Being typecast can be incredibly stifling for an actor’s career. When a particular role catapults an actor into fame, audiences often expect to see them stay with that type of role. Some actors don’t mind being typecast, as those roles are raking in the big bucks for them. But sometimes seeing that same character in numerous movies wears the magic thin. Here are 20 actors who’ve found themselves pigeonholed into certain roles. #6 is so upset with the industry’s expectations of him that he’s taking a career break to change the persona that has made him millions.
The Rom-Com Queen
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Jennifer Aniston skyrocketed to fame as the lovable Rachel Green on Friends,but the massive success of the character came with a price. Despite being a talented A-lister, (she won a Golden Globe for her role in Cake) she can’t escape being typecast as a romantic comedy actress.
According to Aniston, “It’s really hard to be cast in [a dramatic film like Cake]…you’re someone who is battling a persona. Sometimes it’s hard to disappear from it in a role. I’ve been lucky to go back and forth from independents to the big movies and I feel it’s important to have the balance of the two.”
Don’t Mess With This Chick
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From her first feature role in Girlfight, Michelle Rodriguez has played the “tough chick.” It didn’t take long for her to be pigeonholed, but she apparently has no qualms about being typecast and has even claimed it was her choice.
“I’m here to entertain people and make a statement about female empowerment and strength and that’s what I’ve done for the last 10 years, and people can call it typecast, but I pigeonholed myself and I put myself in that box for saying no to everything else that came on my plate. Eventually, I just got left with the strong chick that’s always being killed and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
The Suave Brit
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Jason Statham plays the same character in every film; a renegade, British protagonist with a stoic expression permanently plastered on his face. He beats up the bad guys, shoots everyone in sight, and never seems the least bit phased.
When director Guy Ritchie cast Statham in his first flick, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Statham had never acted before. He was chosen because he had a London tough guy look, and Ritchie wanted his film to have some street cred. Instead of trying to shake this persona, Statham embraced it. Plus, according to Statham, ”I’ve just got a really bad smile. I go for the scowl instead.
The Sweet and Ditsy Love Interest
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In The Wedding Singer, 50 First Dates, Never Been Kissed and The Perfect Catch, Drew Barrymore played nearly the same character: the sweet, silly and somewhat innocent romantic interest of the leading man. And it seems as if she is just playing herself in each role.
In 2009, Drew finally landed a more serious role in the HBO drama Grey Gardens. According to Drew, “The director didn’t even want me for that movie.Oh no, please not her, not the rom-com girl.’ And I was like, ‘I can do it! I can do it.’”
The Tattooed Tough Guy
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Perhaps the most typecast actor in Hollywood is Danny Trejo. A former boxing champ and convict, Trejo has landed a slew of roles as the ethnic, tattooed thug. but he doesn’t seem to mind one bit: “The first time I was interviewed in L.A., this girl asked me, “Aren’t you afraid of being typecast?” “And I said “What?” And she said, “You’re always playing the mean Chicano dude with tattoos.” I thought about it, and I said, “I am the mean Chicano dude with tattoos. Somebody got it right.”
This persona seems to be working for him; he’s is in such high demand that in 2015 alone he starred in 20 films.
The Slapstick Contortionist
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Jim Carrey’s over-the-top humor in films like Ace Ventura and The Mask is what made him so successful. He had audiences in stitches with his ridiculous facial expressions and physical humor, and fans often wondered if he was made out of rubber. But that same humor over 20 films later doesn’t carry quite the same magic.
Carey did gain recognition for his dramatic performance in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but he was never quite able to shake the label as the wacky comedian. He’s currently on what he considers a self-imposed hiatus and is “in the process of shedding layers of persona” at this time in his life.
We love #12 for her hysterical roles, but she calls them “boring”.
The Bumbling Brit
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Forever the awkward male lead in romantic comedies, Hugh Grant has racked up a number of successful films throughout his career. His characters are nearly all identical; a charming but bumbling Brit who seems to be clueless about life, yet the women seem to fall all over him.
“I never meant to be in romantic comedies, it’s just what ended up happening,” Hugh says. He tried to break away from his persona with a string of dramas in the late ’90s.“I thought I’d show people I’m not just a one-trick pony. As it turns out, I was.” But after About A Boy, he’s proven this to be false.
Same Ol’ Same Ol’
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For a while, there was no doubt that Vince Vaughn had the comedic chops to keep audiences cracking up. But then it seemed as if Vince Vaughn was always playing Vince Vaughn. If the writing was decent, his performance was entertaining; if the writing was subpar, he wasn’t funny at all. He soon went from making smash hits to box office flops.
Vince has referred to his films as “assembly-line comedies.” He said, “You become a hired gun doing a very inoffensive PG-13 movie and, well, you kind of just go along with it. Like anything in life, you’re either growing or you’re dying. When you get too comfortable you start to decline.”
The Bubbly Blonde Bombshell
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Cameron Diaz was once one of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood. She was constantly cast as the cool yet quirky girl-next-door who everybody fell in love with, like in My Best Friend’s Wedding and There’s Something About Mary.
But at 45, playing the ditzy blonde in a romantic comedy has gotten old, even for Diaz herself. She now claims that she’s retired from acting. This may be due to the fact that she’d been attempting to break out of her typecast, with films like Annie and The Counselor, but audiences just weren’t buying it.
The Dorky Shy Guy
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Playing George Michael Bluth on Arrested Development launched Michael Cera into fame. His baby face helped him continuously be cast as the shy and awkward teen in Superbad and Juno. But that’s basically the only role he’s ever played.
