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Oscar loves a diva. Is Renée Zellweger next in line for ‘Judy’?

Oscar divas
(Kirsten Ulve / For The Times)

Oscar loves a good diva. Barbra Streisand won her first Academy Award for playing vaudeville singer-comedian Fanny Brice in “Funny Girl.” Half a century later, “Judy” star Renée Zellweger seems virtually certain to earn a 2019 lead actress nomination for her heart-rending portrayal of Judy Garland in all her ragged late-career glory. In the intervening years, Oscar voters have regularly heaped praise on great actresses playing great singers saddled with great big dramatic problems. Here’s a musical biopic roundup recapping Hollywood’s most lauded big-screen divas and dames.

Renée Zellweger as Judy Garland in “Judy” (2019)
Face of adversity: Amphetamines, booze, custody battle, child-star trauma.
Voice: Zellweger did her own singing live on set after training with L.A. vocal coach Eric Vetro.
Showstopper: “The Trolley Song,” “Over the Rainbow.”
Stage presence: Deeply sincere, arms akimbo.
To wig or not to wig: Wig. Designed by Jeremy Woodhead (“Stan & Ollie”) to mimic Garland’s ’60s-era short-cropped cut.
Signature look: Pantsuit and scarf.
Telling line: “I just want what everybody wants. I seem to have a harder time getting it.”
Oscar nod: A nomination seems assured.

Marion Cotillard as Edith Piaf in “La Vie en Rose” (2007).
Marion Cotillard as Edith Piaf in “La Vie en Rose” (2007).
(Kirsten Ulve)

Marion Cotillard as Edith Piaf in “La Vie en Rose” (2007)
Face of adversity: Alcoholism.
Voice: Cotillard lip-synced to original Edith Piaf recordings.
Showstopper: “Non, Je ne regrette rien.”
Stage presence: Intense, feet planted.
To wig or not to wig: Wig. Cotillard had her head shaved and wore a wig modeled on the chanteuse’s wavy tresses.
Signature look: Fur-collared shift and short heels.
Telling line: “I’m not the Parisian bombshell [Americans] expected. Can you see me as a chorus girl?”
Oscar nod: Winner, lead actress.

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Angela Bassett as Tina Turner in “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” (1993)
Angela Bassett as Tina Turner in “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” (1993).
(Kirsten Ulve)

Angela Bassett as Tina Turner in “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” (1993)
Face of adversity: Beaten by bandleader husband Ike Turner (Laurence Fishburne).
Voice: Bassett lip-synced to Turner recordings.
Stage presence: Hyperkinetic, strutting and shaking.
Showstoppers: “Proud Mary,” “River Deep, Mountain High.”
To wig or not to wig: Wig. Bassett wore wigs similar to the ones Turner wore when she performed.
Signature look: Sparkly mini-skirt.
Telling line: “We never do nothin’ nice and easy.”
Oscar nod: Nominee, lead actress.

Reese Witherspoon as June Carter Cash in “I Walk the Line” (2005).
Reese Witherspoon as June Carter Cash in “I Walk the Line” (2005).
(Kirsten Ulve)

Reese Witherspoon as June Carter Cash in “Walk the Line” (2005)
Face of adversity: Dealing with husband Johnny Cash’s self-destructive habits.
Voice: Witherspoon did her own singing in the June Carter style, coached by producer T Bone Burnett.
Showstopper: “Juke Box Blues.”
Stage presence: Cheerful, dancing a jig.
To wig or not to wig: No wig. Witherspoon went from blond to brunet to match the singer’s brown locks.
Signature look: Scoop-neck party dress.
Telling line: “If y‘all sit down, squat down or lie down but make yourselves at home because here’s the one and only, Mr. Johnny Cash!”
Oscar nod: Winner, lead actress.

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Sissy Spacek as Loretta Lynn in “Coal Miner’s Daughter” (1980).
Sissy Spacek as Loretta Lynn in “Coal Miner’s Daughter” (1980).
(Kirsten Ulve)

Sissy Spacek as Loretta Lynn in “Coal Miner’s Daughter” (1980)
Face of adversity: Four kids by age 18, pressures of show business.
Voice: Spacek did her own singing, emulating Lynn’s catch-in-the-throat style.
Showstoppers: “There He Goes” and the Lynn-penned “Coal Miner’s Daughter.”
Stage presence: Guitar strumming and a big smile.
To wig or not to wig: Natural early on; later Spacek, like Lynn, wore big bouffant wigs onstage.
Signature look: Cowboy hat at first; later, frilly floor-length gowns.
Telling line: “I done wrote me a song, Betty Sue. Your mama’s a daggone songwriter now.”
Oscar nod: Winner, lead actress.

Diana Ross as Billie Holiday in “Lady Sings the Blues” (1972).
Diana Ross as Billie Holiday in “Lady Sings the Blues” (1972).
(Kirsten Ulve)

Diana Ross as Billie Holiday in “Lady Sings the Blues” (1972)
Face of adversity: Heroin, racism.
Voice: Ross did her own singing.
Showstoppers: “Good Morning Heartache,” “Ain’t Nobody’s Business if I Do.”
Stage presence: Moody.
Signature look: Bob Mackie-designed gown, boa, white gardenia in her hair.
Telling line: “Sure, I’ve taken a few shots but only when I needed it. I’m not hooked, Louis, I’m not.”
Oscar nod: Nominee, lead actress. (Notably, she lost to Liza Minnelli as fictitious singer Sally Bowles in “Cabaret.”)


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