It seems that every actor out there has to assume a role that isn’t exactly going to light the screen on fire. Filmmaking, after all, is a collaborative operation, and those with hidden talents may be held back at times by someone else with a vision that isn’t quite up to par.
It means that sometimes writers, directors and actors, have to prove their worth toiling away in mediocrity, like so many people do with really any job. For example, before becoming an Academy Award-winning actress, Jennifer Lawrence did a really generic and boring horror film called The House at the End of the Street. She had to earn her way.
There are plenty other examples of actors we now regard as talented who were once slogging away, by choice or luck, or the simple reason that they weren’t as good then as they are now. The best and most well known case is Matthew McConaughey, a man who did the most cliched and dull romantic comedies and silly action adventures, until starting to make better choices. Now he’s done Dallas Buyers Club, True Detective, and he’s a huge star. Even the young Miles Teller, who was doing teen rom-coms got a chance to shine in the indie drama Whiplash, proving he is a talented actor when given a strong script and the opportunity to act.
Which brings up the question: who out there that we know doing average work may be a hidden gem? Who is on screen and familiar but has yet been given a chance to prove their acting chops the way these actors and others have? Well, let’s take a look at those we know in television and film that, based on the opportunities they’ve had, may be far more talented than we know. Yet.
12. Jai Courtney
Making his way as an up-and-coming action star, the 28-year-old Australian native has found himself in such high-budget films as Divergent, A Good Day to Die Hard and Jack Reacher. With both charm and the necessary physical prowess, Courtney has gotten a lot of attention and seems to be groomed for the position of action movie hero. Specifically, he will be in the forth coming Terminator installment, as well as the hotly-anticipated Suicide Squad, alongside Will Smith and Tom Hardy. He certainly has a lot of talented co-stars in his career, and if given more to do than simply shoot guns and blow things up, Courtney may prove to be more diverse than it appears.
11. Olivia Wilde
The captivating actress of TV and film hasn’t quite been relegated to playing only attractive characters, but often her roles consist of some other exoticism to propel her. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though, something like Tron: Legacy or In Time aren’t the most dramatic of films. Still, she has plenty of roles that are suited to her looks, like in Rush or Butter. Yet, a role in the remarkably emotional and stark Drinking Buddies, has shown Wilde has great potential and can do more than just be mysterious and beautiful. She is definitely great at that, but surely can do more.
10. Robert Pattinson
The man who rose to fame in an equally beloved and loathed, teen fantasy romance series, Robert Pattinson has looked to branch out since then and showcase his skills. Certainly, like his co-star (spoiler alert) Kristen Stewart, Pattinson may not have had the most dramatic of roles in Twilight, but there may be more there. Canadian director David Cronenberg seems to think so, casting him as the lead in Cosmopolis, as well as a co-star in the sordid Hollywood drama, Maps to the Stars. With vampires and werewolves behind him, Pattinson has earned the chance to prove his talent.
9. Zac Efron
An actor who can sing and dance, Zac Efron has gone from Disney to drama, from sweet romances to filthy adult comedies. Efron has proven prolific, an attractive star on the screen, but hasn’t yet had much opportunity to show his true talent. There have been a few roles outside of the generic lover type, notably a role in a pair of ensemble films, Parkland and The Paper Boy. The former was a dramatic tick tock of the day President John F. Kennedy was shot, with Efron playing a doctor. The latter was far more daring (and obscene), with Efron in Lee Daniels’ sweaty southern noir in which, most notably, he dances in his underwear with Nicole Kidman, who in the film at one point pees on him.
8. Taylor Kitsch
The star of the massively adored TV show Friday Night Lights, had a terrible foray to the big screen his first time around. Well, his first three times around. Staring in John Carter, Battleship and Savages, Taylor Kitsch saw three big budget movies completely tank, and he looked bad doing it. But his work on TV was solid, and since those 2012 bombs, Kitsch has taken to smaller (and more wisely chosen) roles. He starred alongside Mark Wahlberg in Lone Survivor, while leading a Canadian ensemble comedy The Grand Seduction. Now he will be tested in the Season 2 of the much-anticipated, True Detective.
