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Femail reveals the real life people who received ‘fictional glow ups’ on screen

If you’ve ever had fun daydreaming about who would play you in a film of your life, it turns out there’s no need to be modest in your ambitions, after a slew of very flattering casting choices in shows and films based on real-life stories. 

A case in point in HBO’s latest miniseries, The Staircase, which was released this week and centers around the notorious case of North Carolina crime novelist Michael Peterson – who had his conviction for murdering his wife Kathleen overturned.

Hearthrob Colin Firth, who’s played romantic heroes from Austen’s Mr Darcy to Bridget Jones’s handsome lawyer beau of the same name, plays the rather ‘average guy’ Peterson in the drama, prompting fans to hail his casting as the ‘ultimate glow up’.  

But this isn’t the first time producers have opted to show real-life people in a much more glamorous light, such as statuesque beauty Cate Blanchett lending her perfectly sculpted cheekbones to the role of motherly-looking moral campaigner Phyllis Schlafly. 

Meanwhile Dirty John’s Amanda Peet’s glowing radiance looked worlds away from murderous 1980s housewife Betty Broderick, and Tom Hardy’s good looks didn’t quite manage to capture the tough demeanor of the Kray twins in Legend. 

Here, FEMAIL reveals the real-life people who have benefited from a glow-up on screen.  

Colin Firth as Michael Peterson in The Staircase

For his latest role, Colin Firth will step into the shoes of novelist Michael Peterson who was accused of murdering his second wife, Kathleen in 2001

Crime author Michael Peterson with his wife Kathleen who died at their home in North Caroilna, after she fell down the stairs in 2001 spouse had died after falling down the stairs at their home in North Carolina. He was eventually convicted of murder, although this was later reduced to voluntary manslaughter

Crime author Michael Peterson with his wife Kathleen who died at their home in North Caroilna, after she fell down the stairs in 2001 spouse had died after falling down the stairs at their home in North Carolina. He was eventually convicted of murder, although this was later reduced to voluntary manslaughter

The Staircase sees Colin Firsth stepping into the shoes of novelist Michael Peterson,  who was accused of murdering his second wife, Kathleen in 2001. 

The 78-year-old author claimed that his spouse had died after falling down the stairs at their home in North Carolina, although police suspected that he had killed her and covered up his evidence.

He was eventually convicted of murder, although this was later reduced to voluntary manslaughter.

The eight-episode series has been in development for two years and is based on the 2004 docuseries of the same name, which was updated with new episodes in 2018. 

Fans hailed Colin Firth as the 'ultimate glow up' after he was given the role of North Carolina crime novelist Michael Peterson - who had his conviction for murdering his wife Kathleen overturned

Fans hailed Colin Firth as the ‘ultimate glow up’ after he was given the role of North Carolina crime novelist Michael Peterson – who had his conviction for murdering his wife Kathleen overturned

Harrison Ford was initially set to portray Peterson, however it was announced in March last year that Bridget Jones srat Firth would take over as the series protagonist. 

In February Firth, 61, opened up to Deadline about the way he approached the role, noting that he ‘didn’t communicate with Michael Peterson’ and focused on the character depicted in the script.

‘I felt the way the script was structured and just the whole approach of this was its own ecosystem, so to speak,’ the Academy Award-winning actor said. ‘These are created characters, but we all know what the source is.’

Jenna Coleman as Marie-Andrée Leclerc in The Serpent

BBC One's The Serpent saw Jenna Coleman portray Marie-Andrée Leclerc, the lover and accomplice of serial killer Charles Sobhraj

BBC One’s The Serpent saw Jenna Coleman portray Marie-Andrée Leclerc, the lover and accomplice of serial killer Charles Sobhraj

Besotted Leclerc became entwined in Sobhraj's vicious crime spree, and would help him drug tourists to steal their passports and money

Besotted Leclerc became entwined in Sobhraj’s vicious crime spree, and would help him drug tourists to steal their passports and money

BBC One’s The Serpent saw Jenna Coleman portray Marie-Andrée Leclerc, the lover and accomplice of serial killer Charles Sobhraj who drugged and killed at least a dozen people on the Hippie Trail in Asia in the 1970s. 

Besotted Leclerc became entwined in Sobhraj’s vicious crime spree, and would help him drug tourists to steal their passports and money. She was accused of complicity in the murders, namely those of Jean-Luc Salomon and Avoni Jacob. 

In 1980, she and Sobhraj were convicted for killing Jacob, though she has always denied involvement and was later released on the condition she remained in India.

