DVD Release DateThe Best Transformative Movie Roles of 2023: When Casting an Actor Made...

The Best Transformative Movie Roles of 2023: When Casting an Actor Made All the Difference

The Best Transformative Movie Roles of 2023: When Casting an Actor Made All the Difference

Worlds, stories, and characters burst into vibrant existence on the page, whether it’s through an enchanting novel, a thrilling comic book, or a captivating script. Countless unique traits and characteristics have been brought to life by extraordinary actors who have fearlessly reimagined their roles. Sometimes, roles are meticulously crafted with certain actors in mind, but more often than not, filmmakers embark on an exhilarating quest to discover that one extraordinary individual. When these talented actors breathe life into characters, something magical happens – they undergo incredible metamorphoses as their own personalities leave an indelible mark. These exceptional performers are hailed and adored for their unrivaled ability to redefine characters and make them truly unforgettable.

In some extraordinary cases, roles undergo dazzling transformations once an actor is cast, or they evolve throughout the exhilarating process of filming, taking unexpected turns that surpass initial expectations. It is during this thrilling time of experimentation and improvisation that the true essence of the character truly blossoms. It’s not just about making subtle tweaks here and there; it’s a magnificent overhaul of the character’s entire vision and persona. Think back to the electrifying chaos behind the scenes when Johnny Depp unveiled his iconic portrayal of the mischievous Jack Sparrow, or how Robin Williams infused Aladdin’s genie with his incomparable talent, bringing joy and laughter to audiences worldwide. These are just a few examples of beloved movie characters that experienced awe-inspiring transformations when a specific actor was chosen to bring them to life. So, let’s celebrate these extraordinary actors and show our unwavering support for our favorites.

And now, brace yourselves for the latest addition to this ever-growing list of incredible talents – the one and only Margot Robbie.

1. Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl’

Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), 'Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl'
The film Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, was a risky venture for Disney. Unlike their usual films, it was based on a theme-park ride and had a more mature rating of PG-13. The goal was to compete with other adult-oriented blockbusters during the summer. The casting of Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow added an edgier element to the film.

Right from the start, Depp made the character his own. He changed his appearance by capping his front teeth and drew inspiration from one of his favorite rock stars, Keith Richards. Depp even took it a step further by altering the character’s personality. In the original script, Captain Jack was written as a typical swashbuckling pirate, but Depp had different ideas. He wanted to give Jack more depth and complexity.

Depp revealed, “This sounds weird but Captain Jack was born in a sauna. My sauna.” He believed that Jack, having spent most of his life at sea, would have endured intense heat that affected his mental state. To prepare for the role, Depp cranked up the temperature in his sauna to an extreme level and stayed in there until it started to affect him mentally.

Disney executives were concerned when they saw early footage of Depp’s portrayal. They described his character as “drunk” and “gay,” leading to discussions with Depp about making some changes. Depp, however, stood his ground and told them to trust his choices. He reminded them of his previous work and said, “So either trust me or give me the boot.” Fortunately, Disney decided to trust him.

As a result of Depp’s commitment to his vision, Captain Jack Sparrow has become one of the most iconic characters in cinematic history. Depp’s refusal to back down and his unique interpretation of the character paid off, making the film a success and solidifying Jack Sparrow’s place in pop culture.

2. Genie (Robin Williams), ‘Aladdin’

Genie (Robin Williams), 'Aladdin'
Before Robin Williams agreed to play the role of the Genie in Aladdin, directors John Clements and Ron Musker approached Disney animator Eric Goldberg and instructed him to take inspiration from Williams’s stand-up albums. The outcome was an animated character, a big blue guy with Williams’s face. Goldberg explained that Williams understood the potential of animation in showcasing his talents. He compared Williams to the radio actors of the 1930s and ’40s who could convey emotions solely through their voices. What set Williams apart was his incredibly flexible vocal chords.

It should come as no surprise to those familiar with Williams’s unique personality that he improvised many of his scenes in the film – and Disney decided to keep those improvised moments. Williams brought warmth, sincerity, and a plethora of impressions to his role, ultimately transforming the entire film. In fact, his persona as the Genie serves as the catalyst that allows Aladdin to take us on a journey through the world.

