Weekend Roundtables: Career Turnarounds

Sometimes, an actor just needs to find the right role to suit his or her talents. In this week’s Roundtable, we discuss the actors that we used to dislike, even hate, until one project finally turned their fortunes around.

There are two possible ways to look at this topic:

  1. You generally don’t like the actor, but will admit that they’ve had one role that suited them perfectly that you really like them in. You may have gone back to hating them again in other stuff afterwards.
  2. You used to dislike the actor, but finally saw the light after one particular movie/role where you “got” why people like him or her, and now you like them in pretty much anything.

Shannon Nutt

“People keep asking if I’m back… Yeah, I’m thinking I’m back.” After making a name for himself in movies like ‘Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure’ (and its sequel), ‘Point Break’, ‘Speed’, and – of course – ‘The Matrix’ trilogy, Keanu Reeves’ career went off the rails with some disastrous choices (and some less-than-stellar acting) in titles such as ‘Constantine’, ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’, and ’47 Ronin’. But last fall, Reeves finally got another role than seemed tailor-made for him in ‘John Wick‘. Not only did he find himself in an action film that suited his physical skills, but he got to show that he actually has some depth as an actor – something that many of us wondered over the years, given some of some of his performances looked like he was reading off cue cards.

Is ‘John Wick’ just an anomaly, or is it the beginning of a new round of really entertaining Reeves’ titles? The jury’s still out on that one, but at least we now know that Keanu can still deliver when given the right script and director.

M. Enois Duarte

Rooney Mara is one actress I generally don’t like and don’t understand why others praise her. She did nothing for me in ‘The Social Network’, and the film didn’t benefit from her performance in any way. It wouldn’t have hurt the production if she hadn’t been in it. Then, she followed that up with her role in the remake of ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’, where she managed to annoy and frustrate me. Her acting was so incredibly bland and mundane that I couldn’t figure out why in the world any filmmakers would give her a lead role.

In my eyes, things finally turned around for Rooney in the American version of ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo‘. That role initially worried me, but her performance managed to melt my stony heart. Considering the lack of emotion she fails to show in her face, the character suited her well, and she made it her own. Now, I don’t mind seeing her name on a marquee as much as it once did.

Mike Attebery

Stanley Tucci used to drive me nuts. I just didn’t see the appeal of the guy at all. He struck me as smug and smirky, and he was everywhere. Then I saw him and ‘Julie & Julia‘, and something about the way he played Paul Child turned me around completely. By the time he emphatically decalred “Fuck Houghton Mifflin!” I was completely in his camp. He’s one of my favorite actors now.

Brian Hoss

I’ll select ‘The Man in the Iron Mask’ as an example of how Leonardo DiCaprio seemed to be able to pick up significant roles and take them nowhere. In 2006, that changed in my eyes. Where others skewed towards overacting, DiCaprio really brought some intensity to the ‘The Departed‘. That same year ‘Blood Diamond’ was also impressive. ‘Body of Lies’ is almost entirely reliant on DiCaprio, and would be otherwise forgettable. More recent movies like ‘Shutter Island’ and ‘J. Edgar’ have still overly relied on DiCaprio, but I’ll take the last ten years over the preceding ten.

Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)

My problem has never been with Matthew McConaughey as an actor. It’s been with Matthew McConaughey as a star. The early years of his career were wildly eclectic: a lecherous stoner in ‘Dazed and Confused’, a religious philosopher in ‘Contact’, a doggedly determined lawyer in ‘A Time to Kill’, and, um, a sinister tow truck driver with a cybernetic leg in ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation’.

Once McConaughey really broke through and became a marquee draw, he settled into too comfortable a rut, starring in one mediocre romantic comedy after another as a cocksure charmer who just needs the right woman to try to tame him. Even his starring turn as an action hero in ‘Sahara’ seemed like a slight variation of the same “All right, All right, All right…” schtick.

After the unwatchable one-two punch of ‘Ghosts of Girlfriends Past’ and ‘Surfer, Dude’, McConaughey completely reinvented himself. Over the past five years, he’s sought out challenging, adventurous projects rather than sleepwalking his way to easy money. I perk up when I see his name attached to a film. McConaughey has been showered with laurels, nominations and awards, something that would’ve seemed laughably unlikely prior to his turnaround in 2011.

Josh Zyber

For the longest time, I just did not understand why directors kept casting Channing Tatum in movies. His performance in ‘G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra‘ was devoid of any talent or charisma, and he was incredibly stiff and awkward in other early roles as well. An episode of ‘Glee’ even ridiculed the perplexing mystery of how Tatum had an acting career. Yet he somehow had a notable A-List filmmaker like Steven Soderbergh championing him.

