Chameleon Actors/Actresses (in progress)

Actors and actresses (not necessarily stars) of the past few decades who can play ANY role and play it well.
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1.
Gene Hackman
Actor, Unforgiven
Eugene Allen Hackman was born in San Bernardino, California, the son of Anna Lyda Elizabeth (Gray) and Eugene Ezra Hackman, who operated a newspaper printing press. He is of Pennsylvania Dutch (German), English, and Scottish ancestry, partly by way of Canada, where his mother was born. After several moves...
“ Summary: good guys or bad guys, strong characters or weak characters, comic or serious, Hackman can do (and has done) it all.

Best examples: compare his characters in Get Shorty and Unforgiven. 'Nuff said. Except I'll say one more thing: check out his performance in Mississippi Burning which is so subtle because you really can't tell which side he's on. ” - jokpaku
 
2.
Meryl Streep
Considered by many critics to be the greatest living actress, Meryl Streep has been nominated for the Academy Award an astonishing 19 times, and has won it three times. Meryl was born Mary Louise Streep in 1949 in Summit, New Jersey, to Mary Wolf (Wilkinson), a commercial artist, and Harry William Streep...
“ Summary: She's so good that people are starting to hate on her for her success and versatility.

Best examples: really? OK, how about this: she's been doing it and doing it well for so long that people now sleep on her performance in The Deer Hunter. Go remind yourself, then compare that with Adaptation, Silkwood, Sophie's Choice, or even Death Becomes Her (not a great movie, but not because of her). I haven't even seen Iron Lady yet and I'll put it on the list. ” - jokpaku
 
3.
Gary Oldman
Gary Oldman is a talented British born movie actor who played Sid Vicious in Sid & Nancy, Drexl in True Romance, and George Smiley in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. He starred in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and the remake of RoboCop. He is also an English filmmaker, musician and author. Renowned for his "big" acting style...
“ Summary: His skills in Dracula almost counterbalanced Keanu's horrible acting. Almost.

Best examples: Sid & Nancy, Dracula, Dark Knight, but if you haven't watched it, you should check out his performance in The Fifth Element ” - jokpaku
 
4.
Cate Blanchett
Cate Blanchett was born on May 14, 1969 in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, to June (Gamble), an Australian teacher and property developer, and Robert DeWitt Blanchett, Jr., an American advertising executive, originally from Texas. She has an older brother and a younger sister. When she was ten years old...
“ Summary: do we really need one? A young Meryl Streep, basically.

Best examples: in the Aviator, you almost forget that it's not actually Katherine Hepburn. And, of course, Elizabeth. ” - jokpaku
 
5.
Edward Norton
Actor, Fight Club
American actor, filmmaker and activist Edward Harrison Norton was born on August 18, 1969, in Boston, Massachusetts, and was raised in Columbia, Maryland. His mother, Lydia Robinson "Robin" (Rouse), was a foundation executive and teacher of English, and a daughter of famed real estate developer James Rouse...
“ Summary: a young Hackman as far as I'm concerned.

Best examples: jeez, if you've seen American History X, you don't need an example. But in case you do, compare that with Fight Club or Primal Fear. ” - jokpaku
 
6.
Johnny Depp
Johnny Depp is perhaps one of the most versatile actors of his day and age in Hollywood. He was born John Christopher Depp II in Owensboro, Kentucky, on June 9, 1963, to Betty Sue (Wells), who worked as a waitress, and John Christopher Depp, a civil engineer. Depp was raised in Florida. He dropped out of school when he was 15...
“ Summary: Yes, there's no doubt that he gravitates towards "quirky" roles, but he can still do it all

Best examples: Don't hate on Pirates--even though you could successfully argue that it's a sell out role, he still rocked it (at least in the first two--that's where I stopped watching the series). Compare that to Public Enemies or Sleepy Hollow or Fear & Loathing ” - jokpaku
 
7.
Daniel Day-Lewis
Born in London, England, Daniel Michael Blake Day-Lewis is the second child of Cecil Day-Lewis (A.K.A. Nicholas Blake) (Poet Laureate of England) and his second wife, Jill Balcon. His maternal grandfather was Sir Michael Balcon, an important figure in the history of British cinema and head of the famous Ealing Studios...
“ Summary: Can he do comedy? Perhaps that's the only unanswered question about his considerable talents.

