In 21st century Hollywood, there are many ‘typecast’ actors earning millions of dollars a year. Typecasting, by definition, is what happens to an actor when they become associated with one particular sort of role. Often, once an actor becomes typecast, they can find it very difficult to escape from the box they have been placed in.
However, many actors can also benefit from being typecast. If they find a genre of film in which they are popular, they can often make millions of dollars playing very similar roles. Whether its romantic comedies, family films or horror movies, certain actors seem to have found a genre that just fits them. Being typecast, though often cited as an affliction for an actor’s career, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Many of Hollywood’s most treasured stars are heavily typecast, having found a niche in which they excel.
However, the term typecast has undeniably negative connotations. It evokes feelings that the actor in question has a small range, that they are not brave enough to explore more challenging roles. Opinions of typecasted actors vary depending on the projects they take on, the intrigue of the roles and the originality of their ‘type’. Here, we’ve traced the careers of 10 of the most successful typecast actors in Hollywood today. Are they talented individuals who bring something unique to the screen that just can’t be matched by another actor; or are they just sailing by, playing it safe?
10. Helena Bonham Carter – $24 million
When Helena Bonham Carter joins the cast of a film, you can be certain that her character will be at least a little kooky. From slightly unstable to completely bonkers characters, Bonham Carter never plays it safe with her crazy on-screen personas. Notable examples of her weird roles include Bellatrix Lestrange in Harry Potter, The Queen in Alice and Wonderland and Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd. Her roles in gothic-style flicks are often due to the fact that she stars in many of her husband Tim Burton’s films, a director with a keen interest in gothic aesthetic. Bonham Carter successfully broke away from her mould for a foray into drama for her critically acclaimed turn in 2010’s The Kings Speech.
9. Christopher Walken – $35 million
Walken has become well-known for his roles as psychopathic and unnerving villains. Directors have come to love his distinctive look: his electric-shock-straight hair, piercing gaze and crooked smile make for a satisfying villain. His stare, in particular, is unmoving and cold – yet he always manages to bring a touch of humour to his roles. Noted roles of this particular type include Batman Returns, A View to Kill, Sleepy Hollow and True Romance. Every once in a while, he decides to branch out into more straight comedy with great success. He provided one of the voices of the ants in Antz, an animated feature released in 1998, and showed off his singing and dancing skills as the husband of John Travolta-in-drag in the film adaptation of the musical Hairspray.
8. Seth Rogen – $45 million
Seth Rogen has become inextricably linked to the goofy, chubby and often stoned caricatures in some of this century’s most successful comedies. A cross examination of three of Rogen’s most popular movies – Pineapple Express, Knocked Up and The 40-Year-Old Virgin – reveals three almost identical characters. This is fine as long as Rogen’s popularity continues, but many in the industry worry about his current lack of diversity. Rogen has been branching out, however. He’s now the co-author of many of his movies and he has also tried his hand at voice acting, notable examples include Kung Fu Panda and Horton Hears a Who. We’ve yet to see him tackle a really serious role, however, but for a comedy actor in Hollywood that’s not unusual.
7. Will Ferrell – $85 million
Will Ferrell is an actor with a penchant for roles that are a little outside the box. He seems to prefer comedy-based roles, or roles that take place in a surreal, comic universe. Ferrell is extremely popular, and his popularity seems to be increasing with age, which is not always the reality for some actors and actresses. Ferrell always pushes his character to the extreme- they are often loud, aggressive, exaggerated and hyper-dramatic. Notable roles include Anchorman, Blades of Glory and Step Brothers. One instance where Ferrell stepped out of his comfort zone is the 2006 film Stranger than Fiction. This film was much more heartfelt that Ferrell’s usual style, and his impressive portrayal of the film’s protagonist was met with rave reviews from critics.
