There are some actors that have never surprised you with their acting skills. After their 12th project of playing the stoner best friend who is somewhat endearing because they mean well, you realize they are a one-trick-pony type of actor (if this description sounds like any real actor it’s purely coincidental).
Then there are the times when the always captivating, Award nominees or Winners make a career out of playing the same character over and over again. In fact they do it so well you hardly even notice it any more.
Here’s the list of 6 fantastic actors who you’d never know have stayed in their comfort zone.
1- Liam Neeson
The Typecast: Older Ass Kicker with a Very Particular Set of Skills
Movies: Taken, Taken 2, Taken 3, A Walk Among the Tombstones, The Grey, Non-Stop
When Taken came out in 2006, Liam Neeson was suddenly the biggest bad ass whom you really wanted to kick your ass because if that’s not the best bar story you could ever tell, I don’t know what is. But quickly after there was Taken 2 which we all know was unnecessary and other movies rolled in, setting Neeson in a world where only he could either save or kill everybody.
But going back to 1999, Neeson had set the path for his frequent kill-you-with-a-single-move roles. He was the wise Jedi Qui-Gon Jinn and later on in 2005 he was Ras Algul in Batman Begins.
It’s easy to think all these roles are quite different from each other and maybe Neeson is just pretty good at being the only Irish guy in the galaxy-or in Gotham- who can destroy you, but when you recall his performance in movies like Schindler’s List, you do realize the range has gotten narrower by the minute.
Anti-typecast: Kinsey, Schindler’s List, Les Miserables
2- Will Smith
The Typecast: The Police Officer with Just Enough Attitude
Movies: Bad Boys, Bad Boys II, I Robot, Men in Black, Enemy of the State, Independence Day
Every time I hear people say Will Smith is their favorite actor, I sigh in disappointment because I know they are not celebrating his amazing performance in Ali. They mean he is a great blockbuster movie kind of guy. He’s fun. I get that.
It’s no wonder Will Smith became one the biggest action movie stars and that is because he brings just enough edge to the role to make it fun but not threatening. If you wanted real attitude or edge, you would hire Samuel L. Jackson instead. Nevertheless, Will Smith is always the guy with just enough attitude to bring in some comic relief, not real tension. It doesn’t matter if he is a cop in Wild Wild West, or one that works with aliens or the slick Miami officer, you can count on Will Smith to be non-threatening to the audience with his dazzling smile and quick jokes in an otherwise menacing violent circumstance.
Anti-typecast: Ali, Pursuit of Happyness, Seven Pounds
3- Angelina Jolie
Typecast: The Sexy Bad Ass Woman
Movies: Wanted, Salt, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Gone in Sixty Seconds
The first memorable performance of Angelina was in Girl Interrupted as a very disturbed manipulative rebel and while certain traits of that character still resonate in other performances, it was a role she exceeded at. Ever since Lara Croft, Angelina Jolie has been the sexy woman who is only just a tad scary because she could kick your ass. That wet dream of 15 year old boys seemed innovative at the time, but six very similar movies later, it’s pretty clear what works for her.
Anti-typecast: Maleficent, Changeling, Beyond Borders, The Bone Collector
4- Robert De Niro
Typecast: The Hard Ass/Mafia Guy
Movies: The Godfather II, Analyze This, The Untouchables, Casino, A Shark’s Tale
Chances are you have mentioned Robert De Niro as one of your favorite actors and really, who could blame you? It has become a kind of default answer. De Niro has been in countless legendary movies throughout the decades like Cape Fear, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull… and while he has played almost every type of character there is, he seems to lean towards the mafia related roles. Even his uncredited scene in American Hustle shows how quickly people link De Niro to any type of mob movie.
If he isn’t playing some type of mob boss, he goes for the grumpy hard ass –possibly a police man- everyone is intimidated by (Meet the Parents, Righteous Kill, Men of Honor).
It’s not something anyone would ever complain about –myself included- because he is amazing at it. It has also gotten to a point in his career that De Niro can do whatever the heck he wants and no one would question it.
Anti-typecast: The Deer Hunter, Stardust, Raging Bull
5- Julia Roberts
Typecast: Tough Woman Who is Really Fragile Inside
Movies: Pretty Woman, My Best Friend’s Wedding, Runaway Bride, Eat Pray Love
You either love or hate Julia Roberts. There is no middle ground. Although undeniably talented and an Oscar Winner for her role in Erin Brockovich, Julia has made her career by playing the girl who acts like she doesn’t need anybody or any man but eventually breaks and shows her vulnerable side, making her all the more lovable to the audience (or more annoying. Again, it depends where you stand.)
Whether she is playing a hooker seducing Richard Gere, a runaway bride or a famous actress falling for the regular bloke in Notting Hill, it is always the same deal. Girl has her act together, or thinks she does, something happens that forces her to unravel while trying to maintain control but eventually she is vulnerable and therefore more human and down to earth. You know, down to our level.
Anti-typecast: Closer, August: Osage County, Sleeping with the Enemy
6- Morgan Freeman
Typecast: Wise Old Man/ Narrator
Movies: All of them
Everyone loves Morgan Freeman. It’s unanimous. Seriously, just ask anybody. With an authoritative voice and calming presence, Morgan Freeman has managed to enamor everyone with every single one of his roles. The only problem is he is always playing the exact same role with only some minor differences.
Morgan Freeman always has some pearls of wisdom to offer. Whether he possesses them from the beginning of the film or finds them along the way, he brings a new layer of depth to the film like The Bucket List, The Shawshank Redemption or Driving Miss Daisy. Another variation of that calm but cool portrayal is playing God (Bruce Almighty) or the President (Deep Impact, Invictus).
Even when he is not on camera, he is easily recognizable as the perfect narrator to even the most mundane stories. He brought penguins to a new light by narrating March of the Penguins and from then on, his voice has been used constantly to take the audience through movies like Conan the Barbarian and War of the Worlds.
His narration days are far from over since we can find him lately as the minor character in movies that deals with taking us through the plot like Transcendence, Lucy and Now You See Me. The movie may suck, but it sounds way better if Morgan Freeman guides you through it.
Anti-typecast: Jury is still out
Do you agree with our list? What other good actor you think has been terribly typecasted?
Maria Garcia is the host of of Youtube channel CineClub. Go subscribe for movie reviews and more movie stuff.