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This weekend sees the wide release of Danny Boyle’s latest film, Steve Jobs, which takes a close look at the life of the tech legend who founded Apple and is responsible for any number of innovations in the field. It’s also the second movie to do so within the last few years, as the Ashton Kutcher-fronted Jobs hit in 2013.
From the early reviews, many of which are raves, it certainly appears that the latest attempt is the superior one in the mind of many viewers, and this is not the first time two movies that take the same real-life person as their subject have been released close to one another. In these cases, one usually seems to outshine the other, rightly or wrongly, and we thought that this is a perfect opportunity to look back at some cases of other twin biopics and see which one did it better.
Capote/InfamousTruman Capote was one of America’s greatest writers, and the 2005 biopic Capote follows the events surrounding his most well known book, the true crime masterpiece In Cold Blood. Starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman in the title role, it tells the story of how the writer became embroiled in the case and how it impacted him—he never finished another book.
The following year, in 2006, Infamous appeared, starring Toby Jones as the writer. Based on George Plimpton’s biography of Capote, instead of focusing on one specific event, it gives a larger picture of his life and career, where he was more known for his social existence than his actual craft, using interviews and anecdotes from friends, family, and contemporaries.
Who Did It Better: While Infamous is a worthy movie in its own right, full of sharp banter, strong performances, and is overall the more warm and engaging film, it will forever exist in the shadow of Capote. If nothing else, Hoffman’s performance, which won him an Oscar, is more than enough to tip the scales.
Prefontaine/Without LimitsThe life of distance runner Steve Prefontaine inspired not one but two biopics, starting with 1997’s Prefontaine. Starring Jared Leto as the troubled Olympian who fought for athlete’s rights, it is really that performance as the small town kid running on the biggest stage his sport has to offer that elevates what is a rather standard biopic.
In 1998 the Tom Cruise-produced Without Limits also sought to tell Prefontaine’s story, this time with Billy Crudup in the lead. Though Crudup turns in a solid performance, it is Donald Sutherland as his trainer who truly shines in this version of the story, for which he earned a Golden Globe nomination.
Who Did It Better: This is a close one. It’s hard to overlook Leto’s performance in Prefontaine, which is as good as you expect from the dedicated actor. That will always be the higher profile movie, the one that is more recognized, but overall, Without Limits may have a slight edge and actually be a better film.
Tombstone/Wyatt EarpWhere the Old West is concerned there is already so much mythmaking in play that it’s difficult to separate fact from fiction, and Wyatt Earp is one of those figures who is who is more legend than man. Played by Kurt Russell in 1993’s Tombstone, the lawman is part of the action at the legendary Gunfight at the O.K. Coral, which, for a 30-second exchange, has found its way deep into our collective consciousness.
Like many biopics, 1994’s Wyatt Earp plays fast and loose with the facts—again, aided by the partially fictitious nature of his story. With a then red hot Kevin Costner in the lead, and directed by Lawrence Kasdan, who also co-wrote, it’s a more life-spanning attempt to tell Earp’s tale, though we still get to hang out with the likes of Doc Holiday and take in the sights in Tombstone, Arizona.
Who Did It Better: Wyatt Earp isn’t a terrible movie, it even got an Academy Award nomination for cinematography, but Tombstone stands as the better of the two attempts to tell the tale of Wyatt Earp, and has lingered longer in the public eye.
Hitchcock/The GirlAlfred Hitchcock was as big a personality as he was a talent, and the stories around his productions are the stuff of legend. 2012’s Hitchcock, which sees the director played by Anthony Hopkins, deals with the making of perhaps his greatest achievement, Psycho, the struggles he had bringing the film to the screen, and his relationship with his wife, Alma Reville (Helen Mirren).
The same year saw the BBC and HBO team up for The Girl, which focuses on Hitchcock (played here by Toby Jones) and his relationship with Tippi Hedren (Sienna Miller). It deals with Hitchcock’s and how he interacted with his leading women, and has earned both praise and criticism for its portrayal of the director as a sexual predator—some have supported those claims, while others have denied them.
Who Did It Best: Both Jones and Millers were nominated for Golden Globes for their performances, but overall The Girl is too shallow in its attempt to psychoanalyze Alfred Hitchcock, and watching Hopkins and Mirren together on screen is just too damn good.
Oscar Wilde/The Trials Of Oscar WildeOscar Wilde is renowned worldwide as the master of razor sharp witticisms, and 1960 arrived with a pair of competing biopics of the playwright, novelist, poet, and raconteur. The uninventively titled Oscar Wilde was the lower budget of the two, and, based on a play, not as well received at the second film in the duo.
Both films opened during the last week of May, but it is The Trials of Oscar Wilde that has endured. It tells the tale of the libel and criminal cases that involved Wilde and the Marquess of Queensbury. Also based on a stage play, The Stringed Lute, the film stars Peter Finch, Lionel Jeffries, James Mason, and more.
Who Did It Best: Though they came out at the same time, Trials definitely outshined Oscar Wilde. Not only does it have a fantastic cast, contemporary reviews were far more positive, it has aged much better, and it even won a Golden Globe for best foreign language feature and a BAFTA for the lead actor in Finch.