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  • The Good Girl features Jennifer Aniston soon after Friends, taking the lead role as a young woman trapped in a dreary, depressing life in a small Texas town. Her attempts to escape the crushing tedium result in terrible consequences with which she must live. Critics refer to it as Aniston's finest hour.
  • In A Few Good Men, doing this revived Kevin Bacon's career.
  • Macaulay Culkin was so sick of being associated with Kevin and that goddamn cheek-slapping "AAAUGH!!!" that he decided to play a psychopathic boy who murdered his brother, shoots a dog for no reason, and tries to murder his cousin in The Good Son.
    • It didn't quite work. As an adult he played a Hollywood Atheist in Saved as well as Michael Alig, the controversial Club Kids founder who was convicted of murder in Party Monster
  • This is a plot point in S.O.B., in which an actress with a sugary-sweet reputation is asked to show her breasts in a soft-core film. The best part? The actress was played by Julie Andrews, whose actual film career had suffered after the one-two punch of Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music typecast her. This was one of several films her husband Blake Edwards directed her in that broke her out of this mold in various ways. (Others included 10 and Victor Victoria.)
    • A different example of this is in the live-action Eloise movies, where she plays Nanny, a high-strung and over tired old woman who can't sing or dance. Rather a change from Maria and Mary Poppins.
    • Her roles in The Princess Diaries and Tooth Fairy seem to be a return to her roots.
  • Anne Hathaway similarly had to break away from such a reputation after coming to attention in films like the Princess Diaries duet, which (perhaps) coincidentally co-starred Julie Andrews. She not only pulled it off by way of Havoc and especially Brokeback Mountain, but came so far that when she hosted Saturday Night Live in October 2008, she spoofed Mary Poppins in a skit that reveals what "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" means - it's not pretty...
    • Rachel Getting Married, where she plays a recovering drug addict and a thorough pain in the ass, seems to be a deliberate choice "against the type" as well. She got an Oscar nomination for Best Actress out of it.
    • One of her latest roles is that of playing the White Queen in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland remake, distributed by Disney. Her character is sort of a creepy version of her earlier innocent characters.
    • And now she's playing Catwoman. Let's hope she doesn't go the same way as Heath Ledger.
      • Although it would be cool if she won an Oscar for it.
  • Once Upon a Time in the West, Sergio Leone's second-to-last spaghetti western, features as its bad guy a child-murdering psychopath. The actor initially didn't want to be in the movie, due mostly to the script's muddled attempts to describe a highly visual film, but changed his mind when Mr. Leone gave him this description of his introductory scene:

 The entire family lies dead except for a scared little boy with his toes pointed inward. The gang moves into view and the audience rises to see it's Henry Fonda.

  • Jamel Debbouze, a renowned French-Moroccan comedian, played a major role in French war drama Indigènes (released in the US as Days of Glory), even getting several crowners throughout the film.
    • In the same film, Samy Nacéri, virtually unrecognisable from his better known role in the action comedy franchise Taxi.
  • Mary Tyler Moore played a manipulative mother who plotted with her son to murder a rich old woman in the TV movie Like Mother Like Son: The Strange Story of Sante and Kenny Kimes. Also, she played a somewhat sympathetic Evil Matriarch in Ordinary People.
    • Also opposite one-time TV husband Dick Van Dyke in The Gin Game on PBS
  • Elijah Wood as the cannibal Kevin in Sin City.
    • To a lesser degree, his character in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Not a cannibal serial killer, but stealing an unconscious woman's underwear and seducing her with her own erased memories aren't the activities of a man of sterling character.
  • Robert Englund played both bumbling-but-harmless Willie in V and supernatural psycho Freddie Krueger in the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. The latter seems to have caused Englund to now be typecast as horror-film weirdos and psychos.
  • Rodney Dangerfield, best known as a boorish underdog who gets no respect, played a sexually abusive father in Natural Born Killers. Even though he retained much of his trademark schtick, it's still a little jarring to watch.
    • This could count as a twofer because Dangerfield, despite being Jewish, was portraying the head of a redneckish and vaguely Southern trailer-park family - a role that's about as goyish as you can get.
    • Likewise, Jackie Gleason as the redneck Sheriff Buford T. Justice in Smokey and the Bandit. Gleason wasn't Jewish, but he was very New York.
  • In Eraser, a Schwarzenegger film, the bad guy turns out to be James Caan.
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger himself tried to do comedy. Sometimes it worked (Twins, Kindergarten Cop), others, not so much (Junior, Jingle All the Way).
    • Despite mainly being known for his physique and accent, Arnold has always had a gift for comedic timing (just watch Commando if you don't believe this). So starring in a comedy isn't too much of a stretch for the Austrian action film icon.
  • Kurt Russell doesn't appear to be Playing Against Type in Grindhouse: Death Proof until it's revealed that his character has a VERY low tolerance for any non-self-inflicted pain.
    • Before he became established as an action hero he was in comedies usually playing the nerdy hero or best friend.
    • A much clearer case of playing against the type would be in Vanilla Sky where he's... a psychiatrist?
  • Samuel L. Jackson, who usually plays Badass Action Heroes, had a role in Unbreakable as a handicapped Obi Wan who turns out to be an insane manipulator.
    • Earlier on in Die Hard With a Vengeance, Jackson was a bespectacled locksmith who didn't know how to handle a gun, but he became progressively more badass throughout the film.
  • Bruce Willis has played against type on a few occasions, to the point that his "type" completely changed. Before Die Hard, Willis was a comedic actor known for his wisecracking role in Moonlighting. His appearance in such a big budget actioner was met with a great deal of initial skepticism, but its success turned him into a bona fide action star. Willis went against his new action star type with a role in Death Becomes Her, in which he played a weak-willed and neurotic doctor. As he has aged, his type has broadened to include characters from a wide range of backgrounds, from daffy to dour, weak to badass. Willis also did the same in the erotic thriller The Color of the Night, where he played a psychologist haunted by the suicide of a patient, and who has a love affair with a mysterious young girl.
