How our infatuation with nostalgia is fuelling Hollywood’s love affair with biopics | #oscars | #academywards

Baz Luhrmann’s exhilarating take on the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll may be the latest biopic to hit theatres, but it definitely won’t be the last.

Elvis, starring Austin Butler, will no doubt be hoping to recreate the success of 2018’s Bohemian Rhapsody, which won four Academy Awards and earned over $900 million at the box office.

But while Elvis is busy getting audiences all shook up, Hollywood is already looking for the next icon to immortalise on film.

Netflix recently released the first look at their Marilyn Monroe biopic Blonde, based on Joyce Carol Oates’s novel of the same name.

The film promises to deliver an explicit and unflinching insight into Marilyn’s rise and fall, with No Time to Die star Anna de Armas portraying the blonde bombshell.

Former Bond girl Ana de Armas stars as Marilyn Monroe in Netflix’s upcoming biopic, Blonde. (Supplied: Netflix)

Meanwhile, Madonna has taken the reins and is directing her own biopic.  

She’s offered the role of a lifetime (her lifetime!) to Ozark’s Julia Garner, but only after she reportedly outshone stars like Little Women’s Florence Pugh and Euphoria’s Alexa Demie during an extensive audition process dubbed the “Madonna boot camp”, where they learnt to sing, dance and act like the material girl herself.

There are plenty more biopics in the works, with Whitney Houston, Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, Cher and Michael Jackson among those confirmed to be getting the big-screen treatment.

So what’s fuelling Hollywood’s love affair with biopics?

We’re all feeling very nostalgic right now

When you look at the state of the world, from the rising cost of living to wars, climate change and the lasting effects of the pandemic, it’s not surprising audiences are craving the comforting familiarity of the past – and studios are taking note.

If shows and films aren’t reuniting (Friends, Harry Potter), they’re being rebooted for a new generation (And Just Like That…, Queer As Folk), returning after decades with a sequel (Top Gun: Maverick, Jurassic World Dominion), bringing back old favourites for a cameo (David Tennant is returning for Doctor Who’s 60th anniversary special), or being set in a different time altogether (Stranger Things, Bridgerton).

“What we’re seeing with the influx of biopics that are occurring is the concept that we, as a viewing populace, really want to reinvest our time with known quantities,” says Melbourne-based film programmer and News Breakfast film critic Zak Hepburn.


“When you see a biopic, particularly of someone as famous as Elvis, as famous as Freddie Mercury, as famous as Marilyn Monroe, you know what you’re getting with that ticket purchase.

“Coming out of COVID, looking at how audiences are engaging with films, I think biopics showcase heroes and times where we are looking back at these things in a sort of rose-tinted way, knowing that’s a period of time we really want to invest in. I think nostalgia is a big part of that.

A famous figure can also help cut through the paradox of choice — a phenomenon coined by US psychologist Barry Schwartz. 


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