Playing against type is a trend that I really enjoy seeing in cinema, and a lot of the times when someone does go against type it really works. It is a challenge, and it is great to see a performer getting challenged and coming out of that role stronger for it.
Here are six against type roles that I particularly thought were really well done and refreshing to see an actor do something completely different.
One of the stand out things about MANIAC is actually its star Elijah Wood, who would have thought when this film was in production that Elijah Wood could successfully pull off playing a killer. We did get a glimpse of that with SIN CITY, but he wasn’t in it much and I knew I wanted to see more. There was a great hint there of an actor who could do more than just play Frodo Baggins, and I am not the only one who clearly saw this.
Now one of the really interesting aspects of the film is that Elijah Wood isn’t on screen much, as the film is shown from the POV of his character. But everything about him is there, you can really feel the performance. His performance is a strong one, and he really proved that he can play against type and be something we really haven’t seen before.
Terance Stamp is perhaps best known for his awesome villainous role in SUPERMAN II as General Zod, and perhaps he was a bit type cast as the villain. So I think when PRISCILLA came out, people saw a new and different Terrance Stamp. He played Bernadette, a transsexual who along with his two Drag Queen friends Mitzi (Hugo Weaving) and Felicia (Guy Pearce) go out on a bus to perform in Alice Springs. Bernadette is an interesting character, a very well thought out and developed one, and Terrance absolutely owned the role.
I remember watching the film when I was old enough to really appreciate it, and I was stunned to see that Zod was actually Bernadette. It isn’t just that he looks different, he really made me believe in the character. This was really my first real look at someone playing against type, and how well it could work. I really learned to appreciate how versatile of an actor he was and still is.
Now don’t pass judgement, I do like Tom Cruise. Not the Scientology Cruise of the media, but the Tom Cruise who is an actor. How here is an example of someone who is majorly type cast and he basically plays the same role every single time. He has against played against type a few times, and funnily enough they happen to be the roles where he really shines. I’ve picked his turn as Frank T.J. Mackey from MAGNOLIA, this is a role where I don’t think anyone actually saw Tom Cruise, they really saw the character.
I was pretty impressed that he actually really becoming something else, and he actually spewed out that dialogue without hesitation. Dialogue that we never really heard come out from his mouth and you know what? It was fucking wonderful! I really wish he did this more often, he’s something else when he does stretch himself as an actor.
For a lot of his career, Matthew McConaughey was type cast as the romantic lead, it wasn’t often we got to see him do something different and it wasn’t until he was a name where we all regretfully saw him in THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE NEXT GENERATION and wondered whether he could do anything different. Well in recent years he has shed that image of romantic leading man to being in more under the radar films and taking roles that are quite different. The role that really sold me on his new leap and definitely made me see him in a different light was KILLER JOE. This is a role unlike anything he has ever done before, and I was very surprised he did not get more recognition for it.
Not only do I feel it is one of his best roles, I think it is one of the best performances I have been in the past few years. He’s cold, he’s calculating and and he’s insane, killer Joe is a character you’d never want to deal with, I certainly didn’t see Matthew McConaughey the actor, I saw the character. Seriously if you haven’t experienced KILLER JOE and you still doubt this man is talented, go and bloody see it! This is the film that should have won him an Oscar.
We have seen Kurt Russell play a badass, many times. Snake Plissken is a prime example, however he wasn’t the villain, he was definitely the anti-hero. Kurt Russell rarely plays the role of the bad guy, I think he came close in DARK BLUE but the character redeemed himself. Stuntman Mike is Kurt Russell as a villain, he’s someone you don’t want to come across, he’s slimey and charming and he’ll kill you. I thought he absolutely owned this role, I remember how excited I was at the thought that he was going to be playing such a different character.
This film is very mixed I find, for everyone who likes it, theres one that really doesn’t. But I think we can all agree Kurt Russell owned it, and it is a shame it took so long for him to get there. He put a lot of effort into the role, and put in a lot into Stuntman Mike. Kurt understood the type of character he wanted him to be, and through the second half of the film he came up with a lot of what Mike does. I loved it and this is such a prime example of playing against type and it working like a charm.
Ah John Cusack, how I do love thee. He’s a great actor, and he does play different characters but nothing like what he has played in THE PAPERBOY. I thought to myself recently, he’s really trying out some different roles in recent films, but I really had no idea just how different and against type he went. I was impressed with his turn as serial killer Robert Hansen in THE FROZEN GROUND, that was very different but THE PAPERBOY takes the cake. In this film he plays Hillary Van Wetter, he’s going on death row and this case gets investigated. But he’s a filthy and slimey character, one who doesn’t hesitate to jack off in front of people while getting his lady Charlotte (Nicole Kidman) to pleasure herself.
It doesn’t stop there, he’s a real nasty piece of work, no shame, and when he wants something he’s going to get it. His work in the second half of the film is disgusting and I had a hard time even watching it. He really pulled off this role without any hesitation, I truly believed what he was selling and I felt liked I needed a few showers after every scene he was in. I don’t think I will be looking at Cusack the same again after this, against type this certainly is.