Hands up if you love a good biopic now and again? Us too, and 2015 has been chock-a-block with tons of great ones, not to mention loads more to look forward to. We’re particularly excited about Blonde, the long awaited Marilyn Monroe movie based on author Joyce Carol Oates’ “imaginary” memoirs of the legend herself.
Speaking of biopics based on fabulous women, we’re missing a hefty chunk of them. Not only are countless talented women with incredibly intriguing stories being overlooked, but biopics in general could use a dose of diversity.
Though some of these women have been the subject of documentaries, I’d like nothing more than to see their accomplishments preserved as biopics. Hey Hollywood, if you’re listening: here’s my list of suggested subjects.
1. Sylvia Rivera & Marsha P. Johnson
This is a double feature as both women were tied to the same cause, and a film about their partnership within the Stonewall riots would be immense. Sure we already have a Stonewall film, but considering the noted problems with depictions in the film, we could do with one that actually focuses on the primary players of the real event; the trans activists, the activists of color, the bisexual advocates, or in other words the real people that Hollywood forgot about.
Rivera and Johnson lived in incredible lives, that were also riddled with tragedy. During the 1960s, there was one bar that served as a safe haven for those in the LGBT+ community to dance with each other, the Stonewall Inn. It was a safe haven until the police eventually got involved, that is. The night the police crashed the Inn, was the night Rivera and Johnson fought back, with Johnson apparently sparking the initial flame that would turn into the full-blown movement towards equality.
Johnson and Rivera’s actions didn’t stop at Stonewall either, together they went on to form the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (renamed later as the Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries,) an organization aimed to help young trans people of color who had become homeless. All in all, from Johnson’s work with ACT UP to Rivera’s anti-war activism, a biopic focusing on the lives of these amazing women, would make one heck of an honest and thought-provoking movie.
2. Laverne Cox
Transgender advocate, actress, television producer, and all around inspiration, Laverne Cox really needs her own biopic. Having started off as a creative writer and dancer, Cox eventually settled on acting as her dream career, and has since starred in noted TV shows such as Orange is the New Black, and Law & Order. She soon became the first openly transgender producer to create and star in her own TV show; TRANSform Me.
Speaking of firsts, Cox is also the first openly trans individual to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy AND to be featured on the cover of Time Magazine—so needless to say she is a record breaker. Having survived a suicide attempt at age 11, and suffered unimaginable bullying in her younger years, Cox has turned pain into triumph and proven—through her writing, acting and activism—that one person can have a huge impact on society.
Since Cox is essentially still at a young point in her career, this biopic may be better left for a decade or so; so we can see what fantastic things she has left to do.
3. Vivienne Westwood
Inspired by 1970s punk and new wave scene, fashion designer Vivienne Westwood is the lady responsible for bringing those iconic styles into mainstream fashion. But her passion runs deeper than hemlines—civil rights, international peace-keeping, and climate change are high on her list of important causes. Imagine a biopic similar to Coco Avant Chanel, showing the intriguing process behind her role in the fashion industry, then imagine all of these political and environmental factors slipping in, until you have a movie about a woman who has broken barriers —both sartorially, and through her activism. Back in 2008, there was talk of Kate Winslet starring in a Westwood biopic, but it’s been crickets since then. However, Westwood recently released her autobiography, which would be a perfect starting point for a script about her life. Get on it, Hollywood!
4. Hedy Lamarr
The Austrian-American actress was best known for her roles in Clarence Brown’s Come Live with Me, and Cecil B. DeMille’s Samson & Delilah. What most people don’t know is that she was a scientific genius. The frequency-hopping system she invented during WWII, alongside composer George Antheil, was created to jam the broadcasts of incoming missiles. The technology she implemented has now been credited with paving the way for WiFi as we know it. No big deal.
5. Zelda Wynn Valdes
Another fashion designer to add to the list. Valdes was not only popular for her elegant designs, created for the Dance Theatre of Harlem, but she was also the first African American designer, and woman, to own her own boutique on Broadway. Though her talent was clear, racism was a big obstacle for Valdes as many fellow designers and boutiques doubted her ability to climb the ladder of fashion. She, of course, proved them wrong; it didn’t take long for Valdes to attract the most glamorous celebrities—from to Mae West—to her store.
Later,Valdes went on to become the founder and president of the National Association of Fashion and Accessory Designers in 1949, an organization for black fashion designers. “I just had a God-given talent for making people beautiful.” Valdes once told the New York Times. I’d love to see a biopic that captures her beauty just as well as she captured the beauty of her patrons.
6. Valentina Tereshkova
Though there are several disturbing theories of missing cosmonauts, Tereshkova is widely known as the vert first woman to fly through space. Not only is this a feat for humanity, but for women everywhere. We have several movies space expeditions, but imagine a movie based on the preparation for Tereshkova’s journey; imagine the sexism she had to endure as male cosmonauts vied for her place aboard the Vostok 6, imagine seeing the challenges she overcame on the big screen.
Not only was Tereshkova the first woman in space, but she also holds the record of the most logged flight time of all the previous American astronauts combined, before her flight date. That’s a full 3 days in space, having orbited the earth a whopping 48 times. She also went on to help identity aerosol layers within the earth’s atmosphere with the photographs she took aboard the Vostok 6; this information was ground breaking as it would soon raise awareness about global warming and climate change. Though Tereshkova was a cosmonaut at heart, she also played a part in politics; becoming a member of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union, and represented the union in the International Woman’s Year conference held by the UN.
7. Alison Lapper
Mother, artist, and model Alison Lapper was born in 1965, with an extremely rare congenital disorder called Phocomelia. The disorder involves pre-natal malformation of the limbs. In Lapper’s case, she was born without arms arms. Having tested out artificial limbs, she decided that she would like to continue without prosthetics, and began her artistic career by using her mouth to paint.
Her paintings are extremely serene, and have been featured in many artistic exhibitions including the Royal Festival Hall. Because of her artistic skill, and her work with the Association of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists of the World, she was awarded an MBE, and rightly so. Lapper is probably most well-known for modeling for the sculpture Alison Lapper Pregnant, by Marc Quinn; which shows a Venus De Milo-esque bust of Alison, nude, with a pregnant belly. This huge sculpture is not only beautiful, but it also stands as a great inspiration. As Lapper herself said that there is “no positive representation of disability in the history of public art.” From her difficult childhood in foster care, to her artistic success, a biopic of Lapper would inspire so many. Let’s do this!
[Images via Wikimedia Commons, YouTube, MGM, Wikimedia Commons, and the BBC]