Movie stars often get cast as the same kind of character over and over. But like funnyman Jason Bateman, who plays it straight in the new thriller 'The Gift,' some break out of the typecasting mold to surprise us. Here are 13 famous cases.
Tom Cruise in ‘Collateral’ (2004)
There are three types of Tom Cruise characters: cocky show-off, hardworking hero and courageous everyman. And then there’s Vincent, the gray-haired assassin in ‘Collateral.’ This coldhearted villain may be Cruise’s most un-Cruise-like role ever.
Charlize Theron in ‘Monster’ (2003)
Makeup can make any actor look like someone else. But who could have guessed that one of the most beautiful people in the world would be so convincing as freaky serial killer Aileen Wuornos? Theron won a much-deserved Oscar for her work.
Albert Brooks in ‘Drive’ (2011)
Whenever you need a neurotic schmuck, Albert Brooks is your guy. (In 2003’s ‘Finding Nemo,’ he even made a clownfish look uptight!) Thus audiences were startled by his terrifying turn as a mobster in this Ryan Gosling thriller.
Samuel L. Jackson in ‘Unbreakable’ (2000)
Although Jackson has certainly played his share of villains, his characters are typically tough as nails. This time he’s fragile as glass. His sickly comic book fanatic might ordinarily be played by a Steve Buscemi type. But Jackson nails it.
Wesley Snipes in ‘To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar’ (1995)
Remember this curio? Snipes, Patrick Swayze and John Leguizamo camp it up as drag queens. Swayze’s dance background and Leguizamo’s trademark theatricality made them slightly less unlikely choices for this movie than action-hero Snipes.
Jennifer Aniston in ‘Horrible Bosses’ (2011)
Aniston’s resume was filled with standard girl-next-door parts – mostly variations on her ‘Friends’ character Rachel – until she stole the show, and reinvigorated her career, as a filthy-minded dentist in this crime comedy.
Emma Watson in ‘The Bling Ring’ (2013)
Speaking of crime comedies, the prim, utterly English Watson (known primarily as Hermione Granger) was an unexpected choice to play a thieving Los Angeles party girl in this Sofia Coppola film, based on true events. Muggles everywhere were caught off guard.
Adam Sandler in ‘Reign Over Me’ (2007)
Even those who loathe Sandler’s comedies will agree that when he takes on a serious role, he’s usually pretty good. As a grieving New Yorker in this underrated drama, however, he’s completely out of his element – and he’s remarkable.
Elijah Wood in ‘Sin City’ (2005)
It’s always fun to be the bad guy, but the baby-faced Wood, still fresh from portraying heroic Hobbit Frodo Baggins in the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy, did a complete about-face as a sinister – and mute – cannibal named Kevin.
Jack Nicholson in ‘About Schmidt’ (2002)
The three-time Oscar winner was born to play sly, witty, sometimes menacing characters. In ‘About Schmidt,’ though, he dials it way back as a humble Nebraska widower… and gives us one of his richest performances.
Ben Kingsley in ‘Sexy Beast’ (2000)
The thoroughly sophisticated Indian-British thespian is easy to believe as a doctor, a ruler, a scientist. But as a hot-tempered, working-class gangster? Nobody could envision such a thing – until ‘Sexy Beast’ came along.
Steve Carell in ‘Foxcatcher’ (2014)
One of the nicest guys in showbiz, Carell was cast against type as a macho jerk in ‘The Way Way Back’ (2013), but was simply unrecognizable as 'Foxcatcher''s creepy, disturbed millionaire John du Pont. It wasn’t just the prosthetic nose.
Cameron Diaz in ‘Being John Malkovich’ (1999)
Diaz sets the gold standard for playing against type in this Spike Jonze/Charlie Kaufman cult hit. Even now, it’s hard to reconcile the bubbly Hollywood blonde we all know with the nerdy, fright-wigged wife she portrays here.