×

Road to the Emmys: Showbiz Bio Writers Survived a Minefield

Showbiz biopics are alluring, but scribes must dodge hidden pitfalls

If you’re an aspiring writer or director, tread cautiously in the tempting terrain of showbiz fables, populated with colorful, oversized characters from the annals of pop culture history. This year’s Emmy race in these categories are rife with examples of well-executed and lavishly praised biopics.

These sometimes necessarily garish but also strangely touching tales chronicle the genius and foibles of such tabloid-ready figures as:

» Writer-director David Mamet’s titular terror, Phil Spector, who rose from Fairfax High School wimp to teen titan of girl-group pop sounds in the ’60s to convicted murderer in his 60s;

» Alfred Hitchcock, who terrified the world with his cinematic genius but — if director Julian Jarrold’s biopic “The Girl” is to be believed — also terrified his leading ladies with his oversized lust and creepy penchant for all kinds of sinister games of control;

» Country music figure June Carter Cash, who gained new followers via the Oscar-winning film “Walk the Line,” which positioned her as supporting act to husband Johnny Cash. Now, director Allison Anders has put her squarely center stage in “Ring of Fire.”

» Liberace and his young lover Scott Thorson. When writer Richard LaGravenese and director Steven Soderbergh promised to take viewers “Behind the Candelabra” to inhabit their strange, glitzy universe, the bizarre world of capes, sequins, poppers and cheek implants came to life. Its biggest shock? In their hands, prurience gives way to genuine pathos.

The point? These Emmy-nommed pros might make it look easy, but every one of these true stories is also a true minefield where one false step could have exploded their plot lines.

Luckily for the nominees and their audiences, the steps were breathtaking, masterful and revelatory.

More TV

  • WGA Awards 2019 Winners

    WGA Awards 2019: Bo Burnham Wins Original Screenplay Award for 'Eighth Grade'

    In a stunning upset, Bo Burnham has won the original screenplay award for “Eighth Grade” from the Writers Guild of America. He credited star Elsie Fisher for his winning the award. Burnham won over Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma”; Adam McKay’s “Vice”; Bryan Woods, Scott Beck, and John Krasinski’s “A Quiet Place”; and Peter Farrelly, Nick Vallelonga, [...]

  • 50 Cent Power

    NYPD Officer Under Investigation for Allegedly Telling Police to Shoot 50 Cent 'on Sight'

    A New York City precinct commander is under investigation for allegedly telling officers to shoot rapper 50 Cent on sight, a police rep confirmed to Variety on Sunday. “The matter is under internal review,” an NYPD rep said, declining to answer further questions. Deputy Inspector Emanuel Gonzalez is accused of telling officers during a June 7 roll [...]

  • Bohemian Rhapsody

    'Bohemian Rhapsody,' 'Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' Among Cinema Audio Society Winners

    Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” won the Cinema Audio Society’s top prize for sound mixing at Saturday night’s 55th annual CAS Awards. The film is Oscar-nominated for sound mixing this year along with “Black Panther,” “First Man,” “Roma” and “A Star Is Born.” In a surprise over heavy-hitters “Incredibles 2” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” Wes [...]

  • Marvelous Mrs Maisel Vice

    'Vice,' 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' Lead Make-Up and Hair Stylists Guild Awards Winners

    Adam McKay’s Dick Cheney biopic “Vice,” starring Oscar nominees Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Sam Rockwell, won two awards at the sixth annual Make-Up and Hair Stylists Guild Awards Saturday night. The film won for best period and/or character makeup as well as special makeup effects. “Mary Queen of Scots” received the prize for period [...]

  • Jussie Smollett Good Morning America

    Jussie Smollett Angrily Denies Complicity in Attack

    Attorneys for “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett issued a statement Saturday denying that he orchestrated his Jan. 29 assault, and saying he is “angered” and “devastated” by recent developments in the case. Chicago police want to interview Smollett, after learning new evidence from two Nigerian brothers who were released on Friday night. Local media outlets have [...]

  • Jussie Smollett Empire

    Chicago Police Want to Talk to Jussie Smollett as New Evidence Emerges

    Chicago police are seeking to re-interview “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett, after new evidence emerged in his alleged assault. Smollett has claimed that two men attacked him at 2 a.m. on Jan. 29, yelled racial and homophobic slurs, poured bleach on him, and put a noose around his neck. The Chicago Police Department has consistently said [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content