    • It should be noted that at the time he made Die Hard, Willis' smartalecky Moonlighting persona was already considered yesterday's news, and Die Hard resurrected his career. Then the public tired of him as an action hero, and he required a second comeback, successfully transitioning into dramatic roles with Pulp Fiction.
  • Robert De Niro has made a career for the past ten or more years out of subverting, parodying, or deconstructing the tough-guy cred he had accumulated over a long and illustrious career. Examples include Analyze This and Stardust.
    • Before that era, there was always Harry Tuttle in Brazil, the quirky imaginary friend of the protagonist.
  • Jessica Lange, normally so sweet and honest, plays an absolutely monstrous character in Julie Taymor's version of Titus Andronicus. Her equally evil and far creepier sons are played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Matthew Rhys, both of whom are normally cast as nice guys, Rhys in particular. Perhaps the greatest example of Playing Against Type in the film, however, is when Anthony Hopkins bakes both of them into a pie and doesn't eat any himself.
    • Don't forget than Jonathan Rhys Meyers played Henry VIII in The Tudors and Elvis Presley, winning a Golden Globe for the latter.
      • He also played Steerpike in Gormenghast. That's multi-layered creepy right there.
      • He also played a certifiable Complete Monster in Woody Allen's Match Point, a sadistic cult-leader in Octane, a cruel, bitter murderer in Alexander, a petulant Manipulative Bastard in the Lion in Winter (tv version), and a cold, selfish borderline-megalomaniac in Velvet Goldmine. Admittedly, he has played quite a variety of 'nice guy' roles also, a number of which were pretty high profile...but whether the (admittedly insane) part of Chiron can truly be considered playing against type is debatable.
    • Jessica Lange also took a turn as the highly controlling, dominatrix Evil Matriarch in Hush.
  • Cary Elwes did this when cast as the villain in Ella Enchanted, especially after being the hero of The Princess Bride and Robin Hood: Men in Tights
  • Christopher Walken played way against type in the musical version of the movie Hairspray, wherein he portrayed milquetoast gag peddler Wilbur Turnblad. He even did a Fred-and-Gingeresque song and dance with his loving wife, ably played by John Travolta. Ironically, Walken's dancing gained a fair amount of fame in the 90's due to SNL sketches and a Fatboy Slim video.
    • And let's not forget his role as Puss in the live action musical adventure "Puss in Boots" from 1988. That man can really dance!
      • Most people don't know he spent most of his college career as a dancer in musicals.
  • In Night at the Museum, Dick van Dyke plays the baddie!
  • On the subject of I, Claudius, Lucius Sejanus, bastard extraordinaire, as played by... Captain Picard?
    • Captain Picard WITH HAIR!
    • And Patrick Stewart is a well-respected classical actor - at the time he took the role of Picard, that was seen as playing against type.
    • Or try Patrick Stewart as the flaaaaaaaamingly Camp Gay interior decorator Sterling in Jeffrey, which came out about a year after The Next Generation ended. He made the line "We're the Pink Panthers!" as convincing as his "I will make them PAY!!!" rant in First Contact. And he looked adorable in a pink beret and short shorts.
      • That wasn't even the only time, he was also a charmingly gay theatre director in Frasier who was in love with the title character himself. "Is there anything this man can't do?"
    • Don't forget his appearance as the head of Moscow Centre in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and the sequel.
      • A part he played memorably without actually saying anything. Now that's great acting!
    • There's also the time where he voiced Napoleon in the Live Action Adaptation of Animal Farm. It's... hard to imagine him as an absolutely ruthless and irredeemable dictator, to say the very least.
  • Robin Williams branched out from his straight slapstick routine to regularly appear in serious, tear-jerker roles such as Dead Poets Society, Good Will Hunting, and What Dreams May Come. He then began to mix in far darker roles such as One Hour Photo and Insomnia.
  • Jim Carrey broke through with a string of wildly over-the-top comedic characters. Even staying within his niche, he upset audience expectations with The Cable Guy by playing a humorously disturbed villain rather than a whimsical buffoon. Eventually he got Tom Hanks Syndrome and went after critical respect with a number of serio-comic roles such as The Truman Show and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
    • The recent Robert Zemeckis adaptation of A Christmas Carol does a great job of highlighting both Carrey's comedic and dramatic strong points. Carrey actually takes Scrooge very seriously, and it doesn't come off as a caricature. Scrooge comes off as Dickens intended: a stingy curmudgeon.
    • And don't forget the somewhat less recent film The Number 23. In that, he plays a guy (a dad, no less) that is actually a psychotic killer who wrote a book about himself being obsessed with the number 23. It was refreshingly not funny at all.
  • Kate Winslet also played against type in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, as she was playing the more "wacky" Carrey-like character.
  • In the original Evil Dead, Bruce Campbell's character is a Final Guy who screams a lot and spends most of screen time getting caught under bookcases. Ironically, it's the same character that took over his career, meaning that he ended up typecast as a character who started out as the exact opposite of his normal reputation.
  • Tom Hanks was well-known for playing sly, comedic characters in '80s comedies. And then came a little film called Philadelphia, and another film called Forrest Gump. Since then he became better known for playing upstanding men of integrity in such films as Saving Private Ryan and Catch Me If You Can. He subverted this new reputation with Road to Perdition, in which he played a mob hitman.
  • Michael Caine often played characters of the Loveable Rogue/First-Person Smartass type when younger, making his cold-blooded Sociopathic Hero in Get Carter fairly out of character. His character in Zulu is also against type, seeing as he is an Officer and a Gentleman, whereas Caine usually played lower class Cockney characters.
  • Prior to Airplane!, Leslie Nielsen, Lloyd Bridges, Robert Stack, and Peter Graves were well-known as serious dramatic actors. Leslie Nielsen's entire career since then was a parody of his former rep. Lloyd Bridges later appeared in both Hot Shots comedies.
    • Speaking of Airplane!, don't forget Barbara "June Cleaver" Billingsley as the jive talking old lady.
