Hollywood Type Cast: Curse or Blessing?

12 Nov

Being typecast in the Hollywood community is like getting lice: you don’t want it and it’s an extreme pain to get rid of.  Most of the time, an actor who is considered typecast either 1)plays the same character in every film or 2) stars in a film franchise early in their career making it difficult for audiences to see them as anyone else.  Sometimes it’s both 1 and 2.  In this article we will look at actors and actresses who have escaped being typecast or have built blockbuster careers from it and those who can’t seem to escape the big “T”.

Note: The information expressed is opinion only.

Hit: Harrison Ford

When he appeared in  American Graffiti, Ford was fairly new to the scene.  He then went on to star in the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises.  Both Han and Indiana were action men with some great zingers and quips yet you watched two different characters.  Despite the two famous franchises, it didn’t keep him from portraying different characters such as Jack Trainer (Working Girl) or Dr. Richard Kimble (The Fugitive). His career continued to be successful with the thriller What Lies Beneath.  I will say that some of his later roles have become more and more similar, but for a forty plus decade career, I’d say he’s done very well for himself.

Other Hits: Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, and Daniel Day-Lewis

Miss: Shia LaBeouf

 LaBeouf seemed to have a lot of potential.  Disturbia and Transormers did very well.  However both characters in the films seemed like they had just been cloned.  It seemed like he would really take off with his role as Jake Moore (Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps) and Jerry Shaw (Eagle Eye).  He seems to have taken some pretty intense roles for the future, but he still hasn’t made quite the dent necessary to really be praised and noticed in Hollywood.

Other Misses: Seann William Scott and Michael Cera

Hit: Amy Adams

 Her first film role was in Drop Dead Gorgeous playing a brainless, cheerleader.  She played opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in Catch Me if You Can playing another bubbly, but very sweet young woman.  She seemed to have a knack for these roles as she portrayed a princess and a Julia Child wannabe.  She played more serious roles as well but it wasn’t until The Fighter that she really proved to the world that she was an actress not to be reckoned.  Long gone was the sweet, bubbly, engenue.  Instead she gave us sass and a good Irish kick in the pants.

Other Hits: Meryl Streep, Natalie Portman, and Toni Collette

Miss: Kristen Stewart

Yes I am going there.  I know she has many fans as Bella Swan/Cullen, but if you look at her movie track record, she plays the same characters over and over and over and over: an underage, oversexed one-trick pony.   Twilight was supposed to really showcase her talents (I’m still confused there) and break her out of the “indie” scene, but that hasn’t happened.  Yes she has made other movies since then (The Runaways, Welcome to the Rileys, Snow White & the Huntsman), but they have not done well at the box office and/or haven’t lasted long in theaters.  Maybe it’s the story or perhaps it’s because it’s Kristen Stewart playing Kristen Stewart.   She has nothing lined up right now and that’s not a good sign.  Maybe she can use this down time to go to acting classes.  Yes, I went there again.

Other Misses: Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Aniston, and Meg Ryan

65 Responses to “Hollywood Type Cast: Curse or Blessing?”

  1. Open Book November 12, 2012 at 2:13 PM #

    LB- Great topic. I want to focus on women for a moment. ITA Amy Adams, Natalie Portman and Meryl Streep are wonderful examples. The film choices and characters they’ve portrayed are always diverse and compelling to watch. Why do u think they’ve managed to escape the big “T” where others have failed? Do u think experience, education and talent allows them to take risk?

  2. littlebells November 12, 2012 at 3:21 PM #

    THat is a GREAT question! Well I can give you the long extended answer or a short one. hahaha!! Knowing you, you will want the first. 🙂

    Let’s see if I can break this down so as not to start confusing anyone. I think there are many layers. I think experience is extremely important when it comes to acting. It allows an actor/actress to give characters more depth and genuine, authentic dialogue and reactions. I think THAT really speaks to an audience who may have had addictions, been cheated on, lost a dear loved one, sacrificed to accomplish a goal, etc…they know what it feels like and if an actor can portray (have the talent) those emotions on the screen, their fan base will grow.