Best examples: My Left Foot is still his masterpiece in my opinion, but Gangs of New York and There Will Be Blood are excellent examples as well. ” - jokpaku
 
8.
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Actor, Capote
Film and stage actor and theater director Philip Seymour Hoffman was born in the Rochester, New York, suburb of Fairport on July 23, 1967. He was the son of Marilyn (Loucks), a lawyer and judge, and Gordon Stowell Hoffman, a Xerox employee, and was mostly of German, Irish, English and Dutch ancestry...
“ Summary: if he looked like Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt, he'd rule the movie world.

Best examples: True story--I watched Capote and Mission Impossible 3 within a week of each other. Up til that point, I mainly remembered him for his role in Twister. In particular, I had no idea that he could be such a good villain without resorting to typical cheesy stuff in MI:3. ” - jokpaku
 
9.
Don Cheadle
Actor, Crash
Donald Frank Cheadle was born in Kansas City, Missouri on November 29, 1964. His childhood found him moving from city to city with his family: mother Bettye (North), a teacher, father Donald Frank Cheadle, Sr., a clinical psychologist, sister Dawn, and brother Colin. After graduating high school in Denver...
“ Summary: perhaps the only actor who could steal a movie from Denzel, which is what Cheadle did while playing the phenomenal "Mouse" in "Devil in a Blue Dress."

Best examples: I'll leave off "Devil" out of respect for his decision to forego hoodlum-type roles. Best role that you probably never watched? Check out Traitor. ” - jokpaku
 
10.
Kathy Bates
Actress, Titanic
Multi-talented Kathleen Doyle Bates was born on June 28, 1948, and raised in Memphis, Tennessee. She is the youngest of three girls born to Bertye Kathleen (Talbot), a homemaker, and Langdon Doyle Bates, a mechanical engineer. Her grandfather was author Finis L. Bates. Kathy has English, as well as Irish...
“ Summary: strange that she guest starred on two of my favorite TV shows, St. Elsewhere and L.A. Law, yet I had no idea who she was upon watching her in Misery.

Best examples: Pretty much every role is different in some subtle, nuanced way, but for an easy comparison, check out Misery and About Schmidt ” - jokpaku
 
11.
Forest Whitaker
Actor, Platoon
Forest Steven Whitaker has packaged a king-size talent into his hulking 6' 2", 220 lb. frame. He won an Academy Award for his performance as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in the 2006 film The Last King of Scotland, and has also won a Golden Globe and a BAFTA. He is the fourth African-American male to win an Academy Award for Best Actor...
“ Summary: His performance in Last King of Scotland filled up the screen, the theater, spilled into the lobby, stopped and got some popcorn, then exploded out of the theater onto the street where it caused a three-car accident.

Best examples: Last King of Scotland, his stint on The Shield, and for a really good contrasting role, go back to Good Morning Vietnam ” - jokpaku
 
12.
Charlize Theron
Charlize Theron was born in Benoni, a city in the greater Johannesburg-area, in South Africa, the only child of Gerda Theron (née Gerda Jacoba Aletta Maritz) and Charles Jacobus Theron. She was raised on a farm outside the city. Theron is of Afrikaner (Dutch, with some French Huguenot and German) descent, and Afrikaner military figure Danie Theron was her great-great-uncle...
 
13.
Matt Damon
Matthew Paige Damon was born on October 8, 1970, in Boston, Massachusetts, to Kent Damon, a stockbroker, realtor and tax preparer, and Nancy Carlsson-Paige, an early childhood education professor at Lesley University. Matt has an older brother named Kyle who is now a sculptor. His father is of English and Scottish descent...
 
