You may recognize their faces, but somehow, in all their movies, everything else has changed. This is a talented bunch of actors and actresses who change so much about themselves from role to role that the audience always keeps guessing when they see them on screen. So here’s a list of the best big-screen performers who drastically change for their characters.
Dedicated to his craft, Christian Bale has spent his career making some of the most dramatic changes to his body of any actor that we can think of. Never resting solely on his natural talents, Bale instead has gone from ripped in American Psycho to dangerously skinny in The Machinist. With multiple Oscars, Golden Globes and other awards under his belt, it seems like they’ve been worth it.
If you watched Gandhi and Sexy Beast back to back, the whiplash Ben Kingsley’s performances would cause could leave you with a sore neck for weeks. Earning award nominations for playing Itzhak Stern in Schindler’s List, and as Meyer Lansky in Bugsy, he is capable of admirably pulling off any role given to him.
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Though his role in Owning Mahowny is arguably the best example of this late actor’s performance, his turns in films like Boogie Nights or Almost Famous couldn’t be further from that. Hoffman ultimately won his only Academy Award for Capote, a role in which he submerged himself in the titular character’s mannerisms.
Playing a single character that goes through a massive change in movies like Primal Fear, The Incredible Hulk, Fight Club, and American History X, it may seem like paradigm shifts are a gimmick for this actor.
Once the darling of the film-loving crowd; Johnny Depp has proven himself to be an adaptive actor throughout his long career. Capable of pulling off the near-silent role of Edward Scissorhands equally adeptly as a man who never shuts up, aka Captain Jack Sparrow, Depp is truly an actor’s actor.
There is a very good reason that Ms. Streep is inarguably one of the most respected actresses of all time, and her range has a lot to do with it. Whether she’s perfectly bringing the spirit of Margaret Thatcher or Julia Child to life through make-up and her acting talents or stripping away all pretenses as a mother who has to make a horrible choice, Streep never seems out of her depth.
There is a legendary story from the filming of Marathon Man that says Dustin Hoffman showed up on set after staying awake for three days because his character in the film had done so. Fellow respected actor and co-star Laurence Olivier reportedly retorted in response, “Why don’t you just try acting?” Though this story is hilarious, it also tells you everything you need to know about Dustin’s determination as an actor, which has led to him bring so many unique and enthralling award-winning performances to the big screen we’ve lost count.
He’s an entirely different breed of actors. When Daniel Day-Lewis sets foot on a film set, accolades seemingly fall on him like rain. From what we hear about his on-set behavior, Day-Lewis becomes so enmeshed in whatever role he chooses to take on that he rarely breaks character and usually lives the role for the duration.
When director Todd Haynes was putting together a Bob Dylan biopic with actors portraying different eras of the man’s life, the only woman he reportedly tapped for the role was Cate Blanchett. A testament to how much confidence he and audiences have in her abilities; she pulled her part off and garnered an Oscar nomination for it.
One of the first thespians to come to mind when you think of acting range, Gary Oldman is a character actor who is so good at his job that he has become a full-fledged star. If you watched Hannibal without knowing much, you probably wouldn’t believe that the grotesque Mason Verger was brought to you by Harry Potter’s Sirius Black. There has never been an actor who was more likely to keep audiences guessing and intrigued.