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Top 10 Chameleonic Actors and Actresses - Best of WatchMojo

Script Written by Matthew Thomas You may recognize their faces, but somehow, in all their movies, everything else has changed. Join as we count down our picks for the top 10 chameleon actors and actresses. For this list, we’ll be looking at actors and actresses who change so much about themselves from role to role that audiences have learned that they will always keep us guessing when we see them on screen. Watch on WatchMojo: Special thanks to our users Anthony Redford, Deathmatch1959, Andreas Philippou and Georgis Tyranis Goutzas for submitting the idea on our Suggestion Tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest

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Top 10 Chameleonic Actors and Actresses

You may recognize their faces, but somehow, in all their movies, everything else has changed. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 chameleon actors and actresses.

For this list, we’ll be looking at actors and actresses who change so much about themselves from role to role that audiences have learned that they will always keep us guessing when we see them on screen. Keep in mind that there may sometimes be spoilers, so this is your SPOILER ALERT warning.

#10: Christian Bale

Dedicated to his craft, Christian Bale has spent his career making some of the most dramatic changes to his body of any actor that we can think of. Arguably one of the best actors of this or any generation, Bale has never rested solely on his natural talents, instead going from ripped in “American Psycho” to dangerously skinny in “The Machinist.” Making similar changes for roles like “The Fighter “and “Reign of Fire,” Bale is willing to undergo almost any kind of transformation if he believes it will add to his performance, whether it be for a blockbuster flick or an indie production. With multiple Oscar, Golden Globe and other awards under his belt, it seems like they’ve been worth it.

#9: Ben Kingsley

If you watched “Gandhi” and “Sexy Beast” back to back, the whiplash Ben Kingsley’s performances would cause could leave you with a sore neck for weeks. Earning award nominations for playing Itzhak Stern, Oskar Schindler’s right hand man in “Schindler’s List,” and as Meyer Lansky, one of America’s most ruthless and deadly mobsters, in “Bugsy,” he is capable of admirably pulling off any role given to him. The perfect example of Kingsley’s ability to switch forms may have been seen in “Iron Man 3” though; playing a terrifying villain and a comedic actor in one film says it all.

#8: Philip Seymour Hoffman

Some casual observers may have been foolish enough to think that Mr. Hoffman’s performances are primarily of the sad and downer variety, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Though his role in “Owning Mahowny” is arguably the best example of that type of performance, his turns in films like “Boogie Nights” or “Almost Famous” couldn’t be further from that. Capable of also playing comedic characters or villains, Hoffman ultimately won his only Academy Award for “Capote,” a role in which he effectively combined most of the different facets of his many other performances.

#7: Edward Norton

Like Ben Kingsley, Edward Norton is capable of playing one role in completely different ways in different parts of a single film. Yet, Norton has also pulled this off in more than one film. Playing a single character that goes through a massive change in movies like “Primal Fear,” “The Incredible Hulk,” “Fight Club” and “American History X,” it may seem like paradigm shifts are a gimmick for theactor. But clearly, they’re evidence of the Oscar-nominated thespian’s many talents, as the changes he makes are refreshing time and again.

#6: Johnny Depp

Once the darling of the film-loving crowd; Johnny Depp has proven himself to be a fantastic and adaptive actor throughout his long career. Capable of pulling off the near-silent role of Edward Scissorhands equally adeptly as a man who never shuts up, otherwise known as Captain Jack Sparrow, Depp is truly an actor’s actor. Even willing to strip himself of his good looks for “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” or play the world’s best lover in “Don Juan DeMarco,” Depp can easily keep us guessing – and he almost always does!

#5: Meryl Streep

There is a very good reason that Ms. Streep is inarguably one of the most respected actresses of all time, and her range has a lot to do with it. Whether she’s perfectly bringing the spirit of Margaret Thatcher or Julia Child to life through make-up and her acting talents, or stripping away all pretences as a mother who has to make a horrible choice, Streep never seems out of her depth. Bringing her comedic talents to bear in completely different ways in “Death Becomes Her” and “Adaptation,” or even belting out some tunes in “Mamma Mia,” the multiple Oscar winner never hits a wrong note.

#4: Dustin Hoffman

There is a legendary story from the filming of “Marathon Man” that says Dustin Hoffman showed up on set after staying awake for three days because his character in the film had done so. Fellow respected actor and co-star Laurence Olivier reportedly retorted in response, “Why don’t you just tryacting?” Though this story is hilarious, it also tells you everything you need to know about Dustin’s determination as an actor, which has led to him bring so many unique and enthralling award-winning performances to the big screen we’ve lost count.

#3: Daniel Day-Lewis

Any actor who has any designs on taking an Academy Award home with him better thank the stars that this Brit is not more prolific. Why? Because when Daniel Day-Lewis sets foot on a film set, accolades seemingly fall on him like rain. From what we hear about his onset behavior, Day-Lewis becomes so enmeshed in whatever role he chooses to take on that he rarely breaks character and usually lives the role for the duration. As a result, perhaps the only elements of his performances that remain the same are his facial features.

#2: Cate Blanchett

When director Todd Haynes and his producers were putting together a Bob Dylan biopic with actorsportraying different eras of the man’s life, the only woman he reportedly tapped for the role was Cate Blanchett. A testament to how much confidence the film community and audiences have in her abilities; she pulled her part off and garnered an Oscar nomination for it. Also winning Oscars for playing a woman falling apart and one of pop culture’s strongest women, Katharine Hepburn, Blanchett brings incredible poise to every role – unrecognizable as she may be in each of them.

Before we reveal our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
- Heath Ledger
- Jim Carrey
- Michael Sheen
- Charlize Theron
- Michael Fassbender

#1: Gary Oldman

One of the first thespians to come to mind when you think of acting range, Gary Oldman is a character actor who is so good at his job that he has become a full-fledged star, despite coveting performances over paychecks - for the most part. If you watched “Hannibal” without knowing the story behind the production, you probably wouldn’t believe that the grotesque Mason Verger was brought to you by “Harry Potter”’s Sirius Black. There has never been an actor who was more likely to keep audiences and critics alike guessing and always intrigued.

Do you agree with our list? Who’s your favorite acting chameleon? For more acting Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to

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