby team to win the Invictus games in hopes that a victory would unify his people. Freeman was nominated for Best Actor at the Oscars during this competitive film year.
Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy in Jackie (2016)
Natalie Portman’s Jackie Kennedy is the only non-monarch or head of state in this entire list. However, Jackie was a beacon of hope during her time and remained to be in the public eye, even after the assassination of her husband, the late JFK. Portman was Oscar nominated for this role, and rightfully so. The film takes place beginning from JFK’s tragic murder, all the way to his grand procession and funeral at Washington DC. The actresses’ performance is emotional and heartbreaking, one of the very best that has been put on screen in recent years. Not to mention, she fully embodies each of Jackie’s quirks, mannerisms, and voice to a tee.
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