Actors love nothing more than submersing themselves deep into a character to become unrecognizable from their original self. Whether it is through prosthetic make up, CGI transformation or a super hero costume that masks their identity, the character acting process steps up a level when they transition from one look to something else entirely.
Ryan Reynolds’ recent performance in Deadpool is an example of how well it can translate to the audience. The Marvel film’s 2016 release portrayed Reynolds character Wade Wilson as a severely mutated and scarred individual even before he suits up as Deadpool. At all three stages from his original form, from the suffering mercenary to the super hero, Reynolds showcases his talents from three various points of difference. For actors, these films are pure gold.
Changing appearance so starkly is a badge of honor in the acting community. Megastar Charlize Theron does this as well as any in the modern day. Her haunting 2003 portrayal of serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster altered all perceptions of her as a gorgeous femme fatale. She took this added layer to her arsenal in the 2015 smash hit Mad Max: Fury Road, playing the vengeful warrior Imperator Furiosa and in doing so, channeled the best of Sigourney Weaver’s character Ellen Ripley in the Alien franchise.
Christian Bale is another who goes to extraordinary lengths, changing his entire complexion for a role. He infamously prepared for his role in 2004’s The Machinist by eating only an apple and smoking cigarettes to become close to anorexic, bulked up a year later for Batman Begins in 2005, and put on a lot of weight last year in The Big Short as Michael Burry. The chameleon effect is one of the greatest achievements an actor can pull off.
In 2016, we will be treated to plenty more. With a string of super hero films, psychological thrillers, action movies and big dramas set to hit the screens, actors are going above and beyond to become unrecognizable. These are the top 10.
10 Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje – Suicide Squad
48-year old English actor Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje has never had to prepare for something like this before. Suicide Squad will be hitting cinemas in August and the character of Killer Croc is one of the hardest to pull off. The comic book character is an outrageous wrestling alligator complete with sharp teeth and reptilian features – someone nobody would want to come across in a dark alley. Adewale will have spent plenty of hours contemplating the decision in the trailer park, and the latest pictures we’ve seen with Killer Croc sporting a hoodie only make him more menacing and mysterious. Without knowing the history or the actor or the character itself, many will not be able to put the pair together because the aesthetic presentation contrasts so starkly to Akinnuoye-Agbaje himself.
9 Sofia Boutella – Star Trek Beyond
Sofia Boutella’s Algerian and French origins have made her a recognizable star throughout European cinema, but only in the past few years has she been visible to an American audience. Since appearing in Monsters: Dark Continent and Kingsman: The Secret Service, Boutella’s profile is quickly escalating among Hollywood circles. But her publicist may need to reiterate that she is actually starring in the upcoming 2016 release Star Trek Beyond as the character Jaylah. There is little information about where Jaylah fits into the script, but the make up artists have clearly been working on her overtime. The black markings cover her face on top of a pale exterior with long white hair.
8 Sacha Baron Cohen – Grimsby
Sacha Baron Cohen is the comedic actor who wears many faces. From 2002’s Ali G Indahouse to Borat, Bruno and The Dictator, the Englishman’s absurd take on cultural stereotypes has put audiences in stitches and sensitive critics seething in anger. But his latest action comedy Grimsby is a far removal for Cohen, portraying a drunk soccer hooligan in Norman “Nobby” Grimsby who becomes embroiled in an MI6 assassination plot with brother Sebastian (played by Mark Strong). Aside from a 1970s styled haircut with far-reaching sideburns, this is the first time Cohen appears as close to his real life self on screen.
7 Oscar Issac – X-Men: Apocalypse
Fans have been treated to nothing more than a fleeting glimpse of Oscar Issac’s terrifying villain Apocalypse in the aptly named 2016 release X-Men: Apocalypse. His title character will be the main protagonist for Professor X, Magento, Mystique and the remainder of the X-Men. There is almost nothing of Issac’s physical features that translates to Apocalypse, making this role one of the more intriguing for the year. The ancient mutant is on a path of destruction and a far removal from his previous films in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, A Most Violent Year and Inside Llewyn Davis. This time Oscar gets to transform into an unstoppable villain.
