15 Unrecognizable Movie Roles Of Famous Actors

POSTED BY Tayyab Khalil, UPDATED ON November 22nd, 2023
Unrecognizable Movie Roles of Famous Actors

There is no business like show business. Unlike a white-collar job, professionals do not necessarily have to wear suits and ties for their day of work but have to dress as the characters they portray on film. Sometimes the character takes an odd tone and the actor’s transformation into the role is beyond recognition. Following are the 15 unrecognizable movie roles of famous actors that you should check out:


15. Sherman Klump (Eddie Murphy)

Eddie Murphy as Professor Sherman

With comedy in his blood, Eddie Murphy pulled off a terrific performance as Professor Sherman Klump, a morbidly obese research scientist who concocts a weight-loss pharmaceutical in The Nutty Professor.

That was not the only unrecognizable role Eddie Murphy played onscreen as he also portrayed Klump’s father, mother, brother, and grandmother. Like his main role of Klump, every other mentioned role too was unrecognizable!


14. Mason Verger (Gary Oldman)

Gary Oldman as Mason Verger In 2001

A veteran in the business, Gary Oldman nails all of his roles to perfection to the point of countless awards including one Academy Award nomination. Though the actor was nearly unrecognizable when he portrayed an old Count Dracula in Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula, it is his role as Mason Verger in Hannibal that caught the audience by surprise.

Left paralyzed and savagely disfigured by Dr. Hannibal Lecter during a therapy session, Verger has a face, not even a mother could love. Having no lips, eyelids, or cheeks, even the makeup artist Greg Cannom called it “really disgusting.”


13. The Grinch (Jim Carrey)

Jim Carrey as The Grinch

The role of the Grinch portrayed by Jim Carrey is a fine example of how the power of makeup and costumes can transform an actor into something beyond recognition.

Though the movie failed to get positive reviews, it was nominated for three Academy Awards and won one for Best Makeup which it so richly deserved. Carrey’s performance was well praised and won the Blockbuster Entertainment Award for Favorite Comedy Actor.


12. Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner)

Butch Cavendish as William Fichtner

William Fichtner’s acting skills were put to the test once again when he portrayed the ruthless and somewhat cannibalistic outlaw named Butch Cavendish in The Lone Ranger. Add Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer to the mix and you got one hell of an action western movie.

With a torn lip, wig, raw accent, and dirt all over the face, it was hard to differentiate between Fichtner playing Cavendish or just some scumbag cowboy from the West.


11. The Creation (Robert De Niro)

Robert De Niro as The Creation in Frankenstein

Mary Shelley’s horror novel Frankenstein has been adapted into many movies and Kenneth Branagh/Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is one of them. Starring Hollywood legend Robert De Niro as the monster created by Victor Frankenstein, it was amusing as well as scary to see the actor playing a role so much different from the ones he portrayed before.

Though the movie received anything but positive reviews, it was De Niro’s enigmatic performance that served as the saving grace of the entire two-hour flick. Journalist Janet Maslin stated that the actor’s version of the monster can be a:

“dandy guest on any daytime television talk show.”


10. Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming)

Alan cumming as Nightcrawler

The X-Men franchise is home to many of the most unique characters in comic books and the same can be said about its movie adaptions. X2: X-Men United was the most celebrated superhero movie of its time and the audience was glued to their screens after being amazed by one very significant addition: Alan Cumming as Nightcrawler.

The character’s makeup design took four hours to apply but it was worth the wait due to Cumming’s extraordinary performance as the blue mutant with the ability to teleport. In fact, Cumming studied the character from Marvel Comics and illustrations to play the role of justice.


9. The Cat in the Hat (Mike Myers)

Mike Myers actors in unrecognizable roles

Based on Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat, comedy star Mike Myers portrays the wise-cracking cat of the same name. Employing a Brooklyn accent and fur all over him, it was hard to realize that it was Myers portraying the huge, anthropomorphic cat.

The cat costume was made of human hair and angora. Proving to be too hot for Myers, a cooling system was fitted inside the costume of the actor. On an interesting note, Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat was the first book Myers ever read.


8. The Joker (Jared Leto)

Jared Leto as The Joker

Undoubtedly the greatest comic book villain of all time, the role of The Joker is not something that can be given without any serious consideration. That is why Jared Leto is next in line to play the iconic character in the upcoming Suicide Squad film.

