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methodwriter85

When Actors Play Against Type

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Unless you're talking Meryl Streep or Daniel Day Lewis, most actors/actresses have a type of character they usually play, and become known for. Occasionally, they will play against their type, either to re-invent themselves to transition to a new stage in their career (sweet former child star doing a sexy role), or to subvert audiences expectations (someone known for nice guy roles playing a villain) for either dramatic, suspenseful, or comedic effect. Octavia Spencer in this trailer for Ma is taking her whole "black mother figure to young white children" type and subverting that for a suspenseful effect:

Some of my favorite "playing against type" roles include:

Glamorous young Elizabeth Taylor playing frumpy Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf. She deserved every square inch of that Oscar.

Tilda Swinton as the glamorous New York City magazine boss in Trainwreck. I had no clue it was her because she always plays odd, androgynous characters.

On a similar note, I enjoyed Michelle Williams turn as a glamorous trust fund business gal in I Feel Pretty. She doesn't usually play that type, either. Marilyn Monroe was a similar departure from the types of roles she plays.

Jason Bateman playing the asshole unrepentant former high school bully in The Gift. I thought the movie kind of sucked, but he was pretty awesome.

Patrick Swayze and Wesley Snipes as glamorous drag queens in To Wong Foo, Thanks for For Everything! Julie Newmar.

Emma Stone as a fake nice bitch in The Favourite.

Sebastian Stann as Jeff Gillooly in I Tonya. I've never seen him play that type of character before. If he's not playing a nice guy or a former nice guy who was turned into a Winter Soldier, he's usually playing some kind of version of an asshole former frat kid. Him as a disarmingly nerdy and secretly abusive guy was a revelation for me. He really brought 3-d dimension to a character we only known from the tabloids.

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I don't have any examples right now except for one that just popped in to my head.  "Psycho" Anthony Perkins as Alexis in "Phaedra". I didn't even know the movie existed until I caught it on cable years ago.  I think there's a reason we say "cast against type" because ultimately, even though I enjoyed his performance-I feel he was miscast. It's an interesting movie though, if you like updated "Greek Tragedy" type stories.

I'd love to see Kate Winslet play a true femme fatale/villainess/possible black widow who is a gold digging hustler who comes between two men. I think she'd be great at playing the kind of woman other women want to punch in the face.

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Usually Anne Hathaway plays callow innocent girls, but she definitely went against that type as Selina Kyle in The Dark Knight Rises. I love how in the first 10 minutes or so when she's posing as a maid at Wayne Manor it seems like she's still an Anne Hathaway type character, but when Bruce catches her in his safe, the act drops, her voice lowers. "Oops.She changes to a totally different person and it's awesome.

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Anne Hathaway's scene in Brokeback Mountain as a jaded 40-something wife telling her husband's lover that he died in an "accident" is everything:

I'm actually not that big on that movie, but it was a such a good scene.

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On 4/26/2019 at 8:29 AM, Spartan Girl said:

Usually Anne Hathaway plays callow innocent girls, but she definitely went against that type as Selina Kyle in The Dark Knight Rises. I love how in the first 10 minutes or so when she's posing as a maid at Wayne Manor it seems like she's still an Anne Hathaway type character, but when Bruce catches her in his safe, the act drops, her voice lowers. "Oops.She changes to a totally different person and it's awesome.

Which is why I want to actually watch "The Hustle". It looks stupid, and I don't care about Rebel Wilson at all. But I think Anne Hathway is best at playing sketchy women.

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This topic makes me think of Sandra Bullock in “Murder By Numbers.” If you’re used to her as the romantic-comedy heroine who has a girl-next-door likability, that role was very off-brand. 

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16 hours ago, Frisson said:

This topic makes me think of Sandra Bullock in “Murder By Numbers.” If you’re used to her as the romantic-comedy heroine who has a girl-next-door likability, that role was very off-brand. 

In her case, I feel like her character had once been like that, but of course got changed by her abusive relationship leading her to the character she was by then. It was a pretty good movie, I think. And she had some smokin' hot chemistry with Ryan Gosling. That was the first movie role I ever saw Ryan in where I thought he was hot.

Edited by methodwriter85
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My favourites

Tom Hanks in "A League of their Own".  He's a drunk asshole with a short temper.  And he was hilarious.  I loved his performance.

Meryl Streep in "A Devil Wears Prada".  Maybe saying it's against type isn't necessarily accurate, because she's the best actor on the planet?  She was also a bad person in "She-Devil", this silly 80s movie.

Jim Carrey in "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind", an incredibly subtle, heartbreaking performance that may be in my top 5 favourite acting performances ever.

Jennifer Aniston in "The Good Girl" and "Cake".  Though I haven't seen Cake. I'm scared I'll find it too depressing.

Robert de Niro in "Meet the Parents" and "The Intern" two movies in my top 100.

Jennifer Lopez in "Out of Sight" - another one of my favourite acting performances.  Another subtle one.  She's very good and the movie is very sexy!

Adam Sandler in "Punch Drunk Love".

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Keanu Reeves somehow played against type while playing himself in Always Be My Maybe, as a narcissistic famous actor named Keanu Reeves. It was kind of hysterical.

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On 5/14/2019 at 11:07 AM, Archery said:

Chris Hemsworth in Ghostbusters. 

Also Chris Hemsworth in Bad Times At The El Royal where he plays a murderous Charles Manson style cult leader. 

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I was quite surprised (in a good way) to see Bob De Niro take up a comedic role in "Midnight Run" after a succession of serious thrillers/dramas. And to be honest up until watching the film I didn't think he had a comedy bone in his body!

And yet typically, given his ability to take on any method role it came as no surprise that he was quite excellent here! Although that said he was very much the straight man compared to his buddy co-star,  Charles Grodin, who achieved most of the laughs in the film.

But despite that it was great to see Bob try something different from all his serious dramatic roles previously

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