24 Actors & The 2 Most Extremely Different Roles They’ve Ever Played
All too often in Hollywood, actors have to actively fight against being typecast. How many times has Joe Pesci portrayed a scary gangster? How often is Seth Rogen the schlubby stoner? Will anyone ever throw Zooey Deschanel a role that can't be described as a "manic pixie dream girl"? Yet many actors are have sidestepped this trap by accepting roles that are the complete opposite of parts they've played before — and become famous for. These actors who've starred in totally opposite roles have kept their careers interesting by doing so.
Not only does it take a lot of talent to pull off such a feat, it also takes a lot of guts. How easy would it have been for Christian Bale to just keep playing muscular heroes after being Batman and letting the checks roll in? But instead, the actor has branched out. In just the past six years since The Dark Knight Rises, Bale has portrayed, respectively: a balding '70s con artist, the Biblical prophet Moses, a hedge fund manager who helped cause the 2008 financial crisis, a pioneer-era U.S. soldier, Vice President Dick Cheney, and a race car driver. And while Bale's portfolio is more diverse than most, he's hardly the only actor who's known to stick their neck out. So take a look below at Bale and 23 others who've shown tremendous range, from one role to another.
1. Christian Bale — The Dark Knight Series & 'Vice'
Bale got ripped to play Batman, one of the most popular superheroes, in the acclaimed Dark Knight trilogy from 2005 to 2012. Just six years later in 2018, he completely transformed to portray real-life supervillain Dick Cheney in Vice.
2. Charlize Theron — 'Mad Max: Fury Road' & 'Long Shot'
Theron became an action hero for the modern era with her gritty role as Imperator Furiosa in 2015's Mad Max: Fury Road, which is a far cry from polished presidential candidate Charlotte Field in 2019's Long Shot.
3. Brad Pitt — 'Meet Joe Black' & 'Inglourious Basterds'
From playing the surprisingly innocent human embodiment of Death in 1998's Meet Joe Black to a hillbilly "Nah-tzi" hunter over a decade later in 2009's Inglourious Basterds, Pitt sure knows how to mix it up.
4. Awkwafina — 'Crazy Rich Asians' & 'The Farewell'
Awkwafina provides plenty of comic relief as the outlandish Goh Peik Lin in 2018's Crazy Rich Asians, but she couldn't be more down to Earth as Billi Wang in The Farewell, which hit theaters the following year.
5. Leonardo DiCaprio — 'The Revenant' & 'Django Unchained'
DiCaprio basically never plays the same role twice, and these two roles really illustrate that. In 2015's The Revenant, he's a selfless pioneer who scarcely says a word throughout the entire film. Three years prior in 2012's Django Unchained, he played silver-tongued and wicked slaveowner who never shuts up.
6. Meryl Streep — 'The Devil Wears Prada' & 'Sophie's Choice'
Streep is one of the greatest actors of all time, so it's no surprise her long résumé is filled with a variety of roles. Two of the most contrasting are the demanding fashionista/boss from hell, Miranda Priestly, in 2006's The Devil Wears Prada and the title character in 1982's Sophie's Choice, a Polish immigrant and Holocaust survivor.
7. Will Smith — 'The Pursuit of Happyness' & 'Hitch'
Smith is a down on his luck single dad in the 2006 tearjerker The Pursuit of Happyness, but he certainly has his act together as a successful and charming matchmaker in the 2005 rom-com Hitch.
8. Jim Carrey — 'The Truman Show' & 'How The Grinch Stole Christmas'
Carrey's face isn't the only aspect of the actor that's malleable. He embodies both the naive star of 1998's The Truman Show and the inhuman and monstrous Grinch from 2000's How the Grinch Stole Christmas with equal believability.
9. Natalie Portman — 'Black Swan' & 'Where The Heart Is'
Portman's intense portrayal of a ballerina succumbing to madness in 2010's Black Swan is a far cry from the too-sweet-for-this-world protagonist of 2000's Where the Heart Is.
10. Benicio del Toro — 'Guardians Of The Galaxy' & 'Sicario'
As The Collector in 2014's Guardians, del Toro is a goofy and eccentric alien, whereas, in Sicario, just one year later, he's downright terrifying as former drug cartel hitman Alejandro Gillick.
