There’s a phenomenon that happens when pop-culture collides with history. Characters of our past take on the persona of the performer who played them on screen.
A great example is Vil Kilmer‘s Doc Holiday in the movie Tombstone. I’ve seen pictures of the 19th century Doc Holiday so I know what the guy is supposed to look at. But when I hear Doc Holiday, I see Vil Kilmer.
I’m confident Moses looked nothing like Charlton Heston, but there you are. If you think about it, even the cartoon Moses in the animated feature, The Prince of Egypt, favored Heston. (Coincidently the voice of Moses was Vil Kilmer.) Ben Kingsley played Moses in the 1995 TV movie of the same name, but it is the Heston portrayal that will stand the test of time.
Some other stand out character portrayals are:
Jamie Foxx – Ray Charles
Anthoney Hopkins – Nixon
Ed Harris – Jackson Pollock
Josh Brolin – George W. Bush
Val Kilmer – Jim Morrison
Jim Carrey – Andy Kaufman
Paul Giamatti – Harvey Pekar
Helen Mirren – Queen Elizabeth II
Sean Penn – Harvey Milk
Phillip Seymour Hoffman – Truman Capote
Woody Harrelson – Larry Flynt
Robert Downey Jr. – Charlie Chapman
Tom Hulce – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Faye Dunaway – Joan Crawford
Sissy Spacek – Loretta Lynn
Ben Kingsley – Mahatma Ghandi
James Stewart – Charles Lindbergh
There are many more but I can tell you when I think of any one of these people I usually see the actor who portrayed them.
One of the best is whenever I think of Julia Child, I can only see Dan Aykroyd doing Julia “I seem to have cut myself” Child. And when I think of Richard Nixon, I don’t see Anthony Hopkins, I see Dan Aykroyd doing Richard “I am not a crook” Nixon. And when I think of Sgt. Joe Friday, I don’t think of Jack Webb, I can only see Dan Aykroyd as Sgt. Joe Friday.
Come to think of it, Dan Aykroyd sort of reminds me of Beldar Conehead. It’s a small universe when you look at it like that.
Long live Beldar Conehead!