Who is your favorite actor in Hollywood? One of the big factors behind who you love may be how they physically look. But that won’t be why you loved them in these following movies. In fact, no matter how much you love them, there’s a good chance you’ve even seen some of these movies and not noticed them.
There are 20 roles below in which the actor that you may love, became absolutely unrecognizable. Did you know before Gerard Butler was kicking people into holes, he was rocking out as the Phantom? We also have some of the most daring movie transformations, like when Cate Blanchett decided to take on the role of Bob Dylan, or the time Halle Berry was turned into an Asian man (…wait what?). Included are not only some of the greatest transformations of cinema’s past, like Gary Oldman in Hannibal, but also some upcoming ones to keep an eye on, like Johnny Depp, who is about to take on some Bratwurst Nazi (and who else could think of that but Kevin Smith?). You’ll even learn which actor got paid to take a few months and tour around Italy to get fat for a role (as well as the astonishing amount of weight he gained)!
These are 20 Times That You Didn’t Recognize Your Favorite Actor. Whether it was the work of some extreme makeup, a cameo that may have gone unnoticed or otherwise, you are about to learn that there is no shortage of moments in cinema history where your favorite actor decided to take a leap of faith with their appearance. You’ll also learn some cool behind the scenes information about the movies that is sure to make you appreciate how much effort your favorite actor invested into being unrecognized.
Did we cover some of your favorites? Feel free to share the list on social media!
20. Willem Dafoe – Shadow of the Vampire
Willem Dafoe has had a large variety of roles in his acting career, but his most unrecognizable role has to be in the movie Shadow of the Vampire. Do you even believe me that it’s Dafoe? I assure you, it is. When talking about the insane transformation into Max Schreck, a vampire (duh), Dafoe admitted that “It took a little over 3 hours to get into the makeup. I usually dress myself on movie sets, but in this case, I had to be dressed, because there were some undergarments, a shoulder piece, very awkward boots, and a very tight waistcoat, so that took awhile,” and then at the end of the day, there would be at least one hour dedicated to getting Dafoe out of all the makeup. As you can imagine, all of this means that Dafoe was the first one on set and also the last one to leave. This meant that a large majority of the cast and crew never interacted with him as Dafoe.
19. Gerard Butler – Phantom of the Opera
When you think about Gerard Butler, your first thought might be “Man, I hope there isn’t a hole around here or I might get Sparta-kicked into it.” What you may not be thinking is that he has an outstanding singing voice, which he uses to full effect in the 2004 film Phantom of the Opera. I won’t blame you for not recognizing Butler, as he only says 14 of his lines in the movie and the rest are sung. But then again, what else can you expect from the Phantom? Despite not talking a lot, Butler has spoken in the past about how much the role meant to him, saying he’s never “Identified with [a character] so powerfully. From the first second that I walked on to perform, despite being very nervous about taking on that iconic role, my first big day filming was Past the Point of No Return. And from the second I started, it just all came alive and I felt the electricity running through me.”
18. Hugh Grant – Cloud Atlas
Did you watch Cloud Atlas? You wouldn’t be the only one who passed on it or was disappointed by the end result. It was rated by many (including Time Magazine) to be the worst movie of 2012. Grant (yes, that’s HUGH GRANT) admitted heavy frustration in an interview, saying “[The Wachowskis’] are the bravest film-makers in the world, and I think it’s an amazing film…it’s frustrating to me. Every time I’ve done something outside the genre of light comedy, the film fails to find an audience at the box office.” Maybe that is why Grant looks so sad in the photo!
There is no doubt that Cloud Atlas was an ambitious project by The Wachowskis. The movie called for the main actors to take on several roles as the movie jumped in time narratives. That meant that hunky boy Hugh Grant got to dress up like the cannibal tribesman Kona Chief that you see above. Grant admitted that it was at least two hours every day in the makeup chair. Of the six characters that Grant played in Cloud Atlas, he admitted that Kona was his favorite. If you think he looks impressive, just wait until you see their work on Halle Berry, who is our number one entry.
17. Idris Elba – Star Trek Beyond
When Justin Lin was looking to cast an antagonist in the upcoming Star Trek Beyond film, there was no doubt in his mind that he wanted to cast Idris Elba. The actor not only has a booming voice that commands respect but is also tremendously talented. Lin was understandably worried about the amount of makeup that Elba was going to have to endure, which came up in their very first conversation about the movie. In an interview, Lin revealed how the topic first came up. “We had a great first conversation. But at the end he paused. I was like, ‘Aw, sh*t.’ He goes, ‘It’s gonna be four hours of make-up every morning, right?’ I said, ‘Yup…’ It was four hours every morning, and he was awesome. He’s delivering 100 per cent every time.”
