Just recently I wrote a post which details eight comedic actors who did serious roles well, as you may guess, this is the opposite. Now, let me be clear, I am not maintaining these are the ONLY eight dramatic actors ever to do a funny role, but I will just say that even though I know people will complain regardless. Although I’m pretty sure no one reads the intros to these things anyways.
But in any case, I tried to skip people like Tom Hanks (who started as a comedian) and Robert DeNiro (who pretty much changed to a comedian in his later years), so here are the eight I came up with who have had brief, but very memorable excursions into comedy.
Brad Pitt — Burn After Reading
Brad Pitt is normally charming the pants off unsuspecting passersby or kicking people’s asses in most of his movies, so it was interesting to see him dive headfirst into completely oddball comedy for the first time. His role as Chad in Burn After Reading was neither sexy nor tough, but I’ll be honest, his idiotic dancing in the trailer is what made me want to see this movie in the first place.
Matt Damon — Ocean’s 13
Damon has had brushes with comedy with bit parts in Eurotrip and a few Kevin Smith movies, but Ocean’s 13 is when he finally embraced his funny side. Wearing a fake nose, he had to seduce the cougar-esque Ellen Barkin in order in infiltrate the casino’s security. But instead of posting an Ocean’s clip, check him out in Eurotrip if you haven’t before, it’s epic.
Tom Cruise — Tropic Thunder
Tom Cruise went through about a three year dry patch where literally no one could be forced to say anything nice about him, at all. So maybe that’s what inspired him to say “screw it, I’m doing something way out there,” and he slapped on a fat suit and bald wig for perhaps one of the greatest cameos in the last decade. Him dancing as slimy studio head Les Grossman will be burned into my mind forever, but in a good way.
George Clooney — O Brother Where Art Thou?
Normally a suave, cool leading man, it was quite a stretch for Clooney to play a prisoner turned singer turned treasure hunter in O Brother Where Out Thou, which was Homer’s Odyssey set in the 1930s. Clooney has had a few humorous roles (Burn After Reading and the Ocean movies ) but this was his one and only starring spot in a full on comedy, and most would say it paid off.
Ed Norton — Death to Smoochy
Ed Norton is a serious guy. Just ask anyone who was unfortunate enough to work with him on The Incredible Hulk. He’s had so many gritty, serious roles, it’s a wonder he ever picked a vehicle like Death to Smoochy to begin with. Granted, it’s the blackest of black comedies, but it’s a comedy nonetheless, and Norton kills it as idealistic kids’ show host Sheldon Mopes.
Jeff Bridges — The Big Lebowski
Jeff Bridges has been in 100 million movies, but only one of them has been one of the greatest comedies of our time, The Big Lebowski, and that will probably be what he’s remembered for above all else. It seems that the Cohen brothers have a unique talent of luring serious actors into funny roles, although I secretly believe that Jeff Bridges is mostly just playing himself, and he happens to be like The Dude in almost every way.
Johnny Depp — Pirates of the Caribbean
People often forget that Johnny Depp IS a dramatic actor, as they now so closely associate him with his unforgettable turn as Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates trilogy. But before that, what was he in? From Hell, Chocolat, Blow, Edward Scissorhands. You have to go all the way back to Ed Wood before you find a role that was remotely related to comedy.
Jon Voight — Zoolander
Sure it was only a cameo, but it takes a lot to take one of Hollywood’s most stoic actors and make him put on a wig and dust his face in coal. As Derek Zoolander’s neglectful father, he had some of the best lines in the film, (while his son, played by Vince Vaughn, had none). You might consider his role in Transformers as his next comedy appearance, but I think there are in fact a whole host of people who would want to classify that under “action.”