As fans of both the written word and the silver screen, what do we look for in a performance when an actor portrays an author? It’s a delicate balance, an artist in their own right portraying another, and a conundrum that mirrors that of the biopic. On a more personal level, though, the actor portraying an author has a more difficult job – to exude a mimicked intellectual stamina; to envelop the essence of another human being, both inside and out. Sure, you can throw in countless cigarettes and learn to unabashedly toy around with a typewriter, but only the best can live up to the craft.
In Jonathan Kiefer‘s new essay for Fandor, he assembles a supercut of actors and actresses portraying some beloved (and befallen) authors of the past several centuries. There’s Nicole Kidman‘s controversial to fans but nonetheless Oscar-winning turn as Virginia Woolf in “The Hours,” Stephen Daldry‘s drama, and the perhaps lesser-known portrayal of Vladimir Nabokov by Christopher Plummer in the TV movie “Nabokov on Kafka.” Speaking of the Prague-born author, check out Franz Kafka as portrayed by a young Daniel Day Lewis in 1986’s “The Insurance Man.” Jane Campion has two films on the list with Ben Whishaw‘s performance as young Romantic poet John Keats in the truly ethereal “Bright Star” makes an appearance as does Kerry Fox as beloved author Janet Frame in 1990’s “An Angel At My Table.”
Of course, Philip Seymour Hoffman transcended both the literary and cinematic worlds with his portrayal of Truman Capote, but so did Jennifer Jason Leigh as the sharp-tongued Dorothy Parker in “Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle.” Ralph Fiennes does his best Charles Dickens in “The Invisible Woman,” and Malcolm McDowell tries his hand at science fiction writing as H.G. Wells. Leonardo DiCaprio summons his inner poet as Arthur Rimbaud alongside David Thewlis as Paul Verlaine in Agnieszka Holland‘s lesser known “Total Eclipse” and despite much criticism, Jason Segel rose to the occasion and then some as the inimitable David Foster Wallace in last year’s “The End of the Tour.”
What’s your favorite author portrayal? Let us know in the comments below.