Bradley Cooper Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
The Shocking Choice: Bradley Cooper is enlisted by David O. Russell to play bipolar Pat Solitano.
Why It Was So Surprising: Though he’d done drama before with Limitless , Cooper’s most high-profile credentials were in funny fare like the Hangover movies and He’s Just Not That Into You.
Did They Pull It Off: With S ilver Linings Playbook , Cooper became a leading man in his own right. This guy can do comedy and drama. We really should hate him.
Doris Day The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
The Shocking Choice: After enjoying her performance in Storm Warning, Hitchcock casts Doris Day in his TMWKTM remake.
Why It Was So Surprising: Given Day’s cred as a smiley musical actress, it’s no surprise that producer Herbert Coleman wanted somebody like Kim Novak for the role.
The real surprise is that Day ended up bagging the role anyway.
Did They Pull It Off: Day turns out to be one of Hitchcock’s great blondes – warm, smart and resourceful. And yes, she does get to sing a bit.
Andrew Stanton John Carter (2012)
The Shocking Choice: Pixar director Andrew Stanton jumps into live-action for a big budget adaptation of John Carter.
Why It Was So Surprising: Though the likes of Brad Bird and Rob Minkoff had switched cartoons for cameras before him, it was especially surprising that Stanton landed such a huge tentpole film as his live-action debut.
Did They Pull It Off: Stanton’s ambitions are admirable, but John Carter doesn’t quite fulfil the promise of its trailers. It’s an honourable failure rather than a total mess.
Macaulay Culkin The Good Son (1993)
The Shocking Choice: Macaulay Culkin follows up Home Alone with a role in The Good Son.
Why It Was So Surprising: Though Home Alone features Culkin beating the crap out of two thieves, at least his Kevin is likeable.
In The Good Son , Culkin’s character is a malicious killer who’s, basically, a total psycho. He even kills a dog…
Did They Pull It Off: Though Culkin was decent in the film, The Good Son was deemed an unsettling experience for all the wrong reasons.
Robin Williams Insomnia (2002)
The Shocking Choice: Human gorilla Robin Williams plays crime writer Walter Finch in Chris Nolan’s chilly drama.
Why It Was So Surprising: This is the Robin Williams whose CV is packed with family-friendly fare and warm-hearted dramatic turns.
He’s not, in other words, the kind of actor you expect to play a creepy bad guy.
Did They Pull It Off: Yep, Williams proved so adept as a villain that he did it again in One Hour Photo just a few months later.
Tom Cruise Collateral (2004)
The Shocking Choice : Michael Mann hires Tom Cruise for his latest big screen thriller.
Why It Was So Surprising: If anybody epitomises the true American hero in film, it’s Tom Cruise.
Weird, then, that he’s playing a villain in Collateral …
Did They Pull It Off: Not only did he pull off playing a no-holds-barred baddie, he also looked surprisingly good as a silver fox.
Mariah Carey Precious (2009)
The Shocking Choice: Pop singer Mariah Carrey lands a role as a social worker in Lee Daniels’ book adap.
Why It Was So Surprising: After Glitter became one of the most reviled films ever made, it was surprising to hear that Carey was returning to acting – and in a film that required she strip off gloss.
Did They Pull It Off: That’s the biggest surprise of them all – almost unrecognisable without her bling, Carey turned in a warm, honest performance that earned raves.
Adam Sandler Punch-Drunk Love (2002)
The Shocking Choice: Funnyman Adam Sandler takes the lead in Paul Thomas Anderson’s bittersweet dramatic comedy.
Why It Was So Surprising: Sandler’s career pre-2002 is stuffed with, shall we say, more ‘juvenile’ comedy than this.
Did They Pull It Off: Sandler earned a Golden Globe nomination and went ‘legit’ again with Funny People , proving this wasn’t just a fluke.
Robert Englund A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
The Shocking Choice: TV actor Robert Englund signs up to haunt teenagers as Freddy Krueger in Wes Craven’s celluloid bad dream.
Why It Was So Surprising: Though Krueger would become Englund’s defining role, in the 1980s he was most famous as huggable alien Willie in mini-series V.
Did They Pull It Off: Krueger’s undoubtedly the thing of nightmares in the first Elm Street , and though the franchise eventually watered him down, much of the series’ success resided in Englund’s brilliant turn as the teen killer.
Anne Hathaway Havoc (2005)
The Shocking Choice: Princess Diaries star Anne Hathaway takes a role in Barbara Kopple’s drama.
Why It Was So Surprising: Hathaway’s rep is firmly as a Disney princess at this point, which means this role, which involves a back-seat sexathon with Mike Vogel and just a little bit of breast-bearing – was something of a shock.
