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Actors Who Look Way Different Than They Used To

Actors who are in the industry for a long time are bound to go through various evolutions in terms of their look. Some are fairly subtle — with the only real changes being things like laugh lines, grayer hair, and a more modern fashion sense. But others are far more drastic, with some actors looking completely unrecognizable since their first movie role. There are any number of reasons for big changes in how actors look, ranging from the simple passage of time to specific events that lead to a total makeover. 

Plastic surgery is often the main culprit behind a major change in how an actor looks, and there is certainly some of that here. Other times, an actor might have lost a bunch of weight, or otherwise altered their looks due to various changes in lifestyle. In a few cases, an actor was simply ready for something different. Whatever the scenario, this feature isn't out to shame anyone — rather, it's simply taking a look at various actors for whom it might require a double take to even realize you're looking at the same person that they were at the start of their career. 

Ethan Suplee

Where you first saw actor Ethan Suplee in the mid-1990s will depend a lot on how old you were at the time. If you were on the younger side, you were introduced to him in his recurring role as Frankie the Enforcer on "Boy Meets World." If you were older — or at least, your tastes were — then you likely first took notice of Suplee in his small but memorable roles in Kevin Smith movies "Mallrats" and "Chasing Amy." Either way, he was almost immediately a steady fixture in film and television and has been ever since.

After Suplee wrapped his four seasons as Randy on "My Name is Earl" — co-starring with fellow frequent Kevin Smith collaborator Jason Lee — he decided to start focusing more on his health. He spent nearly two years riding bikes with the investment of a full-time job, spending upwards of 48 hours a week on two wheels. At his heaviest, Suplee had weighed 530 pounds, but his cycling had trimmed him down to only 9% body fat. 

Eventually, he started to lift weights and add muscle to his newly-thin frame. As Suplee told Entertainment Weekly, he had so completely transformed himself physically that when he started going out for roles with his new look, "[he] found that people were like, 'Who are you? We don't know you. You're this new person.'"

Dwayne Johnson

There is endless debate as to which of the many wrestlers-turned-actors have had the best screen careers, but there's no denying that Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has been the most successful in that regard. He went from being The Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment to his movies grossing over $5 billion at the worldwide box office. Even in the days when WWE was still his full-time job, it wasn't difficult to imagine an easy transition to acting, given his ability to enrapture a crowd both in and out of the ring.  

Though Johnson was already in great physical shape, it wasn't until he was a fair way into his career as primarily an actor that he really started to put on an impressive amount of muscle. These days, just one of his biceps looks almost as big as his entire torso looked back in the Attitude Era of his WWE years. Coupled with his decision to have a permanently-shaved head — something that's been the case since around 2010 — Johnson looks almost unrecognizable now when compared to his wrestling heyday and even the early years of his acting career. Of course, the minute he says even a few words in his iconic voice, it removes any doubt that he's still very much Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. 

Taylor Momsen

Few adult actors can hold their own in a scene with Jim Carrey when he's going full Jim Carrey — in fact, some have even refused roles in Carrey's movies. So for Taylor Momsen to have matched an especially over-the-top Carrey at only seven years old, as Cindy Lou Who in 2000's "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," really spoke to her natural talent as an actor. She also pulled off another rare feat when she effortlessly went from adorable child star to serious teen actor via her role as Jenny Humphrey on The CW drama "Gossip Girl." 

Another aspect of Momsen's scene-stealing performance in "Grinch" was her sweet rendition of the song "Where Are You Christmas?" While it would take a few years, she eventually returned to music when she formed the band The Pretty Reckless in 2009. It was during her time as a budding rock star that her new look really started to take shape, adopting a much more punk rock vibe than any of the characters she had played. 

But even on "Gossip Girl," Momsen already looked much different than she did as a child actor — owing in no small part to her newly dyed blonde locks. As she enters her 30s, Momsen now only slightly resembles her Jenny Humphrey era and couldn't look any more different than her Cindy Lou Who days.

Jennifer Grey

After Jennifer Grey starred in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and "Dirty Dancing" back to back in 1986 and '87, it seemed like she should have had her pick of whatever roles she wanted. But despite seemingly being one of Hollywood's it-girls at the time, Grey became frustrated that the offers weren't flooding in after "Dirty Dancing." So her mom told her to get a nose job.  

In 1989, Grey underwent her first rhinoplasty. But she immediately realized the downside to making such a significant change to her face. "I went into the ­operating room a ­celebrity and came out anonymous," she told the Mirror. "It was the nose job from hell. I'll always be this once-famous actress nobody recognizes because of a nose job." Even worse, the initial nose job didn't hold, and Grey eventually had to have another surgery to try and make things right — which ended up even further changing how she looked. 

She might not have ever returned to "Ferris Bueller" and "Dirty Dancing" levels of acting success, but Grey did eventually make a comeback in a different venue. She performed in Season 11 of "Dancing with the Stars," eventually being crowned that season's winner in November 2010. 

