Ricky Gervais loves being typecast, he says that actors should do what they do best and not feel the pressure to play different parts.
However, this is clearly not the view of a lot of actors who seem to be trying to shake their ‘character’. Some have not been successful, such as Jack Black and Adam Sandler, who forever play the School of Rock and Happy Gilmore type characters.
Jennifer Aniston is still being typecast as her Friends character Rachel in various rom-coms, despite the attempts to ditch it such as in Cake or The Good Girl.
Will Ferrell ditched his ‘mean but dumb funnyman’ character in Stranger Than Fiction, Robin Williams played a very serious role in Good Will Hunting, and Owen Wilson almost detached from the funny guy persona in Midnight in Paris.
For other actors such as Daniel Radcliffe and Robert Pattinson, I don’t think their iconic roles as Harry Potter and Edward Cullen will ever be able to be shaken, sadly. That is despite their clear acting ability.
Meanwhile other actors have been successful in breaking free from their typecast, and are in all sorts of films now.
I think the top five female actors (are we allowed to say actresses anymore?) who narrowly escaped being typecast are:
I wrote about Pike’s change in public perception in my post What are you like, Rosamund Pike. Just when we thought she was forever going to play the smart, elegant and beautiful lady-like characters in films like Pride & Prejudice, Made in Dagenham and The World’s End, she goes and does something like Gone Girl! Which, I’m sure surprised us all. She’s certainly shown Hollywood what she’s capable of. Having said that, have we seen her in anything big since..? Eek.
She was the rough and ready comedy support actress, and I think that’s where we thought she’d always stay. The Superbad, The House Bunny, Zombieland, Friends with Benefits kind of girl. But then The Help came along, showing her dramatic and compassionate side, then Spiderman, then La La Land, which turned her into an all-singing, all-dancing serious actress! Love her.
Sense & Sensibility turned into Titanic, and Finding Neverland turned into The Holiday. Kate Winslet remains a brilliant dramatic actress who sometimes showed her comedic side (like in Extras). But if you look closer at her career, you’ll find some gems that shows a totally different side to Kate Winslet. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind being one, where she plays an eccentric woman. The Dressmaker being another, where she plays a flamboyant Australian. I guess she is still typecast in a way, but she has shown that she can do so much more.
I wrote her off, because she’s always played ‘the blonde’. The Legally Blonde airhead, then Sweet Home Alabama and Little Nicky. But then Walk the Line happened, and suddenly Reese Witherspoon was a genuine and talented dramatic actress who could sing beautifully. THEN, there was Wild. And I was sold. I’ve heard she’s amazing in Devil’s Knot too.
At first, I thought she was going to forever remain as Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games, then I thought she’d be typecast as a sci-fi blue thing in X-Men (I haven’t watched the X-Men series). But each time she managed to escape the typecast hold! With movies like Silver Lining, American Hustle and Joy keeping her not only out of reach of typecasting, but also the highest paid female actor of 2015 and 2016.
The top five male actors who narrowly escaped being typecast are:
He may have been typecast during the ’90s as the goofy, outlandish comedy actor of Ace Ventura, The Mask, Dumb and Dumber and The Cable Guy, but there was a sudden turn closer to the naughties. There was Liar, Liar (a personal favourite), and then The Truman Show, which showed a far more serious side. Man on the Moon showed yet another angle, then the biggest leap of all in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. In this film, he was a nervous, serious introvert. (It’s joked that Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet swapped their typecast roles in this film.) He was made for the part. He returned to children’s films after that (Dr Seuss and A Christmas Carol), but is sadly slowly riding the curve back to being typecast in cheap and dirty comedy sequels.
This actor was forever Malcolm in the Middle‘s dad. But actually, I think he was born to be a dramatic actor in serious roles. It seems he was accidentally made famous in comedy roles instead! He could have easily stayed on that road of comedy, but he escaped. First came a small role in Little Miss Sunshine, then Drive, then Argo… But suddenly, there was a TV show that no one could stop talking about. Breaking Bad. And now we look at Bryan Cranston a little differently and with a little more respect than we did when he was Malcolm’s dad.
In his early career, Carell was credited as a ‘Mailroom Guy without Glasses’ in a 1998 film called Tomorrow Night. He soon found himself climbing the ropes in the comedy genre. Bruce Almighty, Anchorman and 40-Year-Old Virgin were quick to follow. Then out of nowhere was Little Miss Sunshine, where Carell played a reasonably serious role of a suicidal, gay scholar. In between his typecasting, serious roles keep cropping up, like The Way Way Back, where he plays a really mean dick of a stepdad. Then Foxcatcher, which I really need to watch. These brilliantly serious roles in his career have acted as a red flag to Hollywood, telling them that he has the ability and the power to resist his comedic typecast.
It all began in the massive Hollywood comedies – 40-Year-Old Virgin, Click, Knocked Up, Get Him to the Greek… Then he stepped up a notch and did 21 Jump Street and everyone was like ‘whaaaaaat, is that the same guy?’ because he lost a ton of weight. Not only had his look changed, but so did the kind of work he got. He began to get into more serious roles like The Wolf of Wall Street and Django Unchained in between sequels to successful comedies and animation films. Go Jonah!
Does this guy have the same agent as Jennifer Lawrence? Because he’s in a ton of the same films as her now. He began in comedy, the Wedding Crashers being a memorable feature, Yes Man and The Hangover of course. I thought rom/coms was where he’d stay, but somewhere along the way he got into a bit more action, like Limitless. Then that progressed to The Place Beyond the Pines, American Hustle and Joy. This has extended into superhero films! I personally don’t like the guy because he seems a bit pompous, but he sure can act in a variety of roles!
There are lots of all-rounders or ‘chameleon’ actors who could never be typecast! They show how talented they are in every genre and in every role. These include:
Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Gary Oldman, Ralph Fiennes, Brad Pitt, Meryl Streep, Stanley Tucci, Leonardo DiCaprio… The list goes on!