While Jenna Coleman smouldered her way through the series in an array of chic outfits in bright colours, clashing prints and flared cuts of the 70s, portraying the character as an evil French femme fatale.

Photos of the real-life Leclerc show her as being much less glamorous with a helmet of feathered mousy hair.

Jenna previously revealed she found it disturbing to portray Leclerc, the partner of Sobhraj (Tahar Rahim) who stood by him despite full knowledge of his crimes and promiscuity.  

‘It was not an easy piece to play because how can you portray someone who has no empathy?’ Coleman told the Radio Times last year. 

Julia Garner as Anna Sorokin

Inventing Anna

Telling the story of ‘fake heiress’ Anna Delvey, the series Inventing Anna took Netflix by storm when it hit small screens this year. 

Starring Ozark’s Julia Garner as the titular character, the hit series follows the scammer as she cons New York society and hotels out of $275,000 before being exposed to the world. 

Julia, 28, is a similar age to the con artist when she was arrested, but appears in the programme as more put together and high-fashion than the scammer seemed to be in real life.   

Telling the story of 'fake heiress' Anna Delvey, the series Inventing Anna took Netflix by storm when it hit small screens this year.  Ozark's Julia Garner took on the titular role

Telling the story of ‘fake heiress’ Anna Delvey, the series Inventing Anna took Netflix by storm when it hit small screens this year.  Ozark’s Julia Garner took on the titular role 

While the actress is a similar age to the con artist when she was arrested (pictured, Anna before going to prison) , but appears in the programme as more put together and high-fashion than the scammer seemed to be in real life

Where the real Anna was often seen wearing simple block outfits or plain colours with minimal make-up, Garner is portrayed wearing designer brands, glitzy jewels and elaborate accessories. 

The actress previously opened up about her bizarre meeting with the real-life Delvey at a medium-security women’s prison in the US in the lead-up to portraying her onscreen. 

In a cover interview for Marie Claire Australia’s March 2022 issue, she recalled how Delvey, 31, had bluntly asked her: ‘How are you going to play me? Can you do me right now?’

The star admitted she was initially taken aback by Delvey’s request, before repeating her own question back to her, while mirroring her hybrid accent. 

‘It was very intimidating, but when I just repeated what she was saying, she thought it was so funny,’ Julia said. ‘I told Anna that it was my goal for people to see her as a person instead of a caricature.’

Cate Blanchett Phyllis Schlafly 

Mrs America

Historical television drama Mrs. America saw Cate Blanchett take on the role of moral campaigner Phyllis Schlafly as she opposes the passing of the Equal Rights Amendment in 1970s America

Historical television drama Mrs. America saw Cate Blanchett take on the role of moral campaigner Phyllis Schlafly as she opposes the passing of the Equal Rights Amendment in 1970s America

Lawyer and activist Phyllis dramatically opposed liberal feminism and led the charge against the amendment, which would guarantee equal legal rights for all American citizens- regardless of sex

Lawyer and activist Phyllis dramatically opposed liberal feminism and led the charge against the amendment, which would guarantee equal legal rights for all American citizens- regardless of sex

Historical television drama Mrs. America saw Cate Blanchett take on the role of moral campaigner Phyllis Schlafly as she opposes the passing of the Equal Rights Amendment in 1970s America. 

Lawyer and activist Phyllis led the charge against the amendment, which would guarantee equal legal rights for all American citizens- regardless of sex. 

The Roman Catholic mother-of-six dramatically opposed liberal feminism  – and would begin her speeches by first thanking her husband, Fred, for allowing her to attend whichever gathering she was addressing. 

Schlafly began campaigning against the bill when she was in her late 40s and while Blanchette, 52, is a similar age – her portrayal sees the character donning a glammed up look which seem out of place with the real life character. 

For example while making a 1977 speech campaigning about the ERA, Phyllis wore a simple grey polo neck jumper and minimal make-up – while Cate could be seen donning lashings of pearls and chiffon. 

While the real-life Phyllis was motherly and homely, Cate’s Hollywood glamour was certainly a reinvention of history.  

Tom Hardy as the Kray twins 

Legend

Tom Hardy portrayed both Ronnie and Reginald Kray in the acclaimed crime biopic Legend, which charts the rise and fall of the infamous London gangsters

Tom Hardy portrayed both Ronnie and Reginald Kray in the acclaimed crime biopic Legend, which charts the rise and fall of the infamous London gangsters

Adapted from John Pearson's book The Profession of Violence: The Rise and Fall of the Kray Twins, the movie tells the story of how the brothers rose through the East End to become two of the country's most fearsome criminals

Adapted from John Pearson’s book The Profession of Violence: The Rise and Fall of the Kray Twins, the movie tells the story of how the brothers rose through the East End to become two of the country’s most fearsome criminals

Tom Hardy portrayed both Ronnie and Reginald Kray in the acclaimed crime biopic Legend, which charts the rise and fall of the infamous London gangsters. 

