Actors Who Refused to Be Pigeonholed by Hollywood

Joseph Thornton

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Typecasting in Hollywood can be a double-edged sword for actors. It can lead to initial success in certain roles. However, it can also limit opportunities and hinder artistic growth, which can be very frustrating for the stars who find themselves in that situation. Here, I shall share 18 actors who’ve managed to avoid or escape typecasting:

Anne Hathaway

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As a teenage actor, Anne Hathaway was cast as the lead in the Disney comedy The Princess Diaries (2001). Her next role in Ella Enchanted (2004) also leaned heavily into the fairytale niche. In 2005, Hathaway initiated her transition to more grown-up roles with her performance as Lureen in Brokeback Mountain.

Matthew McConaughey

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Matthew McConaughey has shared in his memoir that he enjoyed being able to provide a romantic getaway for people with his rom-com roles. The Ghosts of Girlfriends Past nevertheless made it a point to show his versatility with darker and more dramatic roles in films like The Lincoln Lawyer (2011) and Killer Joe (2011).

Charlize Theron

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After making the transition from modeling to acting, Charlize Theron’s first couple of roles were largely reliant on her striking looks. The South African actress would, however, break this typecast in Monster (2003), where she gave an Oscar-winning performance as the serial killer Aileen Wuornos.

Steve Carell

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Steve Carell rose to fame in the 2000s with his comedic roles in The Office and The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005). But Carell’s acting range transcends just comedy, as is evident from his performances in The Big Short (2015), Foxcatcher (2014), and Beautiful Boy (2018).

Daniel Radcliffe

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Playing the lead role as a child actor in a popular movie franchise like Harry Potter, very few actors were in more danger of being typecast than Daniel Radcliffe. The actor nonetheless succeeded in differentiating himself from his past with horror and dramatic roles in The Woman in Black (2012) and Swiss Army Man (2016).

Jonah Hill

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Thanks to his starring role as Seth in Superbad, Jonah Hill struggled to be taken seriously, seemingly stuck in the foul-mouthed sidekick typecast. Things would change for Hill after his stunning performance in the biopic Moneyball (2011), which then set the stage for an Oscar-nominated role in The Wolf of Wall Street (2013).

Robert Pattinson

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After starring as Edward Cullen in the Twilight movies, Robert Pattison didn’t allow himself to be typecast as a love interest. The actor ventured into the indie niche, appearing in films like The Rover (2014). Pattinson would later land roles in major blockbusters such as Tenet (2020) and The Batman (2022).

Elijah Wood

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After breaking out with his performance as Frodo Baggins in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Elijah Wood chose to deliberately sabotage the heroic image of that role in his subsequent projects. He starred in various dark roles, playing a creep in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and a serial killer in Maniac (2012).

Jim Carrey

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For the earlier part of his acting career, Jim Carrey was mostly associated with comedic roles characterized by slapstick humor. The actor successfully changed this perception by taking on increasingly dramatic roles in films like The Truman Show (1998) and The Number 23 (2007).

Emma Watson

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Breaking free from her iconic role as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series, Watson explored diverse genres, from period drama Little Women (2019) to romantic musicals like Beauty and the Beast (2017).

Zac Efron

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After a successful stint as Troy Bolton in the High School Musical trilogy, Zac Efron decided that he wanted to challenge himself with diverse genres. As a result, he turned down a role in the 2011 musical Footloose, opting to star in raunchy comedy films like Neighbors (2014) and Dirty Grandpa (2016).

Bryan Cranston

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Bryan Cranston started out with roles in comedy series like Seinfeld and Malcolm in the Middle. The actor, however, moved away from his comedic roots with his powerful portrayal of Walter White in Breaking Bad. His performance in the crime drama earned him multiple Emmy Awards.

Reese Witherspoon

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Reese Witherspoon gained recognition in the early 2000s for her roles in rom-coms such as Legally Blonde (2001) and Sweet Home Alabama (2002). The actress went on to break away from her early rom-com image with an Oscar-winning performance as June Carter Cash in the 2005 biopic Walk the Line.

Chris Evans

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Evans successfully moved beyond his superhero roles to tackle a diverse range of characters. Since dropping his role as Captain America in the MCU, Chris Evans has starred in more dramatic film projects, including Gifted (2017) and Knives Out (2019).

Hugh Jackman

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While Jackman gained initial fame as Wolverine in the X-Men series, he refused to be confined by typecasting. The Australian actor embraced a wide range of roles, from musicals like Les Misérables (2012) to dramatic performances in Prisoners (2013).

Emma Stone

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Stone’s journey from comedy to drama has showcased her incredible range as an actress. Initially gaining recognition with multiple teen comedy films such as Easy A (2010), Stone earned critical acclaim for her performances as a recovering drug addict in Birdman (2014) and an aspiring actress in La La Land (2016).

Henry Fonda

Photo Credit: Wings of the Morning (1937) – 20th Century Fox.

Over the course of his acting career, Henry Fonda built a reputation as a morally-upstanding movie hero with the characters he played in The Grapes of Wrath (1940), Young Mr. Lincoln (1939), and many other films. However, the actor upended this image by playing the villain in Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West (1968).

Adam Sandler

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Being an established comedy face in Hollywood typically seen in hilarious and immature roles, the news of Adam Sandler starring in a rom-com drama Punch–Drunk Love (2002) was unusual. The actor, however, showed his acting range, delivering a thrilling performance that earned him a Golden Globe nomination.