6 Celebs The World Used To Think Of Totally Differently

Celebrities, some of them have been around so long that they feel our friends (but better-looking and they would probably Taser the crap out of you if you so much as talked to them). But some of their public personas are way different now than when they first carved out a name for themselves in the entertainment industry, such as how ...

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6
Donald Glover --  From Internet Poop Jokes to Esteemed Musician and Emmy-Winner

How We Know Him Now:

With the exception of his gig playing a robot-boinking Lando Calrissian in Solo: a Star Wars Story, nowadays Donald Glover is one of today's most important artistic voices. He created and stars in the Emmy-winning show Atlanta, which seamlessly oscillates between incisive social commentary and flat-out absurdism. 

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Then there's his musical alter-ego Childish Gambino, best known for "This is America" -- not just the song but the brutal, haunting, technically-astounding music video. Watching "This is America" it's hard to believe there was once a time when the biggest thing you might get to see in a music video was Courtney Cox being pulled on stage to dance with a thirty-something Bruce Springsteen for twenty seconds.

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How We Used to See Him:

Donald Glover began his career in some gloriously silly comedies. It's easy to forget that a lot of us first saw Glover as Troy Barnes on Community, building blanket forts, playing unnecessarily intense paintball games, and bringing pizza to a flaming apartment, in a moment that would eventually become the GIF to best define our modern existence.

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And before that he was a part of the Derrick Comedy troupe, who made the movie Mystery Team, and the most committed internet sketch focusing on the abject trauma of violently pooping your pants in front of an entire high school class.

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Here's hoping that diarrhea-based humor is a necessary stop on the path to greatness. For more early genius from Donald Glover, see his cover of the Bananas in Pajamas theme song

5
Angelina Jolie -- The Elegant Humanitarian Once Thought Blood was a Fashion Accessory

How We Know Her Now:

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Today, Angelina Jolie is the epitome of classiness; from her extensive humanitarian work, to her career as an acclaimed director, to the time all she had to do was stand still on a stage but still did it more elegantly than all of us normies would have.

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She even makes her recurring role as a Disney sorceress seem downright distinguished, somehow. 

How We Used to See Her:

Back in the "before times" of the 1990s, when she first broke onto the scene, Jolie had more of a heroin chic/goth girl too cool to be working at this Tower Records vibe. This was very evident in early roles in films like Gia and Hackers -- a movie so mid-'90s characters would literally Roller Blade into scenes.

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Then there was her Oscar-winning turn as Lisa, the sociopathic misfit from Girl, Interrupted. Sure, that was just a movie, but even in reality Jolie cultivated a decidedly offbeat persona. Most famously at the Academy Awards she gave her brother a kiss that would make even Luke Skywalker uncomfortable. And she later made the not un-vampiric decision to wear a vial containing then-boyfriend Billy Bob Thorton's blood around her neck. Thankfully she stopped doing that after they broke up, minimizing the risk that future generations will be able to clone Billy Bob Thorton. 

4
Liam Neeson -- Every Dad's Favorite Action Star Was a Critical Darling in Prestige Dramas

How We Know Him Now:

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Today, Liam Neeson's movies typically appeal to a range of filmgoers including dads, divorced dads, and happily married dads (who are soon to be divorced). Ever since Taken he's best known for starring action movies featuring frustrated middle-aged men proving that they're way more badass than their khaki pants and Bob Seger cassettes might indicate. He's also starred in thrillers that similarly mash-up mid-life crises with thrilling (but not too thrilling) adventures like Non-Stop, The Commuter and Cold Pursuit, in which he plays a vengeful snow plow driver.

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How We Used to See Him:

Sure, Neeson still stars in the occasional movie that doesn't involve murder of human trafficking, but his later career has mostly been defined by action movies -- and the occasional gobsmackingly racist anecdotes told in the service of promoting said action movies. But it wasn't so long ago that Liam Neeson was a classy thespian, praised by the same critics who would later trash, say, Taken 3. Of course there was Schindler's List and Michael Collins and a version of Les Miserables that thankfully didn't include any goddamn singing. It wasn't unusual to see Neeson pop-up in a Meryl Streep drama, or a movie in which he finds Jodie Foster living in the woods and that's pretty much all that happens.

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Sure, the change happened gradually, but you have to admit, going from being the Oscar-nominated star of a Holocaust drama to guy who downs wolf meat to get psyched-up for a role is one hell of a journey.

