Michelle Williams is already getting Oscar buzz for her portrayal of Marilyn Monroe in My Week With Marilyn, which opens in theaters this Wednesday. “She channels every facet of the legend’s persona — her seductiveness, her neuroses, her candle-in-the-wind vulnerability and sometimes breathtaking naïveté — while keeping her feet planted firmly on the ground,” writes Rene Rodriguez at the Miami Herald. “Williams makes Monroe simultaneously seem larger than life and heartbreakingly human.” Even critics less impressed with the film as a whole — like Ronnie Scheib at Variety or David Rooney at Hollywood Reporter — seem enamored of her performance.
But Williams is just one of many actors who have portrayed iconic stars — some to universal acclaim, and others to widespread derision. Click through as we examine some of the most noteworthy examples.
Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest
Probably the most infamous instance of an actor playing another actor, Faye Dunaway tore up the screen as Joan Crawford in the 1981 film based on the memoir by Crawford’s daughter, Christina.
Critical reaction: In the ’70s, Dunaway had completed a decade of stellar acting work, culminating in an Oscar for her role in Network. Then she starred in Mommie Dearest, and her career all but skidded to a halt. For those not familiar with Dunaway’s hysterically campy portrayal of the Crawford, let Variety describe it for you: “Dunaway does not chew scenery. Dunaway starts neatly at each corner of the set in every scene and swallows it whole, costars and all.”
Physical resemblance: Dunaway molded her look to fit Joan Crawford’s appearance. She has her distinctive thick eyebrows, high cheekbones and, let’s face it, crazy eyes. At 5 foot 7, Dunaway is two inches taller than Crawford, but this added height made her seem even more imposing and frightening in the film.