3. The Joker (Heath Ledger), ‘The Dark Knight’

The Joker (Heath Ledger), 'The Dark Knight'
Christoper and Jonathan Nolan had already written The Dark Knight’s script and had a general idea of the Joker’s character in their realistic universe. But Heath Ledger truly made the role his own. After discussing the character with Nolan, Ledger was chosen to play the Joker. Ignoring the pressure from previous portrayals of the character, Ledger secluded himself in a hotel room for a month to write a journal as the Joker.

During production, Ledger played a key role in shaping the Joker’s appearance, including his wardrobe and makeup. It was Ledger’s idea to show makeup on the Joker’s hands, as it made sense for this deranged clown to apply the makeup himself. The Joker’s habit of licking his lips was also something Ledger came up with while experimenting with the “smile” prosthetic. According to Christopher Nolan, the real essence of the character and Ledger’s outstanding performance lies in its unpredictability.

Heath would often discuss his ideas with me, giving hints or discussing certain aspects. Sometimes, we would have conversations to understand his approach better. But a major part of it was about maintaining a sense of unpredictability. Ledger wanted to keep his cards close to his chest and surprise the audience with his portrayal.

4. Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy), ‘Beverly Hills Cop’

Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy), 'Beverly Hills Cop'
It’s hard to think of Eddie Murphy without picturing his iconic role as Detroit detective Axel Foley. Originally, Beverly Hills Cop was intended to star Sylvester Stallone. Stallone’s agent thought it would be a great opportunity for him to showcase his comedic side. However, Stallone wasn’t really interested and decided to rewrite the script to suit his action star image. Unfortunately, his ideas didn’t resonate with anyone, and he eventually left the project, using those ideas for his movie Cobra.

Then came Eddie Murphy. Director Martin Brest revealed that the script for Beverly Hills Cop went through multiple changes to accommodate Murphy’s unique talents. Brest had gone through six drafts of the script but wasn’t satisfied with any of them. When he showed them to Murphy, the actor closed his eyes and after just six seconds, he exclaimed, “I’ve got it.” He then flawlessly performed the entire dialogue in character.

Not only did Murphy bring his improvisational skills to create some of the funniest scenes in the film, like the one at the art dealership, but he also had input on Foley’s wardrobe. In fact, so much of Foley’s character is a reflection of Murphy himself.

5. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), ‘Ghostbusters’

Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), 'Ghostbusters'
Before John Belushi’s unfortunate death in 1982, he was supposed to play the role of Dr. Peter Venkman in the movie Ghostbusters. However, after this tragedy, Dan Aykroyd, who was working on the script alongside Harold Ramis, turned to Bill Murray to fill the vacant role. At that time, Aykroyd and Ramis had only completed half of the script.

Despite Murray being incredibly busy and highly sought after, he agreed to be involved with the project, albeit in a limited capacity. The filmmakers were uncertain if Murray would commit until the day filming began. Nevertheless, Ramis, who had collaborated with Murray on previous films like Stripes, Caddyshack, and Meatballs, decided to rework the script, keeping Murray’s unique comedic style in mind.

Director Ivan Reitman quickly realized that he needed to be adaptable when working with Murray, who was known for his spontaneous comedic instincts. Reitman strived to stay true to the script while also making the most of Murray’s brilliance. It was Murray’s portrayal of Venkman that ultimately catapulted him and his persona into widespread recognition and made him a household name.

6. Shrek (Mike Myers), ‘Shrek’

Shrek (Mike Myers), 'Shrek'
Comedic legend Chris Farley was originally set to voice the main character in DreamWorks’ Shrek, but unfortunately, he passed away in 1997 before completing the project. As a result, his contributions couldn’t be used in the final product. In light of this tragedy, Farley’s Saturday Night Live castmate Mike Myers stepped in to take over the role. However, the differences in comedic style between Myers and Farley led to significant changes in the script.

After Myers recorded his audio in 1999, a rough cut of the film was presented to him in 2000. Upon watching it, Myers felt the need to redo all of his dialogue. In the initial attempt, Myers had used a unique accent to portray the ogre character. He came up with the idea of giving Shrek a Scottish accent to create a contrast with Lord Farquaad’s upper-class English accent. However, this change required the creation of new mouth movements and gestures to match the animated footage that had already been completed.

This unexpected alteration ended up costing the production an additional $4 million. Nevertheless, it turned out to be a wise decision. Shrek became a huge success, earning over a billion dollars at the box office.

