Great actors tend to throw themselves into their roles. Whether their approach is method, encompassed fully into the psyche of the character they play, or just natural talent at pretending to be someone else, you know you are in for a terrific performance every time. And yet, this still isn’t enough in some cases. For with many great roles, you not only have to act the hell out of the part, you have to look it, too. The following list showcases some of the best examples of actors who devoted themselves so much to a role, that you may not have even realized it was them.
Javier Bardem (Skyfall)
Role: Raoul Silva
Where else you know him from: Biutiful, No Country for Old Men, Collateral
You probably know him best as the cold, heartless killer in “No Country for Old Men” with the ridiculous Captain Kangaroo haircut. However, he’s first on our list because of his new role in the upcoming James Bond flick “Skyfall,” where he plays the lead villain that is currently being described by many media outlets as the first male Bond girl, due to an uncomfortable homoerotic exchange between him and the titular James Bond character. With his slicked back, bleach blond hair and eyebrows, it is hard to imagine that this is the same dark, scruffy Spanish actor.
Dustin Hoffman (Hook)
Role: Captain Hook
Where else you know him from: Rain Man, Tootsie, The Graduate
Look, the dude’s got a big nose. If you were drawing a caricature of him, that’d be the defining feature you’d go to first. But slap some giant bushy eyebrows, a curly mustache, and a jet black colonial wig on the guy to take attention away from his huge schnoz, and it just might work. Coupling that with the way he changed his highly recognizable voice to somewhat mimic that of William F. Buckley and the fact that you likely saw this movie when you were seven years old, you may have never realized that Captain Hook and Bernie Focker from “Meet the Fockers” were one and the same actor.
Tom Cruise (Tropic Thunder)
Role: Les Grossman
Where else you know him from: Mission: Impossible, Jerry Maguire, Top Gun
We’ve mentioned this before in our “15 Best Movie Cameos Ever” piece, but it should be reiterated in this case: people legitimately didn’t know this was Tom Cruise until the end credits. This is mostly due to the fact that he has major box office pull. Therefore, when you snag him for a role, you usually don’t dress him up like a fat, balding douchebag with way too much body hair and oversized prosthetic hands. No one saw it coming, and it was perfect.
Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs)
Role: Albert Nobbs
Where else you know her from: Damages, 101 Dalmatians, Fatal Attraction
Sure, the argument could be made that if we were going to mention a role where Glenn Close not only played an unrecognizable role, but also a man, the choice should be her character Gutless from "Hook" (seen here). But we already covered "Hook." In “Albert Nobbs” she really looks like a man. She may not have had to try very hard in the film to make it happen (let's face it, she’s sort of Albert Nobbs all the time), but in “Hook,” she’s in full pirate garb, complete with full pirate beard, and that's just a little too much to count.
Tim Curry (Legend, It, The Rocky Horror Picture Show)
Role: Darkness, Pennywise, Dr. Frank-N-Furter
Where else you know him from: The Three Musketeers, Clue, countless cartoon voiceovers
You could call him the man of a thousand faces – all terrifying. That would explain why he’s moved toward voice acting over the years. All joking aside, Tim Curry has a very unique look to him. So to be able to make him unrecognizable is no easy task. But he’s proven time and again that he’s up for it, as evidenced by the three memorable characters listed above.
Random trivia just for kicks: Pennywise’s hair in “It” was Tim Curry’s actual hair, dyed red. You learn something new (and utterly useless) every day.
Dave Grohl (Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny)
Where else you know him from: Lead singer of the Foo Fighters
Tim Curry is not the only person on this list to have portrayed the Lord of Darkness. That’s right, legendary drummer/guitaist/vocalist Dave Grohl took on a similar look for his role in this “Tenacious D” film. It took seven hours to get him camera ready for his short scene as the hard rocking Devil, but it was well worth it. He played the same role in Tenacious D’s music video “Tribute” and contributed to several songs on their self-titled album.
Willem Dafoe (Shadow of the Vampire)
Role: Max Schreck
Where else you know him from: Spider-Man, The Boondock Saints, Platoon
Willem Dafoe is a master of the craft. There is seldom a role that he doesn’t knock out of the park, so it’s no surprise that he took on a part like this to expand his acting chops all the more. In a part written specifically for him, Dafoe plays a man who becomes too engrossed with his role of Nosferatu. That’s an actor playing an actor who acts like a vampire. Heck, HE probably couldn’t even remember what he really looked like after all that.
John Leguizamo (Spawn)
Role: Clown / The Violator
Where else you know him from: Ice Age, The Pest, Super Mario Bros.
He’s not the most recognizable actor in the world or anything, but even if you do know his work, it’s pretty hard to tell that John Leguizamo is under all that fat suit and makeup.
Mickey Rourke (Sin City)
Where else you know him from: Iron Man 2, The Wrestler, Nine ½ Weeks
You’d think making Mickey Rourke look unrecognizable for a role would be pointless considering boxing and plastic surgeons did a pretty good job of that already. But for several roles including his own in “Sin City,” even though the actors already somewhat looked like the characters they were to play, makeup and prosthetics were added so they looked less like themselves, and more like their comic book counterparts.
Charlize Theron (Monster)
Role: Aileen Wuornos
Where else you know her from: Prometheus, Snow White and the Huntsman, The Italian Job
Making Charlize Theron look anything but gorgeous (and unrecognizably ugly at that!) is already next to impossible. Since they pulled it off in “Monster,” however, she earned herself an easy spot on this list. If you want to read more on her transformation, check this out.
Zoe Saldana (Avatar)
Where else you know her from: Colombiana, The Losers, Star Trek
Yeah, we know this one is technically computer animated, but we’re the ones making the rules here so it counts! Besides, the movie is 60 percent CGI and much of that was created using motion capture technology. Zoe Saldana even prepared for the role by hiking through Hawaiian jungles with her fellow actors wearing a fake alien tail like the one she has in the film. So, all the work she put into it and the end result it created surely justifies her place here.
Next: People Who Look Like Fictional Characters
Gary Oldman (Tiptoes, Hannibal, The Contender, The Fifth Element, True Romance, Dracula, Sid and Nancy)
Role: Rolfe, Mason Verger, Shelly Runyon, Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg, Drexl Spivey, Dracula, Sid Vicious
Where else you know him from: Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, Léon: The Professional, JFK
Jeez, where do you even begin with this guy? It’s borderline impossible to even determine his true form with all the physical transformations he has undergone for his films. We touched briefly on just how much Gary Oldman puts into his characters before; but seriously, don’t ever accuse the man of not giving a part his all. Or, you can if you want, just be careful. He could be right next to you and you wouldn’t even know it.