Tom Hardy is as versatile an actor as they come, playing the tattooed, 19th-century adventurer James Delaney in Taboo (2017), Bane in The Dark Knight Rises (2012), and tousle-haired spy Ricki Tarr in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011).
These got us thinking about other remarkably versatile actors who can seemingly transform themselves into anyone and anything. Below are 10 of our favorites.
10. Kate Winslet
A role like Rose DeWitt Bukater in Titanic so early in anyone’s career could easily have sunk it (no pun intended), but Kate has proved cynics wrong with impressive performances in Steve Jobs (2015) and The Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind (2004) to Sense and Sensibility (1995), Hamlet (1996) and Revolutionary Road (2008).
9. Willem Dafoe
One of the greatest shapeshifters on screen, Dafoe has played a painfully human Jesus Christ in The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), an idealistic Vietnam soldier in Platoon (1986), and a put-upon motel manager in The Florida Project (2017), not to mention terrorizing Spider-Man as the Green Goblin (2002), and even eating a bird as Nosferatu actor Max Schreck in Shadow of the Vampire (2000). Those performances barely scratch the surface, however: in a 38-year-film career, he’s racked up over 100 roles.
8. Jim Carrey
If recent documentary Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond is to believed, the comedian-turned-actor didn’t just morph characters, he morphed his very self when he played Andy Kaufmann in Man in the Moon (1999). In it, we watch as the Ace Ventura and Dumb and Dumber star goes full method, immersing himself so fully into the character, he never really comes back out again. “When it was over, I couldn’t remember who I was any more,” he explained. Cosmic, man.
7. Emma Thompson
“Never let yourself be defined by how you look,” Emma told BAFTA in 2013. “Never do that. Because it’ll be over soon, and you won’t develop.” She’s certainly heeded her own advice, morphing into roles as varied as Elinor Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility (1995), Professor Sybil Trelawney in Harry Potter, and Mary Poppins writer P.L. Travers in Saving Mr. Banks (2013), not to mention another magical childminder in Nanny McPhee (2005). When she popped up as foggy alcoholic Maureen in The Meyerowitz Stories (2017), we almost didn’t recognize her.
6. Chiwetel Ejiofor
Chiwetel has been on our radar since Stephen Frears‘ moody and tense 2002 immigrant drama Dirty Pretty Things, long before his harrowing lead performance in 12 Years a Slave (2013) garnered him an Oscar nomination. He manages to elevate every film he’s in, from Love Actually (2003) and Doctor Strange (2016) to Children of Men (2006) and Endgame (2009), and whether he’s a drag queen (2005’s Kinky Boots) or a vicar (2018’s Come Sunday).
5. Jennifer Jason Leigh
A child actor turned 1990s film noir queen, Jennifer can turn on disturbing menace just as easily as vulnerability. As a result her career has spanned a multitude of varied roles: She was Tralala, the doomed prostitute in Last Exit to Brooklyn (1989); Hedy, the stalker roommate in Single White Female (1992); Pauline, the long-suffering bride-to-be in Margot at the Wedding (2007); Daisy, the homicidal fugitive in The Hateful Eight (2015); and now Eleanor, Benedict Cumberbatch‘s flawed and difficult mother in Patrick Melrose (2018).
4. Christian Bale
“Wait… is that Christian Bale?” is a question we often find ourselves uttering. Often it’s not — he’s not walking his dog at 7am on Coldharbour Lane in London, for instance — but often it is, as he pops up in films as varied as The Prestige and The Big Short. Bale also possesses an unmatched ability to drastically alter his body for his roles, from dropping down to 121 pounds to play an insomniac in The Machinist (2004), to bulking up to a muscular 190 to play Batman. He even recently gained 40 pounds to play Dick Cheney. Ouch.
3. Tatiana Maslany
This young actress has already racked up a huge number of roles, and all in one TV show. Tatiana plays Sarah Manning and her clones Cosima, Alison, Helena, Rachel and Beth in Orphan Black, plus eight other characters, all also born in 1984 to various women by IVF. Since that show came to an end last year, she’s gone on to play characters in films such as Stronger (2017) and crime thriller Destroyer (2018).
2. Charlize Theron
Yes, there was her famous transformation in Monster (2013), which saw her gain 30 pounds and shave her eyebrows to play serial killer Aileen Wuornos. But that’s just the start of it: Theron has made a habit of confounding our expectations with roles as diverse as the evil Queen in Snow White and the Huntsman (2012) and the lead in Atomic Blonde (2017). Then there was her performance as Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road, which saw her go all-out action hero, shedding her beautiful locks for a buzzcut and a battle-beaten facade.
1. Sir Daniel Day-Lewis
You’d think this knight of the realm would be unmistakeable, what with his chiselled bone structure, beetling brows and aquiline nose. And yet the Oscar-winning star manages to transform himself for every role, from obsessive fashion designer Reynolds Woodcock in Phantom Thread (2017) to street punk Johnny in My Beautiful Launderette (1985).
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