Actors: they make us laugh, they make us cry, they make us gasp in awe of their craft - but every now and then, they shock us. No, no, no, not with their off-screen antics (although, yeah, that too), but with their career paths. Once upon a time, TV used to be the lower form of entertainment, while film was the pinnacle. Now it's not uncommon to see a Matthew McConaughey, Al Pacino, Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Jude Law, Emma Stone, Amy Adams or Chris Evans grace the small screen week-to-week. Then it became the genre defiers. Indie darlings suddenly made blockbusters. Wrestlers became box-office drawcards, and Mork from Ork won an Oscar. People often forget that actors aren't just tabloid fodder and fragrance pushers. When they do it well, they are chameleons. So why are we so determined to pigeon-hole our favourites? Why are we so offended when they decide to switch things up on us? We curse their names when their careers become stale and predictable, yet scoff when they choose to take a chance, rebrand or spread their wings.
In honour of one of the greatest wing-spreaders on and off the screen, Mr Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the 30th anniversary of one of Mr Olympia's greatest films and turns at comedy with 'Kindergarten Cop', I've compiled a list of some of the best career shakers going around.
He came to us from Austria. Up until his arrival, most people's association with the country probably came from 'The Sound of Music'. He entered Hollywood with a funny accent and built like a brick shithouse - so it was only natural that they gave him a sword, donned him in animal skins and made him Conan the Barbarian. He quickly because an action staple, and even quicker became an icon thanks to rolls and films such as 'Commando' (1985), 'Predator' (1987). 'Total Recall' (1990), 'The Running Man' (1987), and of course the biggest one of them all, 'The Terminator' (1984) and its many sequels.
He could kill ya as soon as look at ya, and audiences lapped it up - until one day someone looked at him and thought, "Geez, he could be Danny DeVito's twin". There's a fine line between genius and insanity, and 'Twins' (1988) was it. Some believe there are infinite parallel universes and infinite timelines. If that's true, then I must believe that this one is the only one where a film like 'Twins' works. 'Twins' was Schwarzenegger's first foray into comedy, but it wasn't his last - and in my opinion, it wasn't his best. 1990's 'Kindergarten Cop' was where he married the braun with the humour and did it so very well. Yes, we were laughing at Richard Kimble, but his willingness to be the butt of the jokes made him that much cooler. It wasn't until 'True Lies' in 1994 that he actually got to deliver the hilarious one-liners and absolutely crushed it, but it was 'Kindergarten Cop' that laid the groundwork. Sure, over the last 30+ years he's had to repeat "I'll be back", "Get to the chopper!" And "Hasta la vista, baby" enough times to make a grown man cry, but for me, personally, it's gotta be "It's not a tumour!" Or my favourite (albeit not actually uttered by Arnold himself): "Boys have a penis, girls have a vagina." Sure, that line hasn't aged well, but at the time, people hearing it for the first time learned something that day.
For those in the know, comedy is waaaaaaaay harder than drama. Almost anyone can imagine a dead puppy and cry on cue, but not just anyone can deliver a joke - and even fewer can deliver a joke well. Robin Williams was a genius, prolific and as generous as they come. His insides matched his outsides - but as we learned all too late, neither matched what was going on inside his head. He gave but couldn't receive, in one of life's cruel ironies. Robin started out as a mile-a-minute standup comedian adored and admired by those who had the pleasure of witnessing his mad genius on stage. But it wasn't until he burst into people's homes as Mork from Ork on 'Happy Days' and later 'Mork and Mindy' in the 70s that he reached a level of fame that just kept climbing for decades to come. Not only did he make the leap from television to film (very hard to do back in the day), but he then shocked us all by continuously flip-flopping, seamlessly and brilliantly, between outlandish comedies and masterpiece dramas. He's played everything from a manic blue genie to a crossdressing father to a Vietnam radio jock to a psychotic stalker who works as a film processor, and even an inspiring English teacher. At the time of his death he was an icon, many times over. A legend. A friend to anyone who watched his work. And acknowledged by the industry he helped define with four Academy Award nominations under his belt and one long overdue win for 1998's 'Good Will Hunting'.