Did They Pull It Off: She did indeed. The role buried Hathaway’s princess rep and signalled her jump into hard-hitting drama.
Sam Raimi Spider-Man (2002)
The Shocking Choice: Horror director Sam Raimi is hired to direct Sony’s cinematic version of Spider-Man.
Why It Was So Surprising: Though Raimi’s well-known for his sense of humour (hell, he produced Xena: Warrior Princess ), the leap from directing things like Evil Dead and supernatural thriller The Gift to tentpole action film Spider-Man was huge.
Did They Pull It Off: The franchise was unceremoniously rebooted just 10 years later, but Raimi managed to bring Spidey swinging into cinemas with oodles of heart.
Even Spider-Man 3 isn’t that bad.
John Cusack The Paperboy (2013)
The Shocking Choice: John Cusack is enrolled to play a prison inmate in Lee Daniels’ first film since Precious .
Why It Was So Surprising: Cusack plays an unstable, lustful weirdo whose shabby appearance and licentious attitude comes as a shock considering the actor is most famous for playing clean-cut loveable types.
Did They Pull It Off: We think so; and you can decide for yourself when the film opens here on 15 March.
David Bowie The Man Who Fell To Earth (1976)
The Shocking Choice: David Bowie lands the lead role in Nicolas Roeg’s space oddity.
Why It Was So Surprising: Though Bowie has earned acclaim for his impressively zany stage performances, he’d not taken on a film role before.
Did They Pull It Off: Yep; The Man Who Fell To Earth was just the start for Bowie and a striking film career.
Jennifer Connelly Requiem For A Dream (2000)
The Shocking Choice: Jennifer Connelly is cast as Marion Silver in Darren Aronofsky’s deliciously dark drama.
Why It Was So Surprising : Before Requiem, Connelly had carved out a career for herself as a winsome every-girl in films like Labyrinth , Phenomena and The Rocketeer.
Requiem promised to change all that.
Did They Pull It Off: Completely. Connelly’s desperate spiral into darkness is just one of the film’s many troubling elements.
Kenneth Branagh Thor (2011)
The Shocking Choice: Director/actor Kenneth Branagh is hired to helm comic book adap Thor for Marvel.
Why It Was So Surprising: He’s had a role in a Harry Potter film, but Branagh’s never directed a film that didn’t involve pantaloons and Shakespearean dialogue.
Did They Pull It Off: Because of Branagh’s experience on period dramas, Thor turned out to be an otherworldly fantasy with loads of class.
Peter Jackson Lord Of The Rings (2001-2003)
The Shocking Choice: Kiwi filmmaker Peter Jackson announces he’s going to be bringing JRR Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings to the big screen.
Why It Was So Surprising : Though he’s made the jump to America with The Frighteners, Jackson is still best known for supremely gory horrors like Bad Taste.
Did They Pull It Off: Oh yes – Jackson’s loving adaptation sated the appetites of novel fans as well as Middle-earth newbies.
Carrie Fisher and Sissy Spacey Carrie (1976)
The Shocking Choice: According to movie legend, Carrie Fisher was originally up for the role of Carrie White, while Sissy Spacek was in line for Princess Leia. When Fisher refused to go nude, the actresses switched.
Fisher has since poo-pooed the story, but we like to think there’s some truth in it.
Why It Was So Surprising: Well, it’s pretty unconventional, really – but then so was George Lucas and Brian De Palma’s reported joint audition process.
Did They Pull It Off: Without a doubt. Both actresses are now totally synonymous with their roles.
Wes Craven Music Of The Heart (1999)
The Shocking Choice: Horror maestro Wes Craven gets behind the camera for drama Music Of The Heart.
Why It Was So Surprising: Even Craven admits it’s an odd choice for him, going from “violence to violins” after a career that’s mostly seen him killing off teenagers in really brutal ways.
Did They Pull It Off: The film earned positive notices and Meryl Streep garnered a 12th Oscar nomination. Not bad at all.
Dustin Hoffman Midnight Cowboy (1969)
The Shocking Choice: Dustin Hoffman joins Midnight Cowboy as ex-polio sufferer Ratso.
Why It Was So Surprising: To put it lightly, Ratso isn’t the nicest of guys – he’s cynical, rude and will do anything to earn a quick buck.
In other words, the polar opposite of every character Hoffman’s played up to this point.
Did They Pull It Off: Yep, and he made it look easy…
Christopher Lloyd Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)
The Shocking Choice: Christopher Lloyd is hired to play Judge Doom in this live-action-cartoon mash.
