Stereotyping can be a terrible thing, and that includes stereotyping the beautiful as being naturally untalented. Especially when that beauty reaches unnatural, breathtaking levels, it can be hard to see an actor or actress’s inner talents and capabilities. Feeling unnoticed or underappreciated, many actors and actresses decide to use grotesque and crazy make-up, covering up their beautiful bodies to create something somehow even more worthy of attention. Others make the transformation more permanent.
Film stars tend to do it for drama, while on television it’s played for laughs, but the idea of a gorgeous star dressing down for the screen has been around for decades. Sometimes it’s the spark that turns a burgeoning star into a true celebrity, allowing people previously cast off as models to be taken seriously, winning major awards. Other times it comes off as offensive, and it can be seen as stunt casting for the sake of publicity.
Either way, these 15 stars must have spent hours in hair and makeup, because they were far more beautiful than they look.
15. Cameron Diaz in ‘Being John Malkovich’
In 1999, Cameron Diaz had played the hot girl in The Mask, the hot girl in My Best Friend’s Wedding, and starred in There’s Something About Mary (that “something” was she was very hot). She won a Golden Globe for Mary, but she wasn’t seen as a particularly great actress, just a decently funny hot girl, since that was the only role she was playing. For Being John Malkovich she went far against the type, playing a suffering housewife with wild frizzy hair, opposed to her usual gorgeous blonde locks. Diaz looked at the experience from an anthropological standpoint, saying people treated her differently on set when she was in her makeup, but that she personally found Lottie beautiful.
14. Javier Bardem in ‘No Country for Old Men’
While men can usually describe what makes a woman beautiful in fairly universal terms, women tend to be more specific when it comes to male beauty, especially what can kill it dead in its tracks. Javier Bardem certainly learned that the first time he had his hair done for his role as Anton Chigurh in No Country For Old Men, a role that would land him the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Despite the success, Bardem can’t get over how ugly that haircut was. Even after the victory, Bardem quipped, “it was just depressing to look in the mirror and see that haircut.”
13. Charlize Theron in ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’
Charlize Theron is one of the most talented and beautiful actresses of the current generation. Twice she has made herself look ugly for major films, and both times it paid off. First, she gained 30 pounds, wore fake teeth, and went through incredible makeup to play real life serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster. More recently, she shaved her head and was constantly covered in dirt, mud and blood as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road. The transformation in Monster so wowed critics it garnered Theron the Academy Award for Best Actress, and she’s been nominated for a bunch for Fury Road. While Mad Max is up for 10 Academy Awards this year, Theron was snubbed for Best Actress.
12. Nicole Kidman in ‘The Hours’
Some people on this list really went through quite the transformation in making themselves ugly, but all Nicole Kidman had to do was wear a big fake nose. Portraying iconic novelist Virginia Woolf in The Hours, Nicole Kidman managed to win the Academy Award for Best Actress, but most critical attention landed on her nasal passages. The response of the Academy notwithstanding, many viewed this as blatant stunt casting, and perhaps even stunt makeup, eschewing an actually interesting, famous subject instead focusing solely on her nose.
11. Kristen Wiig on ‘Saturday Night Live’
Saturday Night Live has existed over 40 years, so naturally it has a long history of gorgeous funny celebrities stopping by and getting ugly for comedy. It also has a long history of its cast members doing the same, but few have been more beautiful while making themselves look as ugly as Kristen Wiig playing Gilly. Gilly was never a super popular character, but the beautiful Wiig always gave it her all when trying to make the most unpleasant face possible during the sketches’ punchlines. The sketches and her willingness to completely throw herself into her roles likely played a part in earning her five consecutive Emmy nominations for her work on SNL.
10. Mary Lynn Rajskub on ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is a disgusting show about disgusting people, but even the Gang are absolutely grossed out by Gail the Snail. Gail is Dennis and Dee’s cousin, who immediately attempts to date Charlie, then Frank, then Mac, only for all of them to be disgusted by her constant drooling and ill-explained gangly hunching. Frank allows her to give him a handj–b, but even he loses interest in the Snail, who “just mashes it.” Mary Lynn has also appeared on 24 and in Mr. Show, but her characters on those shows weren’t so despicable.
In fact, the only character we can think of that comes close to being as hideous as Gail is Margaret, and surprise, she’s really a babe, too.
9. Tom Cruise in ‘Tropic Thunder’
Tom Cruise is not only a very attractive man, but also one of the biggest stars on the planet, so for him to play a fat slob is a pretty big deal. When he took on the role of Les Grossman in Tropic Thunder, Paramount Pictures executives actually decided to keep Cruise and his fat suit-addled appearance a secret rather than use it as a selling point, with the laughs caused by the surprise. Wearing a bald cap and large prosthetic hands, Cruise’s portrayal is more offensive than others on the list, although the role mostly won him praise and deep laughs.
