There comes a time in every major actor's career when they attempt to put the lighthearted comedies and inane chick flicks behind them and tackle a more serious role. The kind of role that will get them the one thing that every Hollywood actor craves: free cocaine. And also an Academy Award nomination.
The award is made entirely of golden cocaine 
Sometimes, it works. Other times, not so much.
There is a famous Hollywood rule that we made up for this article that goes like this- if it worked for Gary Busey, there is no reason it won't work for you.
How effective is the biopic in earning Hollywood credibility? Busey actually scored a Best Actor nomination for playing Buddy Holly in the aptly titled The Buddy Holly Story.
Yeah, this guy
This simple formula rarely fails. Pick a deceased (or soon to be deceased) musician, artist or mathematician, make sure they're the sort of person the New York media could conceivably refer to as brilliant, insert a big name actor (or Gary Busey) to play the role; watch movie critics and audiences far and wide go apeshit.
The best thing about the biopic is that Hollywood is free to embellish the back story as much as they would like. How do you know Ray Charles didn't really walk on the moon? Were you there? No, so shut up and watch the movie. Speaking of Ray Charles, Jamie Foxx took home a Best Actor trophy also for his heroic portrayal of a young Stevie Wonder playing Ray Charles.
Seriously, this fucking guy
Prior to 2005, Reese Witherspoon was best known for playing the ditzy lawyer in Legally Blonde or for playing the ditzy ______ in _______. Then came Walk the Line. By simply adopting a southern accent, dying her hair black and not cringing as Joaquin Phoenix spent two hours making Johnny Cash look like the victim of severe head trauma, Witherspoon walked away with her first Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
Other Famous Examples Include:
Robert Downey, Jr. in Chaplin
Bill Paxton in Apollo 13
Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth
Hell, Phoenix got nominated for Best Actor also. Seriously, this shit cannot fail. Unless you make one crucial mistake (foreshadowing alert!).
The Exception That Proves the Rule:
As insane as he may be, you have to admit Russell Crowe is also a pretty shitty musician. Fortunately for him, he's an actor. Up to a few years ago, Crowe got nominated every time he managed to leave the house without hurling a phone at somebody. Hell, it almost seemed like cheating when he took the starring role in the biopic Cinderella Man, in which he played a blue collar boxer who gave America something to root for during the Great Depression.
Crowe's depiction of former heavyweight boxing champ James J. Braddock was almost universally praised. After SAG and Golden Globe nominations, he put on his Oscar crapping diapers and got ready for an Academy Award nomination ... that never came.
Crowe forgot that to get your biopic performance lauded as ingenious, you have to pretend to be someone the Academy has heard associated with the word genius, or at the very least someone they've heard of in the first place. Braddock was a blue collar boxer and a family man. Hell, the guy didn't even have a heroin problem. Crowe might as well have been playing Gandhi.
Astute readers will point out that Ben Kingsley took home an Oscar for playing Gandhi, and that Robert De Niro took home an Oscar for playing a decidedly non-brilliant boxer. But astute readers are about to get served by trick number five ...
5Physical Transformation (a.k.a. Hot Chick Goes Ugly, Hot Dude Starves Himself/Gets Fat)
Yes, Kingsley and De Niro both utilized the Christian Bale principle of "dropping and gaining weight like a high school wrestler = extraordinary acting ability."
By comparison, the ladies have it easy. Many actresses who have built their careers on being pleasant to look at finally decide the only way to be taken seriously is to ugly it up for a role. "See? I intentionally ruined my beauty, yet still enthralled audiences! I'm not just a pretty face and pair of perfect boobies!"
If there was a Mt. Rushmore for hot chicks who uglied it up for respect, all four faces would be Charlize Theron. In Monster, she didn't just apply a little extra facial hair or gain a few pounds. That wouldn't do the trick. Instead, she went from this...
The woman found the forest where the wood for ugly sticks is grown, then went crashing through it while strapped to the grill of a semi. That's dedication to the craft if we've ever seen it.
Would Monster have been an awesome flick if she still looked her normal, outrageously fuckable self? Absolutely. But Charlize went the extra mile, and Hollywood noticed.
Up to that point, Theron could be found slumming it in horseshit like Reindeer Games and The Curse of the Jade Scorpion.
Other Famous Examples Include:
Salma Hayek in Frida
Cameron Diaz in Being John Malkovich
Nicole Kidman in The Hours
Christian Bale in The Machinist
Robert De Niro in Raging Bull
Ben Kingsley in Gandhi
The Exception That Proves the Rule :
You may have noticed that women can get away with wearing a less attractive Halloween mask, but we expect our men to actually undergo physical transformations. Mel Gibson found out the hard way that it doesn't work both ways when he made his directorial debut with The Man Without a Face, a film that asked audiences to imagine a world in which women didn't want to fuck Mel Gibson.
Despite turning in a strong performance in a movie that Roger Ebert was gay for, the only recognition the film got were a couple of acting nods from The Young Artist awards, and even they went to the kids in the movie. Having learned his lesson, Gibson went on to sweep the Oscars a few years later with a historical biopic that climaxed with Gibson getting disemboweled for 15 minutes.