The Top Seven Movie Wimps-to-Pimps
There’s nothing weirder than watching an actor who gets typecast as a wimp make that strange transformation into a cinematic pimp. Like seeing the president of the chess club from your freshman year of high school turn into the guy who rides a motorcycle by the end of his senior year, it gives all of us hope.
7. Val Kilmer
Source: Columbia TriStar Home Video
Val Kilmer got his first big break playing uber-nerd Chris Knight in the ‘80s classic Real Genius. The only guy who out-nerded him in this movie was Mitch (Gabriel Jarret), and it was pretty close. These two science whizzes (read: wimps) are ordered by their boss, Professor Jerry Hathaway (William Atherton), to develop a lethal laser so that Hathaway can keep his kush contract with the CIA and all the money and babes it comes with.
But Kilmer apparently didn’t want to spend the rest of his days playing the bleached version of Stephen Hawking. So, for his next film, he played the bleached version of an ‘80s douchebag, Lt. Tom Kazansky, better known to his friends and the local sexual abuse hotline as “Iceman”. He was one volleyball scene on the beach away from a lifetime of pimp roles (or gay porn, if the winds had blown a bit differently): Madmartigan in Willow, Jim Morrison in The Doors, Bruce Wayne in Batman Forever, Chris Shiherlis in Heat…the list goes on.
Kilmer is proof that just because you play a guy with a big muscle in your head doesn’t mean you can’t spend the rest of your days playing a guy with muscles everywhere else.
6. Matthew Broderick
The first movie that became a hit for Matthew Broderick was War Games, where he played David the super-hacker. David was way ahead of his time in terms of nerdiness: the man had an internet connection in 1983. I mean, I didn’t even think anyone (other than Al Gore) even knew the internet existed back then. And he had floppy drives coming out his a**! This guy was not messing around.
Then along came Ferris Bueller’s Day Off in 1986. Overnight, Broderick became the symbol for teen rebelliousness and unfettered cool. From here on out, Broderick would be remembered for his turn as the teenage bad boy, no matter how many unmemorable films he did: Project X, Torch Song Trilogy, Family Business, Glory. He could never top the pimpness of Ferris Bueller, but managed to go down in history for one of the funniest teen comedies ever. That’s an accomplishment in itself.
5. River Phoenix
Source: Paramount Pictures
Remember that awesome kid movie from 1985 with River Phoenix and Ethan Hawke? Well, if you do, then you’ll remember that Phoenix actually played the lead dork/nerd/wimp, and he played it with gusto. He creates the force field bubble that he and his friends turn into a space ship and use to leave Earth. That was how the world first came to really know River Phoenix.
And then he goes and becomes young Indiana Jones in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade four years later. The computer genius turned into an archaeologist/badass in the blink of an eye, and he never looked back. Okay, so maybe he looked back a little in 1992’s Sneakers, but pretty much he remained for the ‘90s -- even after his death -- what James Dean was for the 20th century.