7. Stanley Ipkiss (Jim Carrey), ‘The Mask’

Stanley Ipkiss (Jim Carrey), 'The Mask'
The Mask series by Dark Horse Comics takes a much darker tone compared to its 1994 big-screen adaptation. In the comic book, the character Stanley, also known as The Mask or Big Head, seeks revenge on those who have wronged him, including mechanics and even an elementary school teacher who had embarrassed him in his childhood. It delves into the disturbing yet amusing exploration of inhibitions and the complexities of the human condition. It can be likened to Deadpool, but with an even more brutal approach.

However, despite its bloody origins, The Mask underwent a transformation to become a more family-friendly blockbuster featuring Jim Carrey. Interestingly, the early drafts of the script were closer to the original source material before Mike Werb took over writing duties after Carrey was cast. According to the film’s director, Chuck Russell, known for his work on films like A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors and The Blob remake in 1988, Carrey’s unique talents required a shift in direction.

Russell believed that Carrey should be the one donning the mask and that, with Carrey’s involvement, the film shouldn’t be a horror flick. He had witnessed Carrey’s incredible stand-up performances and was blown away by his abilities. This led to the decision to make the movie a showcase for Carrey’s remarkable physicality, which also helped save the studio money on special effects. As a result, much of the film feels like Carrey performing skits, and this was the intention all along.

8. Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson), ‘The Departed’

Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson), 'The Departed'
Jack Nicholson’s role as Frank Costello in Martin Scorsese’s The Departed wasn’t initially planned. The movie was a remake of the 2002 Hong Kong crime film, Internal Affairs, where the role was supposed to be just a brief cameo. However, things took a turn when Nicholson decided to decline the movie offer. It was only after that, they agreed to create a role specifically for him.

In his own words, Nicholson said, “I actually turned the movie down the first time it came to me because the character didn’t really exist. But Leo (DiCaprio) and Marty talked me into it. I guess you can say I was attracted to the company… Marty is very free with his ideas, and very receptive to yours.” It seems that the collaboration and creative freedom convinced Nicholson to ultimately take on the role.

Together, Nicholson, Scorsese, and DiCaprio built Frank Costello’s character layer by layer. They worked diligently to create something that would fit within the framework of a great genre film, but also pushed the boundaries to the point where the movie became almost operatic.

9. Buddy (Will Ferrell), ‘Elf’

Buddy (Will Ferrell), 'Elf'
David Berenbaum’s Elf script had been circulating in Hollywood for about 10 years before 2003. Initially, Jim Carrey was set to be part of the project while he was busy with movies like The Mask and Dumb and Dumber. The original script had a darker tone compared to what Jon Favreau eventually revised for Will Ferrell, whose goofy, endearing, childlike energy turned out to be a perfect fit for this Christmas classic.

During the making of the movie, Ferrell improvised several scenes. For example, in the scene where Buddy interrogates the department store Santa, Ferrell came up with many of those lines on the spot. Favreau revealed that iconic lines such as “You sit on a throne of lies” and “You smell like beef and cheese; you don’t smell like Santa” were all ad-libbed by Ferrell.

10. Del Spooner (Will Smith), ‘I, Robot’

Del Spooner (Will Smith), 'I, Robot'
According to Jeff Vintar, his screenplay, Hardwired, was a contained murder mystery similar to Isaac Asimov’s short stories (I, Robot) from the 1950s. It’s like a classic locked-room mystery where a man is killed in a room with no one inside except machines. The question is, how could he have been murdered? Isaac Asimov was exploring the same concept.

When Will Smith joined the cast as detective Del Spooner in I, Robot, the project transformed into a sci-fi epic that audiences know today. Will Smith’s involvement was a great boost for the project, not just because it justified the growing expenses. He was perfect for the role. Akiva Goldsman came in to do rewrites tailored for Will Smith, taking the film even further in the direction of a Will Smith event film. As a result, the number of robots in the movie went from 50 to 1,000. That’s the Will Smith effect.

In addition to a bigger budget, Goldsman, who had previously collaborated with Smith on I Am Legend and Hancock, was brought in to write specifically for Smith. Smith’s charisma and star power added a whole new dimension to the movie, transforming it into a completely different product.

11. Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson), ‘The Departed’

Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson), 'The Departed'