Actors out of Their Elements

You know what I’m talking about right? The funny guy getting all dramatic, or the action dude trying to be funny. I remember watching an interview with Jason Segel where he recalled how difficult it was for comedians to get gigs that weren’t comedy. The crossover from one acting genre to another can sometimes be far apart, but that doesn’t mean that all actors are limited to one type of genre. Here are just a few examples of actors who have stepped out of their usual acting habitat and ventured into some ground considered new for their talents.

  • Ryan Reynolds in Buried

Reynolds has been primarily known for most of his career as a B-movie funny guy in young adult movies. And although he’s had a few gigs here and there that have only slightly pushed his envelope, I believe it was his performance in Buried that let the world know that he is far more capable actor than he previously led us all to believe. In the making of Buried, the movie took 17 days to shoot and during the filming, Reynolds developed a bald spot as well as dislocated his shoulder from having to lie in a coffin for over 2 weeks straight. In addition to his minor injuries, he was able to hold the screen on his own with only the support of voice actors talking to him through a cell phone. After this movie, he proved that he really does have dramatic chops beneath the 6-pack and dirty jokes and sarcastic humor.

  • Mark Wahlberg in The Other Guys and Date Night

Wahlberg has been the tough guy, eye candy, manly man for the majority of his career. It wasn’t until The Happening happened that he got slammed for playing a “wimp.” Then, he turns things around and plays a supporting and utterly hilarious role in Date Night alongside Steve Carell and Tina Fey, who very “graciously” played off his humor. And although The Other Guys could have been shortened by about 45 minutes, Wahlberg again was able to play straight (and occasionally funny) off one of the biggest comedians of our time, Will Ferrell.

  • Emma Stone in The Help

Although Stone is only 23 years old, the majority of her roles have been only supporting until Easy A. And even in that film, with a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress under her belt, she really didn’t hit drama land until she nabbed the lead role in The Help. Stone’s already had another big year with The Help as well as Crazy, Stupid, Love and a cameo in Friends with Benefits. But the 1960s drama based off the best-selling novel film adaptation showed that Stone has a lot more to give to cinema than just some silly laughs or minor roles in rom coms. She’s clearly capable of being a leading lady in more than just another teen movie.

  • Adam Sandler in Reign Over Me

Perhaps I can’t use this example since I haven’t actually seen Reign Over Me. But from what I’ve read, Sandler is able to portray a heart-broken man dealing with the loss of his family from the 9/11 attacks. This movie is on my Need-To-See list. I’ve always enjoyed a little Adam Sandler humor (mainly his older movies–his newer ones have been crap!), but I’d love to see him entirely out of his element playing a dramatic role.

  • Jim Carrey in The Majestic and The Number 23

Jim Carrey is easily one of the funniest actors today. Between Dumb and Dumber and Liar Liar and Yes Man to name only a few, he has marked his place in funnymanland. But he also has several movies that show he is multi-talented. In The Number 23, Carrey plays a man who finds a book, reads it, and slowly realizes that he was the author. It’s a mind-numbing thriller that forces Carrey to be vulnerable, yet still on a mission. The Majestic holds the place for my favorite Jim Carrey performance yet. Set back in a time when the movies were an event to attend, war was raging on, and Carrey’s character hit his head and landed in a whole new place that took him in as a war hero they thought had died, Carrey brought in what I believe to be one of his best performances ever.

Do you like seeing actors in diverse roles? Who do you enjoy watching switch things up a bit?

7 thoughts on “Actors out of Their Elements

  1. Ryan Reynolds was surprisingly good in Buried. It’s definitely a tall task to keep a viewer’s attention for 80 minutes when you are the only actor on screen, the entire time. It’s too bad he didn’t get much accolade for it.


  2. Sandler is exceptional in Reign Over Me (and Punch Drunk Love). One scene in particlular in the former is a real tearjerker and Sandler absolutely nails it. I can’t wait to see Sacha Baron Cohen tackle Freddie Mercury (if it does happen). I think comedians often have SO much more to give than it first appears. Carrey also proved he could do more than funny in The Truman Show when it gets to the emotional climax. Going the other way, I love it how John C. Reilly has moved in to silly comedies recently. He’s hilarious!


  3. Yeah, Castor, I think Reynolds was surprisingly good in that film. I was hoping he would get some kind of notice, but not surprisingly, no critics paid him much attention.

    I think a lot of comedians have potential, but they get pigeon-holed in comedy and can’t find anyone to give them a role with depth. It always surprises audiences when they see actors turn around and do something completely different. It’s funny that you mention The Truman Show for Carrey–I was actually thinking of that one too, but I didn’t mention it. It’s another great performance of his. Thanks for reading, guys!


      • Totally forgot about that movie! It’s a polarizing film, in a sense. I doubt anyone from that movie got much love. I really thought the pairing of Carrey and Winslet was bizarre, but worked for the strange tone of the movie. He really is a versatile actor. Although I’d love to see him go the action movie route; then again, we might just start laughing at him the whole time.


  4. I like it a lot when I see actors mix it up. Punch Drunk Love is now on my list to see. Even though I do admit, that I think it’s hardest to go from comedy to any other genre, many times because the comedians have not really screen acted all that much–many of them go straight from stage to screen–Amy Poehler and Tina Fey are examples of this. Just some other favorites of mine–Kevin Spacey, Tom Hanks, and Michael Caine all can go from drama (their typical genre) to comedy pretty easily. Tom Cruise also transitions easily from action to drama.

    Also, I can add very few actresses to this list–Reese Witherspoon, Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, and Amy Adams are pretty versatile (though none of them really in the action genre).


  5. Thanks for reading, Jennifer! I think from the two examples you gave, neither of those woman are known for anything more than their stand-up comedy or great writing (Tina Fey, “Mean Girls”; or Kristen Wiig, “Bridesmaids” this year).

    I think transitioning from action to drama isn’t as difficult as comedy to drama or drama to comedy. Many actors make their mark as a specific type of actor (some versatile, some a one man show). Then again, you have actors like Jasom Statham and you’re convinced he’ll never make a movie that isn’t action-related.

    Nice list you added there. I think Hanks and Caine are great examples of transitioning from one genre to another, as well as Amy Adams (one of the most versatile actresses recently!). I think I remain a little unconvinced on Anne Hathaway. I’m curious to see what she’s like in “The Dark Knight Rises.”

    Thanks for your thoughts.


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