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Typecasting is the process by which a film, TV, or stage actor is strongly identified with a specific character, one or more particular roles, or characters with the same traits or ethnic grouping.

Al Pacino and Jack Nicholson are often typecasted in roles of neurotic characters, such as Nicholson's performance in The Shining or Pacino's in The Devil's Advocate. Before this, Pacino had been associated with his performances in Scarface and The Godfather trilogy, both gangster roles. There have been instances in which an actor has been so strongly identified with a role as to make it difficult for him or her to find work playing other characters, as in the cases of Adam West, who played Batman, Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars movies and William Shatner, who played Captain Kirk in the original Star Trek series.

Some actors attempt to escape typecasting by choosing roles that are opposite the types of roles that they are known for; alternatively, a director may choose to cast an actor in a role that would be unusual for them to create a dramatic (or sometimes comedic) effect, such as Liam Neeson, who is usually cast in mentor-type roles, being cast as the villain Ra's al Ghul in Batman Begins.

Typecasting also occurs in other performing arts. An opera singer who has a great deal of success in one role, such as Denyce Graves as Carmen, may become typecast in that role.

Actor selection

Actors are selected for their roles either by a casting director, typically found in small productions, or, in larger productions such as motion pictures, through casting agencies. Extras and stand-ins are often drawn from the company Central Casting, a company so influential since its 1925 start, that some people refer to all cast as coming from "central casting". The concept of "central" casting was also widespread during the studio-dominated era (from the 1920s through the 1940s) when each studio had a larger number of actors on contract who were assigned to whatever films were being made at the time by that studio. Such centralized casting was made more efficient by placing an actor in subsequent similar character roles after his or her first success, especially if an actor was particularly well-received in that role by the audience or by critics.

Typecasting happens to actors of both great and modest ability: an actor may become typecast either because of a strong identification with a particular role or because he or she lacks the versatility or talent to move on to other roles. Some actors welcome the steady work that typecasting brings, but in general it is seen as undesirable for actors in leading roles.

With character actors

There have been instances in which an actor has been so strongly identified with a role as to make it impossible for him or her to find work playing other characters. Typecasting is a problem for character actors in particular. It is especially common among leading actors in popular TV series and films. Clayton Moore and George Reeves, who played The Lone Ranger and Superman, respectively, in the Golden Age of Television, were victims of typecasting. Reeves' typecasting was so pervasive that an urban legend grew around his role in From Here to Eternity, which claimed that his major role was practically removed from the film after test audiences shouted "There's Superman!" whenever he appeared. (In reality, there were no test screenings, and no scenes from Reeves' minor role were cut from the final version. The article on Hollywoodland, a fictionalized account of Reeves' death, includes a discussion of this issue, with references.)

Adam West, who played Batman, has had incredible difficulties with typecasting, and has taken many roles since as a parody of himself because of this, in various shows including the children's cartoon show The Fairly OddParents, the animated sitcom Family Guy, and Batman: The Animated Series.

Woody Allen has frequently portrayed characters that uses his real-life personality in his early films. However, Allen begins to cast other actors to take over his neurotic protagonist roles due to his age.

Jaleel White, an actor as well as a voice actor, is best known for portraying Steve Urkel. After appearing in various projects after Family Matters, he has not achieved any form of success as he is best remembered as Urkel.

David Carradine, a martial arts actor who was best known for playing the Kwai Chang Caine role on Kung Fu and its sequel, Kung Fu: The Legend Continues, three times in three decades.

Lester Speight is frequently recognized as the fictional football player, Terry Tate, in Office Linebacker. This is in fact that Speight was a former football player before starting his acting career.

Jason Alexander, who portrayed George Costanza in Seinfeld, as well as Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Michael Richards (Elaine Benes and Cosmo Kramer respectively), have been typecast into their Seinfeld roles. This has been mocked in several episodes of the HBO sitcom Curb Your Enthusiasm, co-written by Larry David, whose own personality traits and escapades were the basis for the George character . Dennis Farina, who was a policeman in Chicago before becoming an actor, is frequently cast as a cop, examples being his roles on the shows Crime Story and Law & Order. He is also sometimes cast on the opposite side of the law, as a criminal, such as a Mob henchman in Thief and a Mob boss in Midnight Run.

