David Everitt
April 04, 1997 AT 05:00 AM EST

Brad Pitt won kudos for expanding his range with a strong performance in Sleepers. But if he were really a master thespian, wouldn’t he have played his character as an adolescent, instead of having some child-actor surrogate do it for him? After all, plenty of movie stars have done their own age-reduction stunt work.

DUSTIN HOFFMAN IN LITTLE BIG MAN (1970, FoxVideo) The then-33-year-old star played the film’s hero not only as a 121-year-old frontier survivor but also as a teenager adopted by Cheyenne Indians. It’s a stunning transformation, thanks to makeup master Dick Smith and the actor’s uncanny vocal prowess.

JOAN CRAWFORD IN STRAITJACKET (1964, RCA/Columbia) In a prologue set 20 years before the main action, Crawford, then 55, played a twentysomething ax murderess. Wearing a black wig and jangly bracelets, she comes across as a freakish parody of her own youthful persona — which of course suits this thriller’s mood.

KATHLEEN TURNER IN PEGGY SUE GOT MARRIED (1986, FoxVideo) As a dissatisfied middle-aged woman teleported back to high school with her adult mind intact, Turner — her brilliant blue eyes wide with schoolgirlish eagerness — at times manages to make you forget she was actually 32. But only at times.

JERRY LEWIS IN THE NUTTY PROFESSOR (1963, Paramount) Although he was 37 during production, Lewis (wearing his director’s hat) had Lewis (the actor) play the dorky scientist Julius Kelp as a baby in one memorable flashback scene, employing the old giant-props trick. Result? A bit of shtick so fake it’s funny.

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