Being a movie star is hard. You have to deal with all those fans constantly wanting your autograph… the measly millions of dollars made every movie (barely enough to pay for your kid’s pool house)… the expensive cars and exotic foods that grow oh-so-humdrum… You know how it goes. And with all these bills to pay and mouths to feed, it’s no wonder so many movie stars find one particular role they’re good at and never deviate from it. A simple rule of show business: you give the people what they want, over and over and over again if necessary. The actors on this list have proven that they really do have range, but for one reason or another, their default setting has proven to be the most profitable, and so they’ll do the occasional art-house indie flick or romantic comedy for variety.
But really, who are they kidding?
We love them as they are, so here’s Screen Junkies’s salute to 11 Great Terminally Typecast Actors.
[Editor’s Note: The list is measured by how strong the typecast is, but sometimes the actor hasn’t been around as long, so the condition isn’t as serious.]
Above Pineapple Express, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Knocked Up, Superbad
Here’s the situation. Your bromantic comedy is coming out and you need an affable and frumpishly-attractive male lead who can ad-lib most of his scenes and shoot off a string of hilarious one-liners to boot. Who you gonna call? Seth Rogen, duh. Rogen’s charm lies in the simple fact that, one, he’s hilarious, and two, he looks like the kind of guy you could go out and have a beer with, which makes him perfect for most comedies, but unfortunately not-so-perfect for having much range (although Observe & Report was a change of pace). Whatever role he’s in, you’ll generally you’ll find him wearing the same goofy expression.
Above: Anchorman, Step Brothers, Blades of Glory, Talladega Nights
It’s easy to describe the characters Will Ferrell plays in one word: silly. And stupid. Stuply? Sillid? Okay maybe two words. He’s damn funny when he’s on a roll, and absolutely nobody can do clueless comedy like he can. He has a way of making the dumbest person alive seem endearing and likeable, even if they’re a complete jerk. He seems to have an affinity for sports jerks, too – he’s been a basketball star, a racecar driver, and ice skater, and a soccer dad. Even if Ferrell goes on playing these exact same roles for most of his career, he’s defined funny for a generation, and people will continue to pay for it, and we’ll continue to wish he would just do another Stranger than Fiction.
Above: Independence Day, I, Robot, Men In Black, Wild Wild West
Similar to Tom Cruise in that he really can’t EVER not be himself, but minus the creepy, soulless eyes. Oh, and he also runs in pretty much every single one of his movies, adding in a “Hell no!” in most of them too, just to assert his male dominance. His default setting is the charming, affable and funny black man, who takes to every situation with good humor and never gives up because he knows he’s the good guy. And because we’re Americans, we know we’re the good guys (well, duh), and we know we’ll always win (and if you don’t think we’ll win you’re a terrorist and/or commie), so Smith’s friendly, winning persona is usually a formula for success. Besides, he does the occasional different role just to switch up things (like Ali and The Pursuit of Happyness), so all he really is… is a man who knows what he wants.
Above: Mission: Impossible, Top Gun, Minority Report, Jerry Maguire
First, one thing: How many action/drama superstars can you name who barely stand a head taller than Danny DeVito? Oh yeah, and they have to have been the most bankable movie star in the world for 20 years and continue ticking to this day, even if it’s to a lesser degree. Give up? It’s because there’s only one – f**king Tom Cruise, and it helps us to explain why he’s crafted an onscreen personality so intense that he can’t ever not be Tom Cruise (except, perhaps, in a few scenes in PT Anderson’s Magnolia). The guy just needed a way to make people forget about this height. This, combined with his two of three staples: running, yelling, and crying, make for a performer who is not necessarily typecast (he nabs a huge variety of roles), but who can never escape the fact that he’s Tom Cruise.
