Renegade Six Pack – Six Actors Who Reinvented Their Career

Actors who reinvented themselves
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So the first facts about the next season of True Detective have finally been revealed. So far the show will star Colin Farrell and Vince Vaughn as two of the leads and it will be taking place in a random California town. There is still a lot of casting yet to be revealed, but its interesting to see that Vaughn, usually the king of mediocre comedy, has been cast in the second season of a show which might have been the darkest and most twisted thing on television this year. Not that Vaughn hasn’t been in his share of mediocre dramatic thrillers as well, but its been pretty clear of late that Vaughn has been aiming to change the direction of his career around. While last year’s Delivery Man was another comedy of a certain type common in Vaughn’s career, it did have an element of the heartwarming life lesson that more serious dramedies lean toward. There have been less likely comeback stories, so Vaughn’s turn in True Detective just might be his turning point. So here is a list of other people who have done it too, from the down and out actors whose careers were reborn to the successful actors who simply went against type and changed the game.

 

Actors who reinvented themselves

6. Matthew McConaughey

Lets start with last year’s True Detective co-lead and the hottest old thing to re-hit Hollywood. McConaughey started out hot and teeming with potential, then slowly became mired in the world of redundant romcoms. I never really understood the appeal, but all my chick flick loving girlfriends thought he was just dreamy. It takes more than some charm and a six pack to hook me. Then suddenly, and quite recently, McConaughey started appearing in more serious, critically acclaimed works like The Lincoln Lawyer (2011), Mud (2012), and Dallas Buyers Club (2013). It turned out that he could act after all, and actually quite well. He won the Academy Award for Best Actor and was honestly the best ten minutes of the three hour long The Wolf of Wall Street (2013). May the McConaissance continue.

 

Actors who reinvented themselves

5. Hugh Laurie

If you’re an American, you probably know Hugh Laurie from his role as Dr. Gregory House on the popular FOX drama House M.D. But what you may not have known is that Laurie is not known in his native England as a dramatic actor, but as a comedian. He’s right up there with Monty Python and Rowan Atkinson and wrote, produced, and starred in some of the funniest and most iconic British comedy series of the last few years. So it was quite a pleasant shock to see Laurie take on a dramatic part in an American network television show and discover that the man was actually an excellent actor. Another thing you can thank him for is for bringing some humor to what was an otherwise pretty serious show. And if you really want to talk about career reinventions, once he was done with House, instead of going on to do more acting, he started focusing on releasing albums of blues and jazz standards, which he is also quite good at.

 

Actors who reinvented themselves

4. Mark Hamill

We all know him as Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars trilogy and soon to be in the first of three sequels. Many casual fans think he probably didn’t do anything in between this, when in fact Mark Hamill will likely go down in history as one of the best and most versatile voice actors of our time. If you ever watch cartoons, he’s probably in there somewhere, and you’d never know it because he’s just that good. Of course, his most famous of these cartoon roles is his version of the Joker in Batman: The Animated Series and many of DC’s other animated tie-ins. His Joker is so playful, so dark, so deranged – you can’t help but love him, but he’s also ridiculously frightening. If you ever have the chance to play any of the Arkham Asylum video games, not only are they really cool games, but Hamill has more free reign to play with the Joker – and it is amazing.

 

Actors who reinvented themselves

3. Billie Piper

If you know Doctor Who, you know her as the Doctor’s first companion of the rebooted series, Rose Tyler. You might not have ever known her as the teenage pop superstar – something like a less crazy and British Britney Spears – and you probably wouldn’t want to either. Her music is actually pretty terrible and ages horribly. Doctor Who was her first really big, dedicated part on a television show and really kick started her acting career. Many people in the UK were incredulous and aghast when Piper was first announced as the Doctor’s first companion, but she changed a lot of minds early on. She was charming, charismatic, sweet, funny, and smart – and above all else, actually a pretty good actor. Since her time on Doctor Who she’s become known as a talented and respected actor. Its a good thing too, because otherwise we might still be listening to her terrible music.

 

Actors who reinvented themselves

2. Liam Neeson

Neeson went from being a reliable dramatic actor in Oscar worthy movies like Nell (1994) and Schindler’s List (1993) to being one of the most lucrative action movie heroes of all time. Which is great, mostly because no one saw it coming. He never seemed like a tough guy, more gentle and kind spirited more than anything. Somewhere along the way there was Taken (2008) and everything changed. It seems like every year now there is another Liam Neeson action movie that is vaguely reminiscent of the one from the year before. Taken 3 is already in post-production, set to be released sometime in 2015. And while they might not be the cleverest or best movies out there, they’re always good, reliable fun. And sometimes, just sometimes, you get pulled into seeing what you think is going to be just another one of these movies and come out pleasantly surprised. You might have thought that The Grey was going to be Liam Neeson fighting wolves, but its much more thoughtful than that. But its really Liam Neeson fighting wolves too.

 

Actors who reinvented themselves

1. Robert Downey Jr.

No comeback list is complete without the comeback kid himself, Robert Downey Jr. He started out as a kid actor in his father’s art house movies, then worked bit parts in small budget films until becoming a cast member on Saturday Night Live. That’s right, you probably forgot,  but Robert Downey Jr. spent an entire season on Saturday Night Live. He didn’t really fit in, though, and moved on to starring in a number of John Hughes style knock off films. He didn’t really fit in with the rest of the brat pack either, so began branching out into more critically acclaimed cinema. He got consistent work, earned an Oscar nomination for his performance in Chaplin (1992), and continued to be a solid addition to any movie. Unfortunately, drugs were always an issue and his unreliability and erratic behavior sent his career spiraling until he ended up in prison. After that it was a battle to earn back trust and work his way back up in Hollywood – but just look at him now. He’s more popular, famous, and in demand than he’s ever been, playing a superhero in the biggest film franchise in the world, racking in the dough, and looking healthy and happy. There was no way that a man with a personality as huge as Downey Jr.’s was ever going to be stopped, especially not when paired with his incredible persistence and positive self-delusion. They told him he’d never be Iron Man. He decided otherwise.

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About the Author

Bethany Lewis
My cinema education started when, at three years old, Charlie Chaplin's "The Gold Rush" became my earliest memory of cinema. Since then, I've been obsessed with film and television, learning more about it, analyzing it, researching it, and experiencing different kinds of it. After getting my BA in Theater, I went on to get my MFA in Film Studies. I now spend my free time watching and writing about movies.
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