6 Ben Affleck – Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice
Critics are sharpening their pencils and readying themselves for the biggest release of 2016 when Batman vs. Superman hits screens in March. The highly controversial decision to cast Ben Affleck as Batman shocked many, coming so close after the highly successful Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy starring Christian Bale in the lead role. Affleck’s older and bulkier look outlines that Zac Snyder is trying to achieve a point of difference, with Batman being able to utilize advanced weaponry that Bale’s character did not use. The Bruce Wayne appearance shows no contrast from Affleck himself, but in the new Batman suit he looks totally unrecognizable. The problem is everyone knows Bruce Wayne is Batman and that Ben Affleck is cast in both roles.
5 Johnny Depp – Yoga Hosers
Kevin Smith is creating something of a universe for himself, using Johnny Depp’s character Guy Lapointe in his new film Yoga Hosers. This comedy horror is a spin-off from Smith’s 2014 film Tusk of the same genre, portraying another out-of-the-box physical acting transformation with Justin Long being turned into a walrus by a mad scientist. Depp is no stranger to losing himself in a character, from Edward Scissorhands to Black Mass, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory among multiple others. His reprisal of Lapointe comes complete with a camp moustache and beret.
4 Paul Bettany – Captain America: Civil War
The upcoming addition to the Marvel Universe, Captain America: Civil War, is set for a May release and the all-star stellar cast should make it a blockbuster to remember. With Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. reprising their roles as Captain America and Iron Man respectively, the other names create an ensemble for the ages. Yet English actor Paul Bettany’s character Vision should stand out. Audiences had the privilege of seeing his transition from the voice of J.A.R.V.I.S. to Vision in last year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, but this film should showcase much more of the super intelligent, shape-shifting being. His voice has been iconic up until now, so this is the time to see Bettany fighting in all his glory.
3 Jared Leto – Suicide Squad
44-year old Jared Leto loves a transformation. The rock singer-come actor shifts bodies and faces at the drop of a hat, as seen in Chapter 27, Prefontaine, American Psycho and most spectacularly with 2013’s Dallas Buyers Club. But much like Ben Affleck with Batman, Leto’s casting as the world's favourite villain the Joker in Suicide Squad is dividing fans. The new adaptation appears to create a more dynamic and all-action Joker who is more fashion conscious than his predecessor Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight Rises. On initial looks it was difficult to identify Leto with the white skin, tattoos, menacing choppers and bright green hair but he has the platform to make this role his own version.
2 Aaron Paul – Triple 9
Since Breaking Bad unleashed on viewers around the world to become a global television phenomenon, Aaron Paul has not looked back. The actor’s award-winning portrayal of Jessie demonstrated Paul’s emotional and physical versatility and this year’s release of Triple 9 allows him to once again walk the line between good and evil. His character Gabe Welch forms part of a criminal organization of corrupt police officers and the trailer casts Paul as a sinister cop complete with a scarred face and black crew cut mullet. It might not be as dramatic a change as others, but his demeanour and appearance is still a clean break from what audiences have become accustomed during Paul’s short but illustrious career on screen. The film hits cinemas this month!
1 Matthew McConaughey - Gold
McConaughey’s accent might never waiver from his Southern roots, but his latest role in Gold is a change in body and appearance that will stun and shock. His balding head, ugly tie and bulging frame is character acting going to the extreme, going from Hollywood heartthrob in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Sahara and The Wedding Planner, to award winning and critically acclaimed dramatic actor in Interstellar, Mud, The Lincoln Lawyer and Dallas Buyers Club. McConaughey’s transformation and renaissance is unparalleled in modern day cinema and his role as Kenny Wells in the film should get plenty of people talking and watching.