At this year's Sundance Film Festival one of the most talked-about premiers was Craig Johnson's drama, The Skeleton Twins. Starring a pair of Saturday Night Live alumni in Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader, everyone was shockingly impressed with how easily the comedians transitioned to dramatic roles. And while The Skeleton Twins opened in limited release this past week to overwhelmingly positive reviews, I've decided to devote September's Movie List of the Month to the Greatest Comedians Turned Dramatic Actors (click here for August's List).
Honorable Mention: Adam Sandler (Punch Drunk Love and Reign Over Me), Will Ferrell (Stranger Than Fiction and Everything Must Go) and Patton Oswalt (Young Adult and Big Fan).
#5. Steve Carell
Between Steve Carell and Adam Sandler, I debated my fifth selection a lot. While Sandler garnered a little more recognition with his Golden Globe Nominated performance in Paul Thomas Anderson's Punch Drunk Love, I may be forecasting the huge expectations from Carell's upcoming work in the Oscar contender Foxcatcher. Outside of Carell's highly anticipated sinister performance, his overlooked roles in the indie sensations Little Miss Sunshine and The Way, Way Back form a strong foundation for Carell's dramatic flair. After beginning as a side reporter on Jon Stewart's comedy infused news hit, The Daily Show, Carell has branched out well and his upcoming Oscar-level performance as the wealthy murderer John du Pont is guaranteed to boost the actor's career.
#4. Bill Murray
I bet many of you are thinking that ranking the great comedic genius, Bill Murray, in the fourth spot is a slap in the face to the adored actor. Although I am a huge fan of Murray's brilliant comedy work over the years in classics such as Caddyshack, What About Bob? and Groundhog Day (just to name a few), I haven't been enamored with all of his typically-mentioned dramatic performances. The default film would have to be Sofia Coppola's overrated snoozer, Lost in Translation, which landed Murray his one and only Academy Award Nomination. However, I was more impressed with some of his other dramatic roles in films like Get Low (of which I've been a huge outspoken fan) and Hyde Park on Hudson (despite being a weak overall film). The longtime Saturday Night Live cast member has really made a name for himself, but his comedies far outshine his dramas, leaving him a little lower on my list.
#3. Jamie Foxx
Jamie Foxx has evolved from a skinny young jokester who broke onto the scene in the short-lived sketch comedy series, In Living Color, into an Oscar-winning and multi-talented celebrity. Foxx has always had a knack for generating laughs, but after a dramatic beginning in Oliver Stone's long-winded football drama, Any Given Sunday, the gifted actor transformed himself into a spitting image of legendary pianist Ray Charles in the 2004 biopic, Ray. Foxx was instantly propelled to stardom and has followed up his Academy Award Winning performance with other dramas such as Collateral (for which he was also nominated), Dreamgirls, The Soloist and Django Unchained. This lengthy and impressive filmography illustrates just how remarkable of a transition Foxx has been able to make over the course of his career.
#2. Jim Carrey
Much like Jamie Foxx, Jim Carrey also got his start on the series In Living Color. His goofball characters like Fire Marshall Bill and Vera de Milo helped spark a string of successful comedies such as Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Dumb and Dumber and Liar Liar. And then, out of nowhere, Carrey made a 180 with his career and tackled dramatic roles in films like The Truman Show, Man on the Moon and The Majestic. Audiences and critics alike grew fond of his transformation, leading to what many argue as Carrey's peek performance in the 2004 indie classic, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. All in all, Carrey is yet to receive recognition from the Academy Awards (despite his best efforts as a homosexual con man alongside Ewan McGregor in I Love You Phillip Morris), but a long history of Golden Globe success (including two wins and four other nominations) helps warrant his high ranking on my list.
#1. Robin Williams
While the unexpected loss of Robin Williams still feels like a fresh wound, his legacy will forever remain as the greatest comedian-turned-actor of all time. As such a special and rare funny-man, Williams molded a successful stint as a stand-up comedian into a fantastic film career. By the early 1990s he had secured himself as one of Hollywood's biggest talents after work in films such as Good Morning, Vietnam, Dead Poets Society and The Fisher King. Mainly Williams branded himself as someone capable of blending together the highest levels of both comedy and drama in his roles, something evident in fan favorites like Hook and Mrs. Doubtfire. However, it wasn't until 1997's Good Will Hunting where he finally was able to put that long-awaited exclamation point on his career with an Oscar-winning performance in Gus Van Sant's drama. Williams' towering onscreen work in Matt Damon and Ben Affleck's award-winning screenplay was simply unforgettable. It takes a remarkably talented individual to excel in both the areas of comedy and drama. No one has ever been as impressive at doing so as the late-great Robin Williams.