We tend to grow attached to seeing some of our favorite stars portray certain character types but every once in a while, Hollywood throws us for a loop and casts them as a whole new person. Sometimes the surprise can be pleasant, other times it’s just plain confusing. But either way, the intrigue gets us to the theater. Here is a look at 10 of the most unexpected roles – for better or for worse.
10. Justin Timberlake in Bad Teacher
Hathaway began her career by starring in multiple young-adult flicks that were entertaining for the whole family. Her first feature, The Princess Diaries, gained her some recognition and from there she went on to star in a series of movies. After taking on more mature roles in Brokeback Mountain and The Devil Wears Prada, she established herself as having great talent for drama. The trend continues as her roles remain, for the most part, light. But in 2008, sandwiched between Get Smart and Valentine’s Day, Hathaway turned heads when she starred in the heavy Indie-Drama, Rachel Getting Married. Battling a drug addiction, Kym (Hathaway) struggles to make it through her sister’s wedding day where she must confront a past she has been drugging herself to forget. Since then, Hathaway has continued to delight audiences with rom-coms but now and again, pulls out the big guns for roles such as in Love and Other Drugs, and Les Miserables.
8. Dakota Fanning in The Runaways
Being a child-actor does have a stigma attached to it, in that it becomes very difficult for viewers to accept that they eventually grow up. Fanning had no qualms with letting go of her old child persona to portray Cherie Currie in, The Runaways. While Fanning had always been able to handle mature roles with grace and believability, it still came as a shock to see her stripped down to lingerie, wailing away into a mic and falling heavy into drugs. Although the film did not take the box office by storm, reasons cited include lack of marketing and not having a target audience, it did receive positive reviews. Even Currie was pleased with Fanning’s depiction of her, but noted that the film is far lighter than the real story. Joan Jett was also a producer on the film and felt it well captured the 1970’s L.A. scene.
7. Ellen Page in Hard Candy
Teenage girls are always a little scary, but Page’s role as Haley is exceptionally frightening. Before acting in this revenge-thriller, Page had mostly been acting on Canadian TV shows and TV movies. As a lead in Hard Candy, she proved herself capable of handling heavy subject matter and of carrying a feature film. In it, the fourteen year old Haley lures a pedophile into taking her home where she proceeds to drug and torture him. So, the typical vigilante justice – just without the superhero gear, and a lot more cynicism. Since then, Page has gone on to roles in X-Men, Juno and Whip It. Critics have praised her performance in Hard Candy, calling her convincing, powerful and chilling. The indie film had a limited release and has grossed $6 million worldwide.
6. Jay Baruchel in Good Neighbors
Born in Ottawa and raised in Montreal, Canadians have been very familiar with Baruchel’s work for a long time. His career began in the late 1990s, when he starred alongside Elisha Cuthbert as hosts of the children’s educational TV show, Popular Mechanics for Kids. After his success in children’s programming, Baruchel went on to nab some minor roles in feature films. In 2001, he landed a lead role in Judd Apatow’s comedy series, Undeclared and it was there that Baruchel started his career as a comedian. Now he is known for funny-man roles in Knocked Up, Fanboys and Goon. In 2010 though, Baruchel took on the role of Victor in the Canadian Thriller, Good Neighbors. The film follows three neighbors in a Montreal apartment as they begin to bond amidst the chaos of an impending referendum and an ongoing serial killing spree in the area. The question is, of course, which one is the killer?
5. Anna Faris in I Give it a Year
In this English 2013 gem, Faris puts aside her usual sexy/funny routine to play a timid and awkward love struck philanthropist. Since her rise to fame with the Scary Movie franchise beginning in 2000, Faris has been known only for her outrageous comedic sensibility and her ability to blend it surprisingly well with her sex appeal. In, I Give It A Year Faris plays Chloe, a girl who lacks all finesse and is almost happy to accept her unlucky-in-love status, until she realizes how unhappy her ex is with his new wife. When the two finally admit that they are meant for each other, neither knows how to get over the hurdle of his wedding vows, and things get rather uncomfortable. Faris does an excellent job at being sympathetic here; quiet and meek is not something Faris’s characters are known for after all.
4. Brad Pitt in Burn After Reading
Not sexy, not smooth, not the love interest – and yet, it is Brad Pitt. A surprisingly fresh role here, Pitt stars alongside Francis McDormand, George Clooney and John Malkovich in this Cohen Brothers Crime Dramedy. His character, Chad, is an absolute idiot who suddenly finds himself way over his head when he attempts to blackmail the C.I.A. with information he doesn’t even have. The plot is full of mistakes in identity; a fun ride all around. There is nothing like laughing out loud as Chad runs around like a lost puppy trying to “play it cool”. He’s got great energy here, and this is a must-see if only for that. The rest of the cast is also great and the film has been compared to Fargo for its creative use of violence.
3. Jim Carrey in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
There is such a great feeling in finding out your favourite comedians are also outright great actors. Before this role, Carrey was already massively famous for his outrageous slapstick humor in films such as Ace Ventura, Batman, Liar Liar – the list goes on and on. But in 2004, he really shook up his image with Eternal Sunshine which co-starred Kate Winslet. The sci-fi drama followed Joel (Carrey) as he undergoes a process to wipe his ex-girlfriend from his memory. However, as the process is happening, Joel experiences his time with her one last time and realizes he has made a mistake. In an attempt to fight the erasure, Joel desperately looks for ways to hide his memories while at the mercy of the doctors who have no idea he is awake. The film has received enormous critical and commercial success and even has a strong and loyal cult following.
2. Adam Sandler in Reign Over Me
Although the film was not nominated for any major awards, Sandler’s performance deserves recognition here. While Sandler’s comedies do tend to have moments of emotional intensity in them, nothing compares to the character he brought to life with this one. The story follows old friends, Charlie (Sandler) and Alan (Cheadle) as they reconnect by chance after bumping into one another in NYC. Set shortly after 9/11, it soon becomes clear that Charlie’s emotional health is dangerously unwell, as he attempts to cope with the loss of his wife and daughters in the terrible tragedy. Now, withdrawn and unlevelled, Charlie finds in his renewed friendship with Alan, a desire to be happy again. The ultimate buddy-movie, Reign Over Me takes a lot of chances with its story and delivery. Although some reviews have noted its clumsiness, there is certainly something special about it, brought to the forefront by Sandler’s shockingly brilliant performance.
1. Vince Vaughn in Psycho
Vince Vaughn, as Norman Bates, has to be the most unexpected and out of place casting that ever was. Unfortunately, his role is neither surprisingly pleasant nor well done. The film has been called a shot-for-shot remake, (although this is not a perfect reproduction by any means) which begs the question of – well, why? The film won two Raspberry Awards, Worst Remake and Worst Director. Even in giving the film a positive review, based on its position as an experiment rather than a film per se, Janet Maslin pointed out that the absence of the Perkins-like Bates is the film’s greatest weakness. In the original masterpiece, Anthony Perkins brought chills into every room he entered with his uncomfortably misplaced confidence and his unpredictable heaviness. Much of this sense came from his slender non-threatening appearance; the violence he was capable of, far surpassed viewers expectations. Vaughn’s enormous stature, however, created just the opposite effect and was subsequently unconvincing. Today he remains in his typical role of comedy.