Major Historical Figures Played by More Than One Famous Actor

Source: Courtesy of American Broadcasting Company

Historical figures always make for compelling drama. How they shaped history, as well as their colorful, sometimes flawed personalities fascinate audiences.

It’s not surprising actors love the challenge of playing these icons. Whether on the big or small screen, these thespians have taken these historical figures and made them real – someone viewers can relate to. That’s not an easy task considering that the audience is already familiar with many of history’s most famous players. Some of these celebrated real-life characters have been so impactful, in fact, that they’ve gotten the cinematic treatment more than once, enabling several actors to embody the same person – on several occasions winning Oscars for their performances.

To determine a list of some of the actors who have played the same historical figure, 24/7 Tempo drew on information from IMDb, an online movie and TV database owned by Amazon, as well as rankings from other sources including the New York Times, The Guardian, the BBC, Hollywood Reporter, and Variety. This does not purport to be a definitive list of actors who have played the same historical figure, but rather a list of some of those who have given audiences the most compelling performances. (While the majority of the performances appearing here were in theatrical films, a few TV movies and series are included.)

Countless actors have portrayed Abraham Lincoln over the years, beginning with Joseph Henabery in D.W. Griffith’s controversial 1915 silent film “The Birth of a Nation”, and including such luminaries as Gregory Peck, Jason Robards, and Kris Kristofferson, but the three listed here are among the best-known interpreters – with one, Daniel Day-Lewis, winning an Oscar for his performance.

Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman are among those who embodied civil rights Icon Malcolm X, while Paul Winfield and Jeffrey Wright translated the movement’s leader, Martin Luther King Jr., to the screen.

Helen Mirren had the distinct honor of playing both Queen Elizabeths – I and II. In fact, she earned an Academy Award for her portrayal of the recently deceased monarch. (These are the best movies about the Queen and British royalty.)

Against the backdrop of World War II, three actors – John Lithgow, Gary Oldman, and Albert Finney – were among the more than 30 who have played Winston Churchill. (Other big-name Churchill interpreters include Christian Slater, Richard Burton, Brian Cox, and Bob Hoskins.) Oldman won an Oscar for playing the British leader in the “Darkest Hour.” (Oldman is a sterling example of actors who cross the most genres.)

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