Richard Roundtree, who portrayed John Shaft in the Shaft films, has tried numerous attempts to disassociate himself from being known as a Black Action Hero — from playing authority figures (e.g. Capt. Stevens in the Chuck Norris film An Eye for an Eye or a gay uncle in the TV series Roc—he has came to terms that he would always be associated with the Shaft character for life. Since Shaft was one of the key contributors to the 1970s-era blaxploitation genre, actors who appeared in blaxploitation films (Ron O'Neal in Super Fly, Rudy Ray Moore in Dolemite, or Pam Grier) have embraced typecasting (O'Neal being cast as a villain in films, e.g., A Force of One, or Red Dawn, where he was seen as a Cuban colonel).

Bela Lugosi would be forever known as Count Dracula, even though he only played him once in Universal Studios' 1931 production of Dracula. Boris Karloff would be forever known as Frankenstein's monster. Basil Rathbone wanted to disassociate himself from the Sherlock Holmes character that he successfully portrayed. Edward G. Robinson would be forever known as Rico in Little Caesar — and playing other "villainous/gangster roles" such as Key Largo and The Ten Commandments — even though he had an acting career for over 60 years. Judy Garland would be forever known as "Dorothy Gale" from The Wizard of Oz. Mark Hamill found it difficult shaking off his lightsaber-wielding Star Wars persona after three movies playing the space opera hero Luke Skywalker and had a similar concern as a voice actor where his acclaimed role as the Joker in Batman: The Animated Series typecast him into villain roles. As well, Ralph Macchio became strongly associated with his martial arts role in the 1980s-era movie The Karate Kid.

R. Lee Ermey, a former Marine drill instructor, has been typecast as a drill instructor since his breakout role as one in Full Metal Jacket. At minimum, he has been typecast as a military actor, though he has played non-military roles as well. Kelsey Grammer, known for his character Frasier Crane, an intellectual, classy and cultured man, also did Sideshow Bob's voice-overs and played the Beast in the X-Men movies. Both Sideshow Bob and the Beast are cultured and intellectual characters. DeForest Kelley had a thriving career as a character actor before being typecast as Leonard "Bones" McCoy, the ship's doctor on the original Star Trek TV series, after which he was very seldom cast in any other role. Michael Ironside is another typecasted actor, usually playing cruel villains, in films such as Total Recall, Scanners and The Next Karate Kid.

John Travolta has lived with typecasting throughout his acting career (from his 1970s roles e.g. Welcome Back Kotter, Saturday Night Fever, or his association with two Brian DePalma films—Carrie and Blow Out)—especially during the 1980s after the sequel to Saturday Night Fever (Staying Alive) became a box office flop—his agent intervened several times—some of his aborted roles went to actor Richard Gere or recast (he was suggested by the producers of Splash, where Tom Hanks became the lead). After a friendship with Bruce Willis (from the Look Who's Talking films c. 1989), his acting career was considered over until his Oscar nomination for Pulp Fiction. Kiefer Sutherland spent most of his big-screen career playing heartless killers, although he has played heroes on occasion. This typecasting had been since shaken off after his starring role as Jack Bauer in 24.

Child actors may also suffer from typecasting (e.g. Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone, Jay North in Dennis the Menace). The appearance of the adult actor may differ so much from his or her childhood persona as to make him or her less marketable. Typecasting in children is seen as less of an issue when the child is portraying a dramatic or mature character, such as Haley Joel Osment, the child actor in The Sixth Sense and A.I., Tony Dow and Jerry Mathers on Leave It to Beaver were both typecasted for playing their child and teenaged roles, respectively, especially when their roles became more mature some decades later, Butch Patrick had difficulty finding better roles after his Eddie Munster role on The Munsters, or his friend, Bill Mumy, the ex-child actor in Lost in Space (who went on to play a major character in Babylon 5 as an adult), or Brandon Cruz, the former child actor in The Courtship of Eddie's Father, or perhaps Ron Howard, who began as a child actor on The Andy Griffith Show, before he was a teen and adolescent star on Happy Days, whose roles were as twice as typecasted or even Johnny Crawford, who started acting in between his child and teenaged years on The Rifleman, or probably Melissa Gilbert, the former child and teenaged actress from Little House on the Prairie, whose Laura Ingalls Wilder role was severely typecasted, as well as David Cassidy whose signature Keith Partridge character didn't shake or erase his mold.

In rare cases, it is a medical condition that gives an actor a distinct appearance and contributes to typecasting. Michael Berryman, whose hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia caused him to fail to develop hair, sweat glands, fingernail or teeth, has been typecast as an array of disturbing characters, mostly in horror films. Michael J. Anderson's case was parodied in an episode of The X-Files in which the three-foot tall actor bridled at being mistaken for a former circus freak. Marty Feldman was limited to comedic roles throughout his career due to the effect Graves' Disease had on his eyes.

Reportedly Ted Knight nearly left The Mary Tyler Moore Show because fans typecast him as Ted Baxter; he later played the comic role in Too Close for Comfort. Other reported examples of fans typecasting were Gilligan's Island stars Bob Denver, Russell Johnson and Natalie Schafer. Chuck Connors was typecasted for playing his Lucas McCain role on The Rifleman, Larry Linville also played typecast roles of unstable Frank Burns types. Khigh Dheigh played Asian villain types. Werner Klemperer and John Banner played stereotype Germans. In addition, many actors whose roles have been particularly typecasted were those of Ray Walston and Bill Bixby of My Favorite Martian, who both had difficulty finding roles. Bixby, on the other hand, whose typecasting of Tim O'Hara was so temporarily, he had better luck with 2 more signature roles, The Courtship of Eddie's Father and The Incredible Hulk, as it happened with both Lorne Greene and Michael Landon of Bonanza, when Landon, himself, had gone on to star in 2 hallmark shows, Little House on the Prairie and Highway to Heaven, Yvonne DeCarlo couldn't get away from her Lily Munster role, Shirley Jones had trouble finding more characters after her Shirley Partridge role, Raymond Burr of Perry Mason was typecasted, Don Adams and Barbara Feldon both from Get Smart, found lesser roles after playing Maxwell Smart and Agent 99, respectively. Lost in Space's Jonathan Harris was no longer working, despite his Dr. Zachary Smith role, which was obviously typecasted; Paul Petersen of The Donna Reed Show had trouble finding adult roles. Donna Douglas and Max Baer Jr., both of The Beverly Hillbillies also had trouble finding roles, respectively. Sam Melville would forever be known as Officer Danko of The Rookies—even though he played villains on episodes of Gunsmoke and Hawaii Five-O. Other "Rookies" actors identified with their particular roles Georg Stanford Brown as Officer Webster and Gerald S. O'Loughlin as Ryker. Other Hawaii Five-O actors forever known as their "5-0" roles would be Jack Lord as "'Book 'em Dano' MacGarret"; James MacArthur as "Dano" {even through he played exceptional roles in Walt Disney adoptations of Kidnapped and Swiss Family Robinson}; Kam Fong as "Chin Ho"; Richard Denning as the "Governor". Telly Savalas and Kevin Dobson both had trouble finding newer roles after playing Kojak, except for Dobson, obviously, who went on to co-star in Knots Landing, plus, Eddie Albert and Tom Lester were both strongly typecasted from their Green Acres roles, Karl Malden had difficulty finding more roles after his best-known role on The Streets of San Francisco, and despite some serious injuries he suffered, James Garner had trouble finding more roles after starring on The Rockford Files.

In the case of typecasting, though Gavin MacLeod was closely associated with his Murray Slaughter role on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, his second closely associated role was that of Capt. Merrill Stubing on The Love Boat, which made his character twice as typecasting than anybody else in the business. In addition to Chuck Norris's first role in the movie An Eye for an Eye, his second role on Walker, Texas Ranger was more than typecasted, as is the case of Clarence Gilyard. Andy Griffith found lesser-known roles for many years after starring in The Andy Griffith Show until finding a second iconic role as the title character in Matlock. Similarly, Carroll O'Connor of All in the Family had little luck in finding better known roles until becoming the series' lead of In the Heat of the Night. Barbara Eden also had trouble finding roles after starring in I Dream of Jeannie, long before her former co-star Larry Hagman and Patrick Duffy were both extremely typecasted for portraying J.R. Ewing and Bobby Ewing, respectively, in Dallas, and William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, whose characters James T. Kirk and Mr. Spock, have also been extremely typecast (Nimoy published two books, I Am Not Spock and I Am Spock, based on his personal experiences). In addition, Buddy Ebsen who portrayed the role of Jed Clampett in The Beverly Hillbillies, was severely typecast, but found another role, playing Barnaby Jones, and Delta Burke had a hard time finding roles after her Suzanne Sugarbaker character in Designing Women was severely typecast.

