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Michael Sheen is a guest on The Graham Norton Show this week (Friday at 11pm EST), appearing remotely from his home in Wales. During a funny and playful interview, the prolific actor gives a sneak preview of his absolutely spot-on performance as British game show host Chris Tarrant in the upcoming AMC miniseries Quiz. To whet your appetite, here’s a guide to Sheen’s most transformative performances as real-life figures.

Tony Blair in The Deal, The Queen and The Special Relationship

Dame Helen Mirren deservedly won an Oscar for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II in Peter Morgan‘s clever 2006 biopic The Queen, but Sheen is also pitch-perfect as Prime Minister Tony Blair. Sheen captures Blair’s smooth persuasiveness perfectly as the PM gently encourages the Queen to rethink her public response to the tragic death of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997.

Three years earlier, Sheen had played the same statesman in The Deal, Morgan’s TV movie about Blair’s political union with the man who succeeded him as PM, Gordon Brown (played by David Morrissey). And four years after The Queen, Sheen reprised the role in The Special Relationship, Morgan’s TV movie about Blair’s bond with President George W. Bush (played by Dennis Quaid).

David Frost in Frost/Nixon

Sheen conveys the audacity, chutzpah, and slight naivety of British broadcaster David Frost in this excellent 2008 movie about Frost’s landmark interviews with Richard Nixon, in which the former President belatedly apologized to the American public for his role in the Watergate scandal. He and co-star Frank Langella had already starred in Peter Morgan‘s acclaimed stage play about the saga, which he adapted into this film, and it’s hard to imagine anyone else inhabiting these roles quite so completely.

Kenneth Williams in Kenneth Williams: Fantabulosa!

Sheen received a BAFTA nomination for portraying late British comedy actor Kenneth Williams in this 2006 BBC TV movie. Williams was known for his camp mannerisms, distinctive nasal drawl, and lifelong sense of dissatisfaction, all of which Sheen captures magnificently in Fantabulosa!. He even went on a grueling cabbage soup diet to lose 35 pounds for the role. Dame Maggie Smith co-starred in a West End play with Williams early in her career, and you can definitely see his influence in some of her haughtier comic roles such as Downton Abbey‘s Dowager Countess.

Brian Clough in The Damned United

Sheen re-teamed with Peter Morgan and The Queen director Stephen Frears for this rollicking 2009 soccer biopic. He gives a typically impressive performance as legendary English football manager Brian Clough, portraying the charismatic leader’s struggle to impose his sporting values on Leeds United, a team known for their aggressive, abrasive, and not entirely admirable style of play.

Chris Tarrant in Quiz

Chris Tarrant isn’t well known in the U.S., but in the U.K. he’s a genuine TV legend who hosted the original British version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? for 16 years. AMC’s upcoming miniseries Quiz tells the story of a major cheating scandal which rocked the show in 2001, which even saw Tarrant summoned to court to give evidence. Quiz doesn’t premiere until May 31, but Sheen gives a hilarious sneak preview of his performance as the grinning game show host on The Graham Norton Show this Friday at 11pm EST.

Which is your favorite real-life Michael Sheen performance?

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Filed Under: Michael Sheen
By Nick Levine