Adapted from John Pearson’s book The Profession of Violence: The Rise and Fall of the Kray Twins, the movie tells the story of how the brothers rose through the  East End to become two of the country’s most fearsome criminals. 

As heads of the notorious criminal gang The Firm, the Krays were behind numerous armed robberies, murders, arson attacks and protection rackets up until their arrest on 9th May 1968. 

The actor adopted prosthetics and vintage suits to portray both of the identical twin brothers, clearly defining Reggie with his glasses and three piece suit and Ronnie by continuously smoking. 

And while Hardy, 44, captured the spirit of the former boxers in the box office biopic, the casting choice perhaps made the gangster’s out to have a glossier appearance then they did in reality. 

Lily Colins as Elizabeth Kloepfer in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile 

British actress Lily Collins stepped into the role of Ted Bundy’s former girlfriend Elizabeth Kloepfer in the Netflix biopic Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile

Kloepfer was a divorced single mum when she met serial killer Bundy in 1969 while she was working as a secretary at the University of Washington medical department, where Bundy attended school

Kloepfer was a divorced single mum when she met serial killer Bundy in 1969 while she was working as a secretary at the University of Washington medical department, where Bundy attended school

British actress Lily Collins stepped into the role of Ted Bundy’s former girlfriend Elizabeth Kloepfer in the Netflix biopic Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile.

The movie details the early days of their romance before the serial killer embarks on a barbaric murder spree and the actress was lucky enough to actually meet Elizabeth before filming. 

Kloepfer was a divorced single mum when she met serial killer Bundy in 1969 while she was working as a secretary at the University of Washington medical department, where Bundy attended school. 

Elizabeth was just 24-years-old when she started dating Ted Bundy, portrayed in the movie by Zac Efron, looking every inch the fresh-faced young mother as she single- handedly raised her young daughter. 

Meanwhile 33-year-old Collins, with her distinctive doe eyes, razor sharp cheekbones and glowing skin is unable to disguise her Hollywood glamour as the archetypal girl next door. 

Amanda Peet as Betty Broderick in Dirty John

The second season of Netflix true crime drama Dirty John saw American actress Amanda Peet take on the role of a scorned woman who murdered her ex-husband and his new wife

The series told the infamous real life story of Betty Broderick, a housewife from California who shot her ex-husband, Dan and his new wife, Linda, in 1989

The second season of Netflix true crime drama Dirty John saw American actress Amanda Peet take on the role of a scorned woman who murdered her ex-husband and his new wife. 

The series told the infamous real life story of Betty Broderick, a housewife from California who shot her ex-husband, Dan and his new wife, Linda, in 1989. 

The crime, and the subsequent trial of Broderick, captured the nation attention at the time, and was turned into several books, TV series and movies. 

Looking every inch the suburban 1980s housewife, Broderick was seen wearing oversized shirts, floral blouses and donned brassy blonde hair as her murder trial unfolded. 

However the Peet, 50, looked very different to the real life killer as she appeared on screen in an array of fashionable outfits complete with trendy accessories and a sleek 80s updo. 

Hugh Jackman as P.T. Barnum

The Greatest Showman 

The Greatest Showman saw Hollywood A-lister Hugh Jackman take on the role of legendary American showman P.T. Barnum

Described as the man who 'invented showbusiness' Barnham was most widely known for founding the Barnum & Bailey Circus

Described as the man who ‘invented showbusiness’ Barnham was most widely known for founding the Barnum & Bailey Circus

The Greatest Showman saw Hollywood A-lister Hugh Jackman take on the role of legendary American showman P.T. Barnum. 

Described as the man who ‘invented showbusiness’ Barnham was most widely known for founding the Barnum & Bailey Circus – plus his status as the ‘world’s greatest fraudster’.

Jackman, who was heavily involved in the production of the film, does little to change his appearance, other than donning a top hat, and no doubt had his legion of fans swooning as standard. 

However, the real-life Barnum was a balding man not particularly suited to the glitz and glam of Hollywood. 

His thick eyebrows, deep forehead and bublous nose were not recreated by the make-up department to make Jackson’s appearance more convincing.  

 

 

 

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