14.
Ed Harris
By transforming into his characters and pulling the audience in, Ed Harris has earned the reputation as one of the most talented actors of our time. Ed Harris was born in Tenafly, New Jersey, to Margaret (Sholl), a travel agent, and Robert Lee Harris, a bookstore worker who also sang professionally...
 
15.
Christian Bale
Christian Charles Philip Bale was born in Pembrokeshire, Wales, UK on January 30, 1974, to English parents Jennifer "Jenny" (James) and David Charles Howard Bale. His mother was a circus performer and his father, who was born in South Africa, was a commercial pilot. The family lived in different countries throughout Bale's childhood...
 
16.
Russell Crowe
Actor, Gladiator
Russell Ira Crowe was born in Wellington, New Zealand, to Jocelyn Yvonne (Wemyss) and John Alexander Crowe, both of whom catered movie sets. His maternal grandfather, Stanley Wemyss, was a cinematographer. Crowe's recent ancestry includes Welsh (where his paternal grandfather was born, in Wrexham), English...
“ Summary: Just because he's an ass doesn't mean he can't act.

Best examples: He tends to get the alpha male roles these days, but check out how small and powerless he seems in The Insider. ” - jokpaku
 
17.
David Morse
David Morse, a 6' 4" tall blue-eyed blond who performed on stage for 10 years before breaking into film, became established as a respected supporting, character actor and second lead. He was born the first of four children of Charles, a sales manager, and Jacquelyn Morse, a schoolteacher, on October 11...
 
18.
Heath Ledger
When hunky, twenty-year-old heart-throb Heath Ledger first came to the attention of the public in 1999, it was all too easy to tag him as a "pretty boy" and an actor of little depth. He spent several years trying desperately to sway this image, but this was a double-edged sword. Heath Ledger was born on the fourth of April 1979...
 
19.
Angela Bassett
Captivating, gifted, and sensational, Angela Bassett's presence has been felt in theaters, stages, and television screens throughout the world. Angela Evelyn Bassett was born on August 16, 1958 in New York City, to Betty Jane (Gilbert), a social worker, and Daniel Benjamin Bassett, a preacher's son...
 
20.
Jeffrey Wright
Quite possibly the most underrated and underexposed actor of his caliber and generation, Jeffrey Wright's undeniable talent and ability to successfully bring to life any role he undertakes is on a par with the most praised and revered A-list actors in the business. Born and raised in Washington DC, Wright graduated from the prestigious Amherst college in 1987...
“ Summary: It is a crime that this man doesn't get major leading roles. He is one of those rare actors who chews the scenery without ever seeming to be cliched or over the top

Best examples: don't sleep on his performance in Shaft, where (IMO) he outshined the "star" Samuel L. Jackson ” - jokpaku
 
21.
Anthony Mackie
Anthony Mackie is an American actor. He was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, to Martha (Gordon) and Willie Mackie, Sr., who owned a business, Mackie Roofing. Anthony has been featured in feature films, television series and Broadway and Off-Broadway plays, including Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Drowning Crow...
 
22.
Sam Rockwell
Actor, Moon
Sam Rockwell was born on November 5, 1968, in San Mateo, California, the child of two actors, Pete Rockwell and Penny Hess. The family moved to New York when he was two years old, living first in the Bronx and later in Manhattan. When Sam was five years old, his parents split up, at which point he and his father moved to San Francisco...
“ Summary: another actor that would be a "movie star" if he were blessed with movie star looks.

Best examples (spoiler alert): compare his role(s) in Moon with his small but unforgettable role in The Green Mile ” - jokpaku
 
23.
Frances McDormand
Actress, Fargo
Frances Louise McDormand was born on June 23, 1957 in Chicago, Illinois. She was adopted by Canadian-born parents Noreen Eloise (Nickleson), a nurse from Ontario, and Vernon Weir McDormand, a minister from Nova Scotia, who raised her in the suburbs of Pittsburgh. She earned her B.A. in Theater from Bethany College in 1979 and her MFA from Yale in 1982...