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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. 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. 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.

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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.)

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". An example of playing against type is Tom Cruise in his role in Tropic Thunder, in which he is an arrogant, fat, bald, and selfish corporation manager, to create a comedic juxtaposition of his usual immortal and overcoming cliche action hero. Another method in which actors avoid typecasting is by acting or promoting themselves in a way that is the complete antithesis of their best known role; comedian Bob Saget is a good example of this.

Playing within type

Some actors embrace typecasting. 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.[citation needed]

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