Often, stars turn to villainous roles because that's all they have left in them - Val Kilmer, for a number of reasons, just isn't the same viable leading man (or even sidekick) that he was as few as ten years ago. Thus, he becomes the evil Dieter Von Cunth in MacGruber. Tom Cruise was Hollywood's #1 "face" for more than a decade, but when the prime roles started drying up, he turned to more nefarious work and found a heaping of critical acclaim that wasn't always there in the past (Collateral, Tropic Thunder, Lions for Lambs). Harrison Ford was tremendous in the underloved What Lies Beneath...Robert DeNiro scared us all to death in
You get the point. Most times, a change of pace is needed simply because we (and possibly them as well) have grown tired of seeing them play the same kinds of roles. Other times, a change comes about due to events in the star's real life (Robert Downey, Jr. was perfect for a bad guy run after all his zany misadventures; if only U.S. Marshalls had been a better overall vehicle). But mostly, it's due to a combination of the first reason thrown together with age. They get wrinkled and/or fat, and suddenly, the studios no longer want them to play the leads (not surprisingly).
So, who is due for a juicy villain role, and who do we think would excel given the opportunity? The ground rules I tried to limit myself to was this:
* A-lister, or close enough to it. People that aren't quite on the radar yet make their dough playing villains often. For a prime example, see Jeremy Renner in S.W.A.T. or Adam Scott in Torque (on second thought, perhaps you don't want to see those after all).
* Said star hasn't played a villain previously, or at least not since getting famous. George Clooney (our resident example for the next few points) might have played the bad guy in Return of the Killer Tomatoes (which I doubt he did), but it wouldn't count anyway since no one knew who he was at the time. (See above ground rule.)
* Assholes don't count; only villains do. Intolerable Cruelty, Burn After Reading...George was no villain. Imperfect yes, but that's it. We get into kind of a gray area with anithero roles like in From Dusk Till Dawn, but no one can convince me that that's a proper heel turn, either.
* I haven't seen every movie ever made and can only do so much research. If Clooney was the tabbed by his pal Robert Rodriguez to cameo as a villain in Spy Kids, well, you'll just have to excuse me not not knowing that. Besides, I'm talking HIGH profile villains here - think Collateral or Cage/Travolta in Face/Off. Just correct me if I'm wrong.
* Brad Pitt - I so wanted to put him not only on the list, but at the top. However, even I couldn't b.s. myself out of knowing that between Early Grayce and Tyler Durden, he's played a villain in one form or another. He's also played antiheroes a number of times.
* Jennifer Aniston - Just do something different, Jen. Why not a bitchy role in the Miranda Priestley vein?
* Adam Sandler - he can certainly look scary (Zohan), and he loves to do accents. Marry the two and don't smirk at the end for the kiddies.
* Orlando Bloom - He's in need of a career resurgence - why not give it a shot?
The Favored Five
5. George Clooney
Hey, whaddaya know - it's like we've been here before! Anyway, most recently, we saw Clooney turn off his million-watt smile for a quiet role as a hit man in The American. We know the guy can act, and we know the guy can overact when he wants to (Intolerable Cruelty again). I'd love to see him throw on an accent and really turn the screws on someone.
4. Natalie Portman
So typecast as the virginal goody-two-shoes is Ms. Portman that she took a role in which that was the major arc for her character. Better yet, I think she could actually pull it off quite nicely, either by playing up her girlie charms and then stabbing the hero in the back or by playing it straight with the intensity she showed at the end of Black Swan.
3. Hugh Jackman
Not too dissimilar from my number one choice, Jackman is in dire need of some edge. Sure, he brings some of it to the role of Wolverine, but never has there been a cuddlier vermin than there is inhabited by Mr. Song and Dance. He can snarl and flare his nostrils all he wants, but we know the pearly whites that lie beneath.
2. Keanu Reeves
Came close in The Gift - he was definitely an asshole and a character that nobody liked, but a) it wasn't seen by hardly anyone, b) it wasn't that type of movie, and c) if it were, he wasn't the main baddie. That said, if you've seen it - along with pieces of The Devil's Advocate - you know that Reeves more than has the chops to pull it off. And, for a number of reasons, don't you dare mention The Day the Earth Stood Still...
1. Will Smith
There was some talk not long ago of Smith playing Cain in a film titled, creatively, The Legend of Cain, in which he would take down Abel, but there's no record of the film on his IMDb page, and the last bit of chatter about it was in July of last year. And yet, is there a more golden boy (man) in all of Hollywood right now? True, he hasn't been in much lately, but when he has, he hits big, and is this generation's equivalent of Tom Cruise if ever there was one. It's time to go sinister, Fresh Prince. Just ask Family Guy: