We love action stars. Strong, tough, invincible. We love them even more when they take risks by appearing in movies outside their comfort zones. Here, we’ve rounded up our favorite out-of-the-box role choices for some of the world’s most infamous male action stars.
Comedy: Arnold Schwarzenegger
Fans caught a glimmer of the former Governator’s comedic sensibility in the documentary, Pumping Iron (1977), but it wasn’t until 1988 that it came out fully in his acting. At that point, Schwarzenegger had become world-famous for playing lethal forces of nature such as Conan, the Terminator and Ben Richards. He took a break from breaking people’s skulls to team up with Danny DeVito for Twins, the cult comedy about unlikely twins separated at birth who are reunited at age 35. Together, they embark on a dangerous, and hilarious, cross-country trip to deliver a stolen prototype and find their long-lost mother. Schwarzenegger recently returned to his action-packed roots in Terminator Genisys (2015), but we secretly hope a Twins: The Sequel is in the works.
Drama: Jackie Chan
Crime Story (1993)
Legendary Hong Kong action star, Jackie Chan, is known for becoming physically vulnerable for his roles, breaking bones and suffering concussions behind the scenes of virtually every film. But with Crime Story, he becomes vulnerable in a different way. Though the fast-paced movie is full of shoot-outs, car chases and altercations, Chan’s character shows a more subdued and emotionally nuanced performance for the first time in his career. In this police drama, he plays an officer suffering from remorse after shooting men in self-defense. He’s assigned to guard a real estate developer who’s soon kidnapped. Chan finds himself struggling emotionally and physically as he races to save his charge.
Musical: Pierce Brosnan
Mamma Mia! (2008)
The man who played suave James Bond from 1995 to 2002 plays the opposite six years later: the bumbling love interest of Meryl Streep in Mamma Mia. Brosnan’s less-than-impressive singing talent earned him the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actor that year, but we’re still charmed by his performance and admire him for taking on such an uncharacteristic role. He plays Sam Carmichael, an Irish-American architect, who might possibly be the father of Streep’s daughter, played by Amanda Seyfried. They sing, dance and frolic together in Greece as they get to the bottom of their family drama. Despite Brosnan’s (lack of) vocal chops, the Abba-inspired musical earned more than $600 million at the box office, proving his versatility.
Animated: Will Smith
Shark Tale (2004)
Man in black, Will Smith, goes underwater and animated for Shark Tale, the 2004 film about a small fish with big ambitions. Before Shark Tale, the multi-talented Smith had proven himself bankable as a rapper, sitcom actor and action star, so it makes sense he’d want to dominate another genre, which he easily does as Oscar, or The Sharkslayer. Oscar is a bluestreak cleaner wrasse working at his local whale wash when he discovers he owes “five thousand clams” to his boss. His attempt to win the money at the horseraces sets off a chain of events that puts Oscar in one tricky predicament after another. In the end, it’s a story about being true to yourself and doing what’s right. Robert DeNiro and Angelina Jolie, other stars known for their action prowess, join Smith on his adventure.
Indie: Bruce Willis
Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
Bruce Willis has played some tough cops in his career, but in Moonrise Kingdom, he plays one of the twee variety. In Wes Anderson’s fantastical tale of love and longing, Willis plays the lonely Captain Duffy Sharp in the fictional town of New Penzance. It’s 1965 and star-crossed preteens, Sam and Suzy, decide to take their love on the run. A group of quirky adults must track them down and when they do, it falls to Captain Sharp to look after Sam. Willis fits seamlessly into Anderson’s nostalgic, de-saturated world. He was even nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for his performance.