Actors are feted for their ability to step into the shoes of others and portray their physical mannerisms and emotional traits. However, there are some actors who for one reason or another find themselves simply reprising the same role time after time.
Welcome to the world of that not-so-rare Hollywood creature: the typecast actor.
Being typecast is often viewed in a derogatory fashion. However, we often forget that behind all the razzmatazz, Hollywood is a big business with the success of films being judged as much by return on investment as on artistic merit. If you hit pay dirt then, with an actor playing a particular role, why wouldn't you exploit that by having them play similar roles time after time?
After all, what could be more trendy in Hollywood than recycling, other than Botox and reality TV, of course.
With all that in mind, let's take a look at five of the most typecast actors in Hollywood history.
No. 5: Christopher Lee
Sir Christopher Lee is an instantly recognizable English actor whose filmography dates back 60 years. So does his typecasting.
Lee's big breakthrough came with the Hammer horror films that saw him play a series of gruesome supernatural baddies, such as Frankenstein's Monster, Dracula, and The Mummy. More recently, he sent shivers down the backs of a younger generation with his portrayal of the evil wizard Saruman in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.
And when Lee landed a role in a galaxy far, far away, did he get the chance to play the hero Jedi knight? Not a chance. He played the evil Count Dooku, a sith lord so evil he not only tries to feed a young Darth Vader to wild space animals but also nearly kicks Yoda's green behind too.
Lee's stature (he's 6-feet-5-inches tall) and his gravelly voice marked him out as a natural to play film villains, a type of pigeon holing all too common within the film industry.
It's also been noted that English actors quite often get cast as baddies in American films -- maybe it's payback for all those years of colonial rule? Or maybe it's the bad teeth?!
No. 4: Bruce Campbell
Bruce Campbell may not qualify as an A-list celebrity, but the square-jawed actor became a cult star due to his lead roles in the Sam Raimi-directed "Evil Dead" trilogy.
These films saw him play Ash, a bone-headed S-Mart employee who's reluctantly thrust into the role of shotgun-toting hero in a battle against supernatural evil.
Campbell's face, and especially his supersized chin, looks as though he jumped off the pages of a superhero cartoon, and his looks have driven his typecasting. Indeed, Campbell has even released an autobiography entitled "If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor," which shows he's healthily aware of his status as typecast actor.
These days he can be seen playing ex-CIA agent "Sam" on USA Network's "Burn Notice," but Campbell still gets his kicks as a B-movie actor, appearing in seemingly every made-for-TV, low-budget movie SyFy creates. He also managed to poke fun of those roles -- in the process reinforcing them -- by playing a slightly-fictionalized version of himself in his directorial debut, "My Name Is Bruce."
No. 3: Jim Carrey
The ability to make people laugh is gold dust in the film industry, but it is a trick that not all actors can pull off.
With Jim Carrey, though, you sense that his on-screen funny-man persona is really just an extension of his off-screen funny-man personality.
Carrey's ability to make people laugh is based on a combination of physical comedy (including his renowned face elasticity) and high-octane, often immature, wisecracking. His portrayal of dumb but lovable characters such as "Dumb and Dumber's" Lloyd Christmas can sometimes be cringe-worthy, but you can't help but laugh.
While he's tried to break away from this persona, even earning awards for more dramatic turns in "Man in the Moon" and "The Truman Show," he mostly repeats his tried-and-true formula in films such as "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective," "Bruce Almighty" and "Liar Liar," and we can expect plenty more laughs in the years to come.
No. 2: John Wayne
Another actor who was indelibly typecast (though it's doubtful he really minded) was the Duke himself, John Wayne.
Whether a cowboy or a soldier, you could rely on Wayne being the All-American hero who would ride into town and save the day. Along the way, he'd find time to get the pretty woman, whoop up on the bad guy, down a whiskey, and drawl out some classic line.
Wayne shows that just because you're typecast, doesn't mean you can't act. While some might say his range was limited, for example he could conceivably play a hard-nosed baddie but probably not a sensitive intellectual, he still brought the quality, even earning an Oscar for "True Grit."
Once he'd been associated with several All-American hero successes, there was no way that the film studios were going to change their formula. After all, pilgrim, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
No. 1: Hugh Grant
Now, let's imagine that you need a foppishly attractive English actor for your film. In the words of Ghostbusters, who you gonna call? Well, it's just got to be Hugh Grant, with his mane of lovely hair and his permanently-flustered persona.
Grant's defining moment came in "Four Weddings and a Funeral" where he played the charming but faux-pas prone Charles, who embarks upon a flirtation with an assertive American beauty (played by Andie MacDowell).
Once having found a role that worked for him, Grant seems to have decided to seek out that role the rest of his career, or at least shoe-horn that personality into whatever movie is providing his paycheck for the time being.
He's gone on to perfect this role in films such as "Bridget Jones's Diary," "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason," "Notting Hill" and "Sense and Sensibility," never once having to learn a new accent or change his hairstyle.
Nice work if you can get it but method actor, he is not!
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