    I think education would be incorporated into life experience. You meet knew people that have different POVs that one can learn from. When it comes to talent, there are many young actors who haven’t had a lifetime of experience yet, but they have the talent. maybe they are just more intuitive and can understand what it would be like to be a particular character. I don’t know.

    In the end, I think it’s a combination of talent, experience and education with “this is their purpose” in life. Actors/actresses that have long successful careers (and I’m not talking just the big blockbuster success stories) are able to reach audiences emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. Their influence is felt and usually it is for the better.

    Everyone knows I love Shirley McLaine. Her acting alongside Debra Winger in Terms of Endearment have had a large influence on my life. Somewhat reflective of my life as far as mother/daughter relationships, it has allowed me to deal better with my reality knowing that if someone wrote a story like this, there are others in the exact same sport in life. Compound that with the extremely realistic dialogue and authentic delivery, I’ve thought, “Oh my gosh! That’s exactly what I would say!”

    Did that make sense?

    • Open Book November 13, 2012 at 5:49 PM #

      Yes! It makes perfect sense. Thanks for being so thoughtful and concise. Love it!

      • Comic Relief November 13, 2012 at 6:51 PM #


        I like your list because the actors are popular enough to be known but young enough to not be considered proven.

        • littlebells November 13, 2012 at 6:58 PM #

          Thank you CR. I would like to see Shia prove us all wrong. I think he has the talent.

          • Comic Relief November 13, 2012 at 7:02 PM #


            Though there are many who have had multiple roles, there are only a few who have had multiple iconic roles.

            Am I correct that one needs to have MANY roles to avoid being typecast?

            • littlebells November 13, 2012 at 7:27 PM #

              I think most specifically: various types of roles. I don’t think an actor should just stick to comedy or drama or sci fi, etc…they need a variety of roles. Javier Bardem is a great example. He can play a romantic/comedic lead in “Eat, Pray, Love” and then a killer in “No Country for Old Men”. These are just a few of the extremely various roles he takes on. And now playing Silva in Skyfall, the man has acting chops! I don’t think you CAN typecast this man.

              • Open Book November 13, 2012 at 7:32 PM #

                Ah! Soo true!

          • Open Book November 13, 2012 at 7:10 PM #

            To find those who have talent and discipline is rare today. Why is that?

          • ozzie20 November 13, 2012 at 8:39 PM #

            I think Shia has talent too but his ego seems to over shadow it at the moment. Hopefully he’ll grow out of it.

  3. littlebells November 12, 2012 at 3:22 PM #

    I think great artists are always looking for ways to challenge and reinvent themselves.

    • littlebells November 12, 2012 at 3:24 PM #

      dang’t I wasn’t done with my thought…

      Great artists don’t stay in their comfort zone. I would hope they don’t sacrifice their own moral compass (alas some have), but stick to their standards and trust that if a successful career is going to happen, it’s going to happen. I don’t think an actor needs to accept every single role that comes their way, early in their career, but to be selective and strategic.

      • Comic Relief November 13, 2012 at 6:52 PM #

        Because so few actors have them, I hate to bring up the Oscars. Truthfully having an Oscar doesn’t mean the roles are iconic. AMC’s movie guide lists actors with multiple Oscars.

        Robert De Niro
        Best Supporting Actor, The Godfather: Part II (1974); Best Actor, Raging Bull (1980)

        Jack Nicholson
        Best Actor, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) and As Good As It Gets (1997); Best Supporting Actor, Terms of Endearment (1983)

        Meryl Streep
        Best Supporting Actress, Kramer vs. Kramer (1979); Best Actress, Sophie’s Choice (1982)

        Marlon Brando
        Best Actor, On the Waterfront (1954) and The Godfather (1972)

        Dustin Hoffman
        Best Actor, Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) and Rain Man (1988)

        Gene Hackman
        Best Actor, The French Connection (1971); Best Supporting Actor, Unforgiven (1992)

        Michael Caine
        Best Actor, Alfie (1966); Best Supporting Actor, Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)

        Denzel Washington
        Best Supporting Actor, Glory (1989); Best Actor, Training Day (2001)

        Jodie Foster
        Best Actress, The Accused (1988) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991)


        • Comic Relief November 13, 2012 at 6:53 PM #

          Kate Winslet seems to have won multiple awards, but only one Oscar. I would not be surprised if she entered the previous list in the near future.

          • littlebells November 13, 2012 at 7:02 PM #

            CR, thank you for mentioning kate. There are actually many actors and actresses I couldn’t include in this list. I hope we can discuss them tonight!

            Speaking of kate. I think she is fantastic. She can take a role and make it her own. I love actors who lose themselves enough in a role that you see the character. She is a great example.

            • Open Book November 13, 2012 at 7:06 PM #

              Did u see her in Mildred Pierce? She was great but the movie was so so.

              • littlebells November 13, 2012 at 7:09 PM #

                I have not, however, I also heard she did a fantastic job despite a bum movie. That’s a great actress.

                • ozzie20 November 13, 2012 at 8:42 PM #

                  I haven’t seen Mildred Pierce either but I do think Kate is an amazing actress!

            • Comic Relief November 13, 2012 at 7:08 PM #

              Maybe I wasn’t paying adequate atttention to the article, are you claiming an actor can avoid type casting by being good at what they do?

              • littlebells November 13, 2012 at 7:13 PM #

                I think they can, but sometimes I think fans won’t let an actor be seen as anything other than a romcom or action or dramatic actor.

                On the flip side, there are actors who are typecast but do such a fantastic job that it has actually benefitted them! Example: Johnny Depp. The hubs watched “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” for the first time and kept commenting how he couldn’t believe that was Depp. it wasn’t just the make up but the acting, voice, etc…He plays the quirky, weird characters, but each one is so unique and different that audiences are constantly amazed by his roles. I think he is a great dramatic actor as well, but his “normal” roles never do as well as Willy Wonka or the Mad Hatter. He has made this typecasting work for him.

                • Open Book November 13, 2012 at 7:27 PM #

                  It helps when an actor likes the role they are playing. Far too often u see actors take a role for the money. However, I will say Guy Pearce I have seen almost all his films even his crappy ones just because he’s so compelling to watch. IDK what he does but his performances are never boring, matter of fact he can make a crap movie worth watching.

                • Comic Relief November 13, 2012 at 7:28 PM #

                  That was a really great answer. Ben Affleck really impressed me in Argo because he chose to play a character far less glamorous than he routinely plays.

                  • littlebells November 13, 2012 at 7:32 PM #

                    I think an actor willing to transform themselves physically, whether it’s hair, make-up, weight gain, weight loss, etc…helps as well.

                    • Open Book November 13, 2012 at 7:46 PM #

                      I hear ya LB. If I may add. Some actors will stop at that meaning only transforming their outward appearance instead of changing their walk, accent or mannerisms is a cop out. If u are going to change your hair, gain weight etc…why not go the full distance. After all, the excellent hair, make-up and fat padding are the work of hair, make-up and wardrobe crew not the actor. My point is seeing an actor combine their expertise with wardrobe and make-up is magical. The perfect example was seeing Meryl Streep play Margret Thatcher or Julia Child.

                    • littlebells November 13, 2012 at 8:04 PM #

                      And that is why I love Streep!

                  • Open Book November 13, 2012 at 8:07 PM #

                    No because all actors wear make-up. It’s what u do once u are in make-up that matters. Like I said changing from the inside out is much more effective and compelling than relying on gimmicks.

                    • Open Book November 13, 2012 at 8:12 PM #

                      Sorry! This answer was for CR. Regarding make-up and typecasting.

                • Comic Relief November 13, 2012 at 8:01 PM #

                  third try…

                  Since you brought the topic up,

                  Are you type cast if you always appear under make-up?

      • Comic Relief November 13, 2012 at 7:23 PM #


        Would you make a distinction between artists who look for the same rolls (over and over again), and those who alway who take a lot of similar work?

