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10 actors with the most insane acting range

By / 05.27.12
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There are some actors who are good at what they do, but they are one-trick ponies. They play the same type of part over and over. And over. Hey, good for them. Cash that check. But here we're going to celebrate 10 actors with insane range. These actors can play almost any role. Seriously, we checked. Let's begin.

The lovable John C. Reilly leads our list. Reilly can crack you up in roles like Dr. Steve Brule on Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job!, the hilarious Cam Naughton in Talladega Nights or Dale Doback in Step Brothers. But he can also play serious parts like he did in Magnolia, as the aloof cop trying to find his place in the world.



And the extent of his range doesn't end with comedy and drama. Reilly was hilarious but also sang wonderfully in Walk Hard. He was nominated for a Grammy for his efforts there, and nominated for an Oscar for his work in Chicago. And of course, he dominated the Catalina Wine Mixer.



More Range: The Hours » Dark Water » Year of the Dog » The Aviator » Cyrus

Simply put, Streep will likely go down in history as the best actress of this generation. The list of roles that she has slayed could take up a whole Web site, let alone one article. She has been nominated a whopping 16 times for Oscars and has won the award twice. And she did it by being an actress that can playing a massive variety of roles. She started turning heads in films like The Deer Hunter, Silkwood and Kramer vs. Kramer. She showed grit in Out of Africa, Sophie's Choice and The River Wild. And she even did guest stints on two of America's beloved animated series: The Simpsons and King of the Hill. She's the crown jewel of American actresses.



More Range: Doubt » Julie and Julia » Marvin's Room » The Devil Wears Prada » It's Complicated

Pearce burst onto the scene when he played Det. Edmund Exley in the film adaptation of James Ellroy's L.A. Confidential. He followed that up with another amazing performance, this time in Christopher Nolan's non-linear thriller, Memento. Most recently he played Kate Winslet's husband in the HBO mini-series, Mildred Pierce. He's also known for his turn as a drag queen in the cult classic, The Adventures of Priscilla, and for playing Andy Warhol in Factory Girl. He even appeared in a music video for the band Silverchair. The Aussie can play any type of character with any type of accent.



More Range: The Proposition » The King's Speech » The Hurt Locker » The Count of Monte Cristo » Bedtime Stories

Elba will probably be best known to Americans as the business savvy street thug Stringer Bell from The Wire, or from his stint as Charles Miner in The Office. He's even played a single dad trying to get his kids back in a Tyler Perry film. Actually, that doesn't make my point, as we have all been in one or more Tyler Perry films. But he also dominated the screen in Luther, the BBC series where Elba gets to play the flip of Stringer Bell -- the crafty detective that is on a mission to crack cases. It doesn't matter the accent or the role, Elba has mass range.



More Range: Thor » 28 Weeks Later » Obsessed » The Count of Monte Cristo » The Big C

No, not the guy from The Hangover. That's Bradley Cooper and he's not on this list. Barry Pepper might be the most underrated actor in Hollywood. He popped up on our screens in films like Saving Private Ryan and The Green Mile. Then he totally nailed the role of Roger Maris in 61* and by then he was on his way to an outstanding career. He should win awards for his portrayal of Bobby Kennedy in The Kennedys mini-series, and even played a killer cowboy in True Grit. He nailed the classic line from that film, yelling at Jeff Bridges, "I call that bold talk for a one-eyed fat man!" He did the original proud.



More Range: The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada » Flags of Our Fathers » Casino Jack » Like Dandelion Dust » Knockaround Guys

Marisa Tomei is an American treasure. She's drop dead gorgeous, sure, but she is also an amazing actress. There's a reason George Costanza fell in love with her on Seinfeld, and we all fell in love with her in My Cousin Vinny.



But she also made your emotions crumble with her In the Bedroom role, broke your heart (and Mickey Rourke's) in The Wrestler and made you wish you had a mother like her in Cyrus.



More Range: Happy Accidents » Danika » Before the Devil Knows You're Dead » War Inc. » Factotum

Blanchett has been nominated for 4 Oscars, and won for her amazing portrayal of Katherine Hepburn in The Aviator. She also wowed moviegoers as Queen Elizabeth not once, but twice, and played Bob Dylan in I'm Not There and killed in Notes On a Scandal. Oh, and she even made Bandits worth watching. So if you can play the Queen, Hepburn and save a film with Billy Bob Thornton and Bruce Willis, that show you have major range.



More Range: The Talented Mr. Ripley » Oscar and Lucinda » The Gift » The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou » The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Bale might not be the nicest guy to work with if you are on the crew, but dude can act and play almost anything. He nailed the role of Patrick Bateman in American Psycho, masterfully played the Batman/Bruce Wayne combo in The Dark Knight, dropped about 60 pounds to play the sleep-deprived Trevor Reznik in The Machinist, and showed off amazing "gun-kata" in Equilibrium. He can even rock the Boston accent as he did in his outstanding performance in The Fighter.



More Range: 3:10 to Yuma » Rescue Dawn » I'm Not There » Terminator Salvation » Public Enemies

"Put that coffee down! Coffee's for closers only." Baldwin had certainly done plenty of work before he uttered that line -- and dominated one of film's most memorable scenes -- but it was GlenGarry Glen Ross that signified his arrival as a heavy hitter in Hollywood. The younger generation may know him best for his Jack Donaghy role on 30 Rock, or even his frequent stints as host of SNL. But they would do well to go see him as Old Man Dunphy in Outside Providence, the failing husband and father in Lymelife, and as the lead in It's Complicated. Baldwin even makes Capitol One commercials fun.



More Range: The Departed » Running with Scissors » The Cooler » Path to War » State and Main

"This is our concern, Dude." With all his outstanding roles you might have forgot that Phillip Seymour Hoffman was in The Big Lebowski. He also brought "sharted" into the pop culture lexicon in Along Came Polly.



Hoffman can make us laugh, but he has moved us emotionally in so many ways over the years. He blew us away as Truman Capote, made us cringe and laugh as Scotty in Boogie Nights and was a believable Rastafarian in Jack Goes Boating. He moved us as the helpless huffer in Love Liza, the degenerate gambler in Owning Mahowny and was as cool as they come as Lester Bangs in Almost Famous. Hoffman may have the most range in all of Hollywood.



More Range: Cold Mountain » Magnolia » Flawless » Doubt » Hard Eight



Originally published on July 26, 2011.

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TAGSacting rangeAlec BaldwinArbitrary RankingsBarry Pepperbest acting rangebest actorsbest actressesCate BlanchettcelebsChristian Balefeaturedgreat acting rangegreat actorsgreat actressesGuy PearceIdris ElbaJohn C. ReillyListsMarisa TomeiMeryl StreepPhillp Seymour Hoffman
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