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Casting the Susan Boyle Biopic

Posted at November 26, 2012 by 1 Comment

With a smash-hit Susan Boyle stage musical, I Dreamed a Dream, currently conquering the UK, it’s inevitable that Hollywood would soon get to dreaming about cashing in on the action. And so it’s come to pass, with a biopic of the rags-to-riches talent show megastar in the pipeline. Various names have been flagged up, including Kathy Bates, Kathy Burke and Julie Walters (Boyle herself suggested that last one). But if those estimable actresses plead previous engagements, here are some other possibilities.

OK, let’s get the cheap shots about Ms Boyle’s unconventional looks out of the way by conceding that, yes, twinkly-eyed London geezer Ray Winstone could easily transform into the twinkly-eyed Edinburgh gal with little more than a lady’s wig dropped on his head from a great height.

Popular Choice: Melissa McCarthy as Susan Boyle

Getting serious though, casting-agents have no doubt been making mental lists of plus-size actresses for the part, and we wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve already hit on Bridesmaids’ Melissa McCarthy along the way.

Or why not go the Shallow Hal route of showing that the big-hearted singer is beautiful on the inside, maybe by having her turn into Mila Kunis whenever she belts out a song?

Our Choice: Ruth Jones as Susan Boyle

But if that’s too weird, not to mention borderline body-fascist, our number one choice would have to be British actress Ruth Jones, and not just because of her extra poundage. Not only is Jones a thoroughly engaging, down-to-earth screen presence, she’s also from Wales, so you’ve got your Celtic connection right there.

Just as interesting might be the question of who to cast as the Britain’s Got Talent panel, whose collective jaws dropped seconds into that famous rendition of ‘I Dreamed a Dream’.

Colin Firth as Simon Cowell

For Simon Cowell, we deem it a pity that the great Donald Pleasance is no longer with us – he would have been perfect stroking a white cat while menacingly asking ‘so what have you got for us tonight, Susan?’ Otherwise, it would have to be Colin Firth, not just because that’s probably who Simon thinks he sees whenever he looks in the mirror, but also because Firth got that superior air of dismissiveness down pat in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

Heather Graham as Amanda Holden

For Amanda Holden, on lookalike grounds alone, Heather Graham.

Steven Coogan as Piers Morgan

The most obvious choice for Piers Morgan would be Steven Coogan, who’s proved again and again he can do smug-but-strangely-likeable egomaniacs, most noticeably Manchester music promoter Tony Wilson in 24-Hour Party People.

Alternate Pick: Werner Herzog as Piers Morgan

But, wait. I’ve dreamed a dream of my own about casting Piers. What about Werner Herzog? Look at those photos and tell me I’m wrong. Herzog has recently essayed big screen villainy in Jack Reacher, so Piers should be a doddle. Admittedly, that Germanic accent might be a minor problem, but he could use some of his best quotes to show Piers unnerving over-confident contestants. ‘Are there gay penguins?’, he could suddenly ask out of nowhere. Or when somebody boasts about their amazing singing talent, he could simply answer ‘The common denominator of the Universe is not harmony, but chaos, hostility and murder’. It could just work, but only if David Lynch is directing.

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About Jim Burke

Jim Burke is a playwright and arts journalist originally from England, now resident in Montreal. Amongst his plays are Cornered, which can be seen in Montreal in 2013, and an adaptation of Moby Dick. He has also written scripts for the BBC. Jim currently teaches creative writing at Dawson College's Centre For Training and Development.

  • Kristy

    I think Jenna Boyd from Les Mis the film would be the best choice… She could connect with the character, has been in the stage show for about 3 years in the west end plus was in the movie. They have similar attributes too. Someone already famous couldn’t do her justice, you need someone with experience who is living their dream by portraying Susan’s dream and this way you get the true and real emotion.