When it comes to the fields of science, history, entertainment, technology, and even literature, often times we are more intrigued by the achievers than we are by the achievements themselves. This is obvious to anyone who has had to sit through lengthy European history classes. Few of us care to remember the details of every battle, and even fewer of us can name the significance of various drafts of national constitutions. But we all remember Marie Antoinette, Robespierre, and Rasputin. While events can be boring (sorry, historians!), everyone loves a character– especially a larger-than-life hero or villain. After all, the best books and movies are the ones that star interesting people.
And we tend to remember those characters better than we remember the events of the story. People, real or fictional, interest us because they ARE us. The famous people of the world stick in our skulls because they amaze us, inspire us, horrify us, disgust us, or any combination of the four.
People are fascinating. As technology has become a larger part of our lives, this has only become more true– social media has greatly increased the number of people who consider themselves ‘fans’ of a PERSON, and not just fans of the person’s work. We like their personas and their history. We love the personas the way we love songs, movies or dark chocolate. The rise of blogs, memoirs and biographical films/books are a symptom of our fascination with other, more interesting (and rich and attractive) humans.
Naturally, our fascination with famous people of the world has led to a growing number of films and TV shows detailing their lives. Unfortunately (or fortunately, if you like entertainment!), this has also blurred the line between film and history quite a bit. Hollywood loves to embellish the already-fascinating lives of historical figures, so when we watch a movie about the life and times of our favorite painters/novelists, we often accept them as if they are documentaries rather than films made for entertainment. Our love of a good story also blurs the line between the actor and the famous person they portray– which is why some of us immediately shout, “Hitchcock!” when we see Anthony Hopkins’s face.
Alas, actors are not the roles they play. To give you a little bit of information on both the real person and the actor, here is a run-down of some of the most famous people of the world, as well as the actors who portrayed them for our entertainment:
Muhammad Ali – Will Smith
He is regarded as the best boxer of all time. While Muhammed Ali passed away in 2016, his life is a legacy that many would look forward to. He was one of the few who would speak up against the American administration for their war on Vietnam, a reason he was stripped of his medals for a few years. Muhammad Ali’s success was such that his name became synonymous with the sport of boxing. Born on January 17th, 1942, Ali had a legendary career in professional boxing, where he defeated every heavy weight contender of his time, made him an international icon.
The celebrated Hollywood actor Will Smith played the boxing legend in 2001 biographical film, Ali. Smith excellently brings the many layers of Ali’s character on screen as the film spans his rise as the world heavyweight champion followed by banishment from boxing on his controversial criticism of the Vietnam War. The role got Will Smith nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Actor category.