Johnny Depp

While Johnny Depp's first screen credit was in an iconic movie — "A Nightmare on Elm Street" — and he also had a small role in "Platoon," it was on TV's "21 Jump Street" that he first achieved breakout success. It's hard to imagine the Johnny Depp we know now being a clean-cut character on a network television show and adorning the covers of teen magazines, but that's indeed the Johnny Depp that most of the world first took notice of.

The thing about Depp is that he's known for completely disappearing into his roles. Many of his characters look completely different from one another, and often, quite different from Depp himself. But that doesn't change how different Depp looks now than he did when he first started acting. Some of the most basic features are still there — but in addition to just the normal effects of aging, Depp is better known today for a more relaxed look that includes unkempt hair and a somewhat scraggly goatee. And unless he's at an event that requires formal dress, he is most commonly seen wearing '90s-era grunge attire of flannels, jeans, knit hats, etc. 

In other words, he's as opposite as he could possibly be from "Jump Street" character Tom Hanson now as he was on the original show — something that was played to comedic effect when Depp agreed to cameo as the character in the 2012 "21 Jump Street" film under one very specific condition.

Lara Flynn-Boyle

After playing Laura Palmer's best friend on "Twin Peaks" and Wayne's ex-girlfriend in "Wayne's World," Lara Flynn Boyle quickly became a rising star to watch in the early 1990s. She continued to balance both movie and film roles throughout the decade, though it was her role on legal drama "The Practice" that brought her the biggest critical acclaim of her career — including Emmy and SAG Award nominations. 

Sadly, as was far too common among actresses of the era, Boyle was a frequent target of intense tabloid scrutiny. In particular, she was constantly dogged by rumors that she had an eating disorder, owing in part to her petite frame. As she got older, that tabloid scrutiny turned into assumptions that Boyle had gotten plastic surgery, owing to various features of her face that were said to resemble that of a person who'd gone under the knife. 

Boyle, who has always tried to keep a fairly low profile offscreen, has never acknowledged getting any plastic surgeries — though that hasn't stopped article after article from stating that she has, as if it's an on-the-record fact. Still, the truth of the matter is that Boyle does look very different today than she did when she was at her most prolific, whatever the reasons might or might not be. 

Blake McIver Ewing

Even though he only appeared in nine episodes of "Full House," Michelle's friend Derek still left a lasting impact on fans of the sitcom. Of course, a lot of that could have to do with the fact that "Full House" reruns remained a staple on television for many years, meaning that people saw those nine episodes over and over again. That alone would have helped to imprint actor Blake McIver Ewing, who played Derek, onto the childhoods of '90s kids. But what further cemented his place in that generation's collective consciousness was that Ewing also played rich kid Waldo Johnston III in the 1994 film adaptation of "The Little Rascals."

Given that he was only 10 years old when both of those roles were behind him, it stands to reason that the now grown-up Blake McIver Ewing looks quite a bit different than he did back then. In fact, even when he reprised the role of Derek in a 2020 episode of Netflix's "Fuller House," it would have been easy to assume another actor was playing the part. But it was, in fact, a 35-year-old Ewing: it was the first screen acting that Ewing had done in close to 20 years, only showing up on television in the interim as himself as a host of Bravo's reality series "The People's Couch." He also added music and dancing to his performing arts repertoire, spending some time as a go-go dancer and releasing an album in the 2010s. 

Jonah Hill

When Jonah Hill first rose to prominence in comedies like "Superbad," "Accepted," and "Knocked Up," few could have predicted that he'd eventually be a multiple Oscar nominee who would work with filmmakers like Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, and the Coen brothers. He's definitely had one of the more interesting and surprising careers of anyone from his generation of actors. On top of that, Hill has also probably gone through a more drastic physical change than any of them.

While peers like Michael Cera, Seth Rogen, James Franco, and Justin Long all just look like 20-year-older versions of themselves as compared to their 2000s heyday, Hill has seen a much more noticeable evolution in his look. In addition to his frequent tendency to sport a full beard and mustache these days, Hill has also lost a fair amount of weight in addition to muscling up and adding tattoos to his leaner look. His hair is also rarely in the more bushy, afro-like form that it most often was in his early years, with it now sometimes long past his shoulders, and other times as short as a buzzcut. 

If it's been a while since you saw Jonah Hill on-screen, you can almost guarantee he's going to look quite a bit different from the last time you saw him.

Kristen Stewart

It's tempting to point to the "Twilight" series as Kristen Stewart's big breakout. But to do so unfairly discounts her noteworthy turns in major releases like "Panic Room" and "Zathura: A Space Adventure," not to mention her roles in various indie movies throughout the 2000s. Stewart was far from a newcomer when she accepted the role of Bella Swan, which catapulted her to massive worldwide stardom. 

In the first phase of her career, up to and through the "Twilight" era, Stewart had a pretty standard "all-American girl" vibe to her look and her fashion choices. But around the mid-2010s, likely due in large part to being free of her "Twilight" obligations and needing to maintain the same basic look for an entire franchise, Stewart began to get a lot more creative and interesting in her fashion and style choices. Her previous long straight hair mostly gave way to various shorter bobs, sometimes bordering on a buzzcut. She also tends to now be blonde a lot more often than not. A New Yorker piece in 2021 called Stewart "her generation's most interesting movie star." 