11. Tilda Swinton — 'Suspiria'
Swinton is such a versatile actor that she's capable of playing completely opposite roles in the same film. She portrays Madame Blanc, the head of a dance studio, Mother Markos, an ancient witch, and Dr. Josef Klemperer, an elderly male psychologist, all in the 2018 remake of Suspiria. Geez, why don't you save some roles for the rest of us, Tilda?
12. Tom Hanks — 'Forrest Gump' & 'The Ladykillers'
Hanks broke out his southern accent for both of these roles, but they couldn't be more different. The eponymous character in 1994's Forrest Gump is an uncomplicated man who always does the right thing, while Professor G.H. Dorr from 2004's The Ladykillers is a dastardly criminal mastermind.
13. Halle Berry — 'Catwoman' & 'Monster's Ball'
These roles for Berry are not just opposites in terms of content, but also in how they were received. She won a Best Actress Oscar for her role as a grieving widow in 2001's Monster's Ball... and a Worst Actress Razzie for portraying the titular superhero in 2004's Catwoman.
14. Melissa McCarthy — 'Bridesmaids' & 'Can You Ever Forgive Me?'
McCarthy was over-the-top hilarious in her 2011 Bridesmaids breakout role, but she's ultra serious and even depressing as lonely and caustic forger Lee Israel in 2018's Can You Ever Forgive Me?
15. Daniel Craig — The James Bond Series & 'Logan Lucky'
Craig is best known for his role as the suave British secret agent, a role which began with 2006's Casino Royale and will conclude in 2020 with No Time to Die. But the actor has range, too, which he proved by playing a southern convict named Joe Bang in 2017's Logan Lucky.
16. Jennifer Lopez — 'Hustlers' & 'Maid In Manhattan'
J. Lo's newest role is a independent stripper who becomes a scheming crime boss in the recent release Hustlers, which is a big change from the single mom and hotel maid who falls in love with a senate candidate she plays in 2002's Maid in Manhattan.
17. Sandra Bullock — 'The Blind Side' & 'Miss Congeniality'
Bullock won an Oscar for playing a suburban mom with a heart of gold in 2009's The Blind Side and earned a Golden Globe nomination nearly a decade earlier for playing a tomboy FBI agent in 2009's Miss Congeniality.
18. Keanu Reeves — The John Wick Series & The Bill & Ted Series
As John Wick, a character Reeves has portrayed since 2014, the actor is seen as one of the most badass action heroes of today. As Ted Logan, a dimwitted aspiring musician who debuted in 1989, he's, well, whatever the opposite of a badass is. Goodass?
19. Queen Latifah — 'Set It Off' & 'Last Holiday'
The actor was dealt a rough hand in both of these films, but her characters chose wildly different paths. In 1996's Set It Off, Cleo decides she's had enough of being a janitor and becomes a bank robber. In 2006's Last Holiday, Georgia is diagnosed with weeks to live and decides to go on a dream vacation.
20. Emily Blunt — 'Mary Poppins Returns' & Edge Of Tomorrow'
Mary Poppins is capable of a lot of amazing feats in 2018's Mary Poppins Returns, but could she slaughter aliens in an apocalyptic war day after day like the "Angel of Verdun" in 2014's Edge of Tomorrow? Not too sure about that.
21. Denzel Washington — 'Remember The Titans' & 'Training Day'
These are two of Washington's best-known roles, and they're light years apart (even though, in real time, they were just one year apart). In 2000's Remember the Titans, he's a caring high school football coach who brings a town together. But in 2001's Training Day? He's the world's most crooked cop.
22. Bill Murray — 'What About Bob?' & 'Ghostbusters'
Two of Murray's comedy classics, these films put the actor in wildly different roles. In 1991's What About Bob?, he's Bob Wiley, a man who suffers from multiple crippling phobias that make just getting through each day a nightmare. In 1984's Ghostbusters, he's Peter Venkman, a cocky and sarcastic scientist who hunts ghosts for a living.
23. Jennifer Lawrence — 'American Hustle' & 'Mother!'
From a sassy and wild '70s diva in 2013's American Hustle to literally Mother Nature in 2017's mother!, Lawrence shows why she's one of the most sought-after actors working today.
24. Daniel Radcliffe — The Harry Potter Series & 'Swiss Army Man'
Radcliffe is best known for playing the boy wizard in the Harry Potter series from 2001 to 2011, and you can't get much further away from "The Boy Who Lived" than a farting corpse, as Radcliffe proved with his 2016 Swiss Army Man role.
These 24 actors are some of the best in the business, and their willingness to branch out in the roles they take on is a big reason why.