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10 Of Cinema's Most Impressive Redneck Transformations (Plus Keanu Reeves)

By Dustin Rowles | Seriously Random Lists | May 22, 2013 | Comments ()


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That's Keanu Reeves from The Gift, above, and he's a better example of how little the redneck transformation actually transforms some actors. For some, a ball cap, some patchy facial hair, and an attitude is all it takes to turn a pretty boy Hollywood star into menacing white trash. Keanu Reeves? He lacked much of the attitude in Sam Raimi's The Gift, and since Keanu Reeves often sports crappy facial hair, it wasn't that convincing a performance. These performances, on the other hand, were completely transformative, and not just because of the redneck attire.


Sam Rockwell, the upcoming A Single Shot

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Michael Cudlitz, Sex Drive

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John Goodman, Raising Arizona

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Robert De Niro, Cape Fear

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Spike Jonze, Three Kings

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Matthew McConaughey, Mud

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Dylan Baker, Planes Trains and Automobiles

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Alan Tudyk, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil

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Deidrich Bader, Office Space

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Brad Pitt, Kalifornia

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • Nadine

    Why only film? Can't Dickie Bennet/ Jeremy Davies or Dewey Crowe/Damon Herriman get some love???

  • KC

    I'm still freaked out by Chris Pine's transformation in "Smokin Aces". I did NOT expect that! I honestly didn't recognize him for the longest time.

  • Any list about actors transforming impressively into roles and generally being all chameleon-like should never include Sam Rockwell.
    Because it doesn't need to.
    It's a given.
    The other actors on this list did a successful Rockwell.

  • e jerry powell

    Oh, and I know many many many people will not only disagree but strenuously object, but...

    Halle Berry as Leticia Musgrove in Monster's Ball.
    (and I don't think anyone would have called Heath Ledger "Louisiana White Trash" in his normal state, either.)

  • Byakko

    C'mon, now. Joe Anderson in "The Crazies?"

    The man's British, for cripe's sake!

  • e jerry powell

    Umm, Charlize Theron as Aileen Wuornos in Monster.

    (Because it cannot be said often enough.)

  • chantal

    Where are Dewey, Coover & Dickey?

  • Derreck

    Nicole Kidman in The Paperboy.

    Delightfully trashy.

  • Puddin

    Y'all need to learn the difference between a redneck and a 'billy.

  • kirbyjay

    Y'all <----there it is

  • the dude

    Brad Pitt can also do an amazing gypsy, cowboy, hitman, etc.. he's got more range than you'd expect from a hollywood star.

    Johnny depp can only do crazy this, crazy that, and writer

  • Repo

    Vincent D'onfrio in Men In Black.

  • PDamian

    Given Michael Cudlitz's fantastic performance as Bull Randleman in Band of Brothers, I didn't think his transformation in Sex Drive was all that surprising (and he gave us another fantastic performance in that movie). But both performances are all the more astonishing when one considers that Cudlitz was born in Long Island and graduated from the California Institute of Arts. I'm more surprised to see guys like Dylan Baker play rednecks -- that is, guys who usually play nebbishy, white-collar office worker types.

    BTW, I have relatives in Texas who insist that "redneck" is a pejorative and "good ol' boy" is the appropriate term. I read somewhere else here that the opposite is true. My relatives are Chicanos, and even they refer to themselves as good ol' boys from time to time. I'm guessing it's a Texas thing, but YMMV.

  • MissAmynae

    Good Ol' Boys come from cowboy and ranch culture, rednecks are just country. Didn't wear a hat, hence the "red neck." So yeah, callin' a Good Ol' Boy a redneck is considered a not-exceptionally-offensive insult. At least that's how it works in my Texas family. 6 a' one, half dozen of a' other. Either way, I think redneck now is similar to "Yankee," so stereotypical that its lost the reality in favor of the shows people see on TLC.

  • Mattfactor

    Luke Wilson: X-Files - "Bad Blood."

  • Mulder and Scully's alternate remembrances of him makes me CACKLE.

  • $27019454

    I love seeing that Raising Arizona still.

    "Work's what's kept us happy!"

  • guest

    Josh Brolin - No Country for Old Men? No?

  • Lee

    Keanu was a great as a ruthless redneck in The Gift. Everytime he was on screen I feared he would punch a woman in the vagina.

    Giovanni was good in film also. Buddy "If I look into a blue diamond, and I think a negative thought, am I gonna die?"

  • JJ

    Honorable mention: Nic Cage in Raising Arizona.

  • dannyexplosion

    White trash? Yikes! Dude be cool

  • Mrs. Julien

    Charlize Theron in Monster. Winner of Most Amazing Acting Performance That I Never, Ever Want to See Again.

  • Frank Berrodin

    Um, yea, John Hawkes. Walton Goggins as Boyd Crowder gets my vote for TV (honorable mention to Jeremy Davies for Dickie Bennett)

  • Mr_Zito

    I thought Keanu was doing a Dickie Bennet cosplay.

  • kirbyjay

    Keanu was fantastic as Donnie Barksdale. He really knew how to beat on the wife.

  • Guest

    ... Not a fan of this list. First off, I'm not sure 'redneck' means what you think it means. And I grew up redneck. You seem to be using it (mostly) as a dimwitted buffoon - sometimes a kindhearted one, other times a meanspirited and vindictive one, giving it about as much meaning as people throwing around 'hipster' these days.