She has definitely come a long way since the Bella Swan days, with both her looks and her career seeming to belong to a completely different person than Stewart used to be. To put it more accurately, she now has the confidence to be the real Kristen Stewart. 

Matthew Lewis

Part of what made the "Harry Potter" film franchise such a joy to watch is that most of the kids in the cast were played by actual kids, which not only lent to their believability in the first installment, but allowed them to grow alongside their characters as the series continued. This also meant that many of them changed dramatically as the movies went on, with some being nearly unrecognizable between "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" and "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2." That's to say nothing of how different they look today as compared to their years at Hogwarts.

One of the "Harry Potter" cast members with the most shocking "then vs. now" comparison is definitely Matthew Lewis, who played Neville Longbottom in all eight films. Lewis was 12 years old when the first movie was released and 22 by the end, and he was already bordering on looking like two different people when you compare "Sorcerer's Stone" Neville to "Deathly Hallows — Part 2" Neville. But that's nothing compared to looking at pictures of Matthew Lewis now. 

Beyond just the expected grown-up features, Lewis barely even looks like he'd be related to his younger self. Even if you grew up watching the "Harry Potter" movies on constant repeat, don't be surprised if Matthew Lewis walked right past you on the street without you noticing.

Renée Zellweger

Renée Zellweger was a consistent presence in film throughout the 1990s and 2000s. You can pick any number of roles as her most iconic, and there wouldn't be a wrong answer: the titular Bridget Jones in that series (which earned Zellweger her first Oscar nomination), Dorothy Boyd in "Jerry Maguire," her Oscar-nominated role as Roxie Hart in "Chicago," her Oscar-winning role as Ruby Thewes in "Cold Mountain" — the list goes on and on. She worked steadily until 2010, when she took a self-imposed hiatus after that year's "My Own Love Song."

When Zellweger started wading back into the limelight around 2014, various media outlets took note of what was seen as a change in her appearance. Naturally, the immediate assumption was plastic surgery — and Zellweger initially took all the speculation about her appearance and the presumed reasons why she must have felt compelled to go under the knife as a major blow to her ego. However, she eventually decided to see the bright side of all the scrutiny. Reflecting on that period a few years later, she told People, "I'm glad folks think I look different! I'm living a different, happy, more fulfilling life, and I'm thrilled that perhaps it shows." 

Zellweger has chosen to neither confirm nor deny that she had plastic surgery. She's instead content to let people know that no matter what they think about her appearance or her choices, she's comfortable in her own skin and living her best life. 

Erin Moriarty

Making her film debut in 2012's "The Watch," alongside some of the best-known names in comedy at the time — Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, and Jonah Hill — didn't exactly put then-18-year-old Erin Moriarty on the map. It would actually be on TV that the actor finally started earning significant attention, primarily as Audrey Hart in Season 1 of "True Detective," Hope Shlottman on "Jessica Jones," and her biggest role to date, Annie January/Starlight in Amazon's "The Boys."

Despite only just hitting her 30s, Moriarty has already been plagued by accusations of having plastic surgery. After it became a lengthy topic of conversation on "The Megyn Kelly Podcast" in early 2024, Moriarty felt the need to address the rumors head-on. She initially took to Instagram to deny that she had undergone any plastic surgery, and had harsh words for Kelly for helping to ignite the rumors to begin with. Not long thereafter, Moriarty decided to quit Instagram entirely over the whole ordeal.

As for why she might look different than she did at the beginning of her career, or even just a few years ago, there's nothing to suggest that she isn't just aging and — like many people — looks a little different heading into her 30s than she did as a teenager and a twentysomething.

Mickey Rourke

It's impossible not to talk about actors who have seen drastic physical changes over the years without bringing up Mickey Rourke. In the 1980s, Rourke was one of Hollywood's go-to actors when it needed someone who was traditionally handsome but with a slight bad boy edge, and who could play just the right amount of charming and dangerous. Starring in the boundary-pushing erotic drama "9½ Weeks" in 1986 opposite Kim Basinger helped to launch him to a whole other level — one that he unfortunately struggled to maintain due to various issues in his personal life. 

Rourke was an amateur boxer before he was an actor, and decided to give that another shot in 1991 after feeling like he "had no respect for [himself] being an actor," as he later told Film Journal. Rourke proved extremely skilled in the ring and actually went undefeated during his eight fights as a professional boxer between 1991 and 1994. However, just because you win the match doesn't mean you didn't take a beating. Due to all the injuries to his face from his time as a boxer, Rourke needed facial reconstruction surgery to fix the damage — but as he told The Independent, "I went to the wrong guy to put my face back together."

Subsequent plastic surgeries followed to try to repair the damage done by his boxing injuries and the botched surgery to correct them, leaving Rourke almost unrecognizable from his time as one of Hollywood's most promising leading men.