        Michael Cain, Viola Davis, Anthony Hopkins, and Judy Dench seem to play a lot of similar parts. None are particularly young but all seemed to taken chances at least once in their respective careers, despite (some apparent routine).

        • littlebells November 13, 2012 at 7:39 PM #

          yes, I think there is a distinction. Don’t quote me on this, but those who choose to take the same roles over and over must know they don’t have the talent to go beyond their talent comfort zone.

          As for the great actors and actresses you mentioned, despite playing similar roles, they still portray them differently and are mesmerizing enough that we seek to watch their films. Being typecast is a fine line and so is choosing similar roles as to the same role.

          • Comic Relief November 13, 2012 at 7:43 PM #

            I may write that in my notes.

            • littlebells November 13, 2012 at 8:05 PM #

              Hahaha! Thanks! 🙂

          • ozzie20 November 13, 2012 at 8:50 PM #

            That’s what I think too. It can be good for those who don’t have a wide range. They’ll get work but it must be frustrating too.

    • Open Book November 13, 2012 at 5:50 PM #


  4. parisienne November 12, 2012 at 6:17 PM #


    Great article! Its very informative. I think it terms of typecasting an actor not only needs to have an education but they need to be able to BECOME someone else. They have trouble doing that because they still see themselves as outside of the character. Does that make sense?

    Take Kristen Stewart for example, she typecast herself because of her general attitude. She’s difficult to work with (so I’ve heard) disrespectful, lacks social etiquette and is extremely arrogant. She’s not malleable because she doesn’t allow herself to feel what the character is feeling. Then again to much TCH does block your short term memory receptors so that explains why she can’t speak in coherent sentences and makes up her lines. But I digress, Kristen will never be able to play anything other than Kristen but if you put her in her comfort zone (opposite a female whom she has to have a sex scene with) there is a slight change. One can tell she is more comfortable within herself. Watch the Runaways and listen to the commentary. She’s so full of pride. 🙂

    • Open Book November 13, 2012 at 6:10 PM #

      Yes! It makes perfect sense! To me empathy is very important in an actors tool kit.

      Do u think people who lack empathy become that way due to their environment or are they born that way?

    • ozzie20 November 13, 2012 at 8:53 PM #

      LMAO! I love you Paris! 🙂 But what you said it true. Personality helps.

  5. littlebells November 13, 2012 at 7:07 PM #

    I have often wondered if Jennifer Aniston would be as famous as she is today had she not been married to Brad Pitt. I loved her as Rachel and some of her films, howeeeeeever, I can no more see her in the same league as Amy Adams, Kate Winslet, Meryl Streep, and Soirse Ronan. I just see Jennifer playing a slightly different Jennifer. Her roles don’t seem challenging and I have to think, is it because she can’t get that deep into a character or she is so typecast that no one believes she could carry a turn of the 20th century or psychotic schizoid.

    • Open Book November 13, 2012 at 7:18 PM #

      Great Q. I did see her try and stretch herself and play a dramatic role. The movie was called Derailed. But yes, I think Jennifer Anniston definitely married up.

  6. littlebells November 13, 2012 at 7:40 PM #

    We have discussed some of my hits and misses. Who are some actors/actresses that are on your list and why?

    • Comic Relief November 13, 2012 at 7:42 PM #

      OB or LB,

      Here’s some one who did not may my previous list.

      I want to agree with you that episodic TV seems help in the typecasting process. That does not mean actors don’t try to fight being pigeon holed.

      It’s odd; actresses like Elizabeth Montgomery, Farrah Fawcett, and George Clooney chose really different roles and personas when they moved from TV to the big screen.

      In terms of rebelling, what did an actresses like Sally field do (since she has an Oscar) that made more successful.

      • Open Book November 13, 2012 at 8:02 PM #

        Sally Field can make a vampire cry. Sorry! I went there. Hahahaha! It’s a slow process but she manages to pull u into the story and then start working u over emotionally. She never judges her characters and she’s able to show u their vulnerability and honesty. Norma Rae is a great example.

