10 Actors Who Have Played Literary Types
Midnight In Paris, Woody Allen‘s biggest hit in 25 years, features “cameos” by American literary expats F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Gertrude Stein, among other authors.
It’s not the only recent film depicting the oft-wild lives of famous writers. John Cusack stars as goth author Edgar Allan Poe in 2012’s tentatively titled murder mystery The Raven – and if the candid on-set photos of the costumed Cusack splashed across the internet are any indication, anticipation for the flick is high.
Putting famous writers on the silver screen is hardly a new Hollywood trend. Check out these ten actors who’ve played literary types:
1. Nicole Kidman famously donned a prosthetic nose as the finishing touch on her Oscar-winning portrayal of British author and feminist icon Virginia Woolf in 2002’s The Hours. Spoiler: it doesn’t end well.
2. Gwyneth Paltrow starred as doomed American poet Sylvia Plath in 2003’s Sylvia, which focuses on both Plath’s stormy relationship with husband and fellow poet Ted Hughes (a pre-Bond Daniel Craig) and her increasing mental anguish. Spoiler: not a very happy ending here either.
3. It took not one but two Academy Award winners to portray massively prolific British author Iris Murdoch in 2001’s Iris, based on a memoir by Murdoch’s husband, John Bayley. Kate Winslet starred as the younger Murdoch, while Dame Judi Dench handled the author’s later years, including a heartbreaking descent into Alzheimer’s. Spoiler: You get the picture.
4. Stephen Fry portrayed irrepressible Irish wit and dandy of letters Oscar Wilde in 1997’s Wilde, which examines the personal and legal agony caused by Wilde’s gay affair with the much younger Lord Alfred Douglas. Wilde served time in prison for “unnatural acts.”
5. Steven Soderbergh made the bizarre decision to follow up on his winning 1989 debut Sex, Lies and Videotape by directing a mess of a 1991 thriller featuring Jeremy Irons as Czech writer Franz Kafka. Set in the dreary Prague of 1919, Kafka finds a fictional version of the “Metamorphosis” author embroiled in a conspiracy, outrunning villainous strangers, and other decidedly, uh, Kafka-esque goings-on.
6. Fred Ward and Maria de Medeiros tried their darnedest to capture the erotically charged affair between balding American writer Henry Miller and sultry French author Anais Nin in 1990’s Henry & June. Set in Paris during the 1930s, and also starring Uma Thurman as Miller’s wife June, the film is a celebration of sex, bohemian values, and Ward’s ridiculously visible shaved hairline.
7. Jennifer Jason Leigh slurred her way through the role of frequently drunk American writer Dorothy Parker in 1994’s Mrs. Parker and The Vicious Circle. The flick depicts the juice-fueled antics of the Algonquin Table writers in 1920s New York. Also features Campbell Scott as Parker’s fellow New Yorker scribe Robert Benchley; Lili Taylor as Giant author Edna Ferber; and David Thornton as celebrated American humorist George S. Kaufman.
8. Geoffrey Rush played the kinky Marquis de Sade in 2000’s insane asylum drama Quills, co-starring Kate Winslet. A French aristocrat, the Marquis made a career of exploring the darker aspects of human sexuality, was routinely incarcerated for his work, and left behind a literary legacy that inspired generations of fetish magazine editors everywhere.
9. Anthony Hopkins portrayed British writer and Tolkien pal C.S. Lewis in 1993’s biography Shadowlands, focusing on the creator of Narnia’s transformative love affair with American poet Joy Gresham (Debra Winger).
10. Australian actress Judy Davis played cross-dressing French author George Sand in 1991’s Impromptu, chronicling the tortured love affair between lusty, domineering Sand and hopelessly wimpy composer Frederic Chopin (Hugh Grant).
What other Hollywood stars played writers onscreen?