Funny man Jack Black is taking on the role of a murder in his new film, “Bernie.” This serious role will be a switch for the actor, who is often seen in more comedic roles or in a Mexican wrestling costume. It looks like he is trying to join the long list of actors who have transitioned to more serious roles after they found success in comedy. Not all of them have been able to pull it off, but let’s take a look at a few who excelled. Maybe Jack Black can pick up some pointers.
1. Jim Carrey
Jim Carrey first made a name for himself on “In Living Color” and he catapulted into superstardom in movies like “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective,” “The Mask,” and “Dumb and Dumber.” Because he’d become synonymous with loud, physical comedy, many were surprised at how well he did in more dramatic roles, like his performance in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” where he played a man whose memories are being erased one by one.
2. Will Farrell
When I think of Will Farrell, two things come to mind – more cowbell and Buddy the Elf. He rose to prominence as a cast member on “Saturday Night Live,” and made hilarious movies like “Anchorman” and “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” after he left the show. When he appeared in “Stranger than Fiction” he showed he had more skills than just being a buffoon. His performance of a restrained, earnest man is what made the movie.
3. Adam Sandler
Another “SNL” alum, Adam Sandler, made a bevy of movies in the ‘90s that I sometime have a hard time telling apart because he played the same man-child character in all of them. Then he appeared in the gritty romantic comedy “Punch Drunk Love,” which was a different arena for him. After a few more familiar comedies, he starred in both the heartwarming “Spanglish” and the gut-wrenching “Reign Over Me,” delivering powerful performances in each of them. Since then, he’s back to comedies, proving that this actor can move back and forth between comedy and more serious work with ease.
4. Robin Williams
Robin William’s frenetic style of acting worked well in films like “Hook,” “Mrs. Doubtfire,” and “Jumanji.” However, he showed his serious side with his Oscar-nominated role in “Good Will Hunting,” where he played a teacher trying to help a young genius find his path in the world. He went beyond serious into creepy territory when he played a disturbed man in “One Hour Photo,” proving he’s got the ability to carry any role.
5. Bill Murray
Bill Murray starred in “Ghostbusters,” “Caddy Shack,” and “Groundhog Day,” and stepped outside of his normal genre with “Lost in Translation.” In this film, he played a lonely American staying in Japan and he showed that he’s skilled enough to deliver a riveting performance while saying very little.
6. Steve Carrell
After becoming well known from his role in the American version of “The Office,” Steve Carrell went on to star in comedies like “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Date Night.” His role in “Little Miss Sunshine,” however, was something completely different. While the film was a comedy, it was much darker and there wasn’t anything funny about his character, a suicidal, recently fired uncle foisted on the family. The fact that he could pull off this role with warmth and make us love him showed us his acting talents.
7. Tom Hanks
We often think of Tom Hanks as a serious actor, but he got his start it was in comedies like “Big” and “Joe vs. the Volcano.” When he starred in “Philadelphia,” it hit everyone hard, because it was such a powerful, serious role. Since then, his dramatic chops have only been confirmed with his roles in films like “Forrest Gump” and “Apollo 13.”
Who is your favorite comedian turned serious actor?