“Race,” the biopic about Olympic runner Jesse Owens, is ready to take off now that it’s found the actor to play him.
Variety reports that British actor John Boyega will line up at the starting line when the film shoots this May. The 21-year-old relative newcomer debuted in 2011’s “Attack the Block” and appeared opposite Chiwetel Ejiofor in last year’s “Half of a Yellow Sun.”
Boyega will lace up his running shoes to play the iconic Owens, who won a record four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. His triumphs cut down Adolph Hitler’s vision of Aryan superiority; the German leader had wanted to exclude black and Jewish athletes, but backed down in the face of a boycott.
Hitler only shook hands with German victors on the first day of the Games and didn’t appear at another medal presentation after. Director Stephen Hopkins will film in the Berlin stadium where Owens collected his golds.
“Race” is one of two competing biopics about Owens; the other is being developed at Disney with Antoine Fuqua attached to direct.
Gallery | 11 Uncanny Biopic Lookalikes
- Ben Kingsley / Gandhi — ‘Gandhi’
Sir Richard Attenborough’s sprawling biopic of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was met with controversy over the particularly British cast and crew. But was anyone more fit for the role than the half-Indian Kingsley? It’s all about the domes.
- Anthony Hopkins / Pablo Picasso — ‘Surviving Picasso’
Thanks to countless cubist self-portraits, the image we have of “Picasso” is slightly distorted — which makes the Hopkins/Picasso comparison so spot on. A furled brow goes a long way, especially when sizing up a canvas.
- Robert Downey Jr. / Charlie Chaplin — ‘Chaplin’
Director Richard Attenborough knows how to pick ’em! With wide eyes and a well-groomed ‘stache, the face of Marvel Comics embodied the most famous silent star in history. Would Chaplin have made a good Iron Man? (Probably not.)
- Marion Cotillard / Édith Piaf — ‘La Vie en Rose’
Cosmetics were necessary to place Oscar-winner Cotillard in the physical shadow of the famed World War II-era singer, but a facade only goes so far. Watch video of Piaf today and notice the nuance of Cotillard’s mimicry. She looks, sounds, and feels the part.
- Gary Oldman / Sid Vicious — ‘Sid & Nancy’
Oldman has never been one to back down from transformation. He went all out in recreating the animalistic Sex Pistols vocalist, nailing that lip twinge that’s the epitome of rock. Also, the hair.
- Jeffrey Wright / Jean Michel Basquiat — ‘Basquiat’
Wright was just over 30 when he portrayed the 19-year-old graffiti prodigy in artist-turned-director Julian Schnabel’s biopic. That’s the beauty of Basquiat — his art felt timeless and so did he. Bonus points to Wright for nailing the dreads.
- James Franco / James Dean — James Dean
Franco may strive to be an artistic Renaissance man, but he has the look of a classic hunk. Proof: His mirror-like reflection of the short-lived, iconic Hollywood badass, James Dean, in this 2011 TV biopic.
- Kirk Douglas / Vincent Van Gogh — Lust for Life
Possibly due to the vibrancy of Technicolor film circa 1956, Kirk Douglas — and his striking red beard — looks ripped straight from a Van Gogh canvas in this biographical film. Even more so after the pivotal slicing of the ear.
- Charlize Theron / Aileen Wuornos — Monster
Theron is a natural beauty, but coupled with a few pounds of prosthetics and wrinkle makeup, she looks like a meth head who could kill you. Which turned out well, since that’s what she needed to portray for her Academy Award-winning role in “Monster.”
- Jared Harris / Andy Warhol — “I Shot Andy Warhol”
Before he became a “Mad Men” mad man or Sherlock Holmes’ nemesis, Jared Harris slipped into the shoes of the famous pop artist. Most impersonators hide behind Warhol’s darkened shades. Harris could do it with just glasses.
- Peter O’Toole/T.E. Lawrence — ‘Lawrence of Arabia’
It’s easy to forget that T.E. Lawrence was a real member of the British Army and an influential accountant of the Arab Revolt around 1916. Not a necessary fact to enjoy O’Toole’s magical performance, but David Lean earns bonus points for his casting.
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