Above: Pulp Fiction, Snakes on a Plane, Shaft, The Incredibles
Now, it’s not Sam Jackson’s fault that he happens to be one of the most badass mother-f**kers who ever lived. It’s not his fault that the natural decibel level of his voice is somewhere around 1,000. And it’s especially not his fault that his vocal cords uncontrollably produce an “f-bomb” every ten seconds. One of the few exceptions to these basic rules was Unbreakable, where he managed to keep the insanity on hold till the last minute, but the fact remains the man simply has talent in the area of swearing and pissed off yelling. This man could stare down a rhino and maybe even sexually violate it to teach it a lesson. You simply do not f**k with Sam Jackson, and now we’re moving on because I think he just saw me and the rhino isn’t moving any more.
Above: The Shawshank Redemption, Million Dollar Baby, Bruce Almighty, Se7en
Even when Morgan Freeman was playing a mean, badass dude in Wanted, one of his rare breaks from his level-headed wizened man role, his voice stays the same, that of the “kindly old narrator” and for good reason –this man could make taking a massive dump sound epic, effortlessly. He just needs to talk. “There I was, sitting on the john that day, a day I will never forget. The chili was spicy, the nachos, cheesy. And I learned something back then, to never take toilet paper for granted again.” Seriously, he could just package his voice and sell it and live like a rich mofo for the rest of his life. It’s also no surprise that he played God. The Almighty probably wishes he had kept that voice for himself.
Above: The Mask, The Cable Guy, Dumb & Dumber, Ace Ventura
Whereas Seth Rogen goes with genial, frumpish raunch and Will Ferrell simply plays the clueless yet earnest simpleton, Jim Carrey is the original bat-sh*t crazy comedian. Every single one of his movies find him moving his expression in some odd, crazy fashion, twisting his body every which way, throwing absolutely everything he has into his performances. It usually creates great comedy, but by now his shtick is wearing thin. We’ll see if he continues to dwindle downward into mediocre yet funny comedies like Yes Man or graduate to better projects like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
Above: The Waterboy, Mr. Deeds, Happy Gilmore, The Wedding Singer
The common denominator among all of Sandler’s performances is that his characters act like either complete douche bags or near-retarded, all of whom have failed to develop any kind of social skills despite the fact that they’re 30. Apparently many beautiful women find this irresistible, too, and hey, if he gets pissed off, screams, and beats up random people, it’s like a match made in heaven! Sandler has proven, with a couple of efforts (Punch Drunk Love and Reign Over Me), that he can do quiet, serious drama extremely well, so why does he keep up the frat boy façade? Who knows? Maybe he just likes to yell a lot.
Above: Heat, Scarface, The Devil’s Advocate, Two for the Money
He used to be a versatile actor back in the day (ever heard of The Godfather?) but nowadays he seems to have morphed into this force that goes from movie to movie, only ever slightly altering look, hair, accent, or intensity. Pacino’s still a contender, though, even tough his joint effort with Robert De Niro, Righteous Kill, flopped miserably and failed critically.
Above: Goodfellas, Taxi Driver, Casino, Analyze This
Ever since he first looked at himself in a mirror and rhetorically wondered aloud if his reflection was talking to him, Robert De Niro seems to have developed a niche for himself in the world of movies. (He broke out of it rather nicely as a publicist in the underrated comedy last year, What Just Happened.) You’ve got that squinty-eyed stare, the smug, downturned lips, and a cocky “I will bring you down to Chinatown” voice that nobody else can really top. It’s no wonder he keeps on getting tapped to portray the same kind of gangster fella over and over again.
Above: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Departed, Batman, The Shining
And here he is, the number one excellent yet terminally typecast actor. What do you want us to say? The man has defined creepy for us for decades now, and he doesn’t look to be stopping anytime soon. He has some kind of aura about him that he can’t escape, so that even in his normal movies you can’t help but think he might be a pedophile. We love your movies, Jack, just stay the court-appointed 50 feet away at all times. Unless, of course, you’re being a nice, non-creepy guy, like in Something’s Gotta Give or The Bucket List, but that doesn’t happen very often, so let’s just be safe about it.
What other great actors do you think get typecast as severely as these guys?
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