As Cera gets older, it’s becoming harder and harder to buy into his infinitely geeky teen (now college age) character. But the actor doesn’t let being typecast get to him. He just wants to have fun. He said, “The question, of course, with doing movies is if I thought that would be a fun thing to do…that’s basically, all that decides it, it’s kind of obvious.”
Hollywood’s Favorite Stoner
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He started off playing the lovable overweight oaf, but when Seth Rogan lost weight, well, he started playing the skinnier lovable oaf. The dramatic weight loss didn’t affect the type of characters he played whatsoever. He comes across a lot like his characters in interviews, infectious laugh and all, so he may just be playing himself.
And let’s not forget the pot. His characters sure do love their marijuana, and it seems as if Seth loves it just as much. It adds an additional layer to his typecasting, transforming him into the lovable, pot-smoking oaf.
The Capricious Cutie
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With her bangs, big blue eyes, Billy Holiday-esque voice and vintage threads, Zoey Deschanel has become every hipster’s fantasy girl. The characters she chooses also play up the persona of the adorable kook.
“Sometimes you have to play to your strengths. Every actor’s known for being good at certain types of role,” says Deschanel. “I think maybe for a little while, it was OK. I didn’t necessarily want to do that all the time; it gets a little bit boring. There are other things I can do well but I feel like I’ve been very lucky to have been able to play all the different roles that I have.”
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With his distinct baritone voice that instantly commands respect, Morgan Freeman can usually be seen in authoritative roles, like someone’s mentor, the president, even God. He plays the guy that all the other guys go to for advice.
If he has to be typecast, though, Freeman is happy he’s been typecast as the “guy with gravitas.” He said, “If you have to make a choice about what box you’re going to be in, and you usually have to make a choice, I just think that’s the better box.”
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Helena Bonham Carter initially became typecast for period pieces, like Hamlet and Howard’s End. Then she started dating Tim Burton, and subsequently began starring in all of his films…as pretty much as the same character. Thus she found a new label for herself: the crazed, eccentric female.
From Dark Shadows, Big Fish to Sweeney Todd, Carter even looks exactly the same in her roles, with wild unkempt hair and eccentric gothic style clothing. Not to mention she’s usually cast alongside Johnny Depp, making not only her characters, but her films appear to be copies of themselves.
Goofball Man Child
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Adam Sandler was the comedian of the ’90s. But as we got into the early 2000s, watching Sandler play the same annoying, immature character wasn’t quite as funny anymore. Now into the 2010s, the goofy man-child act lost its spark.
Desperate to prove his range, Sandler took a tremendous drop in pay when he signed on for roles in Reign Over Me and Punch-Drunk Love. But he soon returned to his comedic roots, in the same type of role he has played over and over again. The fact that he usually has a gorgeous leading lady in his films has probably helped keep his career afloat.
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Samuel L. Jackson became one of the highest grossing actors of all time by playing the same cool, suave character in every film. That character has appeared in mega-Blockbusters, like The Avengers and Star Wars, as well as indie flicks like The Samaritan and Black Snake Moan.
Even though Jackson has proven he has the acting chops, with such films as Eve’s Bayou and The Caveman’s Valentine, it appears he has happily embraced his typecasting (which is the only explanation on why he would he would agree to be in Snakes on a Plane). After all, it’s made him quite rich.
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While he may be pigeonholed into a specific type of role, Christopher Walken’s typecast characters, as a whole, are extremely unique. No one else can play the neurotic wack job that Walken can. His odd way of speaking and cold glaring stare are usually combined with offbeat comedic timing that makes him one-of-a-kind.
Walken has accepted that he’s been pigeonholed, “I have a feeling that actors, especially in movies, if they do something that works, there is a chance they are going to repeat something. Movies are expensive to make and the people that produce movies want to know what they are getting.”
The Foreign Assassin
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Being typecast isn’t a modern-day phenomenon; actors of past decades have fallen into the same rut as well. Hungarian actor Peter Lorre found success in Hollywood without even speaking English by playing the role of a European assassin in such classics as The Man Who Knew Too Much and Casablanca.
Truth be told, Lorre was a phenomenal actor, but he just couldn’t break away from being cast as a foreign villain. In most of his roles, he managed to be frightening and funny at the same time. Despite his labeling, he still managed to reach legend status after playing a child murderer in M.
The Comedy Legend
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Will Ferrell is one of those actors who, despite playing the same role again and again, can keep audiences laughing. He always plays a silly, borderline, if not incredibly stupid character (often times an athlete) who manages to be rude and endearing at the same time.
The thing about Ferrell is that nobody cares that he is playing the same character; he’s just too funny. Children even fell in love with him in Elf. He then shocked fans in 2006 when he nailed a dramatic role in the film Stranger Than Fiction. Whether he will ever venture into something other than comedy again is yet to be known.
The Good Girl
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As a former Disney princess with doe eyes and an oversized smile, Anne Hathaway has found herself grouped into a category of the sweet and innocent protagonist in G-rated films, like The Princess Diaries, Ella Enchanted, The Devil Wears Prada and Bride Wars. “I had no grit, no sex appeal,” states Hathaway. She’s been struggling to break that mold ever since.
“…It was me and (my manager) against the world.I was seen as this bizarre-world good-girl cartoon that I in no way identified with — very vanilla, very sweet, very accessible and not interesting.”