The actor is prepared to take the role to a whole new level unlike the ones played previously onscreen by Ceaser Romero, Jack Nicholson, and Heath Ledger as Leto shaved his beard and even eyebrows along with a new haircut to portray the Clown Prince of Crime.


7. Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Tim Curry)

Tim Curry as Pennywise the Dancing Clown

Speaking of clowns, the shape-shifting maniacal demon known as It or Pennywise the Dancing Clown is no laughing matter and is arguably the most sinister creation of acclaimed writer Stephen King.

In the 1990 television miniseries adaptation of King’s novel It, the commended television and stage actor Tim Curry portrayed the creepy clown and received immensely positive feedback.


6. The Penguin (Danny DeVito)

Danny Devito as The Penguin

Batman Returns might be the darkest Batman flick to date and Danny DeVito’s character as The Penguin was the icing on the cake. As writer Daniel Waters sums it up,

“I ended up writing the character for Danny DeVito.”

The actor underwent long makeup methods and the pointy prosthetic nose was to die for. There are not many short characters in Hollywood movies that can be boasted as iconic ones but DeVito’s penguin is an amazing exception.

Though the actor was uncomfortable with his costume, DeVito played an extremely convincing on-screen version of Oswald Copplepot aka The Penguin from DC Comics.


5. Les Grossman (Tom Cruise)

Tom Cruise as Les Grossman

Tropic Thunder was certainly an interesting endeavor for Tom Cruise as he had to use a fatsuit, bald cap, and fake large hands to portray the profane and short-tempered Les Grossman. In contrast to the role of a handsome hero who saves the day, Grossman is the most outrageous character Cruise had to play.

The appearance of the eccentric character was supposed to be a big surprise for moviegoers but it was spoiled when pictures of Cruise as Grossman leaked online before the release of the movie.


4. Christian Bale (Bernard Fallon)

Christian Bale as Bernard Fallon in The Prestige

Best known for taking his roles very, very seriously, Christian Bale is an actor who can prove without a shadow of a doubt that he is second to none when it comes to theatricality.

The actor duped the spectators when the ending of The Prestige revealed that Bale was not only portraying Alfred Borden but also his assistant Bernard Fallon. Though the actor is infamous for frequent weight gains and losses for the roles in his movies, The Prestige is to date the only movie notable for Bale being beyond recognition.


3. Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton)

Michael Keaton Beetlejuice 1988 Movie

Normally ghost movies can give chills down the viewers’ spines but director Tim Burton changed the entire game with Beetlejuice. The comedy fantasy film was a blast to watch due to its edgy portrayal of the obnoxious and deceitful ghost portrayed by Michael Keaton.

Despite Keaton’s character having very minimum screen time, Beetlejuice was able to create a perfect balance of comedy and scary elements throughout the movie. The move was a box office success and even won an Academy Award for Best Makeup.


2. Auro (Amitabh Bachchan)

Amitabh Bachchan as Auro

Perhaps the greatest Bollywood actor successful in standing the test of time, Amitabh Bachchan had to undergo hours-long makeup to portray Auro in Paa. As a child suffering from a quick aging disease called Progeria, the role of Auro was no joke.

The movie received favorable reviews and the actor won his third National Film Award for Best Actor and fifth Filmfare Best Actor Award. Winning dozens of awards and dubbed as a very rare father-son-son-father story, it is interesting to note that Bachchan played the on-screen son of his real-life son, Abhishek Bachchan (probably the first time it has ever happened in cinematic history).


1. Lincoln Osiris (Robert Downey, Jr.)

Robert Downey in 2013 movie as Lincoln

Technically, the Hollywood A-lister portrayed the five-time Academy Award-winning Australian method actor Kirk Lazarus in Tropic Thunder but due to the film-within-a-film scenario, Robert Downey, Jr. portrayed a black character Staff Sergeant Lincoln Osiris. When approached for the role, Downey, Jr. exclaimed,

“This is the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard!”

While director Ben Stiller responded,

“Yeah, I know — isn’t it great?”

Going through a controversial pigmentation alteration surgery and speaking African American Vernacular English, it was hard for the audience to believe that it was the very same actor who portrayed Iron Man.

Undoubtedly his most amazing and challenging performance to date, Downey, Jr. received an Academy Award nomination for the role but lost to Heath Ledger for his role as The Joker.

Did we miss any of the unrecognizable movie roles of famous actors? Please let us know in the comments below!

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