LOS ANGELES – In a town where you're only as tough as your last box-office total, aging action heroes are trying some new tricks.
With their latest big screen choices, tough guys like Bruce Willis (search), Sylvester Stallone (search) and Harrison Ford (search) have traded action dramas for films that sharply contrast with their previous track records.
Next weekend, Stallone takes on some pint-sized action heroes who weren't even born when Rambo and Rocky hit hard at the box office. In Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, the 56-year-old actor takes on the role of the "Toymaker," a longtime nemesis of the film's two young stars.
While it's unclear how audiences will react to the softer side of Stallone, he said his own kids are thrilled with his new role.
"Now, the mere fact that I know these two children, I'm allowed back into my house," Stallone joked referring to the franchise's stars Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara.
Sly's films have catered primarily to adult audiences, but this demographic may have lost interest in him. He made a short-lived comeback in 1997's acclaimed drama Cop Land but then retreated back into box-office obscurity. His villainous role in Spy Kids 3-D is more of a child's video game fantasy than a bloody action hero drama.
For Harrison Ford, one of Hollywood's leading heartthrob heroes, his recent foray into comedy with Hollywood Homicide was met with a resounding thud.
And after high-profile, lightsaber, bullwhip and gun-touting roles in films like Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Patriot Games, Ford knows fans may need to adjust their expectations for him. But he says doing alternate roles helps his work stay fresh.
In explaining his most recent career move, Ford told Fox News, "By doing different kinds of characters, by appearing in different genres of films, by choosing carefully what they bring to the audience, that's how you manage your career."
Although Ford has interjected comedies like Working Girl into his career, the often slapstick comedy of Homicide is a far cry from some of the actor's best-known work.
Another aging action hero trying his hand at lighter fare is Bruce Willis, who solidified his fame in films such as Die Hard and Armageddon. So who could have guessed that the balding bad boy was a fan of the Nickelodeon cartoon Rugrats?
Audiences have seen him in comedic roles before, but in Rugrats Go Wild, which opened last month, Willis dropped the gun-slinging persona and assumed the voice of Spike the dog.
Willis said his motto for acting is to always keep audiences guessing: "Try different things all the time. Try to leave the baggage of the films that I've already done at the door before I go to work," he said.
One action star who is sticking to his guns is Arnold Schwarzenegger. The iron man is hoping to duplicate the firepower of the first two Terminator films with a third installment, T3: Rise of the Machines.
But in real life, he's thinking of auditioning for a very different role: governor of California. Although he hasn't officially decided to run for office, Schwarzenegger has confirmed his interest in the political position.
But during his promotion of T3, when asked about his political intentions, Schwarzenegger wouldn't give an inch.
"Terminator 3, that's what I'm running for now," he told Fox News. "If anyone asks me, 'Do you run for anything?' I say 'Yeah for Terminator 3.'"
But whether they take on comedy or drama or politics, Ford, Willis, Stallone and Schwarzenegger can borrow the Terminator's slogan when it comes to their careers: 'I'll be back.'
Fox News' Sarah M. Gould contributed to this report.