Stars tackle daunting challenges to assert their thespic range

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Michael Douglas (left) plays flamboyant pianist Liberace, and Matt Damon as Scott Thorson. — Contributed photo

Our recent piece on enticingly astute film casting choices was well-received, so we’re following up with an international edition:

Hollywood’s most “surprising” role assignments are paced by the daring and even dangerous decision to cast the decidedly macho Michael Douglas as the even more indubitably and gorgeously gay pianist, Liberace.

Douglas took on the improbable challenge precisely to assert his thespic range—and the good news is that he achieved his lofty and dodgy artistic intentions, with flying and “flaming” colors.

Also notably challenging in the same production was the equally riveting portrayal by Matt Damon of Liberace’s lover, Scott—and Rob Lowe and Debbie Reynolds got their memorable “moments,” too.

In the “Lincoln” film bio, Daniel Day-Lewis also hit a homerun with his seamlessly credible characterization of the visionary US president.

It was the latest in a long list of spot-on portrayals throughout his career that have made the acclaimed actor one of the most-awarded players in films. He didn’t only look the part, but also “inhabited” Lincoln’s inner life with full emotions and telling insight.

Hollywood was initially thrown off by the decision of the creative team behind the “Monster” film project to cast the luminous, certified screen beauty, Charlize Theron, as its psychologically warped serial-killer protagonist.

Theron needed the unlikely film assignment precisely to escape from the limiting “screen beauty” box, so she did her best and “worst” to make naysayers change their minds.

She put on a lot of weight, used prosthetics to further bloat and mar her perfect facial features—and dug deep within her to come up with a “rancid” portrayal that won her a “grand slam” of acting awards.

In Renée Zellweger’s case, the casting and convincing problem was the fact that she was American, while the title character she aspired to play in “Bridget Jones’ Diary” was British.

The Brits loved the gutsy book’s protagonist so much that they refused to see an American playing her. But, like Theron, Zellweger was determined to portray her, and changed her appearance and enunciation so effectively that she, too, proved her detractors dead-wrong.

Finally, before he played the Joker in “Batman,” Heath Ledger was typecast as a lightweight rom-com lead—but he completely transformed his looks and thespic approach to “become” the iconic screen villain.

He insisted on being given a full month before shooting began to “imbibe” his extremely dark character, and lived alone for all that time to get “lethally” in touch with his inner “demons.”

The resulting “devilish” characterization he came up with benefited greatly from the rigorous “research in seclusion,” and transformed his screen image and persona completely.

Instructively, the latest news is that Martin Scorsese has been tapped to meg an “origins” film on Batman—and his pick to play the Joker in his take on the eternally popular ethos of the Joker is—Leonardo DiCaprio!

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