JAMIE FOXX as Ray Charles
MOVIE TITLE: Ray
IN THEATERS: Now
SIMILARITIES: Foxx,36, bears more than a passing resemblance to the blind soul pioneer who died in June; he's a musician who hopes to release his own R&B album next spring.
OFFSCREEN APPEAL: "He has that thing about him that no matter who is in the room, you feel like he's connecting with you especially," says Ray costar Regina King. "He's always paying attention.
WHY FOXX GOT THE PART: Though he lip-synched to Ray Charles's music in the film, Charles gave him his blessing after the two played piano together. "When you see this movie," says Foxx, "you'll get to know Ray Charles."
JOAQUIN PHOENIX as Johnny Cash
MOVIE TITLE: Walk the Line
HITS THEATERS: April 22, 2005
SIMILARITIES: Phoenix nails Cash's sexy sneer and shares the dark, brooding looks of "the man in black."
OFFSCREEN APPEAL: "He had incredible compassion for what Johnny was all about and his love for June," says president of FOX 2000 Pictures Elizabeth Gabler. "He has experienced in his life a lot of deep, emotional things that made it possible for him to open his heart to play this part. Joaquin is jaw-droppingly wonderful."
WHY PHOENIX GOT THE PART: Cash approved the casting of Phoenix before his death in 2003. "The process was amazing," says Phoenix, who learned to sing and play the guitar for the role. "But it was very difficult at times. I don't sing. I don't even hum in the shower."
as Howard Hughes
MOVIE TITLE: The Aviator
HITS THEATERS: Dec. 17
SIMILARITIES: Like Hughes, DiCaprio looks dashing in a tux. He also shares the notorious billionaire's penetrating gaze and his penchant for beautiful women; DiCaprio has been dating supermodel Gisele Bündchen since 2000. But it was the tycoon's discretion that impressed DiCaprio. "He was one of the most iconic men the country has ever seen," said DiCaprio. "But he had a strong need for privacy. I can empathize with that."
WHY DICAPRIO GOT THE PART: "Leo really took to playing a man who was so brilliant," says the film's producer Graham King. It was a project, he adds, that "Leo was passionate about for years."
KEVIN SPACEY as Bobby Darin
MOVIE TITLE: Beyond the Sea
HITS THEATERS: Dec. 10
SIMILARITIES: Spacey does his own singing: "We hope the audience hears the tracks and wonders if that's Bobby or Kevin."
WHY SPACEY GOT THE PART: He was the film's director and coproducer, and he helped write the screenplay. "I grew up listening to Bobby's music," says Spacey. "Darin's ambition, his drive and desire to be the ultimate entertainer has obvious parallels to my own life. This gave me an opportunity to reinvent myself and go to extremes. I had never had the chance to be a song-and-dance man."