This might seem like an odd choice, but let me break it down for you. For 10 years, Daniel played the iconic and titular Harry Potter. People the world over have his face tattooed on their person, and if not his face some sort of 'Harry Potter' insignia. There are t-shirts, bedspreads, pencils, Christmas tree ornaments, confectionary, dolls and theme parks with his spectacled face plastered all over them. He was only 11 years old when he started 'Harry Potter', and 22 when he finished. He could have called it quits. Lived off that sweet, sweet HP money, fame and glory for the rest of his life... but he didn't. That in itself is admirable, but how he went about distancing himself from a franchise stuck to him with superglue was even more admirable. He hit the stage - and not just on his native West End, he hit Broadway as well... and he even did it naked in 'Equus'. Yes, paying audiences got to see Harry Potter's "wand". Knowing exactly
why people were there he embraced it, knowing that they were getting a two-for-one deal - Harry Potter and
Daniel Radcliffe. Since then he's played a farting corpse, a gun toting slacker, Rosencrantz, Allen Ginsberg, Igor (to a Dr Frankenstein), he's done horror, comedy, musicals, an Australian accent, portrayed the lovelorn and even managed to poke fun of himself in the funniest episode of Ricky Gervais' 'Extras' ever
. So sure, he'll always be Harry Potter, but for so many out there who don't give a flying fuck about the boy who lived and whom have never seen the movies or read the books (yes, these people strangely exist), he's so much more. He's crushing it, doing it his own way and he's doing it across theatre, television and
We fell in love with him on 'In Living Colour' as the token white guy. We idolised him when he talked out of his rear in 'Ace Ventura'
and was smokin' in 'The Mask', but then we all sat up and went "Whoa" when he rocked the house in 'The Truman Show' (1998), absolutely nailed Andy Kaufman in 'Man on the Moon' (1998) and blew independent cinema away in 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind'. With two Golden Globe wins to his name, Jim has also turned to television with 'Kidding', and these days on SNL as Joe Biden. And although he's slowed down recently, most notably taking a break between 2016 to 2000 to focus on his art - yeah, he's actually an incredible artist - he's still the man with the rubber face who can't help making audiences laugh.
The entire MCU cast
23 films and counting and billions (with a "B") of box office dollars later, it's strange to think it all rested on a 43-year-old twice-jailed addict, who for a time was forced to insure himself because productions refused to. Along with the man who only had three feature film directing credits to his name, and two of those were children's films. Rounding out the cast we have indie darling Mark Ruffalo, child actor Scarlett Johansson, 'Dancing with the Stars' alum Chris Hemsworth, TV goofball Chris Pratt, former Johnny Storm Chris Evans, nobody Tom Hiddleston, comedian Paul Rudd, Sherlock Holmes Benedict Cumberbatch, the Olsen twin's sister, West End's Billy Elliot Tom Holland, 'Gossip Girl's' Sebastian Stan, rising star Brie Larson, and "we know your face but not your name" Chadwick Boseman. Quite the group of misfits. "Names" for sure, but box-office juggernauts? Franchise leaders? Hardly. Everything Marvel did was unprecedented and outside the box, down to its casting. If any of these movies were made 10, 15, 20 years earlier, Iron Man would have been Tom Cruise and you know it. Black Widow would have been Julia Roberts or Sandra Bullock. The Hulk - Arnie or Stallone. Thor - Brad Pitt. Captain America - Brendan Fraser or McConaughey. All established superstars. Moral of the story: never judge a book by its cover. Never underestimate an actor. And never
discount a 'Dancing with the Stars' contestant.
NB: You'll notice there are no women on this list, and the reason is simple - we're multitaskers, we've always been multitaskers, we'll always be multitaskers, we are not just one thing, we've never been just one thing, we'll never be just one thing, you cannot define us, we are undefinable and we're awesome. Although if I had to pick just one... Olivia Colman?