The Sundance Movies That Could Reinvent Their Stars

John Krasinski's book adaptation, Patton Oswalt's first leading-man role and more potential career changers.

From the heyday of John Cassavetes through the movement forged by names like Soderbergh, Tarantino and Jarmusch, indie films have long provided a shelter for A-list actors looking to step outside the box.

Whether you’re talking Bruce Willis (“Pulp Fiction”), Johnny Depp (“Dead Man”), Tom Cruise (“Magnolia”) or Aaron Eckhart (“Thank You for Smoking”), some of Hollywood’s biggest names have reinvigorated their careers at key moments with material that would make most studio heads cower under their desks.

Later this week, your MTV Movies team will once again hit the ground running at the 25th Annual Sundance Film Festival. As always, we’ll be looking for tomorrow’s biggest movies before the world has heard of them — as well as the star-transforming roles that could make an impact like those listed above.

Below are several well-known actors and the outside-the-box films that could have them leaving Park City covered in snow, awards — and buzz:

[movie id="348878"]John Krasinski, “Brief Interviews With Hideous Men”[/movie]:
He’s best known as that wisecracking guy from “The Office” and the star of such lightweight comedies as “License to Wed” and “Leatherheads.” But by the time he gets back from Sundance, Krasinski could reinvent himself as a writing /directing / acting triple threat. “Hideous” was adapted by the actor from a novel by the recently deceased David Foster Wallace and tells the story of a freshly dumped woman (Julianne Nicholson) who begins interviewing men in an effort to understand what makes their behavior so, well, hideous. Could it become the sitcom star’s “Garden State”?

[movieperson id="228861"]Patton Oswalt, “Big Fan”[/movieperson]:

He’s spent the past decade or so as the funniest stand-up comic who always seems thisclose to becoming a household name. Now, the savage, pop-culture-skewering comedian gets his first leading-man role in this provocative, quirky drama that sounds like “King of Comedy” meets “Straw Dogs.” The plot kicks off with one simple question: If your favorite sports player beat you up, what would that do to your psyche?

[movieperson id="309167"]Nick Cannon, “The Killing Room”[/movieperson]:
“He plays a homeless person, so he went and slept out on the streets!” director Jonathan Liebesman marveled over Cannon’s dedication to his new flick, a government-experiment thriller that sounds like “Cube” meets “Firestarter.” “He had no ego about who he was and what his audience was expecting and just wanted to do what’s right for the film and push himself.” For the third consecutive year, Mr. Mariah Carey is an indie darling at Sundance, and with Chloë Sevigny and Peter Stormare also in tow, “Room” sounds particularly intriguing. “He definitely has a drive to become a better actor and push his talent as far as it will go.”

[movieperson id="53744"]Sam Rockwell, “Moon”[/movieperson]:

OK, Rockwell has been an indie fave for years and has already gone to some unexpected places in films like “Choke” and “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.” But we can’t think of anybody trying anything quite like “Moon,” a film about a hallucinating astronaut stranded alone for three years on the lunar surface. Directed by David Bowie’s son, it might be the 21st century’s first philosophical astronaut film. Ground control to Major Sam: Check ignition, and may God’s love be with you.

[movieperson id="58787"]Wesley Snipes, “Brooklyn’s Finest”[/movieperson]:

Mickey Rourke just rose from the dead to win a Golden Globe by starring in an indie flick with festival buzz. Can the scandal-ridden “Blade” star be far behind? This cop drama pairs Snipes with Richard Gere, Don Cheadle and Ethan Hawke, and there are few things Hollywood loves as much as a comeback.

[movieperson id="28930"]Philip Seymour Hoffman, “Mary and Max”[/movieperson]:
Although the plot sounds like the usual envelope-pushing fare we’ve come to expect from the “Capote” Oscar winner, “Max” uses claymation (!) to tell the story of an unlikely friendship between an 8-year-old Australian (voiced by Toni Colette) and an obese 44-year-old New Yorker (Hoffman). If it works, can a Pixar-fueled sequel be far behind? Actually, yeah, it probably can.

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