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Vincent D'Onofrio Is Awesome In Everything - Even If You Don't Recognize Him Half The Time

Updated November 12, 2020 106.2k votes 15.6k voters 480.4k views18 items

List RulesVote up the performances that prove what a versatile and surprising actor Vincent D'Onofrio is.

If you watch films on a regular basis, you've undoubtedly seen a bunch of Vincent D'Onofrio movies. But did you always know it was Vincent D'Onofrio you were watching? The actor has had a phenomenally successful career by not only being wildly talented, but also having a chameleon-like quality. Sometimes you immediately recognize him and sometimes you don't. He happily alters his appearance and personality to fit whatever character he's tackling. This rare ability allows him to take on a diverse range of roles in every genre, from heroes to villains. Somehow the guy who played Pvt. Pyle in Full Metal Jacket is the same actor who played the alien in the "Edgar suit" in Men in Black.

D'Onofrio may not have won an Oscar, but everyone always loves what he does on-camera. At the same time, he doesn't limit himself to the big screen. He's made intermittent forays into television, most notably in his starring role on Law & Order: Criminal Intent. No matter the screen size, he consistently surprises audiences with inventive, dedicated performances. No two are alike.

This continually amazing actor's most notable roles reveal what makes him such a special performer. In every case, Vincent D'Onofrio's TV shows and movies showcase the creativity he brings to each project, both in terms of how he appears and how he makes a fictional person come alive.

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  • To portray the role of Private Leonard "Gomer Pyle" Lawrence, D'Onofrio gained 70 pounds. That weight gain literally transformed him. From there, he proceeded to turn the overweight, occasionally clueless solider into a fully formed character.

    In some ways, the actor had to transform himself twice. The physical transformation is one way. The other is in how he convincingly turns Pyle from a food-hoarding goofball into an angry, violent man who executes his hostile drill sergeant and then himself. It's a big personality shift, yet D'Onofrio makes the notion that Pyle has "snapped" as credible as it is haunting.

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  • When talking about the massive success of Men in Black, credit is usually given to the hilarious odd-couple chemistry between stars Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. The truth, though, is that D'Onofrio's performance as the villain is just as essential. He plays Edgar the Bug, an extraterrestrial creature who comes to Earth and takes over the body of a farmer. 

    The actor's performance as the grotesque Edgar is every bit as funny as the Smith/Jones bickering. Rather than letting the makeup and fake teeth do all the work, he creates an entire physicality for the character - dazed expression, crooked mouth, slurred speech, and spastic, lumbering movements. D'Onofrio's work as Edgar proves he has A+ comedic skills, and also demonstrates his total commitment to every role.

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  • Photo: MGM

    The 2016 remake of The Magnificent Seven gives D'Onofrio a challenging task. His character is the moral center of the story. Jack Horne is a devoutly religious man who joins a posse looking to nab a ruthless industrialist who torched a church - an act that claimed numerous lives. There's a lot of mayhem in the film, but Horne is the guy who's constantly weighing the need to be righteous with the need to prevent the villain from further harming anyone else. D'Onofrio balances those traits perfectly.

    His bearded mountain man persona in the film, which renders him borderline unrecognizable, was cleverly described by MTV's Amy Nicholson as a "lumbering beast-man who’s strong enough to tackle a horse but talks with the weak warble of an old man demanding more butterscotch."

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    'Law & Order: Criminal Intent' - As A Brilliant, Eccentric Criminal Pathologist

    Photo: NBC

    Although he's primarily worked in film, D'Onofrio has made occasional forays into television. Most notably, he starred in 141 episodes of the legal drama Law & Order: Criminal Intent, playing Robert Goren, a brilliant investigator who specializes in comprehending the psychology behind criminality. While everyone agrees he's the best at what he does, Goren's personal eccentricities often drive his colleagues bananas.

    Law & Order: Criminal Intent gave D'Onofrio a chance to fully develop his character over the course of several years, as opposed to having to do it within the span of a two-hour movie. This allowed him to provide Goren with many layers, exploring his personal demons as well as his family life. The result is a rich, three-dimensional portrait of a complex man.

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