Sometimes you turn on the TV and see a movie airing that makes you go, “Wait, is this the movie where Michael Cera plays that awkward guy, or is it the other one where he plays that awkward guy?” The same kind of question applies to a lot of actors who continuously get typecast as one character or another, over and over again to the end of time. Sure, somewhere in there a period actress with play a modern woman or a constant good guy will try his hand at villainy. But then they just go back to what they’re known for, forever and ever. Here are sixteen prime examples of that. On the one hand, it’s nice that we know what we’re getting ourselves into when we go to their movies. On the other hand, UGH PLAY A DIFFERENT CHARACTER ALREADY.
1. Keira Knightley
Character Type: Feisty Period Heroine
Examples: Pirates of the Caribbean, King Arthur, Pride & Prejudice, Atonement, The Duchess, A Dangerous Method, Anna Karenina
Are you adapting a classic piece of literature or telling the story of a spunky woman who rebels against corsets? Odds are you’re going to consider Keira Knightley. She’s a time traveling powerhouse. Sure, she’s played a few modern roles like in Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, but she keeps jumping at the chance to wear a floor-length dress.
2. Michael Cera
Character Type: Awkward Soft-Spoken Guy
Examples: Arrested Development, Juno, Superbad, Nick & Nora’s Infinite Playlist, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
It’s pretty widely recognized that Michael Cera plays Michael Cera in everything he’s in. He’s always the shy sweetheart. But he’s getting older now, and it looks like he might be trying to break type by directing his own short films and starring in trippy movies like The Crystal Fairy.
3. Hugh Grant
Character Type: Bumbling British Charmer
Examples: Four Weddings and a Funeral, The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain, Nine Months, Sense & Sensibility, Notting Hill, Love Actually
Oh, Hugh Grant. Even when you play smarmier types, like in Bridget Jones’s Diary, you’ve still got that stuttery British accent and that nervous way of presenting yourself. It’s interesting that you come across so charming and innocent onscreen, since offscreen you’ve been known to partake in less-than-innocent pleasures.
4. Helena Bonham Carter
Character Type: Eccentric Lady
Examples: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Harry Potter, Sweeney Todd, Alice in Wonderland, Dark Shadows, Les Miserables, The Lone Ranger
It didn’t start out this way. Sure, Helena was known for period pieces like Howard’s End and A Room With A View, but she didn’t look like she reached into her closet, chose ten items at random and piled them on before back-combing her hair and applying lipstick in the dark. Maybe it’s the fact that she’s married to Tim Burton and has become Johnny Depp’s go-to co-star.
5. Jennifer Connelly
Character Type: Long-suffering Wife/Girlfriend
Examples: A Beautiful Mind, Little Children, He’s Just Not That Into You, Reservation Road
Poor Jennifer Connelly and her eyebrows just can’t catch a break. She’s always either standing by her troubled man, getting cheated on, or losing her children. But she’s always so strong.
6. Johnny Depp
Character Type: Weirdo
Examples: Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, Pirates of the Caribbean, Sweeney Todd, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Dark Shadows … you get the idea
You might think I’m crazy for putting Johnny Depp in here because he plays such a wide range of characters. You might say he’s the most versatile actor around. But to that I say that all of his supposedly diverse characters have a very important connecting thread — they’re really weird. Even when he’s not piling on the crazy makeup and doing a silly voice, he just looks like Johnny Depp, which is in itself pretty weird.
7. Morgan Freeman
Character Type: Wise Mentor
Examples: Driving Miss Daisy, The Shawshank Redemption, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, Bruce Almighty, Million Dollar Baby
Morgan Freeman is the wisest guy around. He even played the ultimate wise guy, God himself. When he’s not being the president/stand-in president, he’s giving advice to the film’s hero in that classic voice of his. But who gives Morgan Freeman advice, huh? You just go ahead and think about that one.
8. Vince Vaughn
Character Type: Wisecracking Douchebag
Examples: Old School, Wedding Crashers, The Break-Up, Fred Claus, The Internship
Whether he’s attending a wedding he wasn’t invited to or only getting Jennifer Aniston three lemons when she wanted twelve, Vince Vaughn is the ultimate smug slacker. It’s weird because in real life I tend to like him, but in movies he’s just such a douche.
9. Whoopi Goldberg
Character Type: Herself
Examples: Ghost, Sister Act, Made in America, every TV show she guest-stars on
There have of course been exceptions, like in The Color Purple, but when you look at a lot of her film roles and most of her TV gigs, she pretty much just plays Whoopi Goldberg. The very fact that she always has those dreadlocks is the first sign.
10. Zooey Deschanel
Character Type: Adorably Quirky Girl
Examples: Almost Famous, Failure To Launch, Elf, (500) Days of Summer, New Girl
Zooey’s adorkable, and we love her for it. She’s got big blue eyes and cute bangs and wears vintage clothes and does silly dances. But it might be nice to see her try something different for a change.
11. Woody Allen
Character Type: A Woody Allen Type
Examples: Everything he’s ever been in
There’s a reason Woody Allen has inspired the phrase “Woody Allen type” for when you’re trying to describe a sarcastic, neurotic guy. He casts himself in a lot of his movies, and he pretty much plays the same guy at different ages and with different names and different levels of neurosis. But we keep watching.
12. Diane Keaton
Character Type: Wealthy Overbearing Mother
Examples: Something’s Gotta Give, The Family Stone, Because I Said So, Smother, The Big Wedding
If Because I Said So is on TV, I have to change the channel. How can anyone be that overbearing? It’s not always quite so bad with her, but she still seems to be playing Annie Hall all grown up with adult kids.
13. Adam Sandler
Character Type: Man Child
Examples: Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, The Waterboy, Mr. Deeds, That’s My Boy, Grown Ups
He was quite literally a man child in Billy Madison, and ever since he’s just played various forms of the immature, annoying guy. Unless he’s playing his own twin sister, in which case I’d rather he just stick to the man child thing. Shudder.
14. Rachel McAdams
Character Type: Time-Traveler’s Love Interest
Examples: The Time Traveler’s Wife, About Time
Seriously. How in the world did Rachel McAdams get cast in TWO movies about falling in love with a guy who time travels? Talk about being very specifically typecast. Even though About Time looks kind of cute, I’m very worried this will be a rule of three thing and Rachel will get cast as the next Doctor Who companion.
15. Kate Hudson
Character Type: Woman Trying To Have It All
Examples: How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Raising Helen, Bride Wars, Something Borrowed
Professional woman with great clothes and fabulous hair who’s unlucky in love. Whoopdeedoo!
16. Seth Rogen
Character Type: Lovable Stoner
Examples: Knocked Up, Pineapple Express, Funny People, 50/50, This is the End
Seth Rogen is arguably Hollywood’s most famous stoner. At first you’re like, ugh again with the pot? But then you hear that booming laugh and you’re like, aww Seth Rogen, I love you.