I caught NED KELLY last night on cable, with Heath Ledger in the title role, as the famous Irish born 19th-Century Australian outlaw.
It’s a great movie, for my taste, and his performance is stunningly powerful, especially considering his age and that he was most famous for being a hunk in earlier roles.
And then, within only a couple of years he did BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, another impressive performance as an entirely different, even opposite kind of character
This made me think of other actors who played two incredibly different roles almost back to back and kicked ass in them, often unexpectedly.
Like Freddy Forrest, when he first made an appearance in movies, at least to my notice, as the driver in the Bette Midler vehicle THE ROSE and then followed that up as “chef” in APOCALYPSE NOW. I remember not even realizing it was the same actor!
Or an even more stunning, in many ways, double acting accomplishment was Jennifer Jason Leigh playing two entirely different characters, but both prostitutes, in LAST EXIT FROM BROOKLYN and MIAMI BLUES, within a year or so of each other.
Or for that matter, Alec Baldwin playing the ex-con in MIAMI BLUES only two years after playing the preppy husband in BEETLEJUICE.
There’s the obvious great examples of this that don’t need to be mentioned, like Brando’s comeback performances as THE GODFATHER followed by LAST TANGO IN PARIS, two entirely different characters and portrayals.
Of course Brando, Morgan Freeman, Tom Hanks, Vanessa Redgrave, and other masters of the craft have done these back to back totally different performances. But you expect it from the recognized greats.
It’s a surprise, though, in people you haven’t heard of or didn’t expect it from.
I’ll think of some more for a future lists of them, maybe an alphabet one if I can do it.
Meanwhile, you have any examples you can think of?