16. Jermaine Clement – Men in Black 3
Okay, if we’re being honest, you probably know Clement for his singing as much as his acting. Yet he was clearly talented enough to land a role in Men in Black, in which he got to team up with Rick Baker. Baker is one of the best makeup and effects artists in Hollywood, but even he had his work cut out for him when he started on Men in Black 3. Especially when he found out that it was Jermaine Clement that got cast as Boris, saying “I was like, ‘You cast this guy? With the glasses? It’s so not what I think he should be!’ [laughs] But he gave an incredible performance!”
If you thought it meant that it would deter Baker though, you better think again. In an interview, Baker said “I really did want to change Jemaine a lot. I conceived what I thought Boris should look like before Jemaine was cast” and he did not allow his vision to be compromised. Kudos to him and his special effects team, that also included some CGI, to make a winning result.
15. Rooney Mara – The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
As our first (but definitely not last) actress on the list, there is no doubting that Rooney Mara is absolutely gorgeous. You can imagine Mara must get guys coming up to her on a regular basis to try and work their mojo. Yet when she took on the main role of Lisbeth Salander in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Mara became almost unrecognizable. Her appearance was so downplayed from what she was used to that Mara admitted to experiencing life incredibly differently. In an interview, Mara said “When you have a weird haircut and no eyebrows and lots of piercings and you’re dressing like a boy, people don’t look at you, and I found it to be so freeing. To just roll out of bed in the morning and not worry about what you look like.”
Mara also talked about the overall vision for the character’s, appearance saying “She’s meant to look like a little 14-year-old boy. Her look to us was always meant to repel…We certainly didn’t want her to be sexy or attractive in any way. I think by the end of the film she is beautiful. I think a lot of people before they see the movie think “God, she’s so ugly, why would they make her so ugly.”
14. Eric Stolz – Mask
It is easy to see why Eric Stolz was able to win the affection of many women during his life and establish himself as a fantastic actor. It is also easy to see why makeup designer Michael Westmore was able to take home an Oscar for Best Makeup Design with the 1985 film, Mask. The movie depicted the story of Roy L. Dennis, who was a real boy that was born with a major skull deformity.
Westmore said that he combined three pieces of foam latex, and then used a blend of makeup and fake dentures to complete the signature look. While you could hope that Stolz had some fond experiences from the set, when he was asked about it recently in an interview he mentioned that “I should’ve prefaced this entire interview by saying I’m notorious and actually very well liked for the fact that I have an awful memory. I just don’t remember things, and people adore that about me. I’m able to jettison negative experiences and most of my film past actually [Laughs]. I can remember certain scripts, but if you ask me about something from twenty years ago…”
13. Cate Blanchett – I’m Not There
Cate Blanchett has taken on a large variety of roles in her career, but perhaps nothing was quite as ambitious as when she was cast as Bob Dylan in the 2007 film, I’m Not There. The movie focused on Dylan as 6 different entities, with Blanchett playing a part of Dylan that the movie called Jude. When asked why she thought Dylan was cast as a woman, Blanchett said “Because it’s the most iconic silhouette of his musical career. It was a really ironic gesture and also very clever. If a man played the role, people would have assessed it in a different way, whereas they’ve been able to get into the strangeness of what Dylan must have been like in that period by the very fact that I’m a woman. I don’t think it’s anything I’ve necessarily done.”
12. Johnny Depp – Yoga Hosers
There are a lot of things that are pretty awesome about the upcoming movie, Yoga Hosers. The movie is going to star Johnny Depp and is being directed by Kevin Smith. The movie is also going to star Kevin Smith’s daughter, as well as Depp’s daughter. Would you really blame Depp’s daughter if she didn’t recognize him on set though? The movie is set to come out in 2016 and features a complete transformation for Depp. The movie is going to center around how the ancient evil, Bratzis, emerge and threaten to ruin the big senior high-school party. Just in case you’re really curious, Bratzis are called that because they are Nazis that are made of Bratwurst.
Depp is no stranger to altering his appearance for a role or hiding his appearance (just see below for proof of that), but the bushy eyebrows, moles and yes, even fake nose help make this transformation all the more shocking. Depp plays a legendary man-hunter in the movie.
11. Gary Oldman – Hannibal
When it comes to watching Hannibal there are plenty of things that are scary, but nothing may be as shocking as seeing the transformation that Gary Oldman went through. Oldman revealed in a past interview that director Ridley Scott was a huge factor in making the makeup process easier. “But it’s hard, because you’ve almost worked a whole day, just sitting in the chair. It’s strange, these kind of pictures. I mean I’ve done it before, with the prothestic make-up, But Ridley is so prepared that it really makes it easier on the actor who’s got to wear that stuff if the director knows what they want.”