3
Jason Statham -- From Schlubby Everyman to Joe Action

How We Know Him Now:

When you pay to see a Jason Statham movie, you're probably craving some ridiculous action spectacle where he battles a giant prehistoric shark like in The Meg, or human traffickers like in The Transporter, or the laws of physics themselves like in Hobbes & Shaw. Statham has become the defacto star of bonkers action movies ranging from Death Race to the Crank movies, the second of which ends with a flaming Statham flipping off the audience -- which feels less like a thing that could actually happen, and more like a doodle in the margins of a high schooler's homework come to life.

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How We Used to See Him:

Before he was the star of the cinematic equivalent of cartoon cocaine, Statham's appeal was that he was a schlubby everyman with a hairline not dissimilar from half the dudes in the audience. His first movie Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels was so unglamorous he literally played a character named "Bacon." Director Guy Ritchie cast Statham for the realism he brought to the role, being a former criminal who once hawked counterfeit perfume and stolen jewelry on the street.

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Similarly, Snatch found Statham in another down-to-earth role as a boxing promoter who seems, not like a superhero, but more like the kind of guy you might see browsing the aisles of Home Depot on a Saturday afternoon. He also showed up in more even-keeled crime dramas like The Bank Job and The Italian Job, but almost twenty years later, we're all on board with Statham, say, towing a goddamn helicopter with a Mack truck. (Also, we'd be totally delinquent in our duties if we didn't remind everybody about Statham's days as a semi-nude rave dancer.)

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2
Joe Rogan and Anderson Cooper Cut Their Teeth as the Hosts of Dumb Reality Shows

How We Know Them Now:

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The most popular podcaster in America right now is Joe Rogan, the libertarian comedian who looks like Lex Luthor discovered Creatine. Rogan's podcast has been such a success he's become an influential political voice who, because we're all living in some kind of Hell devised by Rod Serling, has been floated as a possible moderator for an extended Presidential debate. Another prominent figure in today's political media landscape is Anderson Cooper, the CNN host who famously moderated the 2016 Presidential debates and less famously publicly took issue with Smashing Pumpkins' singer Billy Corgan's love of kitty cats. 

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How We Used to See Them:

Back in 2001, both of these guys had basically the same job, each hosting goofy network reality shows. Before he got the anchor gig, Cooper was the host of The Mole, which may sound like a reality competition show about dermatologists, but actually got its name because one of the contestants was secretly trying to screw everyone over the whole time.

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Meanwhile, Rogan, who had previously appeared on NewsRadio, was the host of Fear Factor, the show that forced contestants to face their fears -- which were usually not so much fears, but perfectly reasonable things to have aversions to, like eating horse rectums and buffalo testicles or bobbing for chicken feet in a tub of rats. To furnish everybody with another arcane analogy, this is like if Walter Cronkite spent his formative reporting years solely on the liondrome circuit.

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1
Robert Downey Jr. -- Before Iron Man He Was Ridiculed For Struggling With Addiction

How We Know Him Now:

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Robert Downey Jr. is obviously best known as Tony Stark, the keystone that has held the Marvel Cinematic Universe together for over a decade. Apart from being the star of the most lucrative franchise in movie history, he also appeared in a few other big-budget studio projects like the much-maligned Dolittle and those movies in which Sherlock Holmes joins a fight club for some reason.

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How We Used to See Him:

Robert Downey Jr. wasn't always the bankable lead he is now -- famously director Jon Favreau had to strongarm Marvel into accepting the scandal-plagued actor. It's not just that Downey had drug problems and had served jail time for possession, because the '90s were an unnecessarily cruel time, he was repeatedly the butt of jokes because of his addiction. Take The Simpsons in which Downey's stint at rehab inspired a lavish Broadway musical number. 

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And later there was the episode "Beyond Blunderdome" in which Homer and the gang spy Robert Downey Jr. in a shoot-out with police -- all while they’re palling around with the not-at-all-problematic-for-1999 guest star, Mel Gibson.

When Downey hosted Saturday Night Live, his legal issues were the focus of his entire monologue. Somehow he went from being a punchline to being one of the biggest action stars in the world, or as it's known in the industry, the "reverse Steven Seagal."

You (yes, you) should follow JM on Twitter! And check out the podcast Rewatchability

Top Image: Marvel Studios

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