        • littlebells November 13, 2012 at 8:09 PM #

          I have to agree with you. I am really looking forward to seeing her in Lincoln.

          • Open Book November 13, 2012 at 8:13 PM #

            Yes me too!

        • Comic Relief November 13, 2012 at 8:14 PM #

          Are you saying “not juding your characters” is part of the process for breaking typecasting?

          I would certainly agree in Streep’s example but I’m wondering if this commitment begins prior to your career.

          Field seemed to do this even before her career started.

          • Open Book November 13, 2012 at 8:22 PM #

            Correct moving beyond your own experiences or reactions helps in making the character more authentic and the actor less judgmental about the character IMO. For example how Bella became a tomboy in Twilight when in the book Bella really was more of a romantic.

            • ozzie20 November 13, 2012 at 8:55 PM #

              That’s an interesting point that I hadn’t thought of!

  7. ozzie20 November 13, 2012 at 8:07 PM #

    Hello everyone!

    Great article LB! I’ve never really sat down and analysed type casting like this so I know I will enjoy the discussion! 🙂

    • littlebells November 13, 2012 at 8:10 PM #

      Hi Ozzie and glad to have you here!

    • Open Book November 13, 2012 at 8:13 PM #

      Hi Oz!

      How are u?

    • Comic Relief November 13, 2012 at 8:15 PM #

      Hi Ozzie!

      • ozzie20 November 13, 2012 at 8:33 PM #

        Hi LB, OB and CR!

        Touch wood, I’m alot better! I don’t know what I had but it was hell regarding the pain. Grrrr! (Sorry, I disappeared again. I had a few pains, after I freaked out thinking it was coming back, I realised that I had not eaten today. Doh! So I went and made something. No pains now!)

        • Open Book November 13, 2012 at 8:37 PM #

          I’m so sorry to hear Oz! But I’m glad your better.

          • Comic Relief November 13, 2012 at 8:45 PM #

            Strangly eating seems to resolve most of my problems too.

            • Open Book November 13, 2012 at 8:50 PM #

              Hahaha! Come on CR we can do it! Both CR and I are fasting it’s our third day. I feel fantastic!

              • littlebells November 13, 2012 at 9:02 PM #

                Is there a special reason? No, don’t answer that. That’s personal.

              • ozzie20 November 13, 2012 at 9:07 PM #

                LMAO! You two crack me up! 🙂

                Good luck with your fasting, you brave people! I don’t think I could do that!

  8. littlebells November 13, 2012 at 8:33 PM #

    Sorry I disappeared there for a bit. For everyone: what other actors, that are typecast, have been able to use it to their advantage and have long successful careers?

    • Open Book November 13, 2012 at 8:47 PM #

      Hmm! Matt Damon has done a good job of not getting typecast. Guy Pearce, Leo DiCap. I really like Idris Elba he’s really taking chances and roles not always given to AA.

  9. Open Book November 13, 2012 at 8:35 PM #

    LB- U saw Argo. Do u think some actors can avoid typecasting if they direct themselves? Do u think Drew Barrymoore plays the same character when she’s directing herself?

    • littlebells November 13, 2012 at 9:03 PM #

      Refresh my memory with the films she’s directed herself, please…:)

  10. Open Book November 13, 2012 at 8:54 PM #


    I have to go. LB great article. There’s still so much to say about this topic.

    • Comic Relief November 13, 2012 at 8:56 PM #

      I did not realize this topic was as rich as it turned out to be. Great article. Unforunately I need to leave as well.

      • littlebells November 13, 2012 at 9:05 PM #

        Oh I am so glad you enjoyed it! I will make sure to revisit this topic in the future but in a different angle. 🙂 Have a good night everyone and Ozzie I am glad you are feeling better!

        • ozzie20 November 13, 2012 at 9:09 PM #

          Thanks LB! (hugs) I’ve have a lot of fun too even though I was only here for a short time! Night all!

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