Britney as Britney in a Biopic?

As it turned out, Stern was a "natural born actor," in his 1997 biopic "Private Parts," Dergarabedian said. And the box office returns were strong. The film earned $14.6 million its opening weekend and went on to gross more than $41 million.

That was eclipsed by rapper Eminem's semi-autobiographical film "8 Mile" in 2002. Playing a character loosely based on himself, Eminem's film earned $51.2 million on its opening weekend and $116.8 million overall.

Dergarabedian said the rapper was crucial to the film's success.

"Who else could play him?" he said. "Nobody could rap the way he did. If they had dubbed it, people would have laughed. As it turned out, he was a pretty good actor, as well. I think he did an excellent job."

"'8 Mile' was a very, very successful example of that," said Finn. "It had wonderful director, writers, casting directors. It was not a piece aiming to be sensational. It had a heartfelt story to tell, a real and compelling story in its own right, not just based on the superficial celebrity persona."

Wilbekin said it should come as no surprise that comedians and musicians turn out to be good actors.

"They kind of always have a mask on," he said. "They are always in character. They are used to playing themselves. Why not just do it on film and get paid a lot of money for it?

"For musicians to play themselves on the big screen is just an extension of playing themselves as their celebrity persona," Wilbekin added. "In their minds, the lines are blurred, whether playing themselves in a biopic, in a music video or reality show, or in the tabloids."

But Dergarabedian cautioned that playing yourself on screen is not as easy as it looks.

"It's still scripted; it's not a documentary," he said. "You have to bring acting chops. You're not being yourself. You're being yourself as portrayed in a script. If the acting is good, it can be a very powerful thing. If it doesn't work, you have a real problem on your hands."

Critics roundly panned the Rivers' TV biopic, "Tears and Laughter: The Joan and Melissa Rivers Story." Wilbekin called the Rivers women "classic tragic and funny characters who we watched change and disfigure on camera."

He said the problem with their movie was "a lot of their tragedies played out in the press and they were really sad. You need a high point and a low point and you want to see it go up again. They kind of plateaued before the ending."

What rapper 50 Cent, who starred in the semiautobiographical "Get Rich or Die Tryin'," and other music artists have going for them is a fan base of young and loyal fans with disposable income.

Ne-Yo is another hip-hop artist hoping to capitalize on his fan base with a loosely-based biopic.

"The name of the movie is 'Venice Beach' and basically, it's going to be my '8 Mile,'" the singer told Rap-Up.com.

When production, which is slated for December, starts, it won't be Ne-Yo's first acting role. He appeared in 2007's "Stomp the Yard."

"It's a great branding tool," Wilbekin said of music artists in celebrity biopics. "Music sales are in the toilet. It's not going to be the biggest part of a recording artist's income. They have to branch out in other fields."

What makes celebrity biopics hot right now, Wilbekin said, is the huge popularity of reality TV.

"These biopics are an extension of reality television," he said, "and it's just another way to feed the celebrity habit."

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