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Comedians trade in laughs for dramatic roles

Albert Brooks

Albert Brooks Photo Credit: Getty Images

Playing a fork-wielding, dangerously charming bad guy in the new movie “Drive,” funnyman Albert Brooks makes his return to the big screen after more than six years away.

The 64-year-old’s decision to go dark — a significant departure from his standard neurotic comic persona — seems to be paying off.

Critics and film-festival audiences have been buzzing about Brooks’ work in the old-fashioned thriller, about an expert driver (Ryan Gosling) and a robbery gone wrong. Oscar talk has begun to swirl around him.

With the film opening Friday, we decided to look at other great serious performances from stars best known for comedy.

Mary Tyler Moore

‘Ordinary People’ (1980)
Moore had already appeared in some movies, but she was best known for “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” when Robert Redford cast her as the cold-hearted Beth Jarrett in his acclaimed domestic drama. The result: an Academy Award nomination.

Robin Williams

‘Good Will Hunting’ (1997)
Improbably (given his apparently off-the-wall everyday demeanor), Williams is an extraordinarily skilled dramatic actor. He’s parlayed his acting chops into a host of memorable parts, but none more so than his heartfelt, Oscar-winning work as Matt Damon’s therapist in “Good Will Hunting.”

Jim Carrey

‘Man on the Moon’ (1999)
Carrey is another actor who shot to prominence thanks to a special brand of comedic crazy before showing considerable dramatic range. We’re most partial to the way Carrey ably conveyed the manifold complications of the late “SNL” veteran/performance artist Andy Kaufman in Milos Forman’s underrated biopic.

Bill Murray

‘Lost in Translation’ (2003)
To take an understated, deliberately underwritten part and bring it to life is one of the hardest tasks facing any actor. Murray does so vividly in Sofia Coppola’s masterpiece “Lost in Translation,” making his character’s profound loneliness seem powerfully real.

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