By Erin Caine
The celebrity world is one we all seem to be strangely enamored with, full of the kind of excitement, visibility, and scandal we rarely, if ever, experience in our daily lives. Perhaps this fascination (occasionally crossing the line into obsession) can account for the ever-constant deluge of films that begin with “based on a true story.”
This year, there’s already been several biographical films, and on a range of subjects both well-known and obscure.
“Mary Shelley,” for instance, was a biopic released in the U.S. in May, giving audiences a glimpse into the “Frankenstein” author’s unassuming origins, erratic love affair with poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, and her struggle against her era’s sexist expectations and limitations. And then there was “Papillon,” a remake of a 1973 film about a real-life French convict who escaped from a notorious penal colony nicknamed “Devil’s Island.” Here are a few upcoming biopics to keep your eye on:
1. “The Favourite”: The film, directed by Yorgos Lanthimos and scheduled for a November U.S. release, centers on the tense, shifting relationships between England’s Queen Anne and two cousins vying for the role of the capricious, ailing queen’s “favourite”— her most trusted confidant.
In the trailer for the film, the bitter and intensifying atmosphere of rivalry between Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz) and the recently arrived Abigail Masham (Emma Stone) is palpable.
It promises to be a film that thrills with its political intrigue and leaves us in awe of the dark underbelly of Anne’s decadent and eccentric 18th-century reign. Lanthimos’ intent going into the project was to portray the three women in a “complex and wonderful and horrific” manner.
2. “Boy Erased”: This November, Joel Edgerton’s coming-of-age drama, an adaptation of Garrard Conley’s 2016 memoir, will show us the ugly view from inside a “gay conversion therapy” program.
Numerous studies from the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and others have already proven conversion therapy to be not just pseudoscientific, but also an ultimately ineffective form of mental and physical torture.
Despite this, a large majority of the U.S. has no legal ban on the practice. Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe play the conflicted and religious parents of the main character, a forcibly outed 19-year-old boy played by Lucas Hedges. GLAAD Media Award-winning pop artist and actor Troye Sivan also has a role in the film.
3. “Bohemian Rhapsody”: Though it’s hard to go through life without hearing the dynamic, larger-than-life vocals of the band Queen’s virtuoso frontman, Freddie Mercury, there are many aspects of his life that are still unknown even to avid fans.
Rami Malek, who plays Mercury in the upcoming biopic, says that he considers the latter to be “the best performer of all time” and added, “I never ceased [during filming] to be astonished by this man.”
The film will follow Mercury’s life and journey to stardom and end with Queen’s 1985 Live Aid performance at Wembley Stadium.
Though many were anxious that Mercury’s often-obscured bisexuality would be left out of the film, those concerns were put to rest by the casting of Aaron McCusker, who plays John Hutton, Mercury’s longtime boyfriend.
4. “Collete”: Slated for late September, this biographical film follows the life and work of French novelist Gabrielle Colette, who married the domineering Henry Gauthier-Villars, known by his pen name “Willy,” and was forced to write under his name.
Keira Knightley, by now a master of the period drama with memorable lead roles in “Pride & Prejudice” and “The Duchess,” plays the convention-defying main character.
In the trailer, viewers can plainly see her growing frustration with not getting the recognition and the creative autonomy she deserves, as well as her increasing desire to break free from the rules of polite Parisian society that bind her.
After its Sundance premiere, Roger Ebert’s Nick Allen said, “[Knightley’s Collete] valiantly introduces, or reminds, the world about a woman who was a true rebel when it came to sexual politics and a woman’s autonomy.”