Portraying controversial figures in a biopic always presents a challenge for actors. That challenge is compounded when portraying a contemporary figure whose family is still very much alive. Actress Elizabether Banks found this fact out the hard way after taking on the role of former First Lady Laura Bush in the biopic W.
Speaking with Yahoo Movies, Banks revealed that the Bush twins – Jenna and Barbara – did not take to kindly to seeing the actress after she portrayed their mother in W. back in 2008:
I think we were at a fashion show or something, and I’m like, 'I’m definitely going over and shaking their hands.' … So I just walked right over and said hello. And I got the, 'Oh.’ Just cold shoulder. 'Goodbye.’
So as it turns out the girls were none to happy to see the woman who portrayed their mother in an unauthorized biopic that presented their whole family in a fairly negative light. In that regard, Banks sympathized with the opinion of the Bush twins and expressed a degree of understanding over their ill feelings towards her. Unlike many actors, who opt to keep a safe distance away from any contemporary figures they are cast to portray, Banks had a chance to meet Bush prior to taking on the role in W. and borrowed liberally from the experience to inform her portrayal.
Antagonism of this sort is not uncommon following biopics of contemporary controversial figures. The recent release of Steve Jobs has met with a wave of people who widely dispute Michael Fassbender’s portrayal of the late Apple CEO – Jobs’ own widow even attempted to prevent the release of the film. On the other hand, Steve Wozniak – played by Seth Rogen in the film – has given his seal of approval regarding the message of the film, reaffirming the notion that there are two sides to every story. Mark Zuckerberg similarly tried to prevent The Social Network from being made back in 2010 due to his belief that the film -- written by Aaron Sorkin, just like Steve Jobs -- simply did not get enough right about the invention of Facebook to warrant the making of a movie.
It's only natural that these types of films will draw the ire from those close enough to the subject matter. Elizabeth Banks seems to have an acute understanding of that reality. For the forseeable future, it seems unlikely that she will be invited to any Bush family barbecues.