Nov. 14, 2008 -- Britney on the big screen?
When news circulated recently about the possibility of Britney Spears starring in a big-screen version of her life, pop culture watchers started salivating.
"All of Britney's fans and haters would love to see a Britney biopic," said Emil Wilbekin, editor in chief of the new Giant magazine. "She's had more ups and downs in the last 10 years than the stock market. Even when she was going through all this drama and receiving all this negative press, her popularity was still high. She's the star we loved to hate. She's like a reality star. We want to see every turn in her life, every up and down, and every detail. I think a Britney film would do well."
But according to her representative, audiences will have to wait for Brit's biopic. Gina Orr, a publicist from Spears' label, Jive Records, told ABCNews.com no such film is in the works.
Orr's denial came after British tabloids reported Spears would play herself -- following in the footsteps of other stars, such as Howard Stern and Eminem -- in a film about her rollercoaster life that includes a public breakdown and a traumatic custody battle for her two boys.
Los Angeles casting director Sarah Halley Finn said it's probably a good thing reports of a Britney biopic are being met with a denial.
"[Britney's] such a heated topic," she said. "You have to give it a little time and space to give it perspective. I think there's no way not to have those images and stories so fresh in your mind. I think the temptation would be to sensationalize things. But sure, in the hands of the right director and writer, anything could be realized."
For now, the closest audiences will get to seeing Spears' life on screen will be in the upcoming MTV documentary tentatively entitled, "For the Record," which is set to air on Nov. 30, two days before Spears new album "Circus" is released. In it, Spears promised to show what it's like living in her shoes.
"So much has gone on over the last couple of years and there's a lot that people don't know about me that I want them to know," Spears told MTV News in a statement about the special. "I wanted to make this film because I started to feel like I wasn't being seen in the light that I wanted to be seen in. This is an opportunity to set the record straight and talk about what I've been through and where I'm headed."
Should Spears decide to star in a big-screen feature about her life, she would follow past star turns that produced mixed results. Besides Stern and Eminem, 50 Cent, Richard Pryor and Melissa and Joan Rivers have all either played themselves or fictionalized versions of themselves on screen.
Stern and Eminem did well at the box office. The Rivers women were skewered by critics for the small-screen portrayal of their lives.
"I think it generally works," box office watcher Paul Dergarabedian said. "The only time it wouldn't is with certain people who couldn't play themselves, like the president. Then, there are certain celebrities, actors or musicians who it's absolutely essential that they play themselves. But if they are a terrible actor, the whole house of cards can fall."
"I don't think anybody could play Howard Stern but Howard Stern," Dergarabedian said. "He's a pretty strong example. You absolutely had to have the person in the role."
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."