Why It Was So Surprising: Adorable weirdos are Lloyd’s forte at this point in his career, most notably Back To The Future ’s Doc Brown.
Did They Pull It Off: Our pre-conceptions about Lloyd worked in his favour; the ex-Doc put in a terrifying turn that haunted our childhood.
James Franco Interior. Leather Bar. (2013)
The Shocking Choice: James Franco stars in and co-directs an hour-long drama that recreates the raunchy lost footage from Cruising (1980).
Why It Was So Surprising: Though Franco’s career has been typified by left-field choices, his latest stint behind the camera is particularly shocking, not least because of its explicit sexual content.
Did They Pull It Off: Notices from Sundance have been mostly positive, so we’d say so.
Tom Hanks Philadelphia (1993)
The Shocking Choice: Tom Hanks plays AIDS victim Andrew Beckett in Jonathan Demme’s hard-hitting drama.
Why It Was So Surprising: Hanks spent most of the eighties goofing it up in a series of laugh-out-loud comedies.
Could he really pull off the emotional nuances required to play tragic Beckett?
Did They Pull It Off: The Academy definitely thought so – it awarded Hanks an Oscar.
Drew Barrymore Poison Ivy (1992)
The Shocking Choice: Drew Barrymore takes on the lead role in raunchy thriller Poison Ivy.
Why It Was So Surprising: This was the little girl from E.T., at the height of her very public rebellion. We shouldn’t have been surprised, but it was still hugely shocking.
Did They Pull It Off: Barrymore made for an outstanding bad girl, but we’re glad she’s left those troubled times behind. We like cosy indie Drew much more.
Jimmy Stewart Vertigo (1958)
The Shocking Choice: Jimmy Stewart joins Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo as Scottie Ferguson.
Why It Was So Surprising: Scottie’s frequently unlikeable and just plain obsessive – a dark role that went against the grain in Stewart’s oeuvre of affable good guys.
Did They Pull It Off: Absolutely, it turned out to be one of Stewart’s finest roles.
Daniel Craig Casino Royale (2006)
The Shocking Choice: Blue-eyed blond boy Daniel Craig tags the role of James Bond from Pierce Brosnan.
W hy It Was So Surprising: Traditionally-speaking, Bond’s dark-haired and suave – something that Craig was considered resolutely not.
Did They Pull It Off: After the escalating silliness of the Brosnan era, Craig helped give Bond a kick up the backside – and silenced the critics with an impressively muscular turn.
Jim Carrey Man On The Moon (1999)
The Shocking Choice: Rubber-faced comedian Jim Carrey reins in the facial aerobics for this dramatic biopic.
Why It Was So Surprising: Could Ace Ventura really do justice to late American entertainer Andy Kaufman?
Until this point, Carrey had no proven dramatic chops, making this a seriously risky casting decision.
Did They Pull It Off: Carrey’s performance won him a Golden Globe and he went on to essay dramatic turns in the equally awesome Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind and The Truman Show.
Angela Lansbury The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
The Shocking Choice: Angela Lansbury is cast in John Frankenheimer’s Cold War thriller.
Why It Was So Surprising: Lansbury’s never played a baddie, but The Manchurian Candidate changes that, casting her as the venomous Eleanor Iselin, the scheming wife of a politician.
Did They Pull It Off: And then some – Lansbury was showered with praise for her performance.
Christian Bale Batman Begins (2005)
The Shocking Choice: Christian Bale is cast as Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins.
Why It Was So Surprising: Considering the joke that big screen Batman had become, it was shocking that somebody like Christian Bale would take him on.
Not only that, but Bale was hugely underweight after shedding the pounds for The Machinist, meaning he wasn’t exactly physically ready to don the Batsuit in Chris Nolan’s reboot.
Did They Pull It Off: The success of Nolan’s Batman series pretty much confirms it; Bale became a fantastic Bat. (After piling on 100lbs of course.)
Patrick Swayze Donnie Darko (2001)
The Shocking Choice: Patrick Swayze takes on a small supporting role in Donnie Darko.
Why It Was So Surprising: Motivational speaker Jim Cunningaham couldn’t be further away from the kind of good-guy roles that Swayze is known for – not least because he’s a paedophile.
Did They Pull It Off: Yep, Swayze’s performance is just one of Donnie Darko’ s many surprise delights.
It also showed that Swayze wasn’t afraid to take risks.
Charlize Theron Monster (2003)
The Shocking Choice: Charlize Theron signs up to play serial killer Aileen Wuornos.
Why It Was So Surprising: Theron wasn't exactly Wuornos' physical double, and the actress hadn't previously done any serious drama.
