In a cinema culture awash with sequels, reboots and franchise movies, another hugely popular trend, in both film and TV, is origin stories. The most recent example of this was premiered at the Screen Actors Guild Awards last weekend. This summer, TNT will broadcast a new show called ‘Will’ which tells the “wild story” of a young William Shakespeare’s arrival onto “the punk rock theater scene in 16th Century London”, according to Entertainment Weekly. We’ve seen Bruce Wayne’s parents murdered and Peter Parker bitten by a radioactive spider on countless occasions, but it’s clearly not just superheroes who get the origin story treatment. Alongside Shakespeare, Nelson Mandela, Stephen Hawking, Charlie Chaplin, and recently, Barack Obama, have all had their early lives rendered in film.
What makes the lives of all these superheroes and public figures so attractive for dramatization is a background of adversity or a life-changing event that influenced their future. Charlie Chaplin’s childhood in poverty, Stephen Hawking’s struggle with motor neurone disease, and Nelson Mandela’s experience of revolution and prejudice; the harrowing tale of Wolverine’s early trauma, Dr Strange’s career-ending car-wreck, and Tony Stark’s life-threatening injury are all defining moments in the lives of the superheroes we know and love. The moments that took our heroes, real and fictional, from ordinary to extraordinary.
So, what other real-world icons have lived lives worthy of the big screen? The list is endless and it’s incredibly difficult to narrow it down, but here are five celebrities with extraordinary lives who deserve their own origin story.
As a child, Joanne Rowling was, in her own words, a “basic common-or-garden bookworm, complete with freckles and spectacles” according to Bloomsbury. Reading and writing fiction were heavy influences in her childhood spent in rural England, marked by her mother’s illness and a strained relationship with their father. After her mother’s passing in 1990 and a short-lived marriage in Portugal, Rowling moved to Edinburgh, Scotland with her infant daughter where several dark and difficult years living on welfare lay ahead. In the end, it was her own imagination which would come to the rescue. The story goes that the idea for the Harry Potter books came to her on a train journey and the rest is history.
It has to be said that Rowling has already had her past recreated in an albeit unauthorized biopic on Lifetime in 2011. Magic Beyond Words: The J.K.Rowling Story fell on largely deaf ears, but time has moved on since its broadcast and there is now a better platform for this sort of real-world drama.
Rowling’s Wizarding World defined one generation and has recently been given a new lease of life in the first of five Fantastic Beasts films. But the mother of all this magic has her own rags to riches tale that would make a film her huge fanbase would pay good money to see.