Oldman admitted that he would spend at least 5 to 6 hours each day getting into the proper makeup for the character. As a fun bonus, Oldman decided to go uncredited for the movie, saying that he thought it would be fun if the man with no face, to also be the man who is not credited.
10. John Leguizamo – Spawn
John Leguizamo has been in a variety of roles ranging from television, movies and even done some touring with a live show. One of the most out-there characters that he ever took on had to be in the movie Spawn where he plays a fat clown..named Clown. Want to know just how bizarre the look was for Leguizamo? One of his previous roles was playing the squeaky-clean Luigi in the live-action Super Mario Bros movie. Unfortunately for him, neither film did very well with critics or the box office.
Leguizamo was recently asked about his experience with Spawn, in which he admitted he would have to spend 4 hours in makeup, another two hours getting the fatsuit looking right and then another three hours in makeup. Let’s just hope that even though the critics weren’t, he was happy with the finished project!
9. Hugh Jackman – Pan
When you typically think of Hugh Jackman, you probably envision some gorgeous brunette hair, and if we’re being honest, probably some claws. Jackman drops both of those elements when transforming into the character of Blackbeard for the film Pan. Jackman praised the director, Joe Wright, for allowing him to play up his inner ham and really go over the top with the character. Jackman also admitted that it had always been a dream of his to be in a pirate movie saying “I’d always wanted to play a role like this – the swashbuckling, sword-fighting, pirate-adventure stuff. I loved that kind of thing when I was a little boy, and it turns out it was tremendous fun to do as a grown man!”
8. Neil Patrick Harris – A Series of Unfortunate Events
You have to admit when you think of Neil Patrick Harris, you’re probably envisioning the womanizer Barney Stinson who made sure he was never too far from his suits. Or perhaps you’re thinking of the NPH who captivated audiences with his personality and has succeeded at hosting some of the biggest events in Hollywood. Be prepared to have that image of Patrick Harris torn apart though as you get a look at him rocking out as Count Olaf for the upcoming Netflix original series, A Series of Unfortunate Events. Based off the hit book series, this is the 2nd attempt to turn the series into a live-picture venture. The first came in 2004 and saw Jim Carrey step into the role, but it failed to find a huge audience. One look at NPH and it is clear that he means business. Let’s just hope he doesn’t scare his kids with that costume! The series is also going to include the booming presence of Patrick Warburton, who you may best recognize as being the voice of Joe Swanson on Family Guy, or his arguably even better role as Puddy from Seinfeld.
7. Robert De Niro – Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
There is some good news and bad news when it comes to the 1994 movie, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Good news is that many people consider it to be one of the most faithful adaptions of the classic Frankenstein story (which was concocted by Mary Shelley). The bad news is that the movie was panned by critics and it didn’t do much better at the box office. Legendary film critic Roger Ebert did however give praise to De Niro saying, “I admired the scenes with De Niro [as the Creature] so much I’m tempted to give Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein a favorable verdict. But it’s a near miss. The Creature is on target, but the rest of the film is so frantic, so manic, it doesn’t pause to be sure its effects are registered.”
At least De Niro must have been happy to hear that Ebert thought he did a nice job with the role. This is far from the first time that De Niro drastically altered his appearance. He gained roughly 65 pounds of fat to play the overweight version of boxer Jake LaMotta for the movie Raging Bull. As a fun bonus, the entire production shut down (but still got paid), for 4 months so De Niro could go on a trip around Italy and France and gain the weight.
6. Tom Cruise – Tropic Thunder
You got to admit, after so many movies where the joke is that Tom Cruise is always going to be in impeccable shape and going for runs, it was pretty hilarious to see him play Les Grossman in the comedy Tropic Thunder. Cruise was originally offered the lead role in the movie, but he allegedly thought that there should also be a big studio executive who would also be a character in the movie. Time went on and Stiller decided to take on the lead role, but eventually he said he “Got a phone call from Tom, who said he just couldn’t get the script out of his mind. Tom asked, ‘What else is open?’ And Ben said, ‘Well, we haven’t cast the Les Grossman role yet.’ Tom was like, ‘I’d play that.'”
When talking about the makeup required, Barney Burman who was one of the main designers, said “I had about a dozen people making the silicone prosthetics for his head, neck, chest, and hands. We made him special gloves. I did the sculpting, someone else did the molds, someone else was casting them. I had six different people punching hairs into the scalp piece, so his entire head was one-at-a-time, hand-punched hairs; his arms were hand-punched one at a time; his chest was hand-punched.”
