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Top 10 Portrayals of Authors in Movies

The Best Performances of Great Authors

This article originally appeared on Bookstr.

Some of the best films detail the lives and exploits of the world’s greatest authors. Not all performances of famous writers are created equal, though. Some stand out, and make us feel as if we’re meeting the author (our dream, obviously). These are some of the best portrayals of real-life authors in movies.

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1. Nicole Kidman as Virginia Woolf, The Hours

nicole kidman in the hours
Photo: Courtesy of Paramount

Mrs. Dalloway, the famous novel by Virginia Woolf, connects three generations of women undergoing massive struggles, including Woolf herself, who is struggling with depression while penning the book. For her effort, Kidman won an Academy Award for Best Actress.

 

2. Corey Stoll as Ernest Hemingway, Midnight in Paris

Corey Stoll as Ernest Hemingway
Photo: Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

The best parts of Midnight in Paris are the dalliances the protagonist, Gil, has with famous authors and cultural figures from a century prior. One of these figures is the great Ernest Hemingway, who is characteristically found at a bar, lending advice and launching jealous barbs at Gil.

 

3. Kathy Bates as Gertrude Stein, Midnight in Paris

kathy bates in midnight in paris
Photo: Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Realistically, this whole list could solely feature characters from the Woody Allen flick. Bates’ portrayal of Gertrude Stein needs to be included, though, as it was the access point via which the movie pivoted. Bates gave the author a warm spirit, with a decided edge about her.

 

4. Paul Giamatti as Harvey Pekar, American Splendor

Paul Giamatti in american splendor
Photo: Courtesy of Fine Line Features

In line with virtually all of his roles, Giamatti portrayed the comic book author with the amount of eccentricity needed to produce cartoonish work regularly. Harvey Pekar himself appeared in the film, essentially granting it status as a fair depiction.

 

5. Javier Bardem as Reinaldo Arenas, Before Night Falls

Javier Bardem in before night falls

The devastating story of Reinaldo Arenas, a Cuban poet and novelist looking to escape his life in Havana, is beautifully portrayed by Bardem. He captures the joy of writing just as powerfully as he captures the devastation of living in Fidel Castro’s Cuba as a gay man.

 

6. Philip Seymour Hoffman as Truman Capote, Capote

philip seymour hoffman incapote

Hoffman’s portrayal of the In Cold Blood author, Truman Capote, only grew in stature as the actor’s own life came to a devastating conclusion. Watching the author struggle with bouts of humility and loss of self-respect may be one of the most well-crafted portrayals of an author in history.

 

7. Judi Dench as Iris Murdoch, Iris

Judi Dench in Iris

Alzheimer’s disease ravages the brain, but not the soul. At least that’s what one would think watching Judi Dench turn in an impressive performance as Irish novelist, Iris Murdoch. It’s worth noting that Kate Winslet played a younger version of Murdoch in the movie.

 

8. Anne Hathaway as Jane Austen, Becoming Jane

Anne Hathaway in becoming jane

Becoming Jane takes on the classic premise of an author – in this case, Jane Austen—who finds themselves in a world with their characters. It’s a fun trip through the world of Jane Austen so long as you can get past Anne Hathaway’s questionable British accent.

 

9. Stephen Fry as Oscar Wilde, Wilde

Stephen Fry in Wilde

Fry shares a strong resemblance to Oscar Wilde, both physically and biographically. He puts the conflictual nature of Wilde on full display, playing the author with both unmistakable pizzazz and something far from his known public persona.

 

10. Gwyneth Paltrow as Sylvia Plath, Sylvia

Gwyneth Paltrow in Sylvia

Paltrow gave a stellar performance as the late Sylvia Plath, but it wasn’t approved universally. In fact, Plath’s daughter was highly critical of the performance and accused the filmmakers of trying to profit off of her mother’s suicide.


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Photo: Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics



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