In the past 15 years, 17 of the 30 best actor and best actress Oscars went to performers who played a real-life figure. Meryl Streep holds the record for most acting nominations with 19, including performances as such real-life figures as Karen Silkwood, Isak Dinesen and Julia Child. She's won three Oscars, the most recent for playing Margaret Thatcher in 2011's "The Iron Lady."
the weinstein company
Eddie Redmayne played astrophysicist Stephen Hawking in 2014's "The Theory of Everything." He won the best actor Oscar for the role.
Liam Daniel/Universal Pictures
Matthew McConaughey played AIDS activist Ron Woodroof in 2013's "Dallas Buyers Club." His performance netted him a best actor Oscar over competition including Chiwetel Ojiofor ("12 Years a Slave") and Leonardo DiCaprio ("The Wolf of Wall Street").
Daniel Day-Lewis has won three best actor Oscars -- two for playing real people. He won his first for 1989's "My Left Foot," playing Irish artist Christy Brown, then another for 2007's "There Will Be Blood," as fictional oilman Daniel Plainview. His most recent win was for 2012's "Lincoln," in which he played the 16th president.
Colin Firth earned an Oscar for his performance as King George VI, a man afflicted with a speech impediment, in 2010's "The King's Speech."
The Weinstein Company
Sean Penn played Harvey Milk, an openly gay politician and the first to be elected to public office in California, in the 2008 film "Milk." For his performance, Penn won the Oscar for best actor.
Forest Whitaker won an Oscar for his performance as the imposing Idi Amin, the onetime ruler of Uganda, in the 2006 film "The Last King of Scotland."
Philip Seymour Hoffman as Truman Capote in 2004's "Capote." His Oscar-winning performance was startling in a number of ways, not least that the beefy 5-foot-10 actor managed to disappear into the 5-foot-3 Capote.
Ray Charles proved a winning role for Jamie Foxx in 2003's "Ray."
Adrien Brody remains the youngest best actor Oscar winner. He was just 29 when he won for his performance as Polish pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman in 2001's "The Pianist."
In this scene from 2009's "The Blind Side," Quinton Aaron, playing Michael Oher, is "coached" by Sandra Bullock as Leigh Anne Tuohy. Bullock's Oscar cemented her A-list status.
Marion Cotillard, who played Edith Piaf in 2007's "La Vie en Rose," defeated nominees such as Julie Christie ("Away From Her") and Laura Linney ("The Savages").
Helen Mirren gave an Oscar-winning performance as Queen Elizabeth II during the days after Princess Diana's death in the 2006 film "The Queen." She had portrayed Queen Elizabeth I in the 2005 TV series "Elizabeth I."
Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix played real-life couple June Carter and Johnny Cash in 2004's "Walk the Line." Phoenix earned a nomination for his performance; Witherspoon won.
Fox 2000 Pictures
In a fearless performance, Charlize Theron took on the role of serial killer Aileen Wuornos in 2003's "Monster." "What Charlize Theron achieves in 'Monster' isn't a performance but an embodiment," wrote Roger Ebert.
With her putty nose, Nicole Kidman was criticized by some for her performance as Virginia Woolf in the 2002 film "The Hours," but it earned her an Oscar.
Courtesy Paramount Pictures
Julia Roberts earned her only Oscar for her work as real-life investigator and lawyer Erin Brockovich in the 2000 film "Erin Brockovich."