8. Gwyneth Paltrow in ‘Shallow Hal’
Many of the roles on this list were brave examples of an actor going against type in order to prove their value extends beyond their looks. Shallow Hal is an offensive movie about how the real struggles of the obese are hilarious to the Farrelly Brothers. Playing the morbidly obese girlfriend of a man “cursed” with seeing only inner-beauty, Paltrow acts in and out of a 25-pound fat suit, with the implication her overweight body crushes chairs almost everywhere she goes being the driving motivation behind more than one scene. While many other performances on this list won a variety of Awards, this major misfire couldn’t even win the Teen Choice Award it was nominated for.
7. Judy Greer on ‘Arrested Development’
Judy Greer is fantastic in nearly everything she’s in, and she’s usually beautiful, too. The first part is true in each episode of Arrested Development she appears in as Kitty Sanchez, former secretary of George, Sr. And though Kitty usually maintains herself, whenever given the opportunity to take her glasses off, let her hair down (or up), or flash her breasts at strangers, she turns into a complete mess almost immediately. So bizarre and unique is Kitty’s ugliness, GOB spends an entire hilarious scene going through various iterations of lights, hair and glasses before finally just sucking it up and accepting his fate as the man who has to seduce her.
6. Rooney Mara in ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’
It isn’t quite fair to call Lisbeth Salander ugly, but she’s a far cry from the more traditional beauty Rooney Mara exudes in her everyday life. Her beautiful brown hair was cut short and dyed black, piercings littered her picturesque face, and most unsettlingly, her eyebrows were bleached a bright blonde. Mara’s willingness to transform her body and her tenacity in getting the role lead to David Fincher casting her, and critics agree it was a great choice. Mara would go on to be nominated for both the Golden Globe and Academy Award for Best Actress.
5. Christian Bale in ‘The Machinist’
Plenty of the stars on this list gained weight or added prosthetics to distract from their good looks, but being dangerously skinny can be just as visually unappealing as morbid obesity, as Christian Bale portrayed in The Machinist. Bale lost over 60 pounds for the role, a genuinely dangerous amount. Allegedly he wished to lose more, but filmmakers stopped him before he could truly harm himself. Famously, immediately after losing the weight for this film, Bale had to regain a great deal of muscle mass in order to star in Batman Begins. For the sake of his health, we hope he never looked back.
4. Vanessa Hudgens in ‘Gimme Shelter’
Vanessa Hudgens is mostly known for playing popular high school students with amazing voices, so for her to play an abused and pregnant teenager in Gimme Shelter was quite the leap. She cut her hair, added several facial piercings and gained 15 pounds, all pretty admirable for a former Disney star. The film wasn’t terribly successful, perhaps in part because it ultimately held a pro-religion, anti-abortion message, but there’s no doubt Hudgens gave it her all.
3. Emma Thompson in ‘Nanny McPhee’
Emma Thompson may not be as much of a bombshell as some of the others on this list, but her roles in films such as Howard’s End and Sense and Sensibility always held an unquestionable elegance to them. That elegance is violently stripped away and replaced with big fake teeth and ugly warts in Nanny McPhee. The film and its sequels are based on the Nurse Matilda series written by Christianna Brand, and an inhuman ugliness was required to bring the children’s books to life. Thompson captured that ugliness just as well as she captured Edwardian England a decade earlier.
2. Khandi Alexander on ‘The Corner’
Khandi Alexander is best known for her roles on NewsRadio, Treme and CSI: Miami, often appearing as a strong and confident black woman stuck in a chaotic environment. That’s still there on The Corner, but David Simon’s mini-series shows beauty and mental strength, even when combined, are no match for severe drug addiction. Alexander plays Francine Boyd, a crack addict who barely even bothers concealing her problems from her teenage son, who’s headed down the same path as his parents. The Corner was nominated for a variety of Emmys and won a Peabody Award, but Alexander’s performance was mostly ignored.
1. Jaleel White on ‘Family Matters’
Most people would never know Jaleel White is a fine looking man, even when he appeared on Family Matters as Stefan Urquelle, Steve Urkel’s suave cousin. While he started off as a goofy little kid, White gradually grew into his body and became a good looking adult, but most fans still forever see him as Steve Urkel. Typically only adults dress themselves down in this way, with most children being too embarrassed to geek out on live television, but White never shied away from acting weirder and “dweebier” each and every week.