    • A double example in Leslie Nielsen: he played the darkly humorous villain Richard in the "Something To Tide Your Over" segment of the horror movie Creepshow. It's one of the only roles as a villain Nielsen's ever played.
  • When Tim Burton cast Michael Keaton as Batman, audiences were dubious because Keaton was best known for his comedic roles. Burton already had a working relationship with Keaton and thought he would fit as the somewhat out-of-sync and antisocial Bruce Wayne that the script called for. Since that time, Keaton has played other menacing and even villainous characters.
  • When Heath Ledger was cast as the Joker in The Dark Knight Saga, he was best known for playing hunky, romantic characters in films such as Ten Things I Hate About You, A Knight's Tale, and Casanova. Even his dramatic breakout role as a hunky, closeted gay rancher in Brokeback Mountain didn't stray all that far from his niche. Audiences had no idea what to expect from Ledger playing the downright evil Joker. And both the gay rancher and the Joker provided the page image.
  • Johnny Depp was perceived as merely a teen idol - then he played Edward Scissorhands, an almost textbook example of The Grotesque, for Tim Burton. This is regarded as the turning point of Depp's career, so much so that eccentrics are his type whenever he works with Tim Burton. Also, Anthony Michael Hall was cast against type in that film as the brutish Jim; he was best known at the time for his nerdy roles.
  • A Depression-era movie of A Midsummer Nights Dream cast Jimmy Cagney as Bottom.
  • Jimmy Stewart was widely considered the most wholesome leading man in show business, but he subverted his type with a few roles, most by Alfred Hitchcock.
    • In Rear Window, the character L.B. Jefferies has bitter ideas about marriage and a touch of voyeurism in him.
    • He plays a Nietzsche Wannabe, albeit a rather amiable and charming one, in Rope.
    • Stewart's '50s Westerns, directed by Anthony Mann, generally cast him as a tough, hard-bitten loner.
    • In Vertigo he plays an obsessive, borderline psychotic Anti-Hero.
    • In Anatomy of a Murder, he plays a lawyer, who is likable enough, but there is an unsettling scene where he meets his client in jail, tells him that he has no defense other than insanity, and then leaves him alone to think about "how crazy he was."
    • His George Bailey in Its a Wonderful Life starts out as a typical nice-guy role, then gradually morphs into an embittered, desperate near-suicide before snapping back for the happy ending.
    • One of his early roles was in After The Thin Man, in which he seems to be a typical Stewart character, but at the end is revealed to be a psychotic scheming murderer.
  • Cary Grant as the villain in Hitchcock's Suspicion.
    • Or Grant, known for roles in romantic comedies, being cast also by Hitchcock in espionage thrillers like Notorious and North by Northwest.
  • Karen in From Here to Eternity is a brokenhearted unfaithful wife with relationship issues who engages in a rather torrid embrace on a beach. She's played by Deborah Kerr of The King and I and An Affair to Remember.
    • In that same movie, the prostitute girlfriend of Montgomery Clift who ends up delusional is played by none other than Donna Reed. Yes, that Donna Reed.
  • Richard Briers playing the evil master of Lonsdale College in Inspector Morse.
  • Eve Plumb, better known as Jan on The Brady Bunch, played a teen prostitute in the film Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway.
  • Meryl Streep starred in the musical Mamma Mia. Yes, the Meryl Streep of Sophies Choice and Kramer vs. Kramer. The verdict is in: Meryl can do anything.
  • Awake: Jessica Alba is part of the plot to kill the protagonist.
  • You remember Kate Capshaw? That annoying Distressed Damsel from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom who was always screaming and getting into trouble and needed Indy to get her out. Among her lesser known roles is a 1987 made-for-tv film called The Quick and the Dead (nothing to do with the Sam Raimi film) where she actually plays a strong-willed, independent woman who becomes an Action Girl by the end.
  • Action icon/sex symbol Sean Connery is best known for playing Badass characters with a lot of grit to them. In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, however, he plays Indiana's father as a bumbling, somewhat aloof, academic pacifist who survives with creativity rather than action skills. Interestingly, he got named "sexiest man alive" the same year Last Crusade was released.
  • Tony Curtis became famous with heroic roles. In Sweet Smell of Success, he played a skeevy press agent.
    • He plays the title role in The Boston Strangler a decade later!
    • He also had a notorious reputation for starring in comedies, which didn't stop him from having a major supporting role in Stanley Kubrick's Spartacus.
  • Before M, Peter Lorre was best known for his comedic roles. That must have been a jarring transition.
    • While speaking about his career, Lorre once noted that he filmed a comedy around the time of M (he may have specifically mentioned Die Koffer des Herrn O.F.), and that M just happened to be released first. He speculated that, had the release dates been reversed, he would have had a career as a comedian instead of a villain.
  • After the Amelie, a film overflowing with sweetness and cuteness, Audrey Tautou starred in He Loves Me He Loves Me Not as a violent erotomaniac. The first half of the film mirrors Amelie; the second half...
  • While it isn't a huge change, as the film is still pretty creepy, Vincent Price somewhat played against type in Edward Scissorhands, given that while his reputation is for Large Ham villains, in that movie he was a kindly scientist.
    • See also The Whales of August, where he plays a kindly (if mooching) old man and love interest to Lillian Gish.
    • After House of Wax established Price as That Guy Who Plays Villains, this was subverted in two William Castle movies ( House on Haunted Hill and The Tingler) where Price is set up as the obvious villain, only for the real baddie to be revealed as someone else in the final act, and suddenly, Vincent is the hero.
    • A borderline example would be Witchfinder General; although Price plays yet another villain in this movie, his character is a Complete Monster, rather than the Large Ham Magnificent Bastard he usually plays.
  • Compare Allison Janney's role as the press secretary on The West Wing with her role as a nail stylist in Juno. It makes it about 20 times funnier. The West Wing would probably be the time she's playing against type, as she's been in many comedies like Drop Dead Gorgeous and Private Parts.
  • Seth Rogen got known playing wise-cracking characters who are often stoners. In Donnie Darko, however, he plays the school bully (though this was before his type was established), and in Observeand Report he plays a darkly unbalanced, bi-polar security guard. He is also The Green Hornet.
    • And in Pineapple Express, while Rogen still plays a stoner, James Franco winds up as a bigger stoner than him.
  • Pretty much the career of Anthony Perkins. Prior to Psycho he was known for playing sensitive young men and was an almost teen idol. After Psycho, him not playing a creepy psychopath was considered him playing against type.
    • Like a nerdy scientist in Disney's The Black Hole. He gets eviscerated in a surprisingly horrific scene.
    • Post-Psycho Perkins playing Inspector Javert of all people..
  • Between Swingers and Made, Vince Vaughn dabbled in dramatic works such as The Cell and villainous creepy roles such as the evil stepfather in Domestic Disturbance and the role of Norman Bates himself in the 1998 Gus Van Sant remake of Psycho. During the phase, Roger Ebert once said of Vaughn, "[He] plays a creep better than just about anybody else."
  • James Cromwell, the go-to guy for militant, ball-busting characters (he's the tall, intimidating evil exec of any movie that needs it), can soften up on occasion, from his signature role as the stern but human farmer in Babe to the eccentric, rock-and-roll loving scientist in Star Trek First Contact.
  • Armand Assante in Fatal Instinct. Normally he plays serious, even grim characters. In this comedy spoof he played his role absolutely straight and was hilarious.
  • George Clooney, in the (paraphrased) words of Quentin Tarantino when he cast him for From Dusk till Dawn, went from "playing a doctor in an Emergency Room to playing a guy that puts people in the emergency room".
    • Clooney heavily bearded, overweight, and tired in Syriana.
  • Sylvester Stallone's attempted forays into comedy with Rhinestone, Stop or My Mom Will Shoot, and Oscar. He also made a stab at acting credibility by playing an overweight and schlubby loser in Cop Land, which went a lot better than his comedy work.
  • Mex Urtizberea was cast in the deadly serious movie Valentin after doing comedy for years in the sketch show Magazine For Fai.
  • After doing nothing but comedy for his entire career, Alfredo Casero starred in the drama Todas Las Azafatas Van al Cielo.
  • Will Ferrell has built his career on playing buffoonish or Jerkass comedy characters. But then he made a surprisingly emotional turn as a mild-mannered accountant in Stranger Than Fiction.
    • Elf is a bit of a playing-against-type role for him, too; while he's still a bit of a buffoon in there, it's more "good-natured but exuberant Adult Child" instead of "lecherous jerkass."
    • Speaking of Elf, you can make a case for tough-guy James Caan playing the straight man father figure to Will Ferrell's man-elf, his deadpan delivery leading to some laughs as well.
  • Batman Begins had Liam Neeson, usually cast as the noble hero, as the baddie, and Gary Oldman, usually cast as the villain (or at least violently conflicted anti-hero) as the heroic Jim Gordon, Batman's sole ally among the Gotham City police.
  • Speaking of Gary Oldman, he and Tim Roth were Typecasting as some of the all-time toughest villains and badasses of The Nineties, but played totally against type as the title characters of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, where Oldman is an innocent Adult Child and Roth is a neurotic paranoiac.
    • Tim Roth interestingly subverted his "type" by playing a clever ex-con... in the fluffy Woody Allen musical Everyone Says I Love You.
    • Also, there's Tim Roth's comic turn in Four Rooms.
  • Bradley Cooper, best known for nice guy roles like Will Tippin from Alias, plays one of the most despicable Romantic False Leads in romantic comedy history in Wedding Crashers. It seems like he's decided that it's his new type. He didn't exactly play sympathetic characters in He's Just Not That Into You or The Hangover either. And to top it off, he also plays the obsessive, borderline-psychotic protagonist in The Midnight Meat Train.
  • Dustin Hoffman's career and reputation as one of the supreme American actors began when he shed his image as the innocent Benjamin in The Graduate and played the disreputable Ratso in Midnight Cowboy.
  • John Candy did a few serious roles, like the sleazy lawyer Dean Andrews in JFK.
  • Josh Peck has done this recently in The Wackness.
    • In an earlier role Mean Creek he played a cruel, foul mouthed bully; before this he was usually the comic relief.
  • Donald Pleasence, typically cast as slimy villains, reinvented himself as the heroic Dr. Loomis in Halloween. Interestingly, John Carpenter's original choice for the role was the equally villain typecast Christopher Lee, and Rob Zombie's remake did the same thing by casting Malcolm McDowell in the role.
    • Pleasance was quick to point out, however, the role of Loomis re-typecast him. Whereas people had previously seen him only as a villain, he remarked that after the first two Halloween films, he found himself being cast solely as rescuers.
    • Pleasance also played the overweight, incompetent President of the United States in another John Carpenter film, Escape from New York.
  • While he's never come out and given this as the exact reason, Christopher Lee has gone on the record as saying that one of the few regrets he has about his career was turning down the role of Dr. Loomis. Probably because it would help him shake off the villainous reputation he's picked up (mostly for his endless Dracula movies and The Wicker Man, and revived by The Lord of the Rings.) Lee gets to play a character with a sensitive side in Tim Burton's Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, and in the biopic Jinnah (where he plays Mohammad Ali Jinnah, founder of modern Pakistan) but... that's really about it. (Though he's a flat-out good guy in The Devil Rides Out).
  • Done for comedy/irony in Trick Or Treat, a horror movie based around the moral panic over Satanic messages in rock and roll records. Gene Simmons plays the school DJ, while a very subdued Ozzy Osbourne is a moralizing, anti-rock fundamentalist.
  • Peter Cushing, also considered for the role of Dr. Loomis in Halloween, would not have been against type, as he was best known for playing Dr. Van Helsing in the Hammer Horror Dracula movies. However, he played an extremely evil version of the title character in Hammer's Frankenstein movies (with the exception of the ironically named Evil of Frankenstein, where he's the hero). And 21st Century audiences might know him best for blowing up Alderaan.
  • Danny DeVito is usually cast as Jerkass or Jerk with a Heart of Gold characters, so seeing him play Andy Kaufman's friendly, grounded-in-reality agent George Shapiro in Man on the Moon is an interesting change of pace. In the same film, Vincent Schiavelli (best known for oddball-if-not-creepy roles such as the Subway Ghost in Ghost) appears as an uptight ABC executive, and Andy's sharp-but-down-to-earth girlfriend Lynne Margulies is played by Courtney Love.
  • Elizabeth Berkley, fresh off of Saved by the Bell, tried to go radically against type in Showgirls. It was widely considered a poor choice at the time.
    • It still is. Showgirls completely derailed her film career before it could even start.
  • Throughout the Spanish-speaking world, Sergi Lopez was largely known as a family friendly, comedies-and-melodramas kind of a guy. In Dirty Pretty Things, however, he plays the villain, an organ-smuggler who preys on desperate immigrants. When Guillermo del Toro was casting Pans Labyrinth, producers worried that Lopez wouldn't work as the Complete Monster villain, Captain Vidal. Ironically, the English-speaking world is probably most familiar with these two roles and Vidal is now consistently cited as one of the more despicable characters in recent cinema.
    • His turn toward villainous roles started with the title role in the French film Harry - He's Here to Help. Let's just say that Harry's advice for the protagonist takes a sinister turn.
  • Sir John Gielgud as Hobson in Arthur.
  • Gregory Peck, known for playing noble and dignified characters (such as Atticus Finch) played Josef Mengele in the 1978 film The Boys from Brazil.
  • The movie Oscar has Tim Curry as Genius Ditz Dr. Thornton Poole, most likely the least evil character he has ever played. That, or Nigel Thornberry (see Western Animation).
  • General Zod, Agent Smith, and that guy from Memento played drag queens in the 1994 movie, The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert.
  • Dean Jones plays the cruel, selfish veterinarian in Beethoven (one critic notes that in his Disney heyday, Jones would've been the sympathetic family man lead - as was the case in the animated TV series, where he voiced dad George[1]).
  • Double playing against type in Three Ten to Yuma (1957): Glenn Ford, usually cast as a nice guy, plays a villain, and Van Heflin, in his career playing mostly villains, is the good guy.
    • The remake is also an example, as it has Russel Crowe (best known for playing heroes in movies like Gladiator and Master and Commander) as a Magnificent Bastard villain.
  • Jan Malmsjö as Bishop Vergerus in Bergman's Fanny and Alexander. If IMDB is anything to go by, in his native Sweden he had been known up to this point only as a song-and-dance man, while Bishop Vergerus is... anything but.
  • Adam West's first post-Batman role was as nightclub owner and retired assassin Johnny Cain in The Girl Who Knew Too Much. West intentionally took the role in hopes that it would erode his Typecasting. Of course, we all know how well that worked.
  • Can you say "Samantha Stephens took an axe and gave her mother 40 whacks?" Bewitched star Elizabeth Montgomery played the title character of an ABC movie titled The Legend of Lizzie Borden.
  • John Goodman can usually be counted on to be playing a jolly, avuncular portly character. The exception is when The Coen Brothers are on the other side of the camera, in which case he is rather more...well...violent.
  • Done three times in Double Indemnity. Fred MacMurray, these days best known as family man Steve Douglas, plays a glib murderer. Edward G. Robinson, usually either a villain or anti-hero, plays a fatherly Jerk with a Heart of Gold. And Barbara Stanwyck, who usually played the sweet but plucky heroine in romantic comedies, starts the film as if she might be reprising that role here as Phyllis Dietrichson. She's not. She's really not.
    • Another MacMurray example is The Apartment, where he plays Jack Lemmon's cheating, corrupt douchebag of a boss.
  • Gerard Butler. Just look at the guy's filmography. He's been a vampire, the king of Sparta, The Phantom of the Opera, Marek in the movie version of Timeline...anyone else have anything to add?
  • Alan Rickman played against type in his 1990 romantic comedy Truly, Madly, Deeply, in which plays the ghost of the lead character's boyfriend. He also plays a saintly romantic hero in Sense and Sensibility. In most of Rickman's other roles, he plays dour, stodgy, or villainous characters. Or dour, stodgy, villainous characters.
  • God save us all from Tobey Maguire when he goes utterly and frighteningly berserk as a Shell-Shocked Veteran-type soldier in Brothers.
  • For Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in 1941, Ingrid Bergman was supposed to play the sweet girl and Lana Turner the bad girl, but Bergman was tired of playing sweet girls and requested a switch.
  • Swedish actor/director Hasse Alfredson, mostly known as a comedian with improvised monologues as his forte, played viciously against type in The Simple-Minded Murderer (which he also directed), where he's a cruel sociopathic Nazi sympathizer.
  • Jean Claude Van Damme plays against type as himself in JCVD.
    • He did one better in Replicant, playing both his usual ass-kicking character (a serial killer in this case) and an innocent, child-like clone of same. And there was much Ho Yay.
  • Swedish actor Peter Haber is probably most well known for playing the grizzled, but noble detective Martin Beck. So it come as a huge surprise when he played Martin Vanger in Men Who Hate Women (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo).
    • To the Swedish audience, however, he was very well known long before playing Beck as the clumsy family father Rudolf in the Christmas comedy series Sunes jul.
  • Liz White is best known for her role in Life On Mars as the caring and sympathetic policewoman Annie Cartwright but played very much against type as the titular child murdering ghost in The Woman in Black.
  • Whenever Morgan Freeman plays a villain role. Stephen King's Dreamcatcher anyone? Or how about Wanted? And then there's his role as "Boss" in Lucky Number Slevin!
    • Freeman got his first Oscar nomination for playing a nasty, violent pimp in 1987's Street Smart, a role that must come as a surprise for audiences who had previously known him mainly for his role as Easy Reader on The Electric Company.
  • John Travolta as cross-dressing, whale-sized mother in movie adaptation, Hairspray.
  • Sir Alec Guinness in an over-the-top comedy role as the blind butler in Murder By Death would surprise anyone only familiar with his work in the epics of David Lean and/or the Star Wars films. But in fact, he was once best known as one of England's great comic actors, with such highlights as his epic eight roles in the black comedy Kind Hearts and Coronets (from kindly vicar to insolent old woman) and the gang leader in the original version of The Lady Killers.
  • In Bollywood, former action star Jackie Shroff as spiritual guru Shirdi Sai Baba in Malik Ek.
  • Arjun Rampal as a villain in Om Shanti Om.
  • Big B himself, Amitabh Bachchan, in Aankhen.
  • Before his iconic role as Private Detective Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon (1941), Humphrey Bogart had mainly been playing either psychotic or cowardly villains. Casting him as a romantic lead character in Casablanca (1942) was also considered an unusual choice by studio excecs (An incredulous Jack Warner: "Who'd want to kiss Bogart?" Ingrid Bergman: "I would!")
    • He also went against his hard-boiled, cynic, cool persona in Sabrina, playing an awkward, withdrawn workaholic.
    • And again in The Caine Mutiny, playing an experienced but unstable martinet of a naval officer who slowly goes to pieces.
  • The 2009 Star Trek film featured several examples:
    • Eric Bana, who got his start in Australia as a comedian and went on to play hunky hero types in Hollywood, plays the Big Bad.
    • John Cho, best known as one half of Harold and Kumar, plays Badass action Sulu.
    • Karl Urban, probably best known as Eomer from The Lord of the Rings, as The McCoy.
    • Which probably nagged him the titular role in the Judge Dredd remake, which is slowly turning into his new type now.
    • And the biggest one of all, Zachary "Sylar" Quinto as Spock.
  • Jamie Foxx surprised some people by playing a nerdy taxi driver in Collateral, though he played several weasely characters in his earlier career.
  • Tom Cruise has a fairly tight niche playing powerful, self-confident men with varying levels of Jerkass. He surprised some audiences by playing a straight villain in Collateral, though he had already played a villain in Interview with the Vampire. Cruise's role as the fat villain Les Grossman in Tropic Thunder also surprised people, as it was a rare venture into comedy. Also, there's his role in Magnolia, which, depending how you see him, could be seen as a form of Adam Westing.
  • Precious, based on the novel Push, has Mo'Nique as the title character's abusive mother, which is very much against type for her. She's usually a Sassy Black Woman in comedies.
  • The thriller The Watcher criss-crossed actor types by casting James Spader as the cop and Keanu Reeves as the serial killer. In the same year, Reeves also played an abusive redneck boyfriend in The Gift. Spader has played a number of sympathetic characters, though he was known for his creep roles at the time.
    • Spader also had this back in 1990 when Bad Influence cast the normally (even then) Jerkass Spader as a nice guy and Rob Lowe (!) as the villain.
  • Andy Griffith, best known as either kindly small-town sheriff Andy Taylor or no-nonsense defense attorney Ben Matlock, got his first big acting break as Larry "Lonesome" Rhodes, a superficially charming con man drunk with power in Elia Kazan's A Face in the Crowd. Griffith became so engrossed in the role that he started incorporating his character's mannerisms into his everyday life, and became so disgusted with himself that he refused to play villains ever again. He broke this streak in the late 1980s, playing a heartless judge who sentences an adolescent girl to hard time in federal prison in a TV movie made at the height of his Matlock fame.
  • Southland Tales features a few intentional invocations of the trope. Schlubby comic Jon Lovitz plays a murderous corrupt cop. Comedienne Cheri Oteri plays an anarchist.
  • Harrison Ford spends most of What Lies Beneath as Michelle Pfeiffer's concerned husband, until we discover he murdered the young girl whose ghost haunts Pfeiffer.
    • Ford also played an unlikeable character in Mosquito Coast, which he says was one of the reasons for the film's financial failure. He was a scientist who, while well-meaning, yells at Brendan Fraser, in Extraordinary Measures.
    • While not unlikeable per se, his roles in more drama/comedic or family films such as Regarding Henry and Working Girl were not the usual everyman action hero that Ford is normally cast as.
  • Tom "Tiny" Lister, usually typecast in his movie appearances as the Scary Black Man (for example Zeus in No Holds Barred and the unnamed convict who resolves the remote dilemma in The Dark Knight), made a rather decent go as the President of Earth in Luc Besson's The Fifth Element.
  • Amy Adams is best known for her role as a sweet and innocent Manic Pixie Dream Girl in both Enchanted and Junebug. She earlier played Katherine in Cruel Intentions 2, a racist in an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and a cannibal in an episode of Smallville.
  • In Lake Placid, we see Betty White (previously the sweet, ditzy Rose Nylund on The Golden Girls) as Mrs. Delores Bickerman, a foul-mouthed, possibly insane local who fed her husband to a giant crocodile.
    • Also see The Golden Girls entry here.
  • Jesse Metcalfe played the eponymous casanova of John Tucker Must Die. He earlier played Van Mcnulty, a bigot determined to hunt down and kill everyone with superpowers, with Clark Kent marked as big game, on Smallville.
  • Alan Arkin often plays an Everyman or the Only Sane Man-- and is absolutely terrifying as the psychotic Harry Roat in Wait Until Dark (1967).
  • The famously beautiful Uma Thurman doesn't seem to be doing this in The Film of the Book for Percy Jackson and The Olympians, then comes The Reveal that her character is Medusa.
  • Similar to Carrey, Adam Sandler started out playing childish buffoons, then he graduated to romantic comedies, than turned serious in Punch Drunk Love and Reign Over Me. Neither one was financially successful, so he's reverted to the middle ground between immature idiot and Kavorka Man.
    • Oddly enough, his role in Punch Drunk Love wasn't actually all that different from his better-known roles: man child with social issues who is awkward around women and has a bit of a violent streak. It was just that it was no longer played for laughs.
  • Bill and Ted had Keanu Reeves playing against type before his type was established.
  • Shia LaBeouf as Gordon Gekko's new protege in the upcoming sequel to Wall Street.
