The trailer of "Grace of Monaco" has come out.
As I'm waiting for this film, I notice that in recent years Hollywood has been making biopics about screen legends, with some strange casting such as Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe, Lindsay Lohan and then Helena Bonham Carter as Elizabeth Taylor... (there are also rumours about Naomi Watts playing Marilyn).
So I have fears that there will be a biopic about Vivien Leigh.
Here's why I'm against the idea:
1/ It is generally difficult to portray actors.
Depicting a literary character on screen is not easy, because readers have their own visions of the character, but at least the character doesn't exist and can be imagined and interpreted in multiple ways. It's more difficult to portray a real person, and then another level to portray actors, because when people come to Daniel Day-Lewis and say that he doesn't know what Lincoln sounded like, he can say "but neither do you", actors who portray other actors can't say that. Actors are too 'familiar', we can still watch their films, so when seeing such biopics, we scrutinise the manners, gestures, facial expressions, ways of walking... and, more than that, demand the actors in the biopics to capture the essence, the qualities of those they're portraying. Tackling film legends is also more demanding than, say, talkshow hosts, because we love film stars, perhaps even worship them.
Take Jennifer Love Hewitt as Audrey Hepburn for instance. There are some actresses who have Audrey's qualities, such as Anne Hathaway or Natalie Portman. Jennifer Love Hewitt doesn't have a blend of elegance and grace with a boyish, natural, lively, refreshing, 'crazy' look of Audrey, even her walking in the opening scene of "Breakfast at Tiffany's" is completely wrong.
Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe does a better job, she gets right the voice, manners, facial expressions, gestures... In fact, she's a much more talented actress than the star she portrays. The tragic part is that she lacks the special factor that makes Marilyn Marilyn. Marilyn shines on screen, captivates the audience and makes everyone else disappear, Michelle Williams is the kind of ordinary girl who never stands out.
Cate Blanchett is perfect as Katharine Hepburn. Very, very few people can do so.
For the time being, I can't say anything about the casting of Nicole Kidman as Grace Kelly. Nicole has enough poise, but I haven't seen enough to recognise Grace's essence.
2/ Nobody looks like her.
Is there more to be said? Look at her face!
Let me quote her Larry: "Apart from her looks, which were magical, she possessed beautiful poise; her neck looked almost too fragile to support her head and bore it with a sense of surprise, and something of the pride of the master juggler who can make a brilliant manoeuvre appear almost accidental. She also had something else: an attraction of the most perturbing nature I had ever encountered."
3/ It's difficult to imitate her manners, facial expressions, gesticulations, ways of talking..., (almost) impossible to capture her elegance, mischievousness, cat-like quality...
People who impersonate her also have the danger that they may end up being ridiculous.
In "My week with Marilyn", Julia Ormond looks nothing like Vivien and doesn't seem to bother to act like her.
4/ Portraying Vivien Leigh means at some point the actress must play some of her roles, at least Scarlett O'Hara and/ or Blanche DuBois, her 2 Oscar-winning performances.
Much more challenging than when one portrays someone like Marilyn Monroe or Audrey Hepburn or Hedy Lamarr, it requires immense talent. No, it's mission impossible.
I can't think of anyone that can do her justice. Some people on the internet suggest Julia Ormond, Rachel Weisz, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley...- I am appalled.
After all, why watch someone else playing her when we can watch her films instead?
5/ A biopic about her would obviously exploit her tragic life, her bipolar disorder, her turbulent relationship with Laurence Olivier...
Might include the stories of her as an adulterer, bisexual, nymphomaniac...
Generally, I tend to keep a certain distance from people I admire, in spite of my obsession, and don't want to hear details about a favourite actress's private life, especially her sex life. I don't even read Vivien Leigh biographies, and if I buy Kendra Bean's book, it's more because of the photos.
Remember my objection to Naomi Watts playing Diana? According to reviews, the film exploits Diana's life and paints her in a very ugly light. I fear that the same thing may happen if anyone makes a biopic about Vivien Leigh.
Just leave her alone.
PS: Wikipedia says Morgan Brittany portrayed Vivien Leigh 3 times. Seriously? I can't find any video on youtube. Can anybody find anything?