One of the most important skills a director can possess is the ability to bring out the best in his actors. Casting someone out of leftfield is seriously risky yet when it is done right, the plaudits and audience interest for such a decision is even higher.
We take a look at ten of the most inspired, and risky choices.
Henry Fonda in Once Upon a Time in the West
In his heyday Henry Fonda was the most called upon actor should a script call for a sturdy heroic and most importantly likeable character. Credit must be given to Sergio Leone then for seeing the potential in him to portray Once Upon a Time in the West’s Frank. One also cannot ignore just how daring a career move it was for Fonda to go completely against type after securing his niche; it turned out to be a stroke of genius however and thanks to Leone, Fonda is now remembered as hugely versatile actor, not just a Hollywood good guy.
As a huge fan of Leone’s, Quentin Tarantino has followed in his footsteps by casting Leonardo DiCaprio in the upcoming Django Unchained, which could prove to be a career defining performance as DiCaprio finally completes the circuit from adorable heartthrob, to dashing rogue, to full on villainy.
Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight
It is widely acknowledged by almost everyone that The Joker is by far the best of Batman’s many foes. It is largely due to the fact that the two are polar opposites; with Batman skulking in the shadows, The Joker gets to run wild. When it was announced that The Clown Prince of Crime was set to return to the big screen in The Dark Knight the hottest topic was that Heath Ledger was the man chosen to play him.
The backlash was fierce claiming it to be one of the worst possible choices; so naturally he made the most iconic comic book villain his own, and is so far the only Academy Award winner for a performance in a comic book film.
Olivia Colman in Tyrannosaur
Since first appearing in the sitcom, Peep Show, Olivia Colman had become one of Britain’s most famous and reliable comic actresses gaining huge applause in Green Wing and holding her own against some of the nation’s finest comedy talent in Hot Fuzz; on the set of which, Paddy Considine saw something in her that even she didn’t know she had.
Considine’s directorial debut Tyrannosaur is difficult viewing and no character in 2011 was as instantly deserving of audience sympathy as Colman’s Hannah.
Marlon Wayans in Requiem for a Dream
Marlon Wayans is best known to audiences as the seriously unfunny, crude comedian making a living through fart gags and obscenities in the likes of White Chicks. It is almost a shame that Wayans managed to deliver such a sensational performance as a heroin addict in Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream, due to the fact that after giving audiences a taste of what he was capable of, he dove straight into doing the Scary Movie franchise, which made his name and subsequently killed his career.
His most recent IMDB credit? Dr. Black, in US TV series Children’s Hospital; this is a serious waste of talent.
Mo’Nique in Precious
Before 2009, comedienne Mo’Nique, was hardly recognisable to anyone outside of The States, and yet anyone who had seen The Mo’Nique Show, will understand just how far she ventured out of her comfort zone for her Oscar winning role in Precious.
She is utterly vile as Mary, the abusive mother of the titular Precious and yet somehow, still breaks audience’s hearts at the end of the film. It’s a performance that lives long in the memory and is all the more impressive when you bear in mind that she was cast in the role on the back of Martin Lawrence comedy Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins.