G-S-T Top 10 – Actors Unable to Escape Their Characters

This Top 10 goes out to all the talented actors out there who just don’t get a fair shake in Hollywood. Sure, many celebrities on this list have made obscene fortunes on their respective cinematic personalities, and are capable thespians. But success does have its downside; namely the inability for the actor in question to get a sufficient role or body of work to help distance them from such a solid, iconic, memorable or even annoying character.

Now, to be fair, some of the actors on this list are very talented performers. Yet all their efforts fall by the wayside due to one singular role (or roles) that very nearly define their existence. So here are the Top 10 Actors Unable to Escape Their Characters:

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Daniel Radcliffe – As the final installment of J.K. Rowling’s franchise was released to the fans last Friday, little Harry Potter is actually the inspiration for this entire post. But sadly, after 8 films playing the same character, I don’t see how any agent can think of him in any other role. That may be unfair as he’s still pretty young, but even as a confident actor, could anyone see him playing a doctor, a detective, a chef, hell, even a burned out actor turned junkie? Maybe he could play a teacher…at Hogwart’s perhaps? So aside from being quite hysterical in that episode of Extras, you can see how limited his future roles may be, although I’d like to put emphasis on may.

Role that would break him of type: Weapons specialist in a later Mission: Impossible film, or one of the Rainbow Six.

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Robert Pattinson – Edward Cullen may not be a role Pattinson has trouble, or even a problem, playing. I mean, if you were an actor, how much would you complain if pretty much all of your fans were comprised of the opposite sex (Liberace not withstanding). But a diamond coated brooding vampire is a niche role to have on your resume and doesn’t really segue into other genres. I’m afraid directors/casting agents may think the same way. Eh, I guess it doesn’t matter because he’s probably making the same money whether he’s in a movie, or attending cons/signing autographs.

Role that would break him of type: Analyst at the CDC working on an antibiotic for some global pandemic that claimed his whole family.

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Tobey Maguire – Tobey playing Peter Parker was the role that many people weren’t sure he could pull off. Well he did, and then some. He hit it big as the lead in one of the most successful comic book adaptations of all time. And whether he’s still counting the ridiculous green he made; or is just tired of acting I don’t know, but we haven’t seen much of him after Spider-Man 3. Like we saw in Brothers, he’s got more than web shooters up his sleeves he just needs to do more of that.

Role that would break him of type: A defense lawyer in a 19th century period piece.

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Christopher Reeve – For as fine an actor as he was, it’s sad that few know of his talents outside playing orphaned Kryptonian son (aka, the greatest comic book hero of all time). Even before his death Reeve played a number of solid, stand up and yet emotionally tangible characters in all sorts of great films. Yet all the world loves and remembers him as the son of Jor-El. Well I guess there’s nothing wrong with that actually.

Role that would break him of type: N/A

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Christopher Lloyd – “1.21 Jiggawats” is right. Aside from his equally wacked out and spacey role in Taxi and Judge Doom in Who Framed Roger Rabbit is there another role you can remember Lloyd playing be it better, worse or entirely different? No? That’s OK I’ll wait…keep thinking.

Role that would break him of type: Playing a replacement for Lisa Cuddy as Dean of Medicine/hospital administrator on House, M.D.

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Michael J. Fox – This is pretty much the same case as Christopher Lloyd above. However while Fox had a solid career in TV before and after the BTTF trilogy, he didn’t make many equally great turns in film. Kind of the Daniel Radcliffe in his day but despite having much more talent Fox just didn’t get anything super memorable or worth his time. Pity.

Role that would break him of type: Well I thought his role in The Frighteners would have done it…but it didn’t.

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Jason Biggs – I think the line in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back sums it up nicely “You see! It’s never “Hey! You’re that guy from Loser” or “Hey you rocked in Boys and Girls.” No, it always comes back to that fucking pie! I’m HAUNTED by it!” Sorry Jason, I’m inclined to agree with Kevin Smith on this one.

Role that would break him of type:  Playing an eccentric shut in author who writes best-selling children’s books.

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Laurence Fishburne – Playing the wise Morpheus, Larry took a career defining role that’s for sure…and for a time, it was good. He had some solid work in his younger years and even a decent role in Apocalypse Now. His voice perhaps transcends his acting ability but after The Matrix trilogy his roles just aren’t varied enough to keep us from thinking that he’s gonna ask everyone he shares the screen with whether they’ll take the red pill or the blue pill.