Then ‘21 Jump Street‘ happened, and I got it. He’s so funny in that movie. He really nails the sense of humor. That was a big turning point for Tatum. He loosened up considerably in subsequent projects. I even enjoyed him the ‘G.I. Joe’ sequel. All my ill will for the actor has dissipated since the first ‘Jump Street’ movie.

For a female example, Olivia Munn really used to annoy the crap out of me. I could not stand her at all when she hosted ‘Attack of the Show’ on the G4 network. I cringed when she briefly appeared as a correspondent on ‘The Daily Show’, as well as at her early acting performances. Then she proved to be incredibly appealing in the cast of Aaron Sorkin’s ‘The Newsroom‘. In fact, the revelation of her talent may have been the best thing about that otherwise disappointing series.

By the time Tatum and Munn appeared together in ‘Magic Mike‘, I was totally fine with the both of them.

What actors won you over eventually? Tell us in the Comments.


  1. Have to say the exact same thing about Tatum, hated the guy before 21 Jump Street, now he’s awesome and has proven he’s good in the roles he picks, even stuff like White House Down works for the guy, his acting isnt crap anymore and his roles have been pretty spot on for him, I’ll watch just about anything he’s in now 🙂

    Decaprio was also one I hated a lot in his early days, for me his turn around was Shutter Island, such a great performance in that movie and then came Inception (which I love) and on and on now, before I couldnt stand the guy, Titanic being one of my least favorite films and so many others that I just hated because of him, now he’s excellent in my book. When you watch his performance at the dinner table in Django Unchained and come to find out that he accidentally cut himself on the glass by smashing his hand on the table, continuing with the scene anyways and then proceeded to smear all of that blood on her face, getting one hell of a real reaction from her, you know you have one hell of a great actor there….when something like that happens when it isnt supposed to and he just roles with it even when getting cut really bad? Yep, he’s awesome in my book 🙂

  2. Colin Firth. I’ve never disliked him, but never saw what all the hype was about him. He’s kind of nondescript. After The Kingsmen movie this year, I fell on love with him, he can do anything.

  3. cardpetree

    Was gonna say Leo, I use to hate him for probably no good reasons. After The Departed, Inception, Wolf of Wall Street and some other great performances he’s now one of my favorite actors.

  4. Chris B

    I thought the late Paul Walker wasn’t much of an actor until I saw him in the crime-thriller “Running Scared”, his intensity in that blew me away. Such an underrated performance and movie to boot.

  5. photogdave

    I couldn’t stand Brad Pitt until True Romance. He just seemed like a pretty boy and even his 12 Monkeys performance seemed overrated to me. But his stoner roomate in TR was so on the money that I still ask my friends to get some cleaning products as they head out the door!

  6. I had grown very tired of Will Ferrell’s routine until I saw him in Stranger than Fiction. The role was so different that I couldn’t help but be delighted.

    Also, Colin Farrell used to bug me on and off screen. He just seemed like such a prick. (My sister is friends with Jeremy Renner and on the set of SWAT Farrell hit on my sister and basically creeped her out) It wasn’t until I saw him in In Bruges that I completely loved his performance enough to just forget all of my negative feelings.

  7. frankie

    I used to hate Robert DeNiro and thought what’s the big deal with this guy, but after he did Meet The Parents and the sequels I realized……wow this guy is one hell of an actor. Ever since, I’ve been watching everything he stars in.

  8. C.C. 95

    How about a #3 – Actors you used to like, but now can’t stand because they ostracized half their audience by spewing their political views (on either side).
    Movies being a business, and the country being a 50/50 political split- it seems like a horrible business move to alienate half your audience.
    And it is just annoying.

  9. This one is easy for me. Marky Mark, sorry, Mark Wahlberg. When he first started acting and even in his turn in Boogie Nights which I think is an excellent movie but I never felt his acting had much to do with despite his starring role. But then I caught him in I ♥ Huckabees and I was floored. Suddenly he could emote and inhabit a real three dimensional person. Since then I think his performances have been mixed but I know that somewhere inside he has the ability to act.

  10. Jon

    I pretty much despise Ashton Kutcher but he did really well in “The Butterfly Effect”. Not a terrific job, but miles beyond anything he had done on That 70’s Show or Punk’d.

    Couldn’t stand Tom Cruise in Top Gun and pretty much everything else he did, at least up to Magnolia. His acting in that movie was a revelation and his scenes with Jason Robards near the end are wrenching, almost entirely thanks to Cruise’s performance. Since then he has pretty much gone back to “Tom Cruise” mode but he isn’t anywhere near as annoying.

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