Did They Pull It Off: And then some. Theron’s physical transformation was astonishing, and her overall performance won her an Oscar.
Paul Andrew Williams Song For Marion (2013)
The Shocking Choice: Brit director Paul Andrew Williams decides to bring Song For Marion to the big screen.
Why It Was So Surprising: With London To Brighton, The Cottage and Cherry Tree Lane, Williams has made a name for himself as a gritty horror man, which makes his adoption of this family-friendly comedy something of a weird one.
Did They Pull It Off: Just about – he draws a fantastic performance from Terrence Stamp and balances the heartfelt emotion just right.
David Lynch The Straight Story (1999)
The Shocking Choice: David Lynch decides to make a film about Alvin Straight’s drive across US states on a lawnmower.
Why It Was So Surprising: Lynch is nothing if not the king of weird, with films that shatter narrative conventions.
Except The Straight Story is a meandering, heartfelt drama.
Did They Pull It Off: It’s easily one of Lynch’s best films – an unexpectedly touching story that showed Lynch could still be surprising even when he’s not wearing his ‘weird hat’.
Albert Brooks Drive (2011)
The Shocking Choice: Director/writer/actor Albert Brooks signs on to play a character in Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive .
Why It Was So Surprising: The character Brooks signed on to play is vicious gangster Bernie Rose, the kind of foul-mouthed villain nobody ever expected to see the comedian tackle.
Did They Pull It Off: And then some. Brooks earned hugely favourable reviews and wowed as a singularly despicable bad guy.
Mark Wahlberg I Heart Huckabees (2004)
The Shocking Choice: Marky Mark re-teams with director David O. Russell for his kooky comedy.
Why It Was So Surprising: Could Wahlberg really be funny?
Did They Pull It Off: After playing cops in a string of underwhelming crime dramas, I Heart Huckabees saw Wahlberg coming into his comedy own.
Cue The Other Guys , Date Night and Ted …
Jean-Claude Van Damme JCVD (2008)
The Shocking Choice: Eighties action hero Jean-Claude Van Damme plays himself in Mabrouk El Mechri’s semi-fictional drama.
Why It Was So Surprising: JCVD’s decision to play himself – and, in one dramatic scene, break the fourth wall by talking to camera – was massively risky and unconventional.
Did They Pull It Off: Yep. JCVD managed to show a softer side to his personality than what he was known for, and proved he was up for taking a dig at his on-screen persona. Career: rebooted.
Marlon Brando The Godfather (1972)
The Shocking Choice : Marlon Brando is cast as mob boss Don Vito Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola’s bracing crime drama.
Why It Was So Surprising: Paramount Pictures was vehemently against Brando being cast in the film, stating he was impossible to work with.
Paramount president Stanley Jaffre even told Coppola that “Marlon Brando will never appear in this motion picture”.
Did They Pull It Off: Without a shadow of a doubt – Don Vito Corleone became one of Brando’s defining roles and the film was buoyed by his phenomenal performance.
Leslie Nielsen Airplane! (1980)
The Shocking Choice: Leslie Nielsen breaks out the funny in laugh-a-second spoof Airplane!
Why It Was So Surprising: Nielsen was actively attempting to break the mould; until this point, he’s only played straight-faced, humour-free guys.
Did They Pull It Off: It was a career renaissance that proved Nielsen could be really funny – something he revelled in for the rest of his career (which included three Naked Gun films).
George A. Romero Knightriders (1981)
The Shocking Choice: Director George A. Romero signs on to helm medieval drama Knightriders.
Why It Was So Surprising: By 1981, Romero has made five horrors (and the oddball romcom There’s Always Vanilla ), meaning his sudden left-field swerve into action adventure was a big surprise.
Did They Pull It Off: Just about; the film’s a genre-bending oddity that has achieved cult status.
Halle Berry Catwoman (2004)
The Shocking Choice: Off the back of winning an Oscar for Monster’s Ball, Halle Berry decides to don the claws (and whip) as a reduxed Catwoman .
Why It Was So Surprising: Back in 2004, you wouldn’t have seen many Oscar winners following up a gritty drama with a ropey-looking comic book adaptation. In that, at least, Berry broke the mould.
Did They Pull It Off: Sadly not. Catwoman was the culmination of numerous bad post-Oscar choices that saw Berry taking on much-criticised roles in Die Another Day and Gothika .
Ben Affleck Gone Baby Gone (2007)
The Shocking Choice: Ben Affleck decides to get behind the camera for his directorial debut.
Why It Was So Surprising: Despite a quietly-praised performance in Hollywoodland , Affleck’s name had become an industry by-word for washed-up actors.
