February 19, 2014

One Chance (and 5 of the weirdest biopics)
by James
James

by James Forryan

hmv London; 19/02/2014

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"Like the legend of the Phoenix, I've just eaten a whole packet of chocolate HobNobs..." Editor, hmv.com

One Chance (and 5 of the weirdest biopics)

Barring somebody making a film about Karl Lagerfeld’s cat in the very near future, One Chance is almost certain to be this year’s weirdest biopic. Directed by David Frankel, the man behind Marley & Me and The Devil Wears Prada, the film tells the story of shop assistant and amateur opera singer turned Britain’s Got Talent winner Paul Potts. In one of the oddest castings in recent memory, James Corden takes on the role of the Welsh singer, starring alongside Alexandra Roach, who plays Potts’ girlfriend Julz. There are also roles for Colm Meaney and Julie Andrews as Potts’ parents, as well as for Mackenzie Crook, who appears in the role of Potts’ friend Braddon.

The film charts his story up until the moment of his now-famous audition on the TV talent show, including his stint at an opera school in Venice where he receives some less than encouraging feedback from Pavarotti. As you would expect, it’s pitched as an against-all-odds heart-warmer in the vein of Billy Elliott. Corden does feel like a bit of a miscasting and although the lip-synch moments are a bit cringe-inducing, he turns in a decent performance. The real star of the film however is Roach, who turns in a great performance as Potts' shop assistant love interest.

If this kind of film is your thing it’s worth a watch, but for those who feel this might be a step too far in the art-imitating-life stakes, we’ve picked out five more weird biopics for you to get your teeth into:

Man on the Moon

Man on the Moon

(1999)

Starring Jim Carrey, Man on the Moon tells the story of actor and comedian Andy Kaufmann, detailing his bizarre career and unlikely rise to fame in 1970s sitcom Taxi. It’s not that Kaufmann is a weird subject for a biopic – he is heralded as a genius by some comedians – but Kaufmann’s career is about as unorthodox as it gets for an entertainer. Practical jokes were a huge part of Kaufmann’s act and his career included a long-running feud with wrestler Jerry Lawler, later revealed to be entirely staged (the two were actually friends behind closed doors), as well as various on-air stunts, including dropping out of character in a live broadcast sketch about Marijuana, claiming that he ‘can’t play stoned’, resulting in an on-air brawl between fellow cast members.
If you are not familiar with Kaufmann’s work, Milos Forman’s film is a great introduction to one of the entertainment industry’s most unusual and unique performers.

Ed Wood

Ed Wood

(1994)

Directed by Tim Burton, Ed Wood sees Hollywood turn the cameras to face itself in this biopic of a filmmaker who has become legendary for all the wrong reasons. Starring Johnny Depp as the hapless, cross-dressing director with a reputation for making some of the worst films ever to make it onto the silver screen, Ed Wood details his extraordinary career, including the making of the extraordinarily bad b-movie Plan 9 from Outer Space, a film so littered with mistakes and poor decisions it falls into the ‘so bad it’s good’ category of movies.
If you haven’t seen Plan 9, we’d recommend watching this first to get an idea of exactly how terrible Wood’s films were, but nevertheless Burton paints an endearing picture of Wood and his naivety comes across as rather charming, helped by a great performance from Depp.

The People vs. Larry Flynt

The People vs. Larry Flynt

(1996)

Woody Harrelson stars as the founder of Hustler magazine Larry Flint and details his life, career and long-running battle with the authorities in a prudish 1970s America over issues like free speech and the regulation of pornography. It’s hardly a flattering portrait of the man himself, but Milos Forman’s film is hugely entertaining thanks to Flynt’s string of outrageous court appearances and outbursts as he is repeatedly sued by an array of characters including Reverend Jerry Falwell, usually as result of the offensive cartoons published in Hustler rather than any actual nudity, and one such sees him jailed for desecration of the national flag after wearing one as a diaper in court. The film also co-stars Courtney Love as one his wives, Althea, and as biopics go this is one of the most entertaining you’re likely to see.

The Road to Wellville

The Road To Wellville

(1994)

If you were going to pick a subject for a biopic, chances are the inventor of the cornflake would be quite far down your list of potentials, but that’s exactly who director Alan Parker decided on for his 1994 film The Road To Wellville. Anthony Hopkins stars as Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and the film, based on Tom Boyle’s novel of the same name, details the era before the invention of his breakfast cereal when Kellogg was running an unusual health facility in Michigan called the Battle Creek Sanitarium. A Seventh Day Adventist, Kellogg believed in a lifestyle that revolved around rigourous dietary restrictions, sunbeds and abstinence from sex, not to mention yoghurt enemas. If that’s not weird enough for you, try this next one…

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

(2002)

Based on the autobiography of Chuck Barris, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind is not just one of the oddest biopics we’ve ever seen, but also quite a fitting end to this list because, for those who don’t know, Barris was a TV producer in the 1960s and 70s and the man behind The Gong Show, a televised audition process which set the template for shows like Britain’s Got Talent. What makes his story bizarre is that Barris claims in his book that the whole time he was producing shows like The Dating Game, he was also leading a double-life as an agent and assassin for the C.I.A.
Many commentators have cast doubt on Barris’ claims, but regardless of whether the film’s basis is fact or fantasy, this film starring Sam Rockwell is packed with intrigue, particularly his claim that the dates couples were sent on were often covers to put him in the right place to carry out a hit. It’s also an admirable directorial debut for George Clooney and even if you haven’t read the book, it’s well worth a watch.