Great actors are able to take on characters that are nothing like themselves and pass. The very best pick up these characters with ease and discard them just the same. The audience, however, are not always able to do this as effectively. Sometimes, characters stick with us long after we watch them on screen. This isn’t necessarily an issue with the actor. If anything, it’s a true testament of how incredible they are at their jobs, creating and developing characters so well that we can’t seem to shake them. Most of the time, these unforgettable characters are creeps, sickos, and perverts from unsettling films. Many of us have trouble dealing with characters who are s*xually disturbed because it’s so taboo in our society. If children are part of the equation, it’s even worse.
Many times, if an actor plays a roll too convincingly, it becomes a character-type that we can’t escape from watching. We have no interest in typecast actors. This type of thing happens all the time in the industry. If they perform a villainous role really well, they’ll forever be villains. We don’t want to deal with that category. We want to look at the moments when well-known or well-diversified actors are involved with a role that we can’t seem to forget about. Sometimes it’s a role that isn’t even in the actor’s wheelhouse, but they played it so well that it became a part of them…even though no one wants it to be. In a way, these actors were forever ruined in our eyes because of this one disgusting part. We want to forget, but we can’t. Some actors, like Charlize Theron in Monster, escaped this effect because their characters looked nothing like the actor. This helps the audience disassociate the evil from the person. The actors on this list weren’t so lucky. Here are 15 Gross Roles That Forever Changed How We See These Actors.
15. Julie Bowen – Weeds
Before she landed the role of Claire Dunphy on Modern Family, Julie Bowen was known for a variety of roles. First, there was Happy Gilmore, then ER, Ed, Lost, and Boston Legal. She showed that she could play a number of different professions convincingly. Then came her bit on the TV show, Weeds. She played one of the family’s neighbors, Lisa Ferris, the owner of the cheese shop that the very young Silas has a grow-op in. In a short period of time, Ferris and the 17-year-old Silas start to form a s*xual relationship. It’s weird. We tend to shame mismatched relationships like this when the child is a female and glorify them when they’re male, but we’re not glorifying this one. It looked wrong and felt gross. It also changed how we looked at Bowen. We still get a little bit uncomfortable whenever Claire is near Manny or one of Luke’s friends on Modern Family. We have trust issues.
14. Patrick Wilson – Hard Candy
In the last 10 years or so, Patrick Wilson has become a huge actor, starring in the Insidious and The Conjuring films. But anyone who has seen his entire filmography might have a different image of the nice guy actor. Back in 2005, Wilson played a pedophile that is tormented by Ellen Page in Hard Candy. Even his endearing role in the second season of Fargo didn’t help us forget that one role. Yuck! It’s too bad because Wilson is an amazing actor, but we’ll forever associate him with his one truly undesirable character. This is the curse when you’re so talented. You have to be careful about how well you play creeps. Maybe he should have broken the fourth wall just to let us know he was only acting. Like give the camera a little wink that says, just kidding. Is that professional?
13. Ted Levine – The Silence of the Lambs
Nowadays, actor Ted Levine plays a lot of cops. He was a cop Heat, The Fast and the Furious, Monk, American Gangster, and more. But we will always distrust him and not because he’s a cop. That distrust was formed when he played one of the most disturbing villains of all time, Jame “Buffalo Bill” Gumb in The Silence of the Lambs. For a while after this film, Levine found it difficult to play anything but villains. He was almost typecast forever. In our minds, he was. He scarred us so mightily with that role, we would never believe he wasn’t evil no matter what he did. Don’t believe us? Here’s a test. Levine’s been cast in the upcoming Jurassic World 2. When you see it, think about how you feel about his character. We’re willing to bet you don’t like him. He’ll probably even be a good guy, but you’ll have an unsettling feeling about him. We’re positive. We call this the “Buffalo Bill” effect.
12. Charlotte Gainsbourg – Antichrist
Charlotte Gainsbourg has done a lot of really great work in her career, but when Antichrist first came out, it forever changed the way we looked at her. Playing the role of She, Gainsbourg was entirely convincing in her role as the depressed yet highly s*xualized character in the first entry of Lars von Trier’s depression trilogy. Her character becomes increasingly violent and masochistic as the film descends into madness. She gets to the point where she is a walking nightmare. Her soft soothing voice now just reminds us of a psychopath. A couple of films later, the third of the Depression Trilogy, Nymphomaniac, Gainsbourg plays Joe, another s*x-obsessed woman. By this point, Gainsbourg is pure s*x and evil in our eyes. With these two roles, it’s hard to imagine if we will ever be able to see her as anything but a hypers*xualized being.
11. Jackie Earle Haley – Little Children
Back in 70’s, Jackie Earle Haley became a child star playing the role of Kelly in The Bad News Bears. He was sweet and innocent and we loved him. He then left the spotlight for a while, dabbling here and there, until he landed a big part in All the King’s Men in 2006. It was his next role that both catapulted him back into stardom and also ruined his image in our minds forever. The film was Little Children. In that powerful movie, Haley played Ronnie, a paroled pedophile who had more than a few issues. For his performance, Haley was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Still, despite the accolades, the role was too damn convincing. We hope you’re happy Jackie. You ruined The Watchmen and baseball for us forever.
10. Robert Mitchum – Night of the Hunter
Robert Mitchum had an incredibly long and successful career, but for a certain generation of film fans, he always had a disturbing aura about him. This all stems from him creating one of the best villains in the history of cinema. The character was the twisted preacher Harry Powell from Night of the Hunter (1955). It certainly didn’t help that seven years after that role, Mitchum played the rapist Max Cady in Cape Fear, but it was Harry Powell that stuck with people the most. You know the knuckle tattoos of ‘love’ and ‘hate’? Those originated with that character. Powell wasn’t as villainous as many are in today’s horror films, but he was so far ahead of his time that it tormented people. Without him, we probably wouldn’t see the same frightening child-killers on film that we do today. In a way, this entire list is Mitchum’s fault.
9. Dylan Baker – Happiness
For many of you, Dylan Baker might not seem like a big-name actor, but he’s had plenty of great roles in great films. Almost everyone will recognize him from the Spider-Man films where he played Dr. Curt Connors. Some film fans will also know him from Trick ‘r Treat. Before all these, Baker played a really disturbing role, a pedophile in Happiness. In this film, one that deals with pedophilia head-on, Baker is very upfront about his wants. In many ways, he’s too upfront and this troubles the audience. Though Baker doesn’t always play lead characters in his films, even his supporting roles leave us feeling uncertain. Take Baker’s version of Dr. Curt Connors in the Spider-Man trilogy for instance. His character wasn’t even evil. The Lizard never became a villain until The Amazing Spider-Man, and he was portrayed by Rhys Ifans. Still, we just felt Baker’s character was evil. Even his character in Trick ‘r Treat had a pedophile vibe about him. That boy’s just no longer right.
8. Michael Pitt – Funny Games
Michael Pitt is a wonderfully talented actor whose image has been tainted by one single role. That one disturbing part was the in the 2007 remake of Funny Games. Pitt plays one of the twisted youths who torment a family. Before that, Pitt was in Last Days, The Village, and The Dreamers and he was normal in our eyes. We liked him. Now we see him in Boardwalk Empire and Seven Psychopaths and our skin crawls. He was so chilling and so malevolent in Funny Games that we can never erase the role from our minds. When we close our eyes, we see his creepy smile and his cold dead eyes. He’s our nightmare.
7. Kevin Bacon – Sleepers
When you think of Kevin Bacon, you may think of the happy-go-lucky films like Footloose and Animal House or the massive hits Apollo 13 and Mystic River. Well, good for you. Cherish that beautiful image. If you feel that way, you must never have seen Sleepers or The Woodsman because, if you had, there’s a very good chance you would see a darker side to the Bacon. When you’re as well-known as Mr. Six Degrees and have been around for as long as he has, there are plenty of opportunities to drown out some of the evil moments on your resume. In this case, however, both of Bacon’s dirty work films deal heavily with child abuse. This allows the darkness to follow him around more. In Sleepers, Bacon’s character is just so convincingly sadistic that it has tattooed itself onto the actor. It’s something that just can’t be unseen. We wish it could.
