There are some actors who made such an impact on a role that they are forever associated with it. This may mean they end up playing roles which are similar. Vin Diesel, for example, is known for his role as Dominic Toretto in the Fast and Furious series. Apart from that, he has appeared in films such as the Riddick and Triple X series, which are movies about a protagonist going against the grain to fight for what’s right. Similarly, Dwayne Johnson plays almost the same character in every movie.
However, there are some actors who, despite being recognised for one role or similar roles, fight hard against being pigeon-holed into a singular type. Here are five exceptional actors who fight to play diverse characters with chameleon-like quality.
The 1.78 statuesque actress burst into the big screen in Dead Calm- a lanky, porcelain beauty that caught Tom Cruise’s eye. Since then, we are graced with her beauty and talent in movies such as Far and Away, To Die For, Batman Forever, Practical Magic, and Grace of Monaco, to name a few. These movies have something in common, which is to highlight Kidman’s beauty, front and centre.
However, the Australian actress is not willing to be labelled as just a pretty face. In The Hours, where she portrayed writer Virginia Woolf, Kidman was almost unrecognisable beneath the prosthetic nose and barely there makeup. For her convincing performance, she was awarded Best Actress at the 2003 Academy Awards.
In 2018's Destroyer, we can hardly recognise Kidman as detective Erin Bell, who’s ridden with guilt and working her way to make amends with those she had unwittingly put in harm’s way. Harrowed and haunted, this is a side of Kidman we are not used to seeing, but that’s a testament to her acting brilliance.
We saw him grow up in the High School Musical series, that all-American boy with blonde hair, blue eyes and that megawatt smile. After his High School Musical days, similar roles started popping up on Efron’s radar, such as Hairspray. Very soon, the heartthrob realised that he was offered roles that may have stereotyped him, which is why he turned down a chance to star in the Footloose remake. Instead, he slowly worked his way to be treated as a serious actor.
In 2019, his chilling performance as Ted Bundy in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile showed the world his serious acting chops. Who would have thought that the bright-eyed, floppy haired golden boy would be so sinister as Ted Bundy? We can’t wait to see what else Efron can play.
Those in their forties or older would fondly remember Hugh Grant in the movie Four Wedding and a Funeral (1994), which catapulted him into global stardom. He plays eligible bachelor Charles, whom every girl has their sights on, but who seemed hell-bent on staying single. Since then, we have often seen Grant playing that similar role, in Nine Months (1995), Sense and Sensibility (1995), Notting Hill (1999) and Bridget Jones’s Diary.
Hence, it was a refreshing chance to see a completely different Grant in Paddington 2, where he plays the villainous Phoenix Buchanan, who is set on stealing a book from Paddington, and goes to extra hilarious lengths to do it. For his surprisingly entertaining performance, Grant was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the BAFTAs.
It’s hard not to mention Daniel Radcliffe without conjuring images of him as Harry Potter in the Harry Potter series. After all, Radcliffe played the titular character for a decade. Since then, Radcliffe has been working hard at shedding his boy wizard image, choosing quirky characters in smaller, budget movies. We see a different side of the actor in the 2016 Swiss Army Man, where he plays a dead body, who is befriended by a lost soul of a man and together, they embark on a surreal journey to get home.
But his most drastic role departure from Harry Potter is in Imperium (2016), where he portrayed an American FBI agent going undercover as a white supremacist. Sporting a crew cut and a stoic expression, Radcliffe is as far away from that wide-eyed be-spectacled boy wizard as can be.
We first caught sight of Margot Robbie in The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), where she took on the role of Naomi Lapaglia, the real life ex-wife of Jordan Belfort (played by Leonardo DiCaprio), a wealthy stockbroker making fast cash and living on an even faster lane before it all came crashing down. In the movie, she was vivacious and lively, which would be traits that follow Robbie’s roles. In Suicide Squad (2016), she is the inimitable Harley Quin, while in I, Tonya (2017), she was the loud and crass Tonya Harding. Her performance in the former was so stirring that she was given a sole Harley Quin movie to helm, while the latter earned her a Best Actress nomination at the Oscars.
But rewind to 2015, where Robbie starred in the post-apocalyptic movie Z for Zachariah with Chiwetel Ejiofor and Chris Pine. Stripped of makeup, loud costumes and larger-than-life personalities, Robbie gave a nuanced performance as Ann Burden, who got herself into a love triangle with the only two men who, along with her, survived the disaster. And Robbie shines with subtlety in her delivery and her amazing ability with accents. She had to master the Appalachian accent, which she learned from YouTube. If there’s any one actress we can describe as a chameleon, Robbie’s name would turn up first.