A-list actors and actresses make it their job to fully encompass the roles they play. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of getting down the mannerisms of a famous person or book character. Other times, they go further, wearing makeup and contorting their well-known faces and body movements into unrecognizable forms.
From Johnny Depp’s amazing transformation into a famous mob boss to Tilda Swinton’s role that tricked everyone in Hollywood, these actors and actresses look nothing like their characters when they stepped back into the spotlight IRL.
Wait until you see how handsome Charlie Chaplin was in real life.
Emilia Clarke As Daenerys Targaryen On Game Of Thrones
When she’s not attempting to topple empires and raise her dragon children, Emilia Clarke is a scorchingly hot female who trades in her character’s trademark blonde hair for her natural black. Her character is stunning as well but we would probably walk paste Clarke on the street and not even realize she’s one of the biggest stars on the planet right now. Game of Thrones is nearing its completion and Emilia Clarke will likely land many new roles after it’s done. We just hope she keeps inventing new characters with different looks to keep us guessing like she has this time around.
Sophie McShera As Daisy Mason On Downton Abbey
One of the crowning achievements of Downton Abbey, other than attracting millions of loyal fans, has been its ability to transform its actresses into completely different people. Sophie McShera is a dazzling beauty but her character, Daisy Mason, is an “ordinary girl” you probably wouldn’t take a second glance at on the street. It seems surprisingly easy to transform a beautiful girl into a “commoner” when you put up their hair, film in drab colors, and replace their designer dresses with basic clothing. We do appreciate anyone who acts and allows their character to speak for their work instead of relying only on their looks.
Judy Greer as Kitty Sanchez On Arrested Development
Judy Greer is hilarious and sexy, a great combination for working in Hollywood. However, she doesn’t need to rely on her sex appeal to score new fans. Greer’s turn as Kitty Sanchez on Arrested Development required some “cat lady” style clothing, crazy eyes, and a hairstyle that screams, “I stuck my finger in a wall socket.” Still, she nailed her role, made us all laugh, and then walked the red cart at the Tribeca Film Festival looking like the dazzling star we see to the right of our photo. Here’s to hoping Greer always stays true to herself and keeps creating quirky, unique characters.
Amy Sedaris As Jerri Blank On Strangers With Candy
Strangers With Candy was a fabulously weird TV show and it required some strange and unique characters. One of our favorites was Jerri Blank, a quirky character played by the supremely talented Amy Sedaris. With enough eyeliner to supply a village, a “church lady” haircut and some crazy clothing, it was hard to recognize one of Hollywood’s funniest people. Sedaris is an expert at creating unique characters and if we didn’t know her as the star she has become, we would likely not recognize her if we ran into each other in public. The next female on our list is crazy when filming and crazy hot in real life.
Uzo Aduba As Suzanne Warren On OITNB
Uzo Aduba deserves all of the accolades she has received for playing the deeply troubled, often loveable, and definitely conflicted character of Suzanne Warren. From her “crazy eyes” to her quirky haircut, Suzanne Warren has pretty much changed everything about herself to embody one of most well-received characters on Orange Is The New Black. This is by far Aduba’s biggest breakout role and she has proven to Hollywood that she isn’t afraid to take on tough roles and deliver results that nobody was expecting before Netflix released the show. We can’t wait to see what Aduba will attempt to take on when OITNB eventually comes to its inevitable end.
Charlie Chaplin As ‘The Tramp’
Charlie Chaplin was known for his domination of the silent film era, specifically when it came to delivering humorous roles in silent films. Most of us know Charlie for his silly walk, his goofy mustache, and his top hat. We were incredibly surprised to learn that Chaplin was actually a dashingly good looking man. Hollywood was very good to Chaplin and he did not need to hide behind his charming looks. If you’re a famous comedic actor or actress who relies on body humor these days there’s a very good chance you have closely studied the works of the master.
Jaleel White As Steve Urkel On Family Matters
Jaleel White was lucky to land the role of Steve Urkel on Family Matters, a role he played for nine seasons and 215 episodes. As the show continued to develop, so did White. Eventually, Urkel developed some serious muscles and the character of Stephan was added in an attempt to allow White to show off a different side to his acting. Jaleel might be one of the most typecasted TV actors of all time but he also managed to create a quirky character for years and he hid really well behind Urkel’s suspenders and glasses while taking on the goofy sitcom role.
Hannah Murray As Gilly On Game Of Thrones
Game of Thrones makes it really easy to disguise actors by throwing them into a dirty world where makeup is non-existent, people are filthy, and a hair straightener won’t be invented for many years. Hannah Murray’s portrayal of Gilly on the hit HBO series reminds us that the TV show’s staff have mastered the ability to make characters look exactly how they want them to appear. Even without visible scarring or other malformations we still would never recognize Gilly in real life. The next actor on our list proves that Star Trek actors are some of the hardest to recognize IRL.
Armin Shimerman As Quark On Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Quark was a member of an extraterrestrial race known as the Ferengi. He was also arguably one of the funniest characters on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. The role of Quark was played by Armin Shimerman and all of that alien friendly makeup completely covered up what the actor looks like in real life. He’s not the only Star Trek character to go full-on alien but his transformation was definitely one of the most memorable. The next actress on our list freaked us out on American Horror Story: Freak Show but in real life she is a completely different person.
Naomi Grossman As Pepper On American Horror Story: Freak Show
If you saw actress Naomi Grossman on the street and hadn’t already watched her in other roles outside of American Horror Story: Freak Show, you would have no idea there was an actress from a hit TV show walking right past. Grossman’s role of Pepper involved a lot of makeup, a shaved heady, and some funky clothing. When she’s not sporting a disguise this actress is a stunning woman who catches the attention of photographers as she graces the red carpet. Our next actor is another favorite from Game of Thrones and his transformation from regular guy to TV character is awesome.
Rory McCann As The House On Game Of Thrones
Sandor Clegane from Game of Thrones is played by the uber-talented actor Rory McCann and it truly is a transformation. McCann’s characters seem to be much older and rugged than the guy who plays him. Give Clegane a haircut and throw a polo shirt on him and it’s like we are staring at a completely different guy. Modern grooming really is something to behold. It doesn’t hurt that he isn’t covered in dirt and body armor too. McCann’s transformation, though, has nothing on our next Downton Abbey actress who took on a role that made her look much older than she is in real life.
Phyllis Logan As Mrs. Hughes On Downton Abbey
Mrs. Hughes is the head of house on Downton Abbey and her scant makeup and pragmatic hair highlight her character. She has the wisdom her years have afforded her and she’s the product of her time period and social status. If we moved Mrs. Hughes into the modern era she would look much more like the actress who plays her, Phyllis Logan. With highlighted in her hair and some expert layering, the actress transforms herself with just a little bit of non-evasive work. Our next massive TV star on this list goes from nerdy physicist to handsome hunk with just a few small changes to their hairstyle and wardrobe.
Johnny Galecki As Leonard Hofstadter In The Big Bang Theory
Johnny Galecki struck it rich when he signed on to play Leonard Hofstadter on the massively popular TV sitcom The Big Bang Theory. The hunky leading man might look like a big geek on the show but in real life, he doesn’t wear glasses and sports a much more stylish haircut and even a beard. We often joke about how obvious it is that Superman is Clark Kent but in this case, Galecki really does look like a different guy when he ditches his TV show persona. Our next actor looks completely unrecognizable and it only takes a few grooming changes to complete his makeover.
Tom Mison As Ichabod Crane On Sleepy Hollow
Tom Mison plays Ichabod Crane on the hit TV show Sleepy Hollow. On the TV show his character arrives in our modern times from the 18th century and his clothing, beard, and long hair all speak to a different time. It turns out that transforming Mison back to his former look only requires a haircut, the shaving of his beard, and some modern day clothes. We’re huge fans of his TV show and we’d never recognize him in public. In our next example we witness one of Hollywood’s most beautiful woman as she transforms herself into a stone-cold serial killer, a role that won her an Oscar award.
Charlize Theron As Aileen Wuornos In Monster
Aileen Wuornos was a real-life serial killer and Charlize Theron was hired to play the creepy hooker turned killer. Patty Jenkins, director of the magnificent Wonder Women movie tasked Theron with completely changing her appearance. To embody the role she wore prosthetic teeth, underwent hours of makeup work, and most importantly, delivered a breathtaking performance that embodied the character she was tasked to play. Theron would go on to win the Academy Award for best actress because of her mind-boggling transformation into Aileen Wuornos. Our next actress also completely changed her looks and the transformation stunned even other actors in Hollywood.
Tilda Swinton As Dianna In Trainwreck
Tilda Swinton is a master of disguise but none of her roles managed to trick so many people as the role of Dianna in Amy Schumer’s hit comedy Trainwreck. Swinton modeled her physical appearance after former Vogue Paris editor Carine Roitfeld. Millions of viewers were shocked to learn that it was Swinton playing the role. Looking at her before and after photos from the movie we have to admit this was a transformation for the ages and it didn’t require a lot of Hollywood makeup trickery. Our favorite transformation is coming up next and it’s still as shocking today as it was when the movie’s trailer was released.
Steve Carell as John du Pont In Foxcatcher
When Steve Carrell left The Office we knew there were great things to come from one of the funniest men in Hollywood. What we didn’t realize was that he would appear as the creepy and erratic multi-millionaire John du Pont in Foxcatcher. Wearing a prosthetic nose and speaking in a gravelly timbre, Carell was unrecognizable in the role. He didn’t win the Oscar for her performance but he was nominated – not bad for a guy who had just left the biggest comedic role of his career. Our next actor is a master of method acting and this role was both masterfully acted and creepy.
Johnny Depp As Whitey Bulger In Black Mass
Johnny Depp is probably more comfortable in makeup than without. From Captain Jack Sparrow to Willy Wonka and The Madhatter, he has never shied away from plastering his face with makeup. A team of makeup artists was required to transform Depp into the mobster Whitey Bulger for the movie Black Mass. Each hairpiece worn by Depp could only be used once and they each took 22 hours to assemble. Black Mass wasn’t as well received as other Depp movies but his role was masterfully portrayed. The next guy on our list did a great job of portraying an old man in a surprise hit movie.
Brad Pitt In Curious Case Of Benjamin Button
Brad Pitt was regarded as the sexiest man in Hollywood when he agreed to portray an old wrinkly man in the hit movie Curious Case of Benjamin Button. We have to admit that even at 80 years old, Pitt still looked dashingly handsome. He did manage to show off his younger side since Benjamin Button was reverse aging throughout the movie. Pitt has proven he can be versatile in roles but many of his fans still go and watch his movies because of the eye candy they receive from the experience. The next actress on our list pulled off a stunning transformation for The Hunger Games franchise.
Elizabeth Banks As Effie Trinket In The Hunger Games
Elizabeth Banks portrayed Effie Trinket in the massively successful The Hunger Games franchise. With a ton of makeup, crazy outfits, and fancy wigs, her character looked nothing like her real-life persona. She masterfully performed the strange role and her fans were none-the-wiser. This is a great reminder that acting alone doesn’t always deliver the desired results – sometimes you need a really good makeup artist or a team of artists on the project to really deliver an unrecognizable performance. We would really love to see Banks re-enact her popular role without the makeup, just to see if it really makes a difference at the end of the day.