  • Glenn Close, the go-to actress for Magnificent Bastards, power hungry female tyrants, Manipulative Bastards and heartless villainesses in general, plays the 'nice girl' in The Natural, as well as Mona Simpson in The Simpsons.
  • George Carlin played an atypically serious role in Kevin Smith's Jersey Girl, as a grandfather who takes sick leave to care for his granddaughter that her father's been neglecting.
  • Played for laughs in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back where Mark Hamill is the Cocknocker, a supervillain with a massive right fist.
  • Rupert Grint (best known as [[Harry Potter Ron Weasley) admitted that he made a conscious effort to play against type in the Irish teen drama Cherrybomb, in which he can be seen swearing, drinking, stealing, having sex, and snorting cocaine.
  • Beverley Mitchell, best known as the middle daughter in Seventh Heaven, plays a jigsaw victim in Saw II.
  • Shahid Kapur, often associated to romantic movies like Jab We Met and Vivah, plays a gangster in Kaminey.
  • Haylie Duff, usually in teen comedy roles like her sister Hilary, played a frontier-era doctor in Love Takes Wing and Love Finds A Home.
  • And it's not like Hilary Duff hasn't played against type herself, as anyone who's seen War, Inc. (an overlysexed Middle Eastern pop star who stuffs scorpions down her pants for fun? You never got that on Lizzie McGuire) or Greta will testify.
  • Gina Gershon mostly plays Manipulative Bitches, raunchy seductresses, and several other villainous types. But in Ugly Betty, she plays a campy, hilariously over-the-top cosmetics mogul.
  • Peter Sellers never really had a type per se, but by the end of the 1970s his best-known role by far was Large Ham Funny Foreigner Inspector Clouseau in the slapstick series The Pink Panther, so seeing him as the serene, subdued Chance in the satire Being There was a real change of pace (he was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar).
  • Stand-up comedian and comic actor Dane Cook as the bitter, abrasive "Mr. Smith" trying to blackmail the title serial killer in Mr. Brooks.
  • Prior to playing a Hooker with a Heart of Gold in Leaving Las Vegas, Elisabeth Shue was primarily associated with having a Girl Next Door image.
  • Alyssa Milano wished to shed her "good girl" image from her days as Samantha from Whos the Boss, so she played sex-crazed maniacs in Embrace of the Vampire, Poison Ivy 2: Lily, and The Outer Limits episode "Caught In The Act", as well as numerous television roles where she played very sexual characters.
    • Given her, shall we say, consistency in preferred roles, and the time she and her mother sued porn sites for distributing images of Alyssa not because they wanted the pictures removed, but because they wanted a cut of the profits, one could argue that she was playing against type back in her "good girl" days.
  • Chris Farley played the more level headed sidekick (usually reserved for David Spade) in Almost Heroes, rather than the Idiot Hero.
  • Ronald Reagan, who usually played the Best Friend or B-Movie Hero types, was a brutal, vicious crime kingpin in his last film, The Killers.
  • Halle Berry's turn as a Hollywood Homely down-on-her-luck waitress who often physically and verbally abused her overweight son won her an Oscar.
  • Julia Roberts' Oscar-winning turn as the trash-talking, trampy-dressing Erin Brockovich was a departure from her typical Mary Sue characters (with the possible exception of Pretty Woman's Vivian.)
  • Hugh Jackman as a suave, manipulative and slimy corporate type in Deception.
  • Jake Gyllenhaal: action hero? In Prince of Persia the Sands of Time, yes.
  • Zac Efron, he of High School Musical, Hairspray, and 17 Again fame, as a young man tormented by the death of his kid brother in Charlie St. Cloud
  • Sex symbol Scarlett Johansson as a nerdy bespectacled student journalist in Woody Allen's Scoop
    • In that film, Hugh Jackman turns out to be the murderer.
  • David Suchet, who has been (and still is) playing Hercule Poirot from 1989, appeared in Executive Decision in 1996, playing the Big Bad moustacheless Muslim terrorist.
  • Christopher Lloyd played a lot of funny and colorful characters in the 80's, like Doc Brown and Uncle Fester. Then, he played the Big Bad Judge Doom, and he was extremely good at that too....maybe a little bit too good, because he traumatized every single kid who accidentally saw that movie.
  • Ashton Kutcher as an action hero in Killers.
  • Sean Penn whom nowadays known for being a dramatic actor in his early acting career he was known for his comedic roles most notably as Jeff Spicoli a pot smoking hippie surfer in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
    • At one point he was considered to be a has-been, due to a combination of inability to escape that typecasting and some personal problems.
  • Ciaran Hinds, a classically trained actor known for stoic or villainous characters in such films as Munich and The Sum Of All Fears.
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman, usually known for playing villains or tragic types, made a nice romantic turn as a limo driver in Jack Goes Boating, a film that he also directed.
  • Geoffrey Rush, anyone? The Oscar winner for Shine and longtime dramatic actor (to this day) outright re-defined his career as Barbossa in the Pirates of the Caribbean series.
  • Michael Madsen, known for playing malevolent bad guys, played the kindly adoptive father in Free Willy, which rather confused his younger fans who saw him in that first and then were later horrified to see Glenn hacking off a cop's ear.
  • Fredric March was best known for playing light comedy and minor romantic parts when Robert Mamoulian cast him in the title roles of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde (1931), in which he was so terrifying that he won the first (and for sixty years only) Best Actor Oscar for a horror role.
  • David Arquette is associated with goofy comedic roles, but starred in the Holocaust drama The Grey Zone.
  • Quentin Tarantino loves to play with this trope. Examples include casting Robert De Niro as a slovenly hoodlum in Jackie Brown, and Sonny Chiba as the retired sword crafter in Kill Bill. Pam Grier said that she cracked up laughing at the filming of a courtroom scene in Jackie Brown when she saw who played the judge: Sid Haig, who had appeared in many movies with her, but always as a villain.
  • Comedian Chi McBride as the serious but kind FBI agent in Mercury Rising, who is the immediate superior to Bruce Willis' undercover expert.