The entire cast of Gilligan's Island has been pretty much typecast as their respective roles in the series since its cancellation. This explains Tina Louise's desire to almost completely divorce herself from the series.

Sometimes, actors begin as one form of character in their break-out role and subsequently become typecast for a role that is polar opposite, such as the case with actor Sean Penn, who in Fast Times At Ridgemont High portrayed a friendly, stoned "surfer dude", but has since become known for intense, unsympathetic roles. Katt Williams is considered typecast, as many of his characters are based on the stereotype of a pimp. Actor Juan Fernandez faced the same — portraying hitmen (Crocodile Dundee II), pimps (Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects), and a suicide bomber in the film Executive Decision. American actor Seann William Scott is considered typecast, due to his role as Steve Stifler in the American Pie teen sex comedy series, who is considered a 'jerk' and a person who only cares about sex rather than relationships. Further roles of his, such as in Road Trip , contain many similarities to the Stifler character.

Victor McLaglen {an Englishman} played stupid or bullying Irishmen in films such as The Informer or The Quiet Man. Ironically Edward Mulhare {Irish}; Michael O'Herlihy {Irish}; John McGiver {Irish-American};Patrick McGoohan {Irish-American}; and Sir Sean Connery {Irish-Scottish} played upper class Englishmen. Thomas F. Wilson is known as Biff Tannen in the Back to the Future films as a menacing bully, although he portrayed a police officer in Action Jackson and Blood In Blood Out. Don Knotts played bumbling Barney Fife types on TV, movies and cartoons. Adam West, Burt Ward, Burgess Meredith, Cesar Romero, Frank Gorshin, and Julie Newmar, Lee Meriwether, and Eartha Kitt would become closely identified as playing Batman, Robin, Penguin, Joker, Riddler, and Catwoman.

Actor Michael Cera has been criticized for playing the same role of a "nerdy" and "awkward" teenage character in three movies in a row so far, Superbad, Juno, and Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist and his earlier show, Arrested Development. His upcoming role in the adaptation of Youth In Revolt will be similar to characters portrayed, yet with a rebellious attitude. Jon Heder, the star of Napoleon Dynamite has faced similar criticisms for consistently playing a similar awkward teen archetype in his post-Napoleon films.

Playing against type

Some actors attempt to escape typecasting by choosing roles that are opposite the types of roles that they are known for; alternatively, a director may choose to cast an actor in a role that would be unusual for them to create a dramatic effect. This is called "playing against type" or "casting against type".

Tom Hanks eschewed his "nice guy" image by playing a gangster in Road to Perdition, and a relentless FBImarker agent in Catch Me If You Can. Dustin Hoffman played the disreputable, manipulative Ratso in the gritty film Midnight Cowboy after playing the naive Benjamin in The Graduate, which may have helped him to avoid typecasting. Elijah Wood attempted to escape typecasting after his portrayal of the Hobbit Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings trilogy by playing a trio of undesirables—a football hooligan in Green Street, a cannibalistic serial killer in Sin City and a dishonest employee in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Actress Deborah Kerr, who before 1953 was well known as the "English Rose", a prim, proper English lady, was cast as discontented, lustful Karen Holmes in From Here to Eternity. Another pair of examples are Ronny Cox and Kurtwood Smith in RoboCop. Prior to 1987, Cox had been known for his "good guy" roles, so to play against type, Cox accepted the role of villain Dick Jones. Smith also chose to play against type; in addition to reading for Dick Jones, Smith ended up taking the role of Clarence Boddicker, a "thinking man's villain", who commandeered the brutal shooting of Alex Murphy. Anthony Perkins, famous for his role as Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 film Psycho tried to earn the role of Tony in the musical West Side Story to avoid typecasting, although the role didn't go to him in the end.

