Biggest Movie Character Transformations of the 2000s

An image from the animated movie Spies in Disguise (2019) featuring Lance Sterling (voiced by Will Smith) fixing the cuffs of his tuxedo while leaning up against a black sports car atop a roof in Washington, D.C. with the Capitol Building in the background and the sun rising behind the Washington Monument

Dreaded or welcomed, 2020 is here. It’s a new dawn, a new decade, and a new life for those who want to make a new change for themselves. Making a change in your life can take some time—years even! But when you’re a character in a movie, drastic life changes can happen all within a 90-minute window. 

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With the release of Will Smith’s upcoming animated comedy Spies in Disguise, we find the suave man of mystery, Lance Sterling (Smith), to be making a few unexpected changes of his own. To prepare ourselves for this new movie, as well as the new year, let’s take a look at a few characters that have made some drastic professional pivots and left us with a few lessons to equip us with when making our own. 


Andy Sachs
The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

The Devil Wears Prada-Anne Hathaway
Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway) in The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

Andrea Sachs came to New York with a strong academic background and ambitious plans to become a journalist. As a professional stepping stone, she takes on a role as the assistant to fashion legend Miranda Priestly. Considered homely and unqualified by Miranda’s staff, she plots to prove that she can not only endure but thrive for a year in the fashion world. Although she eventually retreats to her first passion of writing, it was her time under Miranda that became the catalyst for her success. Her divergent career path proves to the Andreas of the world that anything is possible once you learn how to spell Gabbana. It even offers advice to the Mirandas: “Take a chance. Hire the smart, fat girl.”


Elle Woods
Legally Blonde (2001)

Legally Blonde-Reese Witherspoon
Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) in Legally Blonde (2001)

Never test the determination of a blonde after a breakup. In Legally Blonde, Elle Woods has it all as everyone’s favorite sorority girl. That is until her boyfriend ends the relationship, noting that she isn’t “serious” enough. To prove him wrong, Elle wipes the tearful mascara smear right off and studies for the LSAT to prove herself, evening getting accepted into Harvard Law, but she doesn’t stop there. She lands a coveted internship assisting her professor and eventually a role as a speaker at her law school graduation. In what began as a scheme to bring jealousy and remorse to her ex, Elle found her fulfilment in seeking criminal justice rather than seeking a Greek mixer date. If you’re emerging from a breakup in 2019, it’s time to bend, snap, and prove your worth to the world! 


Chris Gardner
The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

The Pursuit of Happyness-Will and Jaden Smith
Chris Gardner (Will Smith) and Christopher (Jaden Smith) in The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

We all consider career changes, but in a case like that of Chris Gardner, the change was a matter of life and death. A single father, struggling medical salesmen, and nearly homeless, Chris comes across the opportunity to become an intern stockbroker with the unlikely chance of a full-time offer. Although Chris and his son face impoverishment, he uses his innate intellect and efficiency to prove himself as the most qualified candidate. When all hope is seemingly lost, he is extended the offer, pulling himself and his son out of poverty. The offer itself left Chris feeling more rewarded and accomplished than his initial job ever did. To state it simply in Chris’ own words, “If you want somethin', go get it. Period.” 


Dewey Finn
The School of Rock (2003)

School of Rock-Jack Black
Dewey Finn (Jack Black) in The School of Rock (2003)

Who says punk rock and academics can’t mix? When Dewey Finn is ousted from the band he created, he takes on the job of a substitute teacher while claiming to be his roommate. Dewey exemplifies not only how it’s possible to make a drastic career change but how you can rock out to sharing your passions and create a refreshing and positive impact. 

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Lance Sterling
Spies in Disguise (2019)

Spies in Disguise-characters
Walter Beckett (voiced by Tom Holland) and Lance Sterling (voiced by Will Smith) in Spies in Disguise (2019)

To make a true career pivot, sometimes it takes more than changing jobs. It takes changing species. When super spy Lance Sterling turns to a scientist to equip himself with revolutionary gadgets, he is accidentally transformed into a pigeon. Though seemingly stripped of his spy skills, he finds new and inventive ways to save the world and leaves us with a new birds-eye view. 


Spies in Disguise is now playing at Regal.

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