    Second, McConaughey is a redneck and always has been, just a cultured one.

    And finally, Goodman as Dan Connor was a far better and less caricatured demonstration of 'redneck'.

    Eh, I'm probably too biased on this subject to be able to argue it with any type of coherency. Rednecks are on TV to be funny caricatures or people we can hate because they're stupid, low-class, and bigoted. And while there are plenty of them like that out there, there's a shitload of them who know more, read more, and understand more about people than you or I.

  • kirbyjay

    I know the term redneck is derived from men who work outside and their necks get "red" from sun, wind or whatever, but you can't deny that a redneck has come to mean beer bellied, gun toting, pick-up driving, trucker hat wearing, burping, swearing, hoarding, car on blocks, real good ole 'Mericuns who hate Northerners, democrats, gays, Jews, Blacks and anyone else not swilling beer, hunting possum and voting just like them. We call them white trash in the northeast. The only difference is the accent. They ARE stupid, low-class and ignorant.

    Just because someone is low income and from the south doesn't make them a redneck.

  • NateMan

    I can't deny that's what it's come to mean to you and a lot of people like you. But to those of us who yes, live in New England, hunt, fish, farm, voted for Obama, support gay marriage, know how to read, and don't particularly care for people comparing us to the bigots you described, it means something different. You can take a term and use it as a classist insult if you like, but that doesn't always make it true.

    I'm a college graduate, computer tech, social justice activist, and a redneck. And anyone who thinks that's an insult can kiss my furry white behind.

  • DominaNefret

    Agreed, totally.
    Matthew McConaughy has always been a redneck, and John Goodman spent how long on Roseanne?
    Also, where are the women? Why is this list all men?

    And there are plenty of movies and tv shows with positive portrayals of rural blue collar families.

  • BWeaves

    I grew up in Florida, an English / Jewish schoolgirl amongst Florida Crackers / Rednecks / Christians. I agree with what you say.

    I don't think transforming into a Hollywood Redneck is hard or actorly. It's as easy as playing a whore, which so many actresses seem to want to do. It's much harder to play someone smart or classy. And it's even harder for an actor to play a smart Redneck as I don't think they know they exist.

  • NateMan

    Oh! Even better: Chad Lindberg as Ash on Supernatural! Freaking genius casting, writing, and acting.

  • NateMan

    McConaughey and Goodman are actually good with that. They're some of the few who are. I'm thinking specifically of Goodman on West Wing and McConaughey in Frailty, for example.

  • meh

    Having grown up as a trailer-livin', truck-drivin', relative-named-bubba-havin' Floridian, I sincerely agree. Many of us used that free time in the trailer parks to educate ourselves. Some of us even enjoy the occasional backslide into a case of Budweiser.

  • NateMan

    Old Milwaukee. As much as I love Sam Adams and the local micro-brews, sometimes there's nothing better than kicking back with my old man and drinking some truly terrible beers.

  • NateMan

    Huh. I deleted this because I decided I didn't want to have the conversation, and then it just took my name off it and left it under 'Guest'. Weird.

  • Keanu is a great choice. That dude nailed trailer trash in The Gift.

    The guy who played the mayor's aide in The Killing pulls off an awesome redneck in "Generation Kill."

  • Rocabarra

    He also did some great redneck voice acting as the character Ellis in the video game Left 4 Dead 2.

  • freetickles

    I don't know if I'd include McConaughey or Goodman - they're both kind of rednecky as it is.

  • Kobie

    I've always thought of McConaughey as a redneck masquerading as a lead actor.

  • maureenc

    McConaughey definitely qualifies as a Southern party-and-benign-mayhem boy (I'd use "good old boy", but that phrase sometimes implies racism), IMO, but he's got too much hippie to be fully integrated into the category of redneck. Goodman is more Midwestern blue-collar, but that has a fair amount of overlap with the redneck habitus (or lifestyle) just by dint of socioeconomics (read: cheap beer and flannel).

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Yeah, quite a few of these were rednecks who transformed into suit-wearing awards-goin' thespians.

  • toblerone

    How is John Hawkes not here?

    Winter's Bone / Martha Marcy May Marlene

    Or J-Law?

  • poopnado

    J-Law is already a redneck (something she proudly admits herself), no transformation needed. Disqualified!

  • Zirza

    It's not redneckification if you're already sort of a redneck and if you read interviews with J-Law she appears to consider herself more redneck than polished LA puppet.

    Which is, of course, why we like her so much.

  • toblerone

    + The entire cast of Lawless.

    Chastain, Pearce, Hardy, Clarke, Wasikowska, LaBeouf.

    And Guy Pearce for The Road (and others).

  • Mrs. Julien

    But then I would have to remember Lawless and that is a movie best forgotten. Forgotten while watching, actually.

  • toblerone

    Yes true, it is pretty forgettable.

  • Miss Laaw-yuhr

    Surely there's a Momento joke to be made at Lawless's expense, but I'm too tired to make the funny happen today.

  • Mrs. Julien

    I've told you once with my mouth.

  • NateMan

    Lawrence was fantastic. And yes, should have made this list.

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