I was wondering which actors / actresses have played an unsual large number of different actual (historical) persons in during their entire career.

  • Multiple appearances as the same character do only count once. So playing Cleopatra in 15 movies will count as one role, but playing 15 different persons in one movie as 15.
  • It doesn't matter what genre or wether the plot is fictionalized if the person is somewhat recognizable. So e.g. film versions of Shakespeare's king dramas, musicals or "Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter" will be accepted.
  • Fictional characters obviously modelled after historical persons will not be accepted.
  • Docudramas or voice acting for animated movies will be accepted.
  • The amount of screentime or dialogue does not matter. Cameos or silent roles will be accepted.
  • 1
    ...And I'm actually racking my brain to think of a historical figure that Meryl Streep didn't play. ;) – Walt Oct 16 '16 at 19:14
  • 2
    The thing is, there are many impressionists and comedians that might play zillions of famous people in sketch shows. Does that count? – Walt Oct 16 '16 at 19:27
  • Hmm, good point. But I was rather thinking of feature films. Mainly the classical biopic / costume drama stuff. – Mimi Oct 16 '16 at 19:34
  • Well, you can always fine-tune it a bit more, if that's what you're after. – Walt Oct 16 '16 at 19:39
  • 1
    What does your research show? Why is it that you can't find it on the internet by Googling? – Rathony Oct 16 '16 at 19:53

Assuming you're ruling out impressionists, Christopher Plummer must be a very serious contender with (at least) 32 portrayals of famous people throughout his 63-year career in film and television. [And I say "at least" because 1. He's still acting and 2. I might've missed some.] Here are all the roles, in reverse chronological order:

  1. Kaiser Wilhelm II, The Exception (2016)
  2. Justice John Marshall Harlan II, Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight (2013)
  3. Actor John Barrymore, Barrymore (2011)
  4. Author Leo Tolstoy, The Last Station (2009)
  5. Julius Caesar, Caesar and Cleopatra (2009)
  6. Captain Christopher Newport, The New World (2005)
  7. Cardinal Bernard Francis Law, Our Fathers (2005)
  8. Aristotle, Alexander (2004)
  9. Canadian ambassador John Watkins, Agent of Influence (2002)
  10. F. Lee Bailey, American Tragedy (2000)
  11. David Patrick Maxwell Fyfe, 1st Earl of Kilmuir, Nuremberg (2000)
  12. Mike Wallace, The Insider (1999)
  13. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winchell (1998)
  14. Canadian politician George Hees, The Arrow (1997)
  15. Photographer Alfred Stieglitz, A Marriage: Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz (1991)
  16. Charles Hanbury Williams, Young Catherine (1991)
  17. Vladimir Nabokov, Nabokov on Kafka (1989)
  18. Cyrano de Bergerac, Parade of Stars (1983) and Cyrano De Bergerac (1962)
  19. Col. Herbert Kappler, The Scarlet and the Black (1983)
  20. Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt, Little Gloria... Happy at Last (1982)
  21. Canadian PM John A. Macdonald, Riel (1979)
  22. Herod Antipas, Jesus of Nazareth (1977)
  23. Rudyard Kipling, The Man Who Would Be King (1975)
  24. Archduke Franz Ferdinand, The Day That Shook the World (1975)
  25. Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, Witness to Yesterday (1974) and Waterloo (1970)
  26. Atahuallpa, The Royal Hunt of the Sun (1969)
  27. Erwin Rommel, The Night of the Generals (1967)
  28. WWII spy Eddie Chapman, Triple Cross (1966)
  29. Captain Georg von Trapp, The Sound of Music (1965)
  30. Commodus, The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964)
  31. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., Our American Heritage: Autocrat and Son (1960)
  32. Robert Carr, 1st Earl of Somerset, The King's Bounty (1955)
  • That looks impressive and he is still able to add a few roles ...I've accepted this as an answer. – Mimi Oct 22 '16 at 15:56

Tom Hanks is a good canditate, he played the following real life figures:

Jim Lovell in Apollo 13

Charlie Wilson in Charlie Wilson's War

Captain Richard Phillips in Captain Phillips

James B. Donovan in Bridge of Spies

Chesley Sullenberger in Sully

The movie Catch Me If You Can is also based on real life events, but according to IMDb, his role Carl Hanratty is a composite of several real life figures:

"Note: For the film "Catch Me If You Can," the character of Carl Hanratty is a composite of several FBI figures who were instrumental in finding and catching Frank Abagnale, JR."

Another canditate is Richard Burton for his roles in the following movies:

Alexander the Great, Cleopatra, Becket, Anne of the Thousand Days, The Assassination of Trotsky, Sutjeska, The Gathering Storm, Wagner

Or Anthony Hopkins for his roles in the following movies:

The Great Inimitable Mr. Dickens, Young Winston, Lloyd George, The Lindbergh Kidnapping Case, Victory at Entebbe, A Bridge Too Far, The Bunker, The Bounty, Chaplin, Nixon, Amistad, Alexander, The World's Fastest Indian,

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .