My Favorite Cast Against Type Performances

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Sometimes it's an actor's idea and sometimes it's the idea of a screenwriter or director. Like it or not, most actors get typecast or have a specific onscreen image. Every now and then, an actor gets taken out of his comfort zone and is given a role unlike he's ever done. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. One more thing I need to clarify beginning this list...this subject came up on another thread awhile back and a specific performance was cited as an example...Andy Griffith in A Face in the Crowd. An argument was given because Griffith played Lonseome Rhodes before he played Andy Taylor, the character that created Griffith's "good ole boy" image. I don't think type casting has anything to due with chronology. Even though his image was created after A Face in the Crowd, the image is what is viable in everyone's mind, our image of Andy Griffith is centered around Andy Taylor, therefore, as far as I'm concerned, his casting in the 1957 film is against type (spoiler alert: that performance will be on this list). OK, we all clear now? Here comes my favorite cast against type performances:



Before beginning this list, I should also mention that this list will include made for television movies and mini-series as well as theatrical films.



40.

Stockard Channing, To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything Julie Newmar



Stockard Channing is a powerhouse actress who usually plays strong, independent, no-nonsense women. It was rather startling seeing her playing a timid housewife who is being physically abused by her husband. Never imagined I would see Channing playing a character like this, but she nailed it.



39.

Bette Davis, The Great Lie



We watched Bette Davis walk all over movie characters, male and female alike, but in this movie, she was actually cast as the good girl. Davis plays a woman whose husband (George Brent) dies in a plane crash and then she learns that his ex-wife (Oscar winner Mary Astor) is carrying her husband's child. As I watched this film, I actually kept picturing Davis and Astor switching roles.



38.

Jennifer Aniston, Horrible Bosses



Aniston was a real eye-opener in this comedy playing a dentist who sexually harasses her assistant (Charlie Day) on a regular basis, threatening to fire him or tell his fiancee if he didn't give into her demands. Aniston never played a role like this before and I was surprised as to how good she was. I actually think it's one of her best performances.



37.

Halle Berry, Monster's Ball




Halle Berry took a serious career risk and was awarded with an Oscar for her efforts playing the lonely wife of a death row inmate (Sean "Puffy" Cmbs) who begins a relationship with a a Death Row corrections officer (Billy Bob Thornton) after her husband is executed.



36.

John Lithgow, The World According to Garp




Lithgow received his first Oscar nomination playing a transsexual who used to be a running back for the Philadelphia Eagles who befriends writer TS Garp (Robin Williams) and Garp's independently-mother (Glenn Close, in her film debut, also earning a nomination).



35.

Mia Farrow, Broadway Danny Rose



Farrow was hysterically funny in this role that was definitely foreign territory for her. She plays a loud and brassy gangster's girlfriend who also complicates the life of a 4th rate lounge lizard (Nick Apollo Forte) and his slick talking agent (Woody Allen).



34.

Charlize Theron, Monster



Personally, I have always found the performance slightly overrated and I'm not sure it was worthy of an Oscar, but I could not omit this performance from the list. Glamorous and sexy Charlize Theron completely buried her outer glam to be convincing as real life murderess Aileen Wournos.



33.

Andy Griffith, Savages




Andy Griffith turned in a bone-chilling performance in this 1974 TV movie playing a wealthy executive and part-time big game hunter who hires a guide (the late Sam Bottoms) to assist him in staking out his prey but decides to hunt down the guide instead. Can't believe this was the same guy who played Andy Taylor.



32.

Will Smith, Six Degrees of Separation



At a time when his movie career was just gaining some momentum, Smith took a real career risk taking the lead in this film adaptation of John Guare's play as a gay con artist who charms a wealthy Manhattan couple (Donald Sutherland, Stockard Channing) by telling them that he's the son of Sidney Poitier. Smith was very convincing in this role that proved he could actually act, though he did refuse to do the scene where he was supposed to kiss co-star Anthony Michael Hall.



39. Bette Davis, The Great Lie

We watched Bette Davis walk all over movie characters, male and female alike, but in this movie, she was actually cast as the good girl. Davis plays a woman whose husband (George Brent) dies in a plane crash and then she learns that his ex-wife (Oscar winner Mary Astor) is carrying her husband's child. As I watched this film, I actually kept picturing Davis and Astor switching roles.
Agreed that was an Against Type Performance. Did you know that Bette's first movie she also played a quiet, dutiful sister in The Bad Sister (1931)...and she's the good sister!

36. John Lithgow, The World According to Garp

Lithgow received his first Oscar nomination playing a transsexual who used to be a running back for the Philadelphia Eagles who befriends writer TS Garp (Robin Williams) and Garp's independently-mother (Glenn Close, in her film debut, also earning a nomination).
Lithgow has made a career out of playing unusual & colorful characters, that's nothing unusual for him to do.



Lithgow has made a career out of playing unusual & colorful characters, that's nothing unusual for him to do.

I thought the same thing about John Lithgow. I've seen him as so many different types of characters that I don't think he really has any one type.

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31.

Leslie Nielsen, Airplane!



After three decades as one of Hollywood's busiest dramatic actors, Nielsen accepted the role of Dr. Rumac in the classic 1980 spoof that triggered a complete renaissance in the actor's career.



30.

Adam Sandler, Reign Over Me



Sandler took a break from his man/child comedies to star in this emotionally charged drama about a man who lost his wife and child in 911 who tries to rekindle his relationship with his college roommate (Don Cheadle). Sandler was heartbreaking in this movie.



31.

Leslie Nielsen, Airplane!



After three decades as one of Hollywood's busiest dramatic actors, Nielsen accepted the role of Dr. Rumac in the classic 1980 spoof that triggered a complete renaissance in the actor's career.

I would have thought Leslie Nielsen's type was this type of comedy spoofs, so against type for him would be something like Forbidden Planet (1956).



I would have thought Leslie Nielsen's type was this type of comedy spoofs, so against type for him would be something like Forbidden Planet (1956).

You should look at his resume prior to Airplane!...not a lot of comedy going on there.