6. Morgan Freeman – $90 million
Morgan Freeman is one of the most beloved actors in Hollywood. His career has spanned over 50 years and he has starred in some of the most acclaimed movies in history. However, it’s undeniable that Freeman is hugely typecast. Freeman’s most common role is the wise owl who helps the hero achieve his or her dream (The Shawshank Redemption and Million Dollar Baby are the main examples). Throw in a few memorable nuggets of advice and a sad backstory and you’ve got Morgan Freeman. Yet it could be argued that Freeman is typecast for a good reason – fans believe that nobody could play these kinds of roles better than him. It is easy to see why directors fight over him.
5. Angelina Jolie – $145 million
Since Lara Croft, Angelina Jolie has been regarded as the toughest and sexiest girl in Hollywood. Her characters are always stunningly beautiful (obviously) but also incredibly sophisticated and brave. Taking a look at her filmography makes this clear: Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Mr & Mrs Smith, Wanted and The Tourist are all pretty tough roles, but Angelina always manages to play them with incredible elegance. Jolie remains one of the few major actresses in Hollywood who holds a gun and gets her hands dirty in films. Jolie knows how to branch out, however- her performances in A Mighty Heart and Changeling were different to her usual choices, and brought her critical acclaim.
4. Jennifer Aniston – $150 million
Did somebody say rom-com? Jennifer Aniston is the reigning, uncontested Queen of the romantic comedy. It is difficult to find an Aniston film in which she doesn’t portray a cute, perky blonde tangled up in a love-related issue. Most of her film roles are essentially a hybrid of her best-known role as Rachel Green on Friends. Aniston has appeared in such a huge number of rom-coms that her characters, like many of her movie choices, have often been cited as extremely forgettable and lacklustre. Some examples of her safe but not-so-memorable roles include Just Go With It, The Switch, Love Happens and The Break Up. 2011’s Horrible Bosses marked a slight change for Aniston (she plays a sex-obsessed dentist) and her more serious role in The Good Girl with Jake Gyllenhaal in 2002 was well-received, but it looks unlikely that she’ll leave her rom-com throne anytime soon.
3. Al Pacino – $185 million
Al Pacino’s problem is very different to that of most typecast actors and actresses. Many critics agree that Al Pacino is such an influential Hollywood figure that he’s actually become typecast as himself! It was almost as if, from the moment he stuck his face into a pile of cocaine as Tony Montana in Scarface, he was destined to be the biggest badass in the industry. Many critics thus believe that roles are now written with Al Pacino specifically in mind, based on his unique and unforgettable acting in both Scarface and The Godfather. Its certainly not a bad situation to be in, and with a fortune of $185 million, we’re sure he’s not complaining.
2. Adam Sandler – $300 million
Sandler is a very popular comic actor, but most of his films fall into the “family comedy” category. His characters are always likeable, irritable, all-American guys who seem to exist on a plain of two main emotions – charming or angry. No matter what the problem, his films have a cheesy happy ending, which makes them perfect for family cinema trips. Notable examples include Big Daddy, 50 First Dates, Click and Bedtime Stories.
Sandler clearly doesn’t mind being typecast, as it’s his own company – Happy Madison productions – that produce the majority of these movies. An attempt to get serious in 2009’s ‘Funny People’ was met with critical acclaim, while almost all of Sandler’s long list of comedies (bar a few notable examples) have been universally panned by critics. Given this fact, it’s perhaps surprising Sandler hasn’t tried to venture out of his self-assigned low-brow comedy mould more often.
1. Jack Nicholson – $400 million
Jack Nicholson is famous for a lot, but he’s well-known for his ability to scare the hell out of children, teenagers and adults alike; Nicholson’s characters are some of the most noted maniacs in the history of film. Nicholson is an undeniably exceptional actor: simply take a look at The Shining, One Flew Over the Cookoo’s Nest, 1989’S Batman and The Departed and you’ll get an idea of what makes this Hollywood veteran so memorable. Nicholson is best-known for the incredible atmosphere he creates within a film. In fact, he’s so good at what he does that his more serious roles in films such as The Bucket List have proved almost disappointing. Nicholson’s maniacal, hyperactive attitude is what viewers want, which makes Nicholson one of the most enjoyable typecast actors of them all.
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