Sometimes it takes just one movie to shine a whole new light on an actor. A romcom to show their softer side, an action role to show they've still got it, a part as a stone-cold psycho killer to mix things up a bit.
These are the times actors took a huge chance with an against-type role and it totally paid off.
1. The Lincoln Lawyer
Matthew McConaughey's career took so much of a left turn, they even invented a new word to describe it. While Dallas Buyers Club and Magic Mike might have been the standouts in his "McConnaissance", it was the underrated but excellent The Lincoln Lawyer which marked the change.
Note that the movie McConaughey had done prior to this was 2009's Ghosts of Girlfriends Past following a slew of dodgy romcoms. Suddenly a new, rougher, tougher McConaughey was born and he's never looked back, bagging himself an Oscar as well as a heap of respect.
2. Iron Man
In the late '80s and '90s, Robert Downey Jr made his name as a peripheral brat pack member and minor douchebag in things like Weird Science, Less than Zero and Two Guys and a Girl. Later, he was mostly known for having problems with substance abuse and getting fired from Ally McBeal.
Downey Jr then slowly made his name in credible thrillers Zodiac and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang before landing the motherlode when he was cast as Tony Stark in Iron Man. Of course, no one knew how huge the MCU would be or how wildly popular Stark would prove – he's the backbone of the Marvel machine as we know it and Downey Jr is now one of the highest-paid and best-loved actors in Hollywood.
3. Pulp Fiction
His Grease/Saturday Night Fever glory days were long behind him and Travolta was stuck in Look Who's Talking land until Quentin Tarantino made him cool all over again.
Travolta's sharp-suited contract killer bags the most memorable segment of the movie, twisting with Uma Thurman at Jack Rabbit Slims. He cashed in on his cool with Get Shorty, Broken Arrow and Face/Off before going back off the boil again (Battlefield Earth didn't help). More recently his weird face did wonders in The People vs O.J. Simpson as Robert Shapiro.
4. The Wedding Singer
A celebrated child star who had problems with substance abuse at a very young age, post-Poison Ivy, Barrymore was stuck in fairly nothingy roles until Scream in 1996 brought her face back to the mainstream.
SPOILER ALERT – she wasn't in it much, and it was The Wedding Singer two years later that really re-established her as the lovely-girl-next-door type, even managing to make an Adam Sandler comedy (or two if you count 50 First Dates – but not Blended) charming. These days she's a trailblazer with a whole bunch of producer credits to her name under her company Flower Films, made her feature directorial debut with Whip It, and stars in the hit Netflix show Santa Clarita Diet.
5. The Town
Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice wasn't very good, and Sad Affleck was briefly a thing, but Batfleck is still largely speaking in our good books despite the underwhelming response to Live By Night.
Remember that this is the guy who played the douchebag for hire in most of Kevin Smith's films, as well as a terrible version of Daredevil, not to mention of course the risible Gigli (gobble gobble).
Gone Baby Gone showed us that he was actually a pretty good director, though. Then The Town indicated he could be a good actor too with the right material. Argo cemented it, as did his supremely sleazy turn in Gone Girl. Will he manage to weather endless Bat appearances? Time will tell, but we're not that surprised he pulled out of the Batman directing gig.
6. The Wrestler
Young Mickey Rourke was beautiful – properly bad-boy gorgeous in movies like Angel Heart, Barfly and 9 1/2 Weeks. But acting took a backseat for Rourke when he returned to his former career as a professional boxer.
Broken bones and bad reconstructive surgery changed Rourke's look, and with it the roles he was offered. Mostly playing bit parts, he returned to the public eye as Marv in Sin City, but it was his extraordinary lead performance in Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler that reinvented him (and bagged him an Oscar nom). Iron Man 2, The Expendables and Immortals followed, though he's not done much recently. We reckon he needs to bag himself a good TV show.
A perfectly respectable jobbing actor, Neeson was bagging so-so mid-tier roles until Schindler's List pushed him into the mainstream. Lead roles in Michael Collins, Rob Roy and Les Miserables followed before he picked up Qui-Gon Jinn in The Phantom Menace and Ra's Al Ghul in Batman Begins. A very respectable career then, but he took a risk with a rather left-field choice when he climbed on board Taken.
Part of a new breed of "geri-actioners", Neeson was suddenly an unlikely hard-man flashing his particular set of skills. Two sequels followed, as well as Unknown (Taken on a plane) The Grey (Taken with a wolf) and the currently-filming Hard Powder (Taken with a snow plough).
Former model Charlize Theron was stuck playing people's girlfriends in The Devil's Advocate, Mighty Joe Young, Reindeer Games and more. But Monster blew people away.
Physically transformed, Theron was virtually unrecognisable as real-life serial killer Aileen Wuornos, opposite Christina Ricci in a similarly bold performance. It was a game changer for Theron, who won an Oscar and a whole heap of respect for the role, bagging her lead roles and meaty supports, and propelling her well out of the model-turned-actor mould.
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