More from EW
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Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens, Spring Breakers
Imagine that you're the star of such air-popped Disney fluff as Wizards of Waverly Place or the High School Musical trilogy. Then it dawns on you that you've Disneyfied yourself into irrelevance. How do you change the game? If you're Selena Gomez or Vanessa Hudgens, you star in Spring Breakers, Harmony Korine's outlaw fantasia about four college women on a psychotic Spring Break bender. The actresses spray bad-girl attitude across the screen with more devil-horn fervor than anyone since Juliette Lewis in Natural Born Killers.
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Brad Pitt, Kalifornia
A lot of image makeovers are all about ''edge.'' Brad Pitt knew that he had to shake his hunk-god image from Thelma & Louise if he was going to not end up a punchline, so he played a dirty, ravaged serial killer in Kalifornia, and voilà! — a dangerous actor was born.
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Charlize Theron, Monster
Charlize Theron had basically been cast — and perceived — as eye candy, and no one had any real idea what a talented actress she was. So she took her beauty out of the picture entirely. Hidden behind an extraordinary make-up job, she played the serial killer Aileen Wournos with a runty animalistic desperation, and it was as if you were seeing her for the first time. The result? She won the Oscar.
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Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
After his smooth-as-silk turns in the Hangover films, Bradley Cooper, with choppy hair and a skewed smile, de-glammed himself into a jittery piece of impassioned human wreckage in Silver Linings Playbook. Suddenly he was hypnotic.
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Tom Cruise, Born on the Fourth of July
Even in his first ''serious'' role, in The Color of Money, Cruise was still a rockin' pretty boy, but Born on the Fourth of July changed all that. As the ravaged Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic, he transcended his Cruise control, redefining himself as a serious actor who could powerfully part ways with his star image.
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Anne Hathaway, Havoc
Anne Hathaway, after The Princess Diaries, had to make sure that she didn't end up in the wholesome princess ghetto. So she established her cred by playing a suburban teen who runs with East L.A. gangs — and bares plenty of flesh — in Havoc.
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Bruce Willis, Pulp Fiction
When action-movie stalwart Bruce Willis showed up in Pulp Fiction, he was in a professional rut. So he played a boxer who was basically a noble dummy — and, for the first time, appeared with his balding pate exposed. The performance was a triumphant curveball, and it gave his career just the jolt it needed.
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Bill Murray, The Razor's Edge
For a long time, the most common image makeover was a comedian-going-startlingly-serious. It was Bill Murray, three decades ago, who spearheaded the recent trend when he made his contract for doing Ghostbusters contingent upon his getting to star in an adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham's The Razor's Edge. Not a lot of people saw the movie, yet it changed Hollywood's essential perception of Murray, allowing him to drive his way toward more and more dramatic roles.
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Jim Carrey, The Truman Show
Jim Carrey pulled off a masterful version of the ''Look, a comedian can act!'' stunt when he left his rubber-faced, game-show-host-on-acid clowning behind to play Truman Burbank in The Truman Show. The role proved perfect for Carrey, since Truman, the unknowing star of his own reality show, is a man who has to figure out who he is. Carrey inhabited that struggle with an inquiring innocence that reset his entire career.
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Adam Sandler, Punch-Drunk Love
The trick of Adam Sandler's reinvention as a ''serious'' actor is that he didn't have to set his man-child goofiness aside. Instead, he found the soul of it in Paul Thomas Anderson's daftly enchanting character study.
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Robin Williams, One-Hour Photo
Robin Williams had long ago gone the serious-actor route, but even that was becoming treacly (remember Patch Adams?). So in One-Hour Photo, he went minimal, and gray-haired, and aviator-framed, and creepy as a photo-shop attendant with some sicko obsessions.
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Dakota Fanning, The Runaways
Could there be a more theoretically inspired piece of trash-your-image casting than Dakota Fanning, so angelic and earnest, as Cherie Currie, bad-girl leader of the packaged-jailbait '70s rock phenom the Runaways? Fanning's performance is a little all over the place: She plays Currie as a Bowie freak, a soft-rock romantic, a dissolute addict, and an innocent in over her head — and with all that going on, she never even raises her voice. But as far as growing up way too fast on screen goes: Mission accomplished!