Earlier this week, we learned that BBC4 is set to release its own take on the doomed romance between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton — and fans are already complaining that Helena Bonham Carter, whose been cast as Liz, doesn’t look enough like her. But that doesn’t mean the six-time Golden Globe nominee and winner of Emmy, SAG, and BAFTA awards is doomed to fail at capturing the screen vixen’s famous fire. In fact, there’s plenty of precedent for actors who looked nothing like the real-life icons they portrayed nonetheless managing to convince us. These 15 actors may have presented a challenge for their films’ makeup departments, but they also turned in performances no lookalike could have matched.
Tom Hulce and F. Murray Abraham as Mozart and Salieri in Amadeus
Paintings of the 18th- and 19th-century composers depict Mozart as a strong-jawed, regal man and Antonio Salieri as a thin-lipped, light-eyed figure with a mop of silver hair. So it was a great surprise to see Tom Hulce portray Mozart as a lanky goofball with the most irritatingly contagious giggle on the planet, and Abraham play Salieri with an impeccable combination of desperation and pride, roles that earned Hulce an Oscar nom and Abraham a little gold statue.