7. Blake Lively
Kitsch’s co-star in Savages, Blake Lively has achieved fame in TV across over 100 episodes of the hugely successful Gossip Girl. Her time on the big screen, including the aforementioned Oliver Stone film, as well as Green Lantern, has given her little to do other than be an attractive afterthought, the love interest to the leading man (or men). She has a chance to show a different side coming up with The Age of Adaline, where she plays the titular love interest in a complex romance. It’s her biggest opportunity yet, and perhaps there is more there than we suspect.
6. Josh Hutcherson
With a major role in the beloved Hunger Games franchise, Josh Hutcherson is getting a lot of face time and plenty of attention. Of course, when you get such a great part, you’re going to be molded into a star, or at least it’s going to be tried. Despite being in the forgettable Red Dawn remake, Hutcherson recently starred in a worthy non-Hunger Games film, the dramatic Escobar: Paradise Lost. Playing a Canadian seeking fun and sun in Columbia, he falls for the niece of drug trafficker Pablo Escobar in this tense thriller, and Hutcherson shares many an impressive scene with the great Benicio del Toro.
5. Channing Tatum
Tatum has been in more lauded films than most on this list, but still tends to portray dumb brutes or those where looks play major role. When not doing G.I. Joe, Tatum featured in two more thoughtful films, Magic Mike and Foxcatcher. Both were powered by their director, and the latter earned high praise across the landscape. He does comedy and action, but Foxcatcher was something special, though his role was that of a more introspective wrestler, opposite great performances by Steve Carell and Mark Ruffalo. He’s got lots of action, comedy, and sci-fi coming up, but it’s quite possible this charming actor has more in the tank.
4. Mila Kunis
An actress known more for being beautiful than necessarily talented, Mila Kunis rose to fame on That 70’s Show, a comedy. Her turn towards the big screen has almost been exclusively comedy as well, from standard rom-com films like Friends with Benefits to Ted, a gross-out flick that doesn’t allow women to be funny. She’s taken to play the gorgeous and the exotic, taking turns in fantasy and sci-fi too, as in Oz the Great and Powerful and Jupiter Ascending. In her most dramatic role, she starred opposite Natalie Portman in Black Swan, showing flashes of greatness, and teasing that there is likely more than just a captivating exterior.
3. Kristen Stewart
Kristen Stewart certainly doesn’t make it particularly easy to like her. Or rather, if you’re inclined to pass her off due to her role as Bella in the Twilight saga, then her demeanor may reinforce your thoughts. As we will we mention again, whatever one’s attitude is off the screen doesn’t really matter with respect on on-camera performance; it simply has to do with appearances. Stewart, however, has already started to show a dramatic side to her. She took two interesting roles in On the Road and The Runaways, while her latest film role has her opposite the incredible Julianne Moore in Still Alice.
2. Margot Robbie
The most stunning actress who was more or less introduced to the world in The Wolf of Wall Street (in more ways than one) risks of course, being assumed as someone who is singularly beautiful and not particularly talented. It didn’t help of course that Wolf is a film about powerful, perverted men who give no regard to women. Now, however, she stars opposite Will Smith in Focus, with a great chance to show not only is she a great beauty, but she can portray a layered, thoughtful character and not ride the coattails of a famed leading man, but keep up and lead the way herself.
1. Shia LaBeouf
I can’t believe I’m writing this myself. The worst part of the bloated Transformers films, as well as the most annoying part of the wasted fourth Indiana Jones film, Shia LaBeouf has been troubled on and off screen. But you know what? What he does off the screen, whatever ails him matters not when it comes to acting. To his credit, LaBeouf has undertaken some unique roles, including performing in musician Sia’s music video Elastica Heart, opposite 12-year-old dance prodigy Maddie Ziegler, as well as Lars von Trier’s epic Nymphomaniac. LaBeouf is certainly daring, provocative and dedicated, giving himself to a variety of roles, suggesting he might be the most enigmatic young actor today.