Out Of Character
Typecasting is a bit of a dirty word. Some actors are good at what they’re good at, that’s not a weakness, it’s a strength. I like actors that can display a bit of range, but excelling in one field is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s nice though, when actors demonstrate exactly what they can do when taken out of what we would assume to be their “comfort zone.” Amongst my favourite films are the ones that subvert my expectations of what an actor is capable of, and show me that despite their proficiency in one particular role that they also have the power to surprise.
Advanced Warning: This article goes dark fast and stays that way. The films in this article are mostly rated for adults, but they are also perfect examples of actors at the height of their talent.
Samuel L. Jackson – Unbreakable
Now, I may be paraphrasing a little here, but we should all be familiar Jackson’s more famous quotes like “I’m not familiar with the native language of What” and “Limbless reptiles? Not on this air-coach!”, generally speaking Jackson is a no-nonsense kinda guy and generally embodies coolness whether as a villain or a hero. We know that he’s also a massive nerd! He fought for the part of Nick Fury in the MCU, well actually I heard he threatened to sue Marvel if he couldn’t be in the films.
But his most incredible comic-role was in the M. Night Shyamalan film Unbreakable as the wild-eyed, measured paced man with the glass cane, Mr. Glass. In most films Jackson is a character capable of seemingly anything, even as the terrified unwitting sidekick in Die Hard: With A Vengeance he’s locked into the action and forced to keep pace. Mr. Glass enters into a chase that barely exceeds walking pace, and winds up crumpled at the bottom of a set of stairs, broken and screaming. There is an instance in which he drives a buyer from his comic-book gallery for having the audacity to shop for a child, and the shift in his demeanour is swift and terrifying, and eludes very subtly to the Shyamalan-classic twist ending.
Jim Carrey – The Number 23
Zany and lovable as ever, Jim Carey plays wacky paranoid delusional Walter Sparrow, as he becomes deeply entrenched into a mathematical conspiracy that makes him question the nature of the universe itself, and hilarious antics ensue, such as murder, fantasy and reality spilling into one another, and an eventual breakdown of his mental well-being…
No that doesn’t sound right somehow. This is the man that we’ve all come to know and love as the class clown Ace Ventura, or gibbering moron Lloyd Christmas. The darkest he ever got was the Cable Guy, and even then, that lisp and the typically Carrey facial expressions really take the sinister edge off. The Number 23 not only showcases Carrey as an actor in a more “normal” role, but they also give us a glimpse at his capabilities as a more emotive and developed actor, a peak behind the veil at the soul of a man who’s made the world laugh for long enough. Have the Mask or something lined up for afterwards just to re-assert normalcy.
David Hyde Pierce – The Perfect Host
“Miles from Frasier” as he may be more commonly known, Hyde Pierce is most commonly known for intellectual roles like Slim in A Bugs Life, Abe Sapien from Hellboy, or even Cecil Terwilliger, serial killer companion of “Sideshow Bob” Robert Terwilliger in the Simpsons, but that’s not his only serial killer role, and in The Perfect Host his character is no less charming and intelligent that Miles Crane. But there are some twisted differences.
A bank robber talks his way into the wrong home, as the owner begins hosting a dinner party in an empty house, mingling with non-existent guests, and forcing his one very real guest to look through his photo albums, showing him the place he’ll occupy once the evening’s festivities are concluded. For most of the film, Hyde Pierce is exactly who you’d expect him to be, but as the cracks in his demeanour form, you see how easy it is for him to adopt a persona, to such a degree that he can layer his own type-cast on top of something far richer and darker indeed.
Robin Williams – One Hour Photo
Turns out I have a thing for killers, especially when played by comedians. Robin Williams was a lovely human being who did wonderful things with his life, and was also a massive nerd. He’s best known for a wide range of cartoonish voices, over-the-top performances and some particularly fine acting such as Good Will Hunting and Bicentennial Man. Here is a man incapable of even pretending to be a sociopathic stalker, living vicariously through stolen photographs of his customers.
Watch One Hour Photo. We know that Robin Williams is an astounding actor, but nothing prepares you for his performance. It is at once a pleasure to see a master of the art demonstrating yet another facet, and a terrifying experience to behold it, once revealed. Even under such a premise, Williams still brings a massive presence and personality to the character that is truly testament to his overwhelming talent.
So, most of the examples I’ve given have been light hearted characters going dark. Does anyone have any examples of the opposite? Any other examples you’d like to share, like an actress (please, I’m really trying but well written female parts just aren’t springing to mind)? Talk to me in the comments below!