ByMark Newton, writer at
Movie Pilot Associate Editor. Email: [email protected]
Mark Newton

Being typecast in Hollywood can be both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, you can probably find a continual stream of work by becoming shorthand for a particular character type, but on the other, you're not exactly given much space to expand your acting repertoire.

However, every once and a while, a typecast actor pulls out an unexpected and unusual performance, much to the amazement (and sometimes confusion) of the audience. Here are some of them.

1. Jim Carrey

Typecast As: Elastic faced funny man.

Against Type: Although being best known for his broad comedies, Carrey also courted deep and dramatic roles at various points during his career. Most notable is his heartbreaking performance in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and his role as a creepy, obsessive nut in Number 23.

Check out his Number 23 character below:

Tom Cruise

Typecast As: Chisel-jawed action hero

Against Type: Cruise recently played a more cowardly iteration of the action hero (at least initially) in the underrated sci-fi actioner Edge of Tomorrow, however, his most unusual role must be as the bizarre and aggressive Les Grossman in ensemble comedy Tropic Thunder. An honorable mention also goes out to his '80s rock star persona, Stacie Jaxx, in musical comedy Rock of Ages.

Watch him dance around as Les Grossman below:

Angelina Jolie

Typecast As: Sultry femme-fatale

Against Type: Although it's fair to say Jolie has since reformed herself as a serious filmmaker, her dramatic turn in Clint Eastwood's Changeling was a major divergence from the rest of her filmography up to that point, which included titles such as Wanted, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Alexander and Tomb Raider.

See her performance from Changeling below:

Hugh Grant

Typecast As: That bloody lovely foppy haired bumbling Brit

Against Type: Much like other massive fan theories, I'm sure some bright spark with too much time on their hands could create a cinematic universe in which all of Hugh Grant's characters are unified. I mean, it's no secret he basically plays the same person in every romantic comedy he's been in. However, our intrepid fan theorist would probably struggle to include Grant's volte-face as the savage and cannibalistic post-apocalyptic Kona Chief in Cloud Atlas into their theory.

Watch Grant get all cannibally below:

Will Ferrell

Typecast As: Brash booming voiced purveyor of comedy quotables

Against Type: Ferrell is best known for loud and obnoxious Anchorman comedy creation, Ron Burgundy, however he showed off a restrained and dramatic performance as Harold Crick in the 2006 adaptation of Stranger Than Fiction. The film was overall praised for its performances, with Ferrell's attracting particular attention.

Check out Ferrell break out the waterworks in Stranger Than Fiction:

Gary Oldman

Typecast As: Wild-eyed psychotic madman

Against Type: Until recently, Gary Oldman's mainstream filmography was mostly filled with crazed villainous roles in which he was given freedom to scream, intimidate and basically act like a madman to his heart's content. His career took a slight change of tone when he appeared as Commissioner Gordon in Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy, one of Oldman's few purely 'good' and straight-laced characters.

Watch him get promoted in The Dark Knight clip below:

Cameron Diaz

Typecast As: Ditzy good-natured blonde bombshell

Against Type: The Charlie's Angels star is often known for appearing flawlessly beautiful in extremely improbable situations, however she was given a dramatic makeover for Spike Jonze's high-concept fantasy comedy, Being John Malkovich. With no make-up and terrible hair, Diaz is almost unrecognizable.

Check out the Being John Malkovich trailer:

Robin Williams

Typecast As: Lovable, multi-voiced and slightly manic comedy god

Against Type: The late great Robin Williams certainly wasn't a stranger to dramatic roles, having appeared in Dead Poet's Society and Good Will Hunting - for which he won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar. However, his turn as the haunting and terrifying Seymour Parrish in One Hour Photo is perhaps the most unusual performance of his career.

See Robin William's most terrifying role in the One Hour Photo trailer below:

Adam Sandler

Typecast As: The guy who appears in that special and divisive type of comedy, 'The Adam Sandler Movie.'

Against Type: Adam Sandler is one of those love or hate comedians, and I think it's fair to say critics mostly hate him. His movies are routinely panned by critics, with his own performances coming under scrutiny. However, Sandler showed off a more introspective and reserved side to his craft by appearing in Funny People as a miserable former stand-up turned movie star, George Simmons. Although still ostensively a comedy, it's hard not to believe Sandler didn't inject some of his own experiences into his role. It certainly made for a nice change.

See Sandler return to his roots below:

Steve Carell

Typecast As: The lovable loser

Against Type: Carell shocked many by exercising his dramatic and disturbing muscles to play the murderous wrestling millionaire, John Eleuthère du Pont, in Foxcatcher. As well as sporting a prosthetic nose, Carell completely changed by his voice and demeanor, earning himself an Oscar nomination along the way.

Watch an unrecognizable Carell in the Foxcatcher clip below:

Robert Downey, Jr.

Typecast As: Smarmy and roguish bad boy with a good heart

Against Type: Downey's recent lucrative success as Iron Man in Marvel's Cinematic Universe has now provided the veteran thespian with somewhat of an action renaissance. However, although most of his fans might now know him from his high-octane blockbusters, Downey showed off an impressive range in his earlier films. Highlights include the paranoid conspiratorial brain-box James Barris in Richard Linklater's A Scanner Darkly and Lord Rivers in 1995's Richard III. But perhaps Downey's most impressive pre-typecasting role was as Charlie Chaplin in the 1992 biopic Chaplin. The Academy certainly agreed, as he earned a nomination for the role.

Check out Robert Downey, Jr. in Chaplin below:

Steve Buscemi

Typecast As: Unhinged weirdo

Against Type: Steve Buscemi headed to HBO's Boardwalk Empire to change things up a bit. No longer was he the foil of some Coen Brother's crime caper, now he was the charismatic, successful and scheming corrupt mayor of Atlantic City. Although equally as menacing as some of Buscemi's other characters, there's a sharp logical mind behind Enoch Thompson that makes him stand out on Buscemi's résumé.

Watch Enoch Thompson give a speech against the backdrop of bloody murder below:


Latest from our Creators