Cruise was apparently enthusiastic about the fat suit, insisting that the more ridiculous it was, the better it would be. As a result, the fat suit went all the way down to his ankles. They also used a lot of the wiggly beading that you find in pillows because they thought it would mimic fat movement. There was apparently so much sweat produced that the team needed to have 3 suits for Cruise.
5. Charlize Theron – Monster
If you thought Theron looked shocking back when she first appeared in the movie Monster, just imagine how drastically different she looks in the above photo in comparison to Furiousa, her character in Mad Max. Monster allowed Theron to take on the real-life story of Aileen Wournos who was one of the worst female murderers of all time. Theron admitted that when she first started reading the script, that she had no idea it was based on a real person. While you may be focused on how different she looks, Theron admitted that it did not bother her, saying “I tried to transform myself through characters throughout my career. Nothing as drastic as this obviously, but I’ve tried with movies like The Yards and …I think you try as much as you can. It doesn’t become about me anymore,” and that it is selfish to go into a movie thinking the movie should be all about her and her appearance.
She was quick to praise the Tony G, the main person behind her makeup, explaining that he had “no budget, there’s no prosthetics used.. literally every tooth is sculpted. Contacts of course. [they] would paint layers and layers of tattoo colors with a spray gun, airbrush. She’d get this dimension on the skin. And the only thing she used was this thick latex on the top of my eyelids to make them a little heavier. She plucked all my eyebrows then bleached them out.”
4. Ralph Fiennes – Harry Potter
Let’s be honest, if you’re going to get the opportunity to get cast as the evil Dark Lord Voldemort, it doesn’t matter how long you’re going to spend in makeup, you’re saying yes. For Ralph Fiennes, it meant spending at least 2.5 hours every day in makeup, but the actor was quick to say that all that time in the chair was crucial to him getting into character. In an interview, Fiennes said that once in makeup “You look at yourself in the mirror, you see this face, and you say, ‘I know who I am.'”
There was also extensive work being done behind the scenes in order to properly eliminate Fiennes’ nose, alter his overall skin color and alter other elements. Fiennes also admitted that once he was in makeup and all the prosthetics had been applied, “It was difficult because on top of everything else I couldn’t get any break from it. Besides the actual prosthesis, my character also had a set of fake false teeth. When we broke for lunch, I couldn’t eat. I had to take them out each time I wanted anything.”
3. Glenn Close – Hook
Glenn Close is one of the most talented actresses out there, being nominated for several Oscars, Emmys, Tony Awards and that’s just some of her accomplishments. One of her neatest roles has to be her uncredited appearance in the 1991 film Hook which starred Dustin Hoffman, Julia Roberts, and Robin Williams.
Close was cast as a male pirate that is confronted by Hook and then put in the “Boo Box” (which was a locked trunk with scorpions) because Close’s character had bet on the fact that Hook was going to fail to kill Peter. You gotta admit, for a male pirate, Close’s character definitely had some bitching cheekbones, so perhaps you shouldn’t be all that shocked that there was a gorgeous woman hidden behind all of that.
2. Johnny Depp Part 2! – 21 Jump Street
There were a lot of people out there that were really dreading the movie version of 21 Jump Street. It seemed like a lazy call by Hollywood that was running out of new ideas, and the casting of Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill was definitely a little unusual. The film ended up proving critics and fans wrong though, being a huge success. One of the highlights of the film had to come with the unexpected cameo appearance of Johnny Depp. His character had appeared at the start of the movie, but I doubt you would have recognized him on your first go-around. Depp said in an interview that he only agreed to the cameo if the movie after the studio agreed to also bring back Dom DeLuise who played Depp’s partner in the original TV series.
1. Halle Berry – Cloud Atlas
Above you got to read about Hugh Grant and his experience with Cloud Atlas, but if you thought turning into a cannibal tribe leader was impressive, how about the transformation for Halle Berry? One of her costars in the movie, Jim Sturgess opened up in an interview about shooting a scene with the Korean Berry, saying “I remember having to have a conversation with her while we were shooting that scene, It was the most surreal kind of messed-up moment. We were talking about her kid and how she’s integrating into German schools, but she was dressed as this bizarre-looking Korean man with rotting teeth. It tripped my head up. I had to go sit in a corner for five minutes and get my head together.”
Berry, who has been accused of being typecast in the past must have been ecstatic at the chance to open up and diversify her portfolio. Speaking of portfolios, talk about an impressive transformation job for the makeup team to pull off!