Daniel Radcliffe, the child actor in the wizard-themed Harry Potter film series, recently starred in a stage production of the controversial play Equus that involved an on-stage simulated sex act and full-frontal nudity. Although the role may not have been chosen to counter any typecasting he may face as an adult, Daniel let people know he was willing and able to move beyond the Harry Potter universe. To avoid being typecast as a comedy actor, Robin Williams accepted a number of dramatic roles, including Sy Parrish, a film developer who becomes obsessed with a particular client's family in One Hour Photo, the neurologist Oliver Sacks in Awakenings, a sociopathic writer in Insomnia, and as the glum psychologist in Good Will Hunting, for which he won an Academy Award. Jim Carrey was famous for his physical comedy until being cast for the lead role of Truman Burbank, the man who slowly learns the horrible truth of his existence, in The Truman Show. That subsequently lead him to star in other dramatic roles, such as the complex-ridden eccentric comedian Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon and the devastated romantic Joel Barish in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. In a similar vein, actor Josh Peck changed his light-hearted, moral-learning personality in the 2007 dramedy film, The Wackness, in which he is a lonely, socially awkward drug-dealing teenager. Another Potter actor, Robert Pattinson was very identified as Cedric Diggory and got mixed reaction after being cast as Edward Cullen in Twilight. Bob Saget is known to all as the family-oriented, lovable Danny Tanner from Full House or the host of America's Funniest Home Videos; however, his "real" persona significantly differs from these. Examples are his cameo appearance as a rehabilitating cocaine addict in Half Baked ("I sucked dick for coke!") or as the annoyed father in Dumb and Dumberer ("Shit! There's shit everywhere!"); his stand-up routines are also packed with vulgarities (such as the song "My dog licked my balls"), frequently using Danny Tanner as a vehicle for accentuating the "anti-image". However, to avoid now being typecast as a foul-mouthed ranter, he is the calm narrator of (and thus future version of the main character in) How I Met Your Mother, a pre-watershed sitcom littered with euphemisms such as "eating a sandwich" and "tricycle" (instead of "smoking cannabis" and "threesome", respectively).

Though accounts differ, it has been reported that Christopher Eccleston's departure from his role in Doctor Who as the Ninth Doctor after only one series was to avoid typecasting that other actors to play The Doctor have experienced, such as Tom Baker.

Some actors turn down otherwise desirable roles for fear of typecasting. Denzel Washington declined to portray Martin Luther King, Jr. after playing two civil rights leaders, Malcolm X and Steve Biko. Similarly, Gary Oldman twice declined the offer to play Ludwig van Beethoven in Immortal Beloved (before finally accepting) in fear of becoming typecast, having already played three other historical figures: Sid Vicious in Sid and Nancy, Joe Orton in Prick Up Your Ears, and Lee Harvey Oswald in JFK.

Within some shows, an actor who has one of the leading roles may also play another part, for a change of pace. For example, on "Bewitched", Elizabeth Montgomery played the occasional role of Serena in addition to the regular role of Samantha. Max Baer, Jr. who was on The Beverly Hillbillies for nine years was worried that he would be typecast as Jethro Bodine, so he produced, wrote and acted in 1974 movie Macon County Line.

In 2001 and 2004, Anne Hathaway became recognized for her girl-next-door role as Mia Thermopolis in Disney's The Princess Diaries and its sequel. To play against type, Hathaway next appeared in the adult-oriented erotic thriller Havoc; her character appeared in several scenes topless, and engaged in simulated oral and vaginal sex acts. Many actors and actress that are known for their Disney roles, usually go on to different productions to break type.

Playing within type

Some actors embrace typecasting. Embracing typecasting is sometimes referred to as Seagalism, named for the often-typecast actor Steven Seagal, who always stars as a heroic figure in his action/martial arts films.

Actor and martial artist Chuck Norris usually portrays heroic characters, at least after his first two roles, in which he was a hitman in Way of the Dragon and a crime boss in the Hong Kongmarker–produced Slaughter in San Francisco. Later, Norris turned down the role of Sensei Kreese in The Karate Kid because, as a martial arts champion, he felt he should not be connected to an evil character.

Fans often expect a particular actor to play a "type", and roles which deviate from what is expected can be commercial failures. This beneficial typecasting is particularly common in action movies (e.g., Jackie Chan) and comedies (Adam Sandler) but much less common in drama, although many B-list character actors make careers out of playing a particular dramatic type, and it is often suggested to would-be actors that they audition for roles that fit their type.

Some actors e.g. Harold Sakata or Fred Berry have adopted their character names as part of their legal names (Harold "Oddjob" Sakata or Fred "ReRun" Berry).


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