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7 Actors That Played Against Type, and Nailed It

As an actor, it seems like you have some pretty tough choices to make — how serious should your roles be? Will you do nudity? How do you get a small role in a Star Wars movie? Of course, once you’re established, you have to worry about being “on brand”. Do you continue to take roles that seem familiar to audience members, or do you risk alienating them by trying something new? Well, the following actors took the second route, and they absolutely nailed those off-brand roles. OBSERVE:

Tom Cruise, Collateral

Tom Cruise holding gun
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Before Tom Cruise became the actor who does stunts that are, let’s face it, truly unreasonable (why would you ever need to ACTUALLY be strapped to a plane while it takes off for a movie? WHY?!), he was a huge star desperately trying to win an Oscar. Some of those movies that came from that desire were bad (The Last Samurai? lol), one of them got him very close (Magnolia), but my personal favorite was Collateral. The reason I think it’s so good? Tom Cruise is still Tom Cruise, but he’s so much more restrained — as an actor, Cruise is big into yelling, but even while disposing of bodies, his character in Collateral still manages to keep his head together. Plus, he is VERY MUCH the bad guy, which for Tom Cruise is a serious change.

Jack Nicholson, About Schmidt

about Schmidt mad
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Jack Nicholson has a bit of the same problem that Al Pacino has — as he’s gotten older, his performances have gotten bigger and broader, essentially all resembling some version of their own public persona. About Schmidt, though, sees Jack Nicholson playing what most of us will become — a labored old person, who you wouldn’t even look twice at, because they’re just so… standard issue. And he absolutely nails the role, maybe because he was finally able to just calm down and not worry about everyone finding him to be the most charming and boisterous person they’d ever met.

Jason Bateman, The Gift

Jason bateman in the gift
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Jason Bateman reestablished his career around a decade ago with Arrested Development, and since then, he’s made his career playing sensible-yet-smarmy characters who manage to ride the line between being funny and… well, kind of jerks. The Gift, though, sees Bateman take his predisposition for acting like kind of an ass to its extreme, as he plays a character who doesn’t feel right from the start and builds on that until it reaches its horrible, logical endpoint.

Gary Oldman, The Dark Knight Trilogy

gary Oldman commissioner gordon
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If you’re familiar with the work of Gary Oldman, you know that he enjoys… big performances. So it’s incredibly impressive that he’s able to be a part of the larger ensemble of Christopher Nolan’s Batman films so seamlessly, giving maybe the definitive James Gordon performance while also leaving lots of room for the other actors to do their work.

Charlize Theron, Monster

charlize theron as aileen wuornos
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I mean, NOW this wouldn’t be out of character for Charlize Theron, someone who has established herself as a talent capable of carrying a blockbuster, and then slipping into a very nuanced portrayal of a character in her very next film. But when Monster came out, Charlize Theron was still “just” a beautiful Hollywood starlet, so I think a lot of critics rolled their ideas at the idea of a beautiful woman uglying herself up to play a real life serial killer. But OH BABY did she ever crush it, shattering the idea that she was just a bland romantic lead (no judgement or gender-based shaming here; men are MORE than capable of being bland romantic leads.)

Emma Watson, The Bling Ring

emma waton selfie
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Emma Watson doesn’t have a ton of movies on her resume, but she’s a well-established public figure, known for speaking out on a wide range of important issues. That’s why even the people who didn’t like The Bling Ring took notice of her performance as Alexis Neiers (“Nicki”). It’s almost as if there were a shallow, mean party animal inside her along, just waiting to get out. GOD HELP US, IT’S ESCAPED AND CANNOT BE RECAGED!

Chloe Grace-Moretz, Neighbors 2

chloe grace moretz fights Seth Rogen
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Aside from her first role in Kick Ass, Chloe Grace-Moretz has been a pretty mature actress, and part of that is because she just doesn’t appear to be very funny? Like, she just always seems like her world is ending, is something. But Neighbors 2 allowed her to do a quasi-Emma Watson and play a total party animal.

Is there a performance you remember where an actor nailed it while playing against type? Please, for the love of God, LET US KNOW ON TWITTER @SMOSH!!!

Contributor: 
Will Weldon
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about Schmidt mad
chloe grace moretz fights Seth Rogen
charlize theron as aileen wuornos
emma waton selfie
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Jason bateman in the gift
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