It's been 15 years since Vin Diesel shocked fans when — after starring in action flicks like "Pitch Black," "The Fast and the Furious," "xXx" and "The Chronicles of Riddick" — he headlined 2005's "The Pacifier" as a Navy SEAL tasked with essentially babysitting five unruly children ranging in age from 7 months to 16 years. In honor of the family comedy's 15th anniversary on March 4, 2020, Wonderwall.com is taking a look back at more action stars who surprising starred in family-friendly fare. Keep reading for more…
RELATED: Vin's life in pictures
Dwayne Johnson made his acting debut in 2001's "The Mummy Returns" and then headlined action flicks "The Scorpion King," "Walking Tall" and "Doom." When the former wrestler starred as a minor league hockey player who's transformed into the tooth fairy in 2010's "Tooth Fairy," fans had good reason to be surprised. Since then, however, The Rock has had countless opportunities to show his range as an actor.
RELATED: The business of being Dwayne Johnson
Arnold Schwarzenegger impressed when — after starring in "Conan the Barbarian," "The Terminator," "Predator" and "Total Recall" — he headlined the 1990 family crime-comedy "Kindergarten Cop" as a hardened police officer working undercover at an elementary school.
RELATED: Arnold's life in pictures
In 2016, action star Dolph Lundgren followed in Arnold Schwarzenegger's footsteps by starring as an FBI Agent who goes undercover at an elementary school in "Kindergarten Cop 2," which went straight to DVD. It was a major departure for the Swedish star, who is known for his work as Ivan Drago in the "Rocky" franchise, He-Man in 1987's "Masters of the Universe," Frank Castle in 1989's "The Punisher" and Gunner in the "Expendables" franchise.
Harrison Ford has starred in plenty of dramas over the years, though he'll always be considered an action star thanks to his work in the "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones" franchises. It wasn't until very recently that he started making movies for kids. First, he voiced a brave sheepdog in 2019's "The Secret Life of Pets 2." Then he starred opposite a CGI mutt in the 2020 family adventure flick "The Call of the Wild."
It took decades in Hollywood for Sylvester Stallone to star in a family film. After voicing a brave soldier ant in the 1998 cartoon "Antz," Sly portrayed the villain in the 2003 family action-comedy "Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over."
Sigourney Weaver has been one of Hollywood's most beloved female action stars since 1979, when she portrayed Ripley in "Alien." She returned to the role in three sequels and also appeared in many dramas and comedies for older audiences. But it wasn't until 2003 that she branched into family fare with the Disney flick "Holes," in which she starred alongside Jon Voight and Shia LeBeouf.
When John Cena launched his acting career after years as one of wrestling's biggest stars, he made the transition with action flicks like "The Marine," "12 Rounds" and "Bumblebee." He also proved his comedy chops in R-rated comedies like "Trainwreck," "Sisters" and "Blockers." It wasn't until recently that he finally branched into family-friendly fare. After voicing the titular bull in 2017's "Ferdinand," John starred as a firefighter tasked with supervising three rescued kiddos in the 2019 family comedy "Playing with Fire."
In keeping with the tradition of wrestlers portraying tough guys relegated to caring for kids, Hulk Hogan starred as a bodyguard/nanny for a pair of spoiled kiddos in the 1993 family action-comedy "Mr. Nanny." (How could we forget that he donned tights and a tutu to ballet dance alongside one of his young charges?!) Before that, he'd appeared in 1982's "Rocky III" and 1989's "No Holds Barred."
Bruce Willis became a bona fide action star after he headlined 1988's "Die Hard," which has since spawned four sequels — with one more installment reportedly to come. Though he proved his comedic chops in films like "Look Who's Talking" and "Death Becomes Her," it wasn't until the mid-'90s that the American actor appealed to a strictly younger audience with the Rob Reiner-directed 1994 bomb "North." Elijah Wood starred in the title role while Bruce portrayed a series of benevolent advisors, including a man dressed up like the Easter Bunny. (He fared far better with the 2000 family comedy "The Kid.")
Mark Wahlberg may have launched his career as an actor with dramas like "The Basketball Diaries," "Fear" and "Boogie Nights," but for the past two decades, he's been synonymous with big action flicks. It was only recently that he branched into R-rated comedy before finally dipping his toes into family-friendly fare with the 2015 PG-13 comedy "Daddy's Home." Since then, he's starred in a 2017 sequel and in 2018's "Instant Family."
Matt Damon cut his teeth in Hollywood with dramas like "School Ties," "Courage Under Fire," "Good Will Hunting" and "Saving Private Ryan." After he launched the "Bourne" franchise with "The Bourne Identity" in 2002, he became known for his work in action flicks. He went on to star in "Elysium," "Green Zone," "The Great Wall" and more. Although he voiced characters in a handful of cartoons over the years, it wasn't until 2011's "We Bought a Zoo" that he headlined a live-action family-friendly film.
Scarlett Johansson isn't just an action star. She's also a two-time Oscar nominee with impeccable comedic timing. Since she made her debut as Natasha Romanoff in 2010's "Iron Man 2," though, she's become one of Hollywood most in-demand actresses when action is involved. Her résumé now includes "Lucy," "Ghost in the Shell" and several more installments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. (Up next, she'll star in a Marvel movie of her own: "Black Widow" debuts on May 1, 2020.) While she was on her way to becoming a huge action star, she also made some time for family-friendly fare, voicing characters in "Sing," "Isle of Dogs" and "The Jungle Book" and headlining 2011's "We Bought a Zoo" opposite Matt Damon.
Gerard Butler shot into the spotlight with "300," "Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life," "Reign of Fire" and more action films. In 2008, he proved that he could also appeal to younger audiences when he starred in the family-friendly adventure flick "Nim's Island."
Robert Downey Jr. might have kicked off his career with comedy and drama, but thanks to his work as Tony Stark in the "Iron Man" trilogy — which launched the "Avengers" franchise and the Marvel Cinematic Universe — he's now one of the biggest action stars on the planet. Surprisingly, he's only starred in a handful of straight-up family films over the years. In 2006, for example, he appeared in the remake of "The Shaggy Dog." He also headlined 2020's "Dolittle," which has the distinction of being the worst reviewed film of his career since the '90s.
Another wrestler who started his acting career with action flicks? Dave Bautista. After starring in "The Man with the Iron Fists," "Riddick," the "Guardians of the Galaxy" franchise, "Spectre" and "Blade Runner 2049," he's finally embraced family-friendly fare! The wrestler-actor is set to star in the upcoming family action-comedy movie "My Spy," in which he'll star as a CIA operative who's relegated to babysitting a precocious 9-year-old while protecting her family.