The Nutty Professor

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10 Actors Who Disappeared Into Their Roles

Catch Eddie Murphy in The Nutty Professor movies this month on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection/Paramount Pictures

Aside from some foundation and a couple Method acting classes, few actors know what it’s like to completely disappear into a role. Sure, a stellar performance can transform a thespian into the character they’re portraying, but it doesn’t take a closeup for us to recognize who’s on camera. However, there are some notable roles in which a performer is entirely obscured — either by makeup, prosthetics, or a motion capture suit — leaving the audience’s suspension of disbelief wholly impenetrable.

Before you catch The Nutty Professor on IFC, take a look at some actors who rendered themselves completely unrecognizable for the sake of cinema.

1. Eddie Murphy in Coming to America, The Nutty Professor, Norbit, et al.

At this point, any time a trailer touts that a movie stars “Eddie Murphy, Eddie Murphy, Eddie Murphy, and Eddie Murphy,” you know at least one fat suit’s going to be involved. But the SNL alum’s willingness to don Rick Baker-created latex for our entertainment goes back to 1988’s Coming to America where Murphy played four different characters — one of whom, an old white Jewish man who has a penchant for velvet, obscured Murphy’s likeness completely.


2. Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder

No one will ever accuse Tom Cruise of not being committed to his craft, but no one expected his show-stopping performance in Tropic Thunder to be so balls-to-the-wall bonkers that it masked the megastar better than any facial prosthetic. According to director Ben Stiller, Cruise’s portrayal of Hollywood mogul Les Grossman — from the look to his vulgarity — was based purely on the actor’s choices, which must’ve been a cathartic release from a lifetime in showbiz.


3. Dustin Hoffman in Little Big Man

Before The Exorcist, The Godfather, and Amadeus, the late makeup effects auteur Dick Smith inspired generations of makeup artists (including The Nutty Professor‘s Rick Baker) with his work on actor Dustin Hoffman in the 1970s satire Little Big Man. Told in flashback form, the film required Hoffman to look 121 years old which Smith achieved with revolutionary old age makeup. Of Smith’s work, the actor professed, “I defy you to put on that makeup and not feel old.”


4. Charlize Theron in Monster

Typically, a Hollywood film renders a beautiful actress “unattractive” with a pair of glasses and a disheveled ponytail — believing the inevitable makeover before the big dance to be far more transformative than it is. Not so with Patty Jenkins’ 2003 crime drama Monster, which casts the stunning Charlize Theron as a rough and weathered killer. And while the 30 extra pounds and prosthetic teeth certainly helped, it’s Theron’s keen acting skills that achieved the complete, Oscar-winning transformation.


5. Doug Jones in Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, et al.

Rarely do we see the gangly 6′ 3″ character actor without heavy makeup that you probably wouldn’t recognize him otherwise. But Doug Jones is widely recognized as being the go-to performer to play some of the most iconic other-worldly characters in film. From the shimmering Silver Surfer, to aquatic Hellboy sidekick Abe Sapien, to the two most visually arresting creatures in Pan’s Labyrinth, Jones proves you can make a comfortable living by being completely obscured.


6. Andy Serkis in Lord of the Rings, the rebooted Planet of the Apes franchise, King Kong and more

Unlike the rest of us, Andy Serkis can arrive to work wearing a skintight leotard covered with ping pong balls and still keep his job. Granted, that’s due to his lauded motion-captured performances as CGI characters Gollum, King Kong, and rebellious chimp Caesar. Serkis plays each part with such heartfelt, feral intensity that he has pushed Academy Award voters to champion his roles as Oscar-worthy. Unfortunately, that nomination hasn’t come yet.


7. Cate Blanchett in I’m Not There

Esteemed British actress Cate Blanchett becomes a waifish midwestern folk singer in Todd Haynes’ unusual Bob Dylan biopic I’m Not There. Blanchett is one of six different actors to portray different facets of the musician, but as the only woman, her performance stands out from the rest. Foul-mouthed with plenty of swagger, she showcases a side of the gentle, soft-spoken Dylan we’re not accustomed to.


8. Johnny Knoxville in Bad Grandpa

Not to be confused with this year’s Dirty Grandpa — which renders star Robert De Niro completely unrecognizable in a different way — Bad Grandpa is a hidden camera comedy that showcases the Jackass star in his trademark “old man” makeup, giving him license to act brazenly offensive under the forgivable guise of senility. Despite middling reviews, the film earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Makeup and Hairstyling and has developed a cult following.


9. Halle Berry in Cloud Atlas

Reincarnation and the wheel of time play important roles in author David Mitchell’s multi-story novel Cloud Atlas, which was ambitiously adapted into a three-hour epic film by the Wachowskis. Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, and Hugo Weaving play thematically recurring characters, with vastly different looks, over the course of millennia. But it was Berry’s portrayal of an old Asian male doctor that had viewers wondering where she went and advocacy groups decrying the race-eschewing casting choice.


10. Eric Stoltz in Mask

The heartbreaking tale of Rocky Dennis, a boy with an extremely rare degenerative bone disease, is the central story in 1985’s Mask starring a completely unrecognizable Eric Stoltz. Under heavy makeup to depict Dennis’ craniodiaphyseal dysplasia, Stoltz plays Rocky with the gentleness and sincerity of a teen just trying to fit in and be treated like everyone else.

Happy 20th anniversary to The Nutty Professor from IFC!

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”


Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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GIFS via Giphy

On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”


But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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Draught Pick

Sam Adams “Keeps It Brockmire”

All New Brockmire airs Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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From baseball to beer, Jim Brockmire calls ’em like he sees ’em.

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It’s no wonder at all, then, that Sam Adams would reach out to Brockmire to be their shockingly-honest (and inevitably short-term) new spokesperson. Unscripted and unrestrained, he’ll talk straight about Sam—and we’ll take his word. Check out this new testimonial for proof:

See more Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC, presented by Samuel Adams. Good f***** beer.

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