Singing, dancing, playing piano: six actors who had to train for their roles

<span>Photograph: Universal Pictures/Sportsphoto/Allstar</span>
Photograph: Universal Pictures/Sportsphoto/Allstar

Bradley Cooper (Maestro)

Cooper spent a reported six years learning to conduct so he would feel comfortable portraying Leonard Bernstein for this year’s Oscar hopeful Maestro. The actor is no stranger to mastering musical performance, having already impressed with his depiction of a dysfunctional country singer alongside Lady Gaga for the 2018 hit A Star Is Born.

Chadwick Boseman (Get On Up)

Boseman’s 2014 depiction of James Brown, AKA the “hardest working man in showbusiness”, unsurprisingly required a lot of graft. The Black Panther star undertook sweat-drenched five-hour sessions to master the dance moves of Brown, while the vocal coach Ron Anderson (who worked with Axl Rose and Chris Cornell) helped him get to grips with the funk pioneer’s signature drawl.

Sissy Spacek (Coal Miner’s Daughter)

Spacek was handpicked by the country singer Loretta Lynn to play her in the British director Michael Apted’s 1980 biopic. Spacek then spent time with Lynn, who helped her learn how to imitate her Appalachian accent while also encouraging the Carrie star to sing in the biopic, which is seen as a classic of the genre.

Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line)

Both the stars of the 2005 Johnny Cash and June Carter biopic sang every song in the film, which tells the story of Cash and Carter’s romance and Cash’s troubled early years on tour that were punctuated with substance abuse issues. The director, James Mangold, told Phoenix not to try to be Cash, instead encouraging him to do an “interpretation” of him. “If people want to hear Johnny Cash, he’s made a couple of records,” he reportedly told the actor, who – along with Witherspoon – earned an Oscar nomination.

Jamie Foxx (Ray)

A year before Phoenix and Witherspoon’s portrayal of Cash and Carter, Jamie Foxx starred as the musician Ray Charles. Foxx had a head start on many actors as he was already a pianist, but he insisted on learning to play with his eyes closed, like Charles – who was blind. “If you could open your eyes, you would cheat on how your body would move,” he later said. “But if you can’t see, you can’t cheat because you don’t know what’s there.”