It's not exactly a shocker, but, as it turns out, starring in a hugely successful and critically acclaimed movie is pretty good for an actor's career. Take The Fault in Our Stars , for instance: Nat Wolff was hailed as a breakout star, Shailene Woodley became Shailene Woodley, and Ansel Elgort... well, except for becoming a tween girl heartthrob, the actor didn't see much about his reputation changed cast as Gus — until now. On Monday, it was announced that Elgort will star in Van Cliburn , a biopic about the life of the famed piano player, and it's a role that could totally alter the image of the actor currently best known for having "mahogany hair" and a "crooked smile."
Or, maybe not. As Elgort surely knows all too well, plenty of actors whose breakthroughs come largely due to their looks, despite any talent they might have, never successfully make the switch into more dramatic roles. Instead, they become trapped in repetitive romantic comedies or bad action franchises, unable to get audiences to take them seriously as leading men. It happened to Shane West, Jesse Metcalfe, Chad Michael Murray — sure, they might stay semi-famous, but respected as actors is a whole different story.
There are a few, however, who've made the switch, actors who began their careers in roles based around their looks but have become some of Hollywood's biggest dramatic stars. Hopefully, Elgort will follow suit; TFIOS may have showcased his appearance more than his talent, but Van Cliburn might be the movie he needs to show audiences that he's capable of being a serious actor. A few people who've done it before:
Breakthrough role: She's the Man, followed quickly by Step Up. Not much meat to those roles, but hey, he looked good.
Movies that changed his image: 21 Jump Street and Magic Mike. Tatum became a whole different actor in 2012, one who could effortless flip between comedy and drama.
Breakthrough role: A little thing called High School Musical.
Movies that changed his image: Hairspray tried, but two following High School Musical sequels distracted audiences from Efron's actual skills as an actor. It wasn't until 2012's The Paperboy that he finally made an impact for more than his looks.
Breakthrough role: It's easy to forget that the biggest movie star in the world began as a "pretty face" actor, playing a mostly-shirtless criminal in Thelma & Louise.
Movies that changed his image: Pitt's transformation began with A River Runs Through It, but culminated with Legends of the Fall and Seven. He was (and still is) known as a heartthrob, but one with a whole lot of talent.
Breakthrough role: Dazed and Confused, but it was his series of rom-coms in the late '90s and early '00s that gave him his status as a good-looking but forgettable actor.
Movies that changed his image: Everything he did in 2011 and 2012: The Lincoln Lawyer, Bernie, Killer Joe, The Paperboy, Mud, and Magic Mike. Welcome to the McConaissance.
And a few who haven't:
Although Pattinson's tried to change his image a number of times, he hasn't yet found a movie that's allowed him to be seen as more than the hot guy from Twilight. This year might improve things, though, as the actor has several serious films in the works, including The Rover, a hit at Cannes.
Maybe it's a Twilight curse? No one's seen much of Lautner since the last Twilight movie, and it's doubtful that's going to change anytime soon. He has one movie set to come out later this year, but it looks like yet another forgettable action thriller.
Hartnett's had a tough time these past few years getting roles that allow him to show off his talent, and for awhile, it looked like he was on the road to being totally forgotten. But then came Penny Dreadful, and things are finally looking up for the actor once considered one of the most promising actors in Hollywood.