TV star Dan Stevens has reinvented himself for the big screen – here are five others who did the same.
Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens has gone from cosey wosey Sunday night period drama to dipping his toes in the murky waters of independent black comedy thriller The Guest and the even murkier waters of Liam Neeson thriller A Walk Among the Tombstones. We take a look at five fellow thespians that left their television legacies behind to try their hand at something completely different on the big screen.
Before he had an affinity for leather vests and more hot metal between his legs than the Tin Man’s wife on her anniversary, Charlie Hunnam found fame as sandy haired ladies man Lloyd in Judd Apatow’s college comedy Undeclared and as troubled teen Nathan Maloney in Channel 4’s Queer as Folk. Hunnam’s subsequent roles on the big screen have seen him take a darker path, however, beginning with his first major film role as a football hooligan in Green Street. His more intense movie performances greatly improved over time, eventually landing him the role of a conflicted biker in Sons of Anarchy and a jumped-up Power Ranger in Pacific Rim.
On TV sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Will Smith’s fourth wall-breaking, Oliver-Hardy-esque glances to camera allowed him to endear himself to an entire generation, using classic comedy traits to give viewers a sense of inclusion in the show. Smith’s apparent natural ability with comedy meant many were left scratching their heads when he chose a dramatic role for his first significant step on to the big screen. In Six Degrees of Separation, Big Willie played Paul, a gay con man with a dark past. It freed him from the clown label, allowed him to be taken seriously as an actor and demonstrated a confidence in his own abilities.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s loveable character Tommy Solomon, in the sci-fi sitcom 3rd Rock From the Sun, had the appearance of a child but was in fact the wisest and oldest of the famous extraterrestrial family. But, shrugging off his light entertainment legacy, Gordon-Levitt’s first big screen roles were like chalk to the nicely cured cheese of 3rd Rock: Mysterious Skin and the high school film noir Brick in particular made people sit up and take notice. Gordon-Levitt exuded an old Hollywood class that emanated from the likes of Bogey or McQueen, and he was soon regarded as potentially the next Johnny Depp (that would be Johnny Depp before he had the word “Arrr!” in his vocab).
There was a time when James McAvoy’s roles on Shameless and Early Doors meant that he appeared every bit as typically Mancunian as The Smiths, the Industrial Revolution and precipitation. The Scot was making such a habit of appearing in these deeply Mancunian shows that one would be forgiven for thinking he might show up in the Rover’s Return to drive Gail Platt into a canal or something. Thankfully McAvoy opted for a more exotic and ambitious role, as a doctor that tries his hand at the most dangerous of extreme sports ie attempting to woo the wife of a Ugandan despot in The Last King of Scotland. McAvoy took full advantage the opportunity to display his acting chops on a global platform. It quickly became apparent that McAvoy had made a very good impression, as Hollywood endorsed the Scot’s performance by entrusting him with leading roles in its blockbuster franchises.
Before he was marrying ladies and then psychologically damaging them by jumping in and out of their shared timeline like a man that had eternally left the cooker on, Eric Bana started as one of Australia’s top funny men. He initially found fame on the small screen with his comedy show Eric. Then, in 2000, Bana bulldozed his way on to the big screen with Chopper, a semi-biographical feature about the late Mark ‘Chopper’ Read. Even now his performance as Tasmania’s most notorious and charismatic career criminal is considered to be Bana’s standout performance. Many were left stunned at the striking on screen presence and Bana’s execution of an individual riddled with deep-rooted insecurities, twisted morals and almost Phillip K Dick levels of paranoia.
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Featured image: Universal
Inset images: Warner Bros; MGM; Focus Features; Fox Searchlight; First Look Pictures