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Keeping It Real! Lady Gaga, Jennifer Hudson, More Biopic Stars Share Their Experience Playing Iconic Characters

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Oct. 29 2021, Published 12:01 a.m. ET

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That takes dedication! Here's what it took for these biopic stars to morph into their on-screen alter egos.

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Beanie Feldstein as Monica Lewinsky

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Source: mega;FX

“We’re a ‘we’ at this point,” the actress, 28, said of her off-screen counterpart in the FX series Impeachment: American Crime Story, about the White House intern’s affair with President Bill Clinton. “Playing someone real is a huge undertaking — playing someone who texts you is a completely different thing…I’ll go to respond, and I’m fully wearing her hair!”

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Critic’s take: “[Beanie Feldstein] plays Lewinsky’s growing panic with such raw desperation that her anguish becomes our own.”— The Hollywood Reporter

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Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana

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Source: mega;NEON

Not the obvious choice to play the royal, the Twilight vet, 31, nonetheless channeled Diana, with her flipped hair and early-’90s wardrobe, by subtly changing her posture and tilting her head just so in Spencer. Director Pablo Larraín has made a specialty of capturing the lives of iconic women: Natalie Portman scored an Oscar nod playing Jacqueline Kennedy in 2016’s Jackie.

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Critic’s take: "Kristen Stewart doesn’t just do an impersonation (though on the level of impersonation she’s superb),” gushed Variety. “She transforms; she changes her aspect, her rhythm, her karma.”

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Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding

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Source: Mega,Neon

The disgraced Olympian, whose ex-husband infamously attacked her arch-rival Nancy Kerrigan in 1994, was pleased to see the blonde stunner, 31, playing her in 2017’s I,Tonya. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, she’s so beautiful. Thank you, God!’” the skater later said. Wigs, a dialect coach and, at one point, a fat suit, helped transform the willowy Australian into the Oregon-bred dynamo.

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Critic’s take: Vulture said of the Oscar nominee, “[Margot Robbie] morphs herself into the stout, splotchy-skinned redneck who flipped from being a champion figure skater to a pariah.”

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Jennifer Hudson as Aretha Franklin

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Source: mega

Seal of approval! Before her 2018 death, the Queen of Soul actually hand-picked the American Idol alum to play her in the biopic Respect. In part, the actress surmises, because of adversities — like the 2008 murders of her mother, brother and nephew — she’s overcome in her own life. “This is beyond singing and acting,” the Dreamgirls alum, 40, recently said. “I think she saw something in me…I would not have been able to go as deep as I did to tell her story in an honest way without my own life experiences.”

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Critic’s take: “[Jennifer Hudson] doesn’t look or sound like Franklin, but she manages the role confidently and with a pure singing voice that more than holds its own.” — The New York Times

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Charlize Theron as Megyn Kelly

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Source: mega; Bron Pictures

The Oscar winner, 46, found playing the newswoman in 2019’s Bombshell, about the sexual harassment scandal at Fox News, “overwhelming...Whether you like it or not, you know her face, you know what she sounds like, and there’s no getting around that.”

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Critic’s take: In addition to an Academy Award nomination, the actress won raves. “The first thing you notice about her deep-dive performance as Megyn Kelly is that you don’t see [Charlize] Theron at all,” wrote Rolling Stone. “Through her voice, posture, wardrobe and the genius prosthetic make-up, Theron is Kelly.”

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Lady Gaga as Patrizia Reggiani

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Source: mega

Fashion fail! The Italian socialite, who hired a hitman to off her mogul ex-husband Maurizio Gucci in 1995, was not impressed when the “Poker Face” singer, 35, was cast to play her in the just-wrapped House of Gucci. Reggiani said she was “rather annoyed” that Gaga was playing her “without having the consideration and sensibility to come and meet” her first.

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Critic’s take: Using her full name, Jezebel mocked the Italian-American’s over-the-top emoting when the trailer was released in July: “At times, Ms.Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta [Lady Gaga] sounds Russian?”

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