6. Finn Wittrock – American Horror Story
It doesn’t matter how nice his characters are in The Big Short, Unbroken, or La La Land. The moment we saw Finn Wittrock dress up as the creepy *ss clown, Dandy, in American Horror Story: Freak Show, he was Dandy for the rest of time. In his turn as the sadistic clown, Wittrock eliminated all the good images we had of him. We see him talking about stocks in The Big Short and we’re sure that he’s going to bite someone’s face off. It shouldn’t be like this. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. This is the nice kid from Halloweentown High for goodness’ sake. Why did he have to damage his beautiful image like that? What would Marnie say?
5. Kathy Bates – Misery
It’s been almost 30 years since Kathy Bates played Annie Wilkes in Misery. It’s been almost 30 years since we cringed in pain and covered our eyes at the maniacal deeds she performed onscreen. It’s also been 30 years of nightmares and cold sweats. She’s done a million movies since then (or thereabouts), yet we still can’t forget what we would love to forget. We haven’t trusted her since. Dolores Claiborne? She was guilty. Fried Green Tomatoes? Pure evil. Unsinkable Molly Brown in Titanic? Her fault. We would like to love Bates in all her roles, but, no matter what, she’ll always be Annie Wilkes and that just flat out frightens us.
4. Stanley Tucci – Lovely Bones
When Stanley Tucci was offered the role of George Harvey in The Lovely Bones, he was hesitant. He’s said that he didn’t like the idea of playing a character who was violent towards children. His wife was more adamant, urging him to turn down the role because it was too heavy. Why didn’t he listen? Our main man Tooch! We miss the way things used to be. Tucci ended up taking the role and was great in it. Too great. Now he wears that character like a mask whenever we see him. He’s been in lighthearted films since then, like The Devil Wears Prada and Julie & Julia, but it can’t change how we see him. Talented beyond measure, but he’s a child-killer (not actually). When he’s interviewing those contestants in The Hunger Games, we’re just waiting for him to cut them straight with his razor. The eccentric makeup and wardrobe can’t hide the George Harvey lingering there.
3. Dennis Hopper – Blue Velvet
The late Dennis Hopper‘s character Frank Booth, from David Lynch‘s Blue Velvet, is easily the most memorable role for the incredible actor. That’s both a blessing and a curse. The issue is that the character was so wild, sick, and sadistic that we think Hopper was the same. Now, Hopper did say that he told Lynch during the casting, “You have to let me play Frank Booth. Because I am Frank Booth!” At the time, Hopper was living a reckless lifestyle and felt like he resembled Booth in some ways, but he was never actually this crazy. The role even revived Hopper’s career. Sadly, it forever stained him in our eyes. It was never the same afterward. We just couldn’t trust him. Even though he went on to play several other villains, it was always Frank Booth that we saw.
2. Robin Williams – One Hour Photo
The late Robin Williams was supposed to be a sweet and funny comedian for time unending. He was Patch Adams, Mrs. Doubtfire, and that guy from Good Will Hunting. That freaky thing he did with One Hour Photo changed all that. Really, Williams’ character in the film is pretty tame by the standards of this list, but it was so jarring because of how heavily it contrasted with all his other portrayed characters. Plus, the character was not nearly as innocent as he pretended to be in the film. Sure, all he did was take pictures, but he was a creep. You just knew he would have taken it further if he could have. Worst of all, Williams was entirely convincing playing a creep. It cut us so deep. Robin? Why d’you do this? Sometimes we watch Jumanji on repeat just to try and forget that weird photo guy, but it never works. It doesn’t help that we hate that monkey kid either.
1. John Lithgow – Dexter
Once upon a time, John Lithgow was the lovable patriarch in the 3rd Rock from the Sun and the Harry and the Hendersons families. He was kind and lovable. Today, he’s back front and center with his portrayal of Winston Churchill in The Crown. Yet despite these mammoth roles, we can’t shake the uneasiness we feel when we see him. This is all because of that eerie character he played on Dexter, the Trinity Killer. Lithgow was so incredible in that role that we couldn’t help but believe he was pouring a little of himself into the role. We did feel a bit guilty about shaking our heads as he walked up to accept his Golden Globe at the 2017 awards. The entire time we’re thinking don’t do it. Don’t trust him people. Remember what he did to Rita?