Making Movie History: Unlikely Roles For Your Heroes

Type casting is something that happens way too often in the acting world and we end up seeing particular actors star in almost the exact same role over and over again. It’s a shame because we could be missing out on some breakthrough performances and brilliant talent that we’ll never get a chance to see simply because some guy seems best as the fat funny sidekick. But what about the accomplished actors that decide to step out of their comfort zone and into the unusual role that it’s so hard to see them in? It happens, and the results aren’t always pretty.

The good guys in the acting world have long cemented their places in cinematic history and will be long looked upon for the great roles they’ve landed. Not only did they land those roles but they performed masterfully in them and did a great job of burning those characters into our memory for all eternity. Han Solo in Star Wars. Joe Miller in Philadelphia. Hunter Adams in Patch Adams. Johnny Castle in Dirty Dancing. Maverick in Top Gun. We all know those characters and can probably recite their lines or mimic their movements. Everyone looks up to them and respects the actors that play those great roles because we love them all so much.

But what about when our favorite actors tip their toes in the cold cold waters of the other side? Instead of saving the day and making everything alright; they go out and create havoc so everything is in an uproar. Instead of being the man that the women always run to; they’re the man that the women are running away from in fear for their lives. He doesn’t want to teach you how to dance; he wants to teach young kids how to love themselves so he can love them too. What can we possibly think about our heroes when they decide to turn the page? Or better yet…will they be able to pull off the performance as well as they do the good guy?

Robin Williams in One Hour Photo

Mr. Funny Man himself, Robin Williams. He’s played a clown, he’s been an alien, and he’s even been a young boy trapped in an older hairy man’s body. But did you ever expect him to play a sociopath? Well he did in One Hour Photo, and not only did he play the part very nicely, but he also looked it like a son of a bitch. The guy just came off as overly creepy and honestly made you believe like he was someone you see every single day and never realize that they know every little aspect of your life.

Robin Williams may be an actor and comic that has been loved by millions the world over and a guy that can make humor out of any situation, but he flowed into the exact opposite role of all characters he’s ever played. And he did it flawlessly. This role as Seymour Parrish (the second time he played a Parrish – Jumanji) led the way for more characters that Williams wouldn’t usually play, but now seemed to be right for. The Final Cut, Insomnia, and The Night Listener are all films that just wouldn’t seem like the type of films he’d ever be a part of but now he was starring in them. It almost seemed like a second nature to turn into a freak and that kind of frightens me. One Hour Photo almost makes me nervous to ever turn a role of film into a camera center again.

I mean did you see the bedroom scene? {shudder}

Harrison Ford in What Lies Beneath

Now just because Williams was able to make the transition so easily doesn’t mean that men of the greatest American hero variety could do the same. Harrison Ford was Dr. Norman Spencer and the perfect husband to his wife Claire. The money was there, the beautiful home, the great career, and the wonderful love shared between a married couple that had plans to be together forever. Little did Claire realize though that her dreamboat husband had secrets that would reveal a much darker side of him. They were secrets that Claire was never supposed to know and never supposed to find out.

I remember when this film was coming out back in 2000 and everyone was in a big uproar that Indy was going to be a so-called bad guy. He’s the handsome man that so many women wanted to marry and here was good ol’ Harrison committing both adultery and murder. THE SHOCK! What Lies Beneath ended up being a pretty decent flick, but it had nothing to do with Ford. He wasn’t even in the film all that much and when he was, it was extremely hard to take him serious as this murderous and cheating hubby. He gave it his all and put everything he had into his performance, but the man just is not an asshole and it’s hard to see him as one. At least his on screen persona is because I have no idea what the guy is like in person.

Denzel Washington in Training Day

He was Malcolm X for God’s sake, but that matters none because I thought he played a pretty good dirty cop. Denzel has played a lot of different roles in his career and a cop has been one that he’s stepped into the shoes of a couple times. The difference in Training Day is that he played a cocky and arrogant cop that knew he could do whatever he wanted to no matter what side of the law it was on. His only problem is having a rookie partner that only wanted to be on the good guys side and wasn’t ready to just sit back and accept a cop that thinks he owns the world.

Denzel is another one of those guys that so many women swoon over and had many fans scratching their heads as to why he would take such a deviant role. I applaud him for not going with the usual flow and allowing his talents to branch out because he did a hell of a job at it. Alonzo seemed like such a carefree spirit that would literally shoot you dead if you dared cross him or even do as much as disagree with him. He wouldn’t give two shits about it either because he’d dump your body somewhere, plant the evidence on some lowlife, and go on about his business. The guy really scared me and made me want to hit him with my damn car because he was such a prick.

Patrick Swayze in Donnie Darko

You loved him as a dance instructor, a ghost, and even in drag; but could you love him as a motivational speaking pedophile? I didn’t think so. Swayze plays Jim Cunningham in Donnie Darko and has some great interactions with Donnie himself and promotes some hilariously funny self-help tapes. People are being sucked into his crapola and preaching his word because he knows how to bring positive reinforcement to the forefront and leave the negativity in the past. It’s a big surprise to everyone though when he has a child porn dungeon in his house.

The thing about Jim Cunningham is that Swayze plays him perfectly because he’s not a hard ass and doesn’t brag about the evil things he does. All of his indiscretions are done in private where no-one must know about them so he can promote his alternate personality to the world. In the public eye, Cunningham is this happy-go-lucky guy that promotes all the good things in life so that people will trust him and let him into their lives. All the while in the dark hidden areas of his house is a sex dungeon that serves as the playplace for the children of families he’s made himself seem like such a good guy to. Once he’s caught; he cries and acts like it is a big surprise that the cops found all the stuff in his home. Swayze may have played his finest role as Jim Cunningham because it is just beautifully done.

Gives new meaning to “nobody puts baby in the corner” now doesn’t it?

Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder

Random eh?

So our final candidate in this topic didn’t necessarily jump from the role of suave looking good guy into that of the heartless bad guy. No, Tom Cruise jumped from the suave looking good guy into the role of the balding, pot-bellied, hairy, arrogant prick. Les Grossman is just one of those guys who have let their success go to their heads and act like they are better then any and everyone. He knows what he is doing and knows how to do his job better then most so he’s not afraid to let it be known. And when there’s a little downtime to be himself; he likes to break it down to songs like “Apple Bottom Jeans.”

Cruise has done the action hero, the mystery man, the romance star, the bottle throwing bartender, and so much more…and hell, he’s even played a complete and total ass in films before but nothing like this. The first time I watched Tropic Thunder; I had no idea that was Cruise under all the make-up until about halfway through his first rant when a hint tone of his voice came through. Needless to say but shock set in and it was amazing not only how assholish he was, but also how he looked. This was the heart throb that so many women pine over and he was acting as if this was his everyday appearance. It was phenomenal.

There you have it. When it comes time to get out of the comfort zone and into the realm of unexplored roles; most accomplished actors can pull it off with ease. Harrison Ford seems to be the one problem in this group, but it’s not like he didn’t do everything he could to play the role well because he did. The only problem is that he just wasn’t believable as this horrible guy who cared nothing about his wife or the lives of others. Oh well, he can always go back to wielding his whip and wearing his leather hat. As for the others in this group and all actors in general; I hope they continue to take roles that are well beyond their normal characters and try the unexpected. One in particular I’d love to see playing a real bad guy is Will Smith.

Although you know people would cause a serious bitchfest over it. Screw it…grab a role where you kill some innocents and steal Will!

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