  • Danielle Harris, usually a Final Girl or victim in horror films, turns out to be the killer in Blood Night the Legend of Mary Hatchet. It is awesome.
  • Kathy Bates as a milquetoast housewife in Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe.
  • An earlier role, but Maggie Gyllenhaal as a Satan-worshipping Cloudcuckoolander in Cecil B. Demented. And it is also awesome.
  • Rob Schneider is probably better known for playing Funny Foreigners or one kind of Butt Monkey or another. Well, in Benchwarmers, not only is he a competent, respectable, dignified male lead, his character is an excellent baseball player with genuine depth. The film had its problems, but Rob's performance was quite a welcomed break from the norm.
  • Leonard Nimoy (besides playing Spock from the show Star Trek the Original Series) was actually famous for voicing Galvatron, one of the most vile and despicable Decepticons that ever lived. However, he was cast as the noble and wise Autobot Sentinel Prime in Transformers: Dark of the Moon.
    • Subverted by the fact that Sentinel turns out to have been Evil All Along.
    • For that matter, Patrick Dempsey. That's right. Dr. McDreamy is playing a slimeball businessman who sold out to the Decepticons in order to ensure his own survival.
  • Anthony Hopkins, typically known for serious or villainous roles, portrayed the happy-go-lucky motorbike racer Burt Munro in The World's Fastest Indian. Hopkins was on record saying that the role of Burt Munro was one of his most enjoyable, because Munro's outlook on life was not much different to his own.
  • Jamie Lee Curtis did this twice. The start of her film career was playing the Final Girl in the original slasher films, then she did an about face and played a prostitute in Trading Places. The 1985 Perfect made her a sex symbol but that didn't work out so well and she switched to playing quirky housewife characters in various genres.
  • Bubbly and cheerful Reese Witherspoon who stars in Legally Blonde and similarly feelgood romantic comedies plays the violent, white-trash and vicious Vanessa in Freeway.
    • Don't forget that she was also the Alpha Bitch in Election, a character type that she does not seem to have played since. It would appear that her overall screen persona underwent a gradual Heel Face Turn.
      • Her character was absolutely NOT the Alpha Bitch, she was a frumpy, overachieving and much-maligned, manipulative and psychotic nerd.
  • Comedian Jackie Vernon, best known as the voice of Frosty the Snowman, played a psychotic and cannibalistic serial killer in Microwave Massacre.
  • Adrien Brody, best known for playing nerdy characters or appearing in dramatic roles, did action turns in the King Kong remake, Predators, and The Experiment.
  • Helena Bonham Carter used to play proper English ladies. Then she starred in Fight Club, and now she's always playing batshit insane women who look like Cesare.
  • Roy Cheung is best known for playing psychopathic triad gangsters and other villains, such that his role as a Shaolin monk in The Infernal Affairs Trilogy was very much this.
  • James Fox usually plays Upper Class Twits (like Veruca Salt's dad in Charlie and The Chocolate Factory), but did an excellent (and surprising) turn as a vicious working-class gangster in Performance.
  • Sharukh Khan: The bollywood-megastar managed to play really evil characters in Darr, Baazigar and worst of all: Anjaam, in which he scared several people shitless. Somehow he managed to glide over to the romantic-interest/hero roles, which is pretty rare because: Once a villain, always a villain.
  • Jackie Chan in Shinjuku Incident. When watching this movie don't expect him to pull off any of his high flying kung fu or watching him act like the comedic quirky hero he's normally seen as.
  • Albert Brooks, always known for playing comedic protagonists or the neurotic comic relief, played the ruthless and sinister crime lord Bernie Rose in Drive.
  • Sarah Paulson is generally known for her comic work, but shows up as a One-Scene Wonder in Serenity as a scientist who delivers a horrible message before being killed. She was deliberately cast in a dramatic role because Joss Whedon feels that comedy is the harder of the two.
  • Edward Norton is known mainly for his leading man roles. Yet somewhere in his filmography you find the The Italian Job (2003 film). He'll also be playing the main villain in The Bourne Legacy.
  • Ryan Seacrest played himself as a smarmy, carping, foul-mouthed narcissist in Knocked Up, in stark contrast to his likable, wholesome, nice-guy image.
  • Inverted with Michael Caine in Zulu. He would go on to play working class Cockney characters throughout his career and plays a snobby aristocratic officer with a posh accent in this movie -- his first.
  • Known for his comedic roles in Knocked Up, Superbad, and Get Him to The Greek, Jonah Hill stars in the drama Moneyball, and was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar.
  • Eddie Deezen is one of the ultimate Hollywood Nerds on film... which is why he was naturally cast as a bully in Laserblast. Mike and the Bots had fun with this.
  • The Apartment has two: Jack Lemmon, known for playing comedic secondary characters, plays the still somewhat comedic, but also dramatic lead, and Fred MacMurray, who at the time was widely recognized as the dad from My Three Sons, played his adulterous, selfish, and all-around asshole of a boss.
  • The producers of Flight Plan cast Sean Bean specifically to make viewers think he was part of the villainous plot.
  • The African-American anthology horror film Tales from the Hood has In Living Color's David Alan Grier playing a brutal man who abuses his girlfriend and her son.
  • When the first Tremors movie was beginning production, the studio was pushing for Michael Gross as Burt Gummer. Gross was then coming off the successful Family Ties (where he played Steven Keaton, an ex-flower child and the calm patriarch) and the studio was hoping his fame would be an asset. Of course, Burt was characterized as a conspiracy theorist with an itchy trigger finger. Casting was hesitant to say the least, but Gross wowed them at the audition (and he wound up being the only actor to be in every part of the ensuing franchise).
  • Chris Evans is best known for playing characters who are smart alecs and/or pretty boys such as Johnny Storm. So it came as quite a shock to see him play the serious, strait-laced Captain America in Captain America: The First Avenger and The Avengers. Surprisingly, he made it work.

Notes

  1. played by Charles Grodin in the movie
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