Role that would break him of type: Playing an admiral in any post WWII war epic (or possibly a remake of The Final Countdown).

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Jon Heder -“Tina, come here and get some ham!” When Heder played the awkward teen with the groovy dance moves (thank you D- Kwon!) he created an icon of nerdiness the likes the world has never ever seen. But with great character comes room for improvement and Heder never allowed for that. I guess it’s not his fault but like Radcliffe, no matter how great an actor you are, it’s hard to get past a vivid image of Heder’s Napoleon that’s been burned in our brains.

Role that would break him of type: Playing Ringo Starr in a biopic about The Beatles.

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Mark Hamill – True, his career is forever defined by his role in Star Wars but Hamill has done so much voice work to distance himself from our favorite Tatooine farmboy. It’s funny that he’s known for an iconic hero but like few others can claim he’s equally know for the villain, an equally important and legendary villain no less. After all the years he spent voicing Batman’s nemesis Hamill created the Joker to end all Jokers (well until Heath Ledger came along that is) and has about as many fans for his The Clown Price as he does for being the son of Skywalker.

Role that would break him of type: Playing a 60’s pimp with a heart of gold in a yet unwritten Quentin Tarantino film.

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So that’s what I’ve got. While these actors aren’t totally typecast near as much as someone like Bruce Willis (playing cop after cop after cop) they still get thought of for their singularly popular character. What roles do you think will forever define certain actors? What roles do you think keep actors from getting different or better work??

Comments

  1. I would definitely throw Tim Curry as Frankenfurter “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” awesome actor, but could never shake the curse of Frank the sweet transvestite from transexual Transylvania.

    • Wow, good call on Curry. I would have added Vin Diesel but none of his roles were that great or near as iconic as the ones on this list.

  2. Of all the Harry Potter stars I think Radcliffe will have the worst go of trying to escape his role while Rupert Grint will have the hardest job getting roles at all.

    I think Fishburne will eventually return to his Boyz in da Hood style fatherly role which I think suits him well. Geeks have plenty to go ‘ooooh’ over now, it won’t take much for him to escape the Morpheus guise.

    That said, I wouldn’t mind if Jon Header or Jason Biggs never escaped their typecast and just went away. Not a fan in even my most generous moments.

    • Well put Uni. He was decent in Wild Target but I agree with you. My advice is that Grint should grow a beard and get pumped to play a crazy Scottman in a period pieces or TV series.

      Good call on Fishburne and I too would love it if Heder and Biggs retired completely:P

    • Agree Uni. Harry Potter has been such a wild success that I doubt Radcliffe will be able to shed his iconic status as Harry Potter for the next 5 or 10 years at least. It also doesn’t help that he is like 5 ft 5 and doesn’t really the look of a leading man. Emma Watson is already starting to move forward though and she has been smart to go with a shorter haircut and change her image a bit. And Rupert Grint, I just don’t see him get any kind of significant role now that HP is over.

  3. I like this list. It is funny how some actors get stuck in one role and then can not shake it. I doubt we will ever see anything else except Potter for Radcliffe, but does he care? Does he ever have to work again? Nope.

    The one person who managed to stay clear of this is Depp, you would think of 4 films we would have hime as just Jack Sparrow, but he is such a chameleon.

    Nice list this matey!!

    • Haha, good point C. That’s exactly what I thought and Radcliffe is very similar to Hamill “in most respects”:P And yeah, if Depp did Sparrow earlier in his career then maybe he;d be listed here. But his resume is so vast and varied it doesn’t define him like the rest here.

  4. Great list Marc…I really enjoy your lists here.

    Isn’t Tobey already break his role when he becomes that very thin jockey? I forget the title of the movie.

    Christopher Reeves is the ultimate superman…if he finds it hard to break his role, it is much harder for other actors to fill in his shoes

    • True he did do a decent job in Seabiscuit but since the movie is more about the horse than Tobey it really didn’t help round out his career. Decent movie though, I’ll give you that:)

  5. Great post, Marc. I’d agree with a lot of these. In regards to R-Patz though, maybe because I’ve only seen the one Twilight movie and indeed it was terrible, but when I saw Remember Me after that I don’t see Rob as Edward, thus I think he’ll do fine if he plays his card right.

    I’m sad to see Reeve here as I think he’s a terrific actor, perhaps the best one by far of all Superman actors to date, after all he’s a Julliard-trained thespian. But you’re right though, I think no matter how good he is in other movies (i.e. Somewhere in Time, Deathtrap) it’s hard to shake that iconic image when you watch him.