Did They Pull It Off: Oh yes, and it signalled the beginning of a prosperous career in directing that came to a head this year with his Argo Oscar win.
Gloria Swanson Sunset Boulevard (1950)
The Shocking Choice: Gloria Swanson returns from retirement to star in Sunset Boulevard.
Why It Was So Surprising: Swanson hasn’t acted in almost 10 years, and certainly not in anything that casts her in a bad light.
Did They Pull It Off: The performance is momentous and unforgettable. So yes.
Joaquin Phoenix Im Still Here (2010)
The Shocking Choice: Director Casey Affleck decides to film Joaquin Phoenix’s post-acting career as a hip hop artist.
Why It Was So Surprising: Well, it was just nuts, wasn’t it?
Dishevelled, muttering, and equipped with some frightening facial hair, Phoenix appeared to have gone completely off his rocker.
Did They Pull It Off: Phoenix managed to convince the world that he really did want to be a hip hop artist (mostly), but the film itself isn’t that interesting when you realise he was faking all along.
Matthew McConaughey Killer Joe (2011)
The Shocking Choice: Matthew McConaughey is cast as the eponymous assassin in Killer Joe.
Why It Was So Surprising: After a solid turn in The Lincoln Lawyer, McConaughey seemed to have put romantic comedies behind him for good with increasingly interesting roles.
Did They Pull It Off: Yep, and McConaughey’s officially one of Hollywood’s hottest actors again – at least when it comes to making left-field choices that pay off massively.
Elijah Wood Sin City (2005)
The Shocking Choice: The diminutive star bags a role in Robert Rodriguez’s movie adaptation of Sin City.
Why It Was So Surprising: He’s playing cannibal Kevin, which is a far cry from his best-known role as the good-hearted Frodo in Lord Of The Rings.
Did They Pull It Off: Yep, and he’s doing it again with newly-released horror flick Maniac .
Elizabeth Berkley Showgirls (1995)
The Shocking Choice: Paul Verhoeven casts Elizabeth Berkley in raunchy thriller Showgirls .
Why It Was So Surprising: Berkley’s most famous role thus far has been as squeaky clean teen Jessie in Save By The Bell.
With Showgirls , she actively attempted to destroy her image as a high school good girl.
Did They Pull It Off: Berkley definitely managed to destroy that good girl image, but also any chance at a big screen career when Showgirls sank like a brick…
Bette Davis Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? (1962)
The Shocking Choice: Bette Davis signs on to play a cracked former child star in the adaptation of Henry Farrell’s novel.
Why It Was So Surprising: This one’s a double shock – firstly, Davis wasn’t exactly known for having an interest in gothic horror (let alone looking a mess).
Secondly, her rivalry with Joan Crawford was well-documented, meaning the duo’s decision to co-star was a huge shock.
Did They Pull It Off: Davis won an Oscar (to the outrage of her co-star) and found a new home as a craggy psycho – something she would do again in 1965’s The Nanny.
Henry Fonda Once Upon A Time In The West (1968)
The Shocking Choice: Top man Henry Fonda signs up for Sergio Leone’s epic Once Upon A Time In The West.
Why It Was So Surprising: Er, he’s playing a stone-cold killer, which sort of flies in the face of Ford’s previous roles as a shining example of virtue.
Did They Pull It Off: Ford’s shiver-inducingly enigmatic entrance is all the convincing we needed that he made for an awesome bad guy.
Robert De Niro Analyse This (1999)
The Shocking Choice : Robert De Niro plays mob boss Paul Vitti.
Why It Was So Surprising: De Niro may be playing a mob boss, something that wouldn't exactly be a stretch for the drama-loving actor, but he plays it all for laughs.
But what shocked was that he was so good at it. King Of Comedy , indeed!
Did They Pull It Off: De Niro earned rave reviews for his self-depreciating performance and kicked-started a career in comedy.
Cary Grant Notorious (1946)
The Shocking Choice: Cary Grant takes on the role of government agent T. R. Devlin in Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller.
Why It Was So Surprising: Grant’s playing a calculated, cold-blooded bastard – which is just about as against type as you can get when it comes to leading Hollywood men.
Did They Pull It Off: Oh yes – it’s easily one of Grant’s finest performances, and one that chills right down to the bone.
JJ Abrams Star Wars: Episode VII (2015)
The Shocking Choice: JJ Abrams signs the dotted line to helm Star Wars: Episode VII.
Why It Was So Surprising: Despite being a huge Wars fan, Abrams is closely allied with Star Trek – a franchise that’s normally considered to be at war with George Lucas’ space saga.
Did They Pull It Off: That remains to be seen, though we have a very good feeling about this.