There are plenty of actors who get routinely typecast as the comic relief, a romantic love interest, an action hero, or a villain. And once they get locked into a certain kind of role, it becomes harder to break out with each new project. Eventually, some actors choose to shed their stereotypes, while directors choose to take a chance on letting the thespians reinvent themselves. This is what is commonly referred to as casting/playing “against the type” or “against type.” It has happened numerous times in every genre, however, unless it had a profound impact on the actor’s career, we tried to avoid using comedies, as funny films often attempt to place notoriously serious actors in comedic roles just for laughs. Here are 25 brilliant times actors played against the type.
Jimmy Stewart – “Vertigo” (1958)
Jimmy Stewart was always known for playing relatable, down-to-Earth characters, like an earnest U.S. Senator in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” a reporter in “The Philadelphia Story,” and family man George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” However, director Alfred Hitchcock decided to test the limits of Stewart’s acting abilities when he cast him in the 1958 thriller “Vertigo,” in which he plays a mentally unstable, obsessive, and disturbed individual struggling with a series of phobias. Although it seemed odd to cast against type in this situation, the juxtaposition ultimately made “Vertigo” even more suspenseful.
Henry Fonda – “Once Upon a Time in the West” (1968)
For more than 30 years, Henry Fonda almost exclusively played moral, upright heroes. Thus, audiences were shocked to see him portray a villain in Sergio Leone’s classic 1968 western “Once Upon a Time in the West” – especially since Fonda’s merciless Frank character kills eight people in the film, including three children and several of his own men.