Just because stars get naked on-screen, doesn’t always mean the audience is going to like it. Often times when actors break away from their usual roles it can be a serious risk for their careers. Whether it be a good girl gone bad, a controversial role, or a male actor dressed up as a female character, stars risk their careers everyday in order to play in roles they really want and believe in. From Robin Williams and the Wayans brothers, to Leonardo Di Caprio and Jared Leto, we have seen stars rise to the top for roles they were almost too afraid to take. It is because of these risks that many of their careers have been made, and without them we probably would not have some of Hollywood’s biggest names.
Here’s a list of stars that decided to take on roles that could have caused harm to their acting careers. Lucky for us, all these roles did was add a notch on their acting belts, allowing them to continue to star in many of our favorite films.
10. Rooney Mara: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
If you don’t know, now you know that the actress playing Lisbeth Salander in David Fincher’s American version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is Rooney Mara. Her performance as Lisbeth Salander was a risky one for a girl just starting out.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a deep and dark film. Mara’s character is a troubled computer hacker who helps journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) solve the case of a girl who went missing 40 years ago. In order to perfect and land this role, Rooney Mara had to completely change herself physically. To portray the character that David Fincher envisioned, Rooney Mara had to transform herself into the troubled character, by losing weight, bleaching her eyebrows, and cutting her hair. Let’s not forget the very disturbing sexual assault scenes.
9. Cameron Diaz: Being John Malkovich
There once was a time where Cameron Diaz wasn’t all that beautiful (how is that possible right?). Her role in Being John Malkovich was one of her riskier roles throughout her career.
Although Cameron Diaz is a versatile actress who barely turns down any roles, she is often cast as the beautiful woman. In Being John Malkovich, Diaz was transformed into Lotte Schwartz, a big haired geek. The struggle was to transform Diaz into a plain, homely character, making her unrecognizable. What makes Cameron Diaz so remarkable is that she is not afraid to take these risks, especially those that require her to be ugly, when we are so used to seeing her as this beautiful, blonde, sexy woman. Her role in Being John Malkovich earned her a nomination for a Golden Globe.
8. Charlize Theron: Monster
Charlize Theron, former model turned actress, played real-life serial killer Aileen Wuornos for her role in Monster. A crime drama film directed by Patty Jenkins, Monster tells the story of a real-life serial killer, a prostitute who murdered six men, and was later executed through lethal injection.
Just like Cameron Diaz, Theron is seen as a pretty face, but that changed when she successfully transformed for this role. In order to portray Aileen Wuornos, Charlize Theron had to gain 30 pounds, making her completely unrecognizable. She risked her career by taking on a role that required her to forget her modeling past and be “ugly”, which in turn earned her 17 awards and she even won the best actress Oscar for her performance.
7. Anne Hathaway: Havoc
Anne Hathaway decided to move away from the good girl character we see in The Princess Diaries to take on riskier roles like her performance in Havoc. A crime drama about white teenagers who get mixed up in the Los Angeles hip-hop scene causes Hathaway to strip it all off on-screen. Her performance also involves scenes filled with nudity, drugs, alcohol, and sex.
This isn’t the only time we see Anne Hathaway’s goods, she later stars in Brokeback Mountain, taking her top off in the backseat of a car. Lucky for her, these risky roles weren’t a bust for her career.
6. Al Pacino: The Godfather
Who doesn’t know Al Pacino and all of the great movies he’s done? This year Al Pacino admitted that it was his role as Michael Corleone in The Godfather that almost put his career in jeopardy.
It was director Francis Ford Coppola who believed Al Pacino was right for this role, but unfortunately the studio didn’t agree. An unknown actor at the time, they wanted someone with experience. After deciding to stick with Al Pacino, not only did he become famous due to his performance, but The Godfather Trilogy still remains one of Hollywood’s best films.
5. Johnny Depp: Pirates of the Caribbean
Johnny Depp is known for his incredible roles of eccentric characters. Jack Sparrow is one of his many characters that have given him his greatest success, but it is also one that could have cost him his career.
Jack Sparrow’s character is one that was built off Depp’s inspiration of Keith Richards. Johnny Depp embraced his character as a pirate with his wit, drunken walk, and slurred words. Depp claims that he was nearly fired from his role because Disney didn’t understand the character. They feared that the audience would have the same reaction, but Pirates of the Caribbean broke box office sales and Johnny Depp even received an Oscar nomination for his performance.
4. Ben Affleck & Jennifer Lopez: Gigli
An American romantic comedy, Gigli is considered to this day to be one of the worst movies ever. While the movie remained a flop, luckily both their careers didn’t. The best thing for both of them was to split up and move on. Ben Affleck made a comeback as a threat by becoming an actor/director, and as for Jennifer Lopez, well it’s pretty self-explanatory; she’s 45 and looking better than ever.
3. John Travolta: Hairspray
We all remember John Travolta as the dreamy Danny in the 1978 film Grease. His charm, smile, and beautiful set of hair had every girl swooning over him. While Travolta is associated with being macho and masculine, he moves away from this perception with his role in Hairspray.
Travolta plays female character Edna Turnblad. In this role, he was required to dress up head to toe in a female costume, a risk not many actors are willing to take. Having a male actor play a female character in a film is tough, it can come off as drag and be very offensive to the gay community, especially for Travolta, a member of the Church of Scientology whose beliefs are constantly accused of rejecting gays and lesbians.
But that didn’t stop Travolta, who embraced his character as Edna and made sure to portray a character people were willing to watch throughout the whole film. So wrapped up in the role, Travolta’s performance had you forgetting that he’s a male actor in a fat suit and dress singing songs.
2. Robert Downey Jr: Tropic Thunder
Robert Downey Jr got into some risky business when he agreed to take on his role in Tropic Thunder. Directed by Ben Stiller, Tropic Thunder is a Vietnam War parody of the filmmaking business. Robert Downey Jr plays Kirk Lazarus, an Australian actor who is cast to play an African-American army sergeant.
To successfully portray his character, Robert Downey Jr was required to wear blackface, a very controversial notion. Blackface is commonly known in show business as a nonblack actor playing a black role, painting their face and wearing wigs. It is usually used in comedies or musicals but is highly offensive. Robert Downey Jr feared he was risking his career by taking on this role, but Robert Downey Jr being who he is, ended up getting nominated for his performance in Tropic Thunder for best supporting actor.
1. Jake Gyllenhaall & Heath Ledger: Brokeback Mountain
More often than not TV shows and movies have same-sex couples on-screen, but not so long ago this wasn’t something you saw very often. Two of Hollywood’s biggest stars took on a role that could have jeopardized their careers.
Both Jake Gyllenhaall and Heath Ledger (may he rest in peace) played a passionate couple in the Oscar-nominated Brokeback Mountain. The content of the film stirred up a lot of controversy and many theaters pulled or refused to show the film on-screen. Regardless, both Gyllenhaall and Ledger played remarkable characters who anyone can relate to, and depicted the struggles faced by same-sex couples.
While in real life the two actors are heterosexual, they looked beyond the fact that they would be playing two gay cowboys, and instead, saw a beautiful story that would shed some light on a controversial subject.