But now that Colbert is stepping up to succeed David Letterman as the host of "The Late Show" in 2015 and dropping his conservative blowhard character, audiences could see a different side of him. Time will tell how Colbert gets along with Hollywood's A-list stars in his new role, and how much of his trademark quirk carries over, but it will certainly be an adjustment both for him and the studios that want their stars on the show.
In the meantime, here's a look at how Colbert has handled some memorable movie guests in the past.
Colbert regularly welcomes directors on his show, with recent guests including Alexander Payne, Errol Morris and Godfrey Reggio. Last month, Darren Aronofsky stopped by to promote his biblical epic "Noah," and in the process demonstrated one of the hurdles of the show: Colbert is such a forceful personality, he occasionally overshadows his guests.
In the clip below, Aronofsky dutifully plugs "Noah" and carefully positions it as his personal artistic interpretation, while Colbert mischievously lobs gags referencing both "Snakes on a Plane" ("I'm tired of these [expletive] snakes on my [expletive] ark!") and the Old Testament ("Is there any hot begetting going on in the movie?"). Advantage: Colbert.
Another thing to know about Colbert: He's a huge J.R.R. Tolkien and "Lord of the Rings" fan. That meant he was giddy to have Elijah Wood on his show in November 2011, even though Wood was actually on hand to promote a non-Tolkien movie: the animated musical
After grilling Wood about whether the penguin tale was actually about global warming — "Are you going to make me feel guilty about driving my Audi A8?" — Colbert went into full geek mode. "I've resisted it as long as I can," he said before bringing up the "Rings" movies and ultimately comparing, er, swords with Wood.
You have to hand it to Colbert, the guy knows how to make a first impression. Welcoming Keanu Reeves for the first time last year, he said, "It's so wonderful to meet you and to be angry at you in person. You're three things that piss me off: You're a Canadian, you're an actor … also, you're 49 and I'm 49 — you go to hell!" (the latter being a reference to Reeves' apparent agelessness).
Reeves and Colbert made nice though neither could do much to help the film Reeves was promoting, "47 Ronin," which became one of 2013's biggest bombs.
Acclaimed actress Sally Field summed up why stars and studios should pay attention to Colbert: youth appeal.
"You sound like you raised some really smart kids," Colbert replied. Later in the chat, he offered to take her out for a drink and, upon hearing she wasn't married, clumsily slipped off his wedding ring.
Colbert's edgy satire can make for some uncomfortable moments, but also some inspired ones — sometimes both at the same time. Such was the case when "Pulp Fiction" star Samuel L. Jackson appeared on the show to promote his Broadway debut in "The Mountaintop," playing
During their conversation, Colbert asked Jackson, "Are you an African American? Because, as I said, I took King's lesson to heart, and I don't see the color of anyone's skin. I only see the content of their character."
"Really?! Awesome. Unfortunately, I don't have that luxury," Jackson said with amused dubiousness. "I'm not a racist, but I see race because I want to know what's going on."
As Colbert continued to press Jackson's buttons and ask if he was indeed black, Jackson finally said, "I'm not black, white or anything. I'm — I'm a movie star!" He added, "I try to act like it's not a big deal, but it's a pretty big [expletive] deal."