Typecasting: Having a Roll Set The Mold and How Hard It Is To Break It
Think of your favorite actor or actress. It shouldn’t take you very long to think of at least a handful of actors you like. Think about all the movies you’ve seen them in. If you have really good taste, maybe you could even name a movie in which they were nominated-or even won- a prestigious award for that role they portrayed.
Now I want to ask a question: who is one actor you’ve seen in a particular role that no matter how many other roles you’ve seen them in, you can never get that first character they did out of your head? Why is that? Is it because the actor isn’t very good and just got lucky with a good script? Maybe… but consider this:
Can you name one decent movie in which Robert De Niro didn’t play a gangster (or at least a parody of one?) I mean, the word “gangster” is in the opening line of the movie “Casino.” Does this make Robert De Niro a bad actor? Of course not. He’s just been playing to his strengths for the last forty years. This is what typecasting is. I’ll give you another example:
Can you name one movie in which Jason Statham doesn’t play a variation of the same role? Another great example of typecasting; actors who play to their strengths and for better or worse choose not to try to flex that “acting muscle.”
Anyone think Danny Trejo will be in a courtroom drama anytime soon?
Now that we’ve established that, I wanna tell you about two actors that I particularly admire. One of which I cannot seem to escape or accept her playing any other character than the first one I saw her portray and another actor who had the same fate until that mold was finally broken in the most unlikely of ways.
There is a wonderful French actress named Audrey Tautou. Maybe you haven’t heard of her, but she played the lead in the 5-time Oscar nominated French film, Amélie. I’ve written about this film many times before, but right now I want to focus primarily on her role. Though she wasn’t nominated for an Academy Award herself, with the help of spectacular writing and direction, Tautou managed to make me fall in love with a character who was so shy and yet so fearless at the same time. Her little intricacies and one-liners brought about a role that I will never forget and always refer back to one way or another.
Since then, she’s been in a couple of American blockbusters like “The Da Vinci Code” and I couldn’t even take her seriously. Not because she was doing a bad acting job, it just wasn’t Amélie. I still can’t let that go. Beauty in its simplicity, I guess.
Now time to tell you about who broke the mold of the typecast and how he finally did it for me.
Most of you know about David Hyde Pierce AKA Dr. Niles Crane from “Frasier.” For eleven glorious years, this “Cheers” spinoff character delighted us as Frasier’s younger brother. The character was-like Frasier-a brilliant psychiatrist who was actually even more prissy than his B-list celebrity brother. Pierce has since led a successful career in theater, film, and television, but he will forever be immortalized in his Emmy-winning performance as Niles Crane. Whenever I see him, Niles will, of course, always come to mind first. But a few years back he played a roll so well that it not only blew me away, but also made me see him as more than just “that guy who played Niles.”
“The Perfect Host” is a film done on the cheap about a potential home-invader outsmarted and out-weirded by a hallucinogenic nut job played by Pierce. There’s one comparison possible. There is absolutely no relation between Pierce’s role as Niles Crane and his role as Warwick Wilson. I was truly amazed by Pierce’s performance. He was terrifying, dark, hilarious for all the wrong reasons, and I was finally able to see him other than just Frasier’s pretentious little brother. If you haven’t seen the movie, you should definitely check it out.
Both films are available for stream on Netflix. Let me know what you think.