Emma Kiely delves into the pros and cons of typecasting in Hollywood.
Since the film industry began, actors have always been typecast. Humphrey Bogart was always our pained mysterious hero. Audrey Hepburn our beautiful mysterious female lead. Now, in 2018, nothing has changed.
From horror to comedy, actors across every genre are being typecast. Typecasting can be effective and helpful for the audience, as they have associated what actor goes with what particular genre of film. Jason Statham – action-packed; Keira Knightley – elegant upper-class beauty from a different century; Lucy Punch – another iteration of Cinderella.
Some actors are happy to sit in the self-made restrictive box and be typecast their whole career.
Typecasting is one of the most effective marketing tools used by studios, but we forget that typecasting can be one of the most destructive devices in an actor’s career if they want to branch out. Some actors are happy to sit in the self-made restrictive box and be typecast their whole career, however, some breakthrough and cross the horizon, and when successful, the results can be revolutionary.
Comedy is the typecast-favourite genre and female actors constantly face the same problem of being typecast as the slightly overwhelmed woman, who somehow manages to land on her feet and land a love interest by the credits roll. You only need to look at Drew Barrymore, Katherine Heigl and Meg Ryan. Due to typecasting, much like juicy tracksuits, misogynistic rom-coms should be left in the 2000s.
When looking at modern successful comedic actors, it would surprise people how hard some have worked to break the mould and switch between genres. One of the first being Eddie Murphy, who gave us a holiday favourite in Trading Places, the Beverly Hills Cop franchise and Coming to America in the 80s and 90s. Coming into the late 1990s and 2000s Murphy was staying close to over-the-top humour with Dr Dolittle and The Nutty Professor. However, in 2006 Murphy shocked audiences with his dramatic supporting role in Dreamgirls garnering him an Oscar nomination.
Similarly, the late Robin Williams went from playing Popeye and the hilarious radio DJ in Good Morning Vietnam to giving two of the best supporting performances of the 80s and 90s in Dead Poet’s Society and Good Will Hunting establishing him as not only an iconic comedian but one of the best dramatic actors in recent years.
Williams and Murphy inspired a whole generation of comedic actors to break out of their roles and broaden their horizons and those who answered were Ben Stiller who crossed over into directing, Jim Carrey who gave a surprisingly sensitive performance in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Jonah Hill who has earned himself two Oscar nominations. There is no doubt that comedy is restrictive, but when you peel back the prosthetics and stand-up, great dramatic actors can be found.
He took home the Oscar for his performance which gave rise to the ‘McConaissance’.
A prime example of breaking typecast is Matthew McConaughey. With his tall slim frame, sallow skin, and husky voice he was the dream lead of Rom-Coms with Failure to Launch, How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days, and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. His performances never went beyond the hunky love interest until 2014’s Dallas Buyers Club, when the whole world realised that a terrific actor was being caged by horrific roles. He took home the Oscar for his performance which gave rise to the ‘McConaissance’ coined by the New Yorker and we saw him give a stellar performance in True Detective, then followed by the monumentally successful Interstellar. Dallas Buyers Club really set a caged bird free and, boy, did that bird sing.
Typecasting is always seen as an unwanted, uncontrollable affliction, but in reality, there are hundreds of actors who are happy to sit in the small corner of cinema made for them. Take action icons Jason Statham and Vin Diesel. Both fifty-years-old and both consistently banging out box office hits with their joint success from the Fast and Furious franchise, Vin Diesel’s Xander Cage films and Statham’s major success in his native England, with the cult favourite Snatch and a supporting role in the 2003 remake of The Italian Job. However it is not just the male actors who are typecast in action roles, Michelle Rodriguez has often been cast in hyper-masculine roles in films such as The Fast and The Furious and Resident Evil.
All have ventured into the sub-category of action-comedy with Diesel’s The Pacifier and Statham’s Spy. Rodriguez even appeared in Smurfs: The Lost Village (2017), yet all seem to fall back on the comfy beds of action hero, villain and the physically strong female character, respectively. It may not ever get them an Oscar or Golden Globe, but they have most definitely assured themselves a place in the history of the action genre.
Typecasting can no doubt be damaging to one’s career, but it can also be seen as a useful device in the film industry. Typecasting can make an actor a genre favourite which can result in monumental success, and even better, when broken, typecasting can reveal the true colours of actors and allows them to prove their real talent. It’s time to get dramatic Adam Sandler.