For an actor, getting typecast is a double-edged sword. On one hand, you can be fairly sure you'll always get work. On the other hand, if your breakthrough role was "guy with frantic diarrhea," you can look forward to a long career of feigned intestinal distress and people on the street yelling "Hey, diarrhea guy!"
Below are nine actors who are probably going to play the same part until they either die rich or get relegated to The Surreal Life.
#9. Reginald VelJohnson
Role: Family-man cop with a weight problem who often has to deal with idiots and is therefore exasperated
The Movies/The Shows: Ghostbusters, Die Hard, Perfect Strangers, Turner & Hooch, Family Matters, Die Hard 2
The History: There's no good reason why this openly gay actor should portray the same straight-laced, blue collar gumshoe every time he passes in front of a camera. Sure, he appeared as Sgt. Al Powell (Die Hard) early in his career, but before he was shooting German terrorists who had inexplicably come back from the dead outside the Nakatomi Tower, VelJohnson was donning a badge for bit parts in Ghostbusters, Kojak and something called Plain Clothes. Then ABC handed him a series that managed to fill nine seasons worth of the premise: "Officer Winslow expresses exasperation with his son Eddie and neighbor Steve."
Role: Woman who is strong-willed but eventually shows vulnerability by breaking down into silent, gross-looking tears
The Movies: Mystic Pizza, Pretty Woman, My Best Friend's Wedding, Notting Hill, Runaway Bride, Erin Brockovich, Ocean's Eleven, Mona Lisa Smile, Ocean's Twelve
The History: The goddess of plucky, scrappy, can-do women, Julia Roberts has made it in a man's world and not taken any crap enough times to form her own chapter of NOW. We get it: she's as good as any man and she's being blunt in a wry, humorous fashion designed to make Richard Gere/George Clooney/Albert Finney seem taken aback. But beneath that tough exterior, there's the softer side, where all her fragility and hurt is let out in a series of silent, puffy-lipped sobs that make her look revolting.
Role: Dr. Frasier Crane
The Movies/The Shows: Wings, Cheers, The John Larroquette Show, Frasier, The Simpsons, X3
The History: Of everyone on this list, Kelsey Grammer is the only actor that, in four of the six shows listed, literally played the same person. It wouldn't be so bad if Frasier were a deep character. The fact that he's just a stock sitcom character means Grammer has spent a lifetime realizing little more than the ability to arch his eyebrows in befuddled wonder when someone tries to match a leather sofa with a white marble coffee table.
Role: Gravel-voiced, intimidating asshole
The Movies/The Shows: The Hunt for Red October, Glengarry Glen Ross, The Shadow, The Edge, The Aviator, The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie, 30 Rock
The History: Sounding as if he's perpetually afflicted with a bronchial infection, Alec Baldwin is the aural equivalent of pouring three fingers of whiskey over crushed ice. Throughout his career, he's used that swarthy voice to intimidate everyone from submarine commanders to realtors, Howard Hughes and his disrespectful pig of a daughter. Even in The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie, Baldwin was cast as a giant, menacing, motorcycling fish. Now Baldwin brilliantly sends up this very persona on "30 Rock."
Role: Badass motherf*cker
The Movies: Pulp Fiction, Die Hard: With a Vengeance, A Time to Kill, The Long Kiss Goodnight, Jackie Brown, The Negotiator, Star Wars I, II and III, Deep Blue Sea, Unbreakable, xXx and xXx II: State of the Union, S.W.A.T., Snakes on a Plane
The History: Samuel L. Jackson will f*ck you up, motherf*cker. He is the quintessential threatening black man, screaming obscenities roughly 47 percent of the time he is onscreen (the other 53 percent is divided roughly between kicking ass and scoffing at whatever white guy is suggesting that he bother taking names). Whether you're an international terrorist, a Sith Lord or a bunch of snakes on a plane, Sam Jackson will scream at you and then shoot you in the face.
Role: Girl who's too hot for the geeky lead and is thus humiliated/disfigured in some fashion to cut her down to size
The Movies: The Mask, My Best Friend' Wedding, There's Something About Mary, Very Bad Things, Being John Malkovich, Shrek I, II and III
The History: Cameron Diaz is pretty enough that most men would be attracted to her even if she were nuts, and she's taken advantage of that fact. Whether she's a flaming bitch, an ogre or is inexplicably attracted to Jim Carrey, it does little to deaden her sex appeal. The combination makes her perfect for the romantic lead in movies starring comedians who wouldn't get a girl as hot as her in a million years unless she had some sort of serious emotional defect.
Role: Career hipster misfit with strange job who is unlucky in love and caught in the rain.
The Movies: Better Off Dead, Say Anything, Grosse Pointe Blank, Pushing Tin, Being John Malkovich, High Fidelity, Runaway Jury, Must Love Dogs, 1408
The History: From Lloyd Dobler's vow to never "sell anything bought, sold or processed," Cusack's career can be seen as one long struggle with quirky employment. A list of some of the occupations Cusack's film characters have had: a charming assassin, an air traffic controller, a puppeteer, a record store owner, a preschool teacher, a writer who investigates haunted places and a ship designer (we're pretty sure they're just putting verbs and nouns together at this point).
#2. Will Smith
Role: Non-threatening black police officer with an attitude. Oh HELL naw!
The Movies: Bad Boys I and II, Enemy of the State, Independence Day, Wild Wild West, Men in Black I and II, I, Robot
The History: In Bad Boys, Will Smith enters a house calling out, "Don't be alarmed, we're black people!" And white America was shocked to find that they actually weren't alarmed. If you need a black actor to pull in the "urban youth" demo for your blockbuster action movie, but don't want the R-rating and scared white people that hiring Samuel L. Jackson will guarantee, you can't do much better than Will Smith. Smith, the Tiger Woods of action stars, can one-liner and dazzling-grin his way through any tough situation.
Role: William Shatner
The Movies/The Shows/Commercials/Anything They'll Pay Him For: The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, Star Trek (The Series), Star Trek I-VII, The First Men in the Moon, Miss Congeniality I and II, Boston Legal, Priceline.com commercials, children's birthday parties, etc.
The History: We hope Shatner is basically playing himself, because otherwise we'd have to imagine a normal person trapped in the Hell of being forced to play a chubby, over-dramatic joke in every science fiction setting this side of Galactic Central Point. Never has one man captained so many exploratory vessels, beat up so many rubber-looking aliens, or spawned so many classic YouTube videos. Anyone who watches Shatner's infamous rendition of "Rocket Man" can be sure he's either retarded or retarded like a fox.