We love seeing our favorite actors get work. Hollywood wouldn't have the appeal that it does if we didn't develop a liking to a few of its leading men and women. But when we observe actors whose roles are becoming almost beat-for-beat carbon copies of performances past, that's that shit we don't like.
With yet another reheated Tim Burton/Johnny Depp collabo due in theaters this Friday, the Gothic comedy/TV-to-film romp Dark Shadows, we thought we'd take the time out to single out some of the worst offenders in static filmography, those actors who've found a formula that by and large works and have more or less, for better or for worse, been hitting the same winning notes since. Here are 10 Actors Who Always Play The Same Role. Please excuse the repetition.
Character type: Cute, quirky chick
To see what Zooey Deschanel's niche is, all one need do is turn on the TV and wait for her new, ubiquitous Siri iPhone 4S commercial. She makes a couple of funny faces, dances around in her pajamas, says everything with a super-sweet voice inflection, and looks cute as hell while doing so.
That's also pretty much all she does week-to-week on her FOX series New Girl. Now that it's become a bonafied hit, you can expect to see her movie roles bear a striking resemblance to her winning archetype, which, yes, she's done many times before in previous feature films.
Character type: Lewd man-child
The picture above is from Funny People, because, sadly, Adam Sandler has become the washed-up, tired comedian he portrayed in that movie. Big Daddy, Happy Gilmore, and The Waterboy were all silly, sure, but in a great, genuinely entertaining way. His recent slate, namely the abysmal Jack & Jill and painful Grown-Ups, though? No better than the sell-out crapfests in which Funny People's fictional George Simmons starred
At this rate, we wouldn't be surprised if dude actually decided to make real movies out of the likes of MerMan and Re-Do.
Character type: Matronly den mother
You know that old joke about Hollywood employing the same five black actors? Well, it's kind of true sometimes, and Ms. Devine gets the most circulation. Does your film call for a sassy, strong-willed African-American mother, particularly one who heads a super large family? Better call Loretta.
Hell, in This Christmas (2007) the fam even refers to her as "Ma'Dere." Of course, these roles are usually in black films; in general Hollywood, though, sometimes she's just called on to be sassy and strong-willed, hence parts like her Foxxy Cleopatra wannabe rent-a-cop in the forgettable slasher flick Urban Legend (1998).
Character type: Zen bad-ass, occasional mumbler
We already heralded Seagal the fifth best action star of all time, so you know how we feel about his movies. But that's because we enjoy them for different reasons. As much as we dig Under Siege and Out for Justice, we don't dig how Seagal's heroes are interchangeable in those movies and even lesser fare like Half Past Dead. He's super calm. He does martial arts. Has a ponytail. Wash, rinse, repeat, while we at home...yawn.
Helena Bonham Carter
Character type: Eccentric, if not full-on batshit crazy, woman
The King's Speech excluded, for the past decade or so, Tim Burton's better half has had the lock on crazy girls interrupted, so much so that her casting as fan favorite Harry Potterfoe Bellatrix Lestrange was a layup/no-brainer.
On the screen, she's almost always gothed out, hair out-of-control frizzy, with a "fuck society" attitude, or at the very least, simply super weird. Hilariously enough, it's hubby Burton that enables her static character selection the most. At least her acclaim for The King's Speech proved that she does indeed have other tricks up her sleeve—whenever she feels like using them.
Character type: Good at killing and/or driving, stoic, British
Technically, The Transporter came first, in 2002, but it wasn't until a year later that Jason Statham really blew up, by way of The Italian Job. After that one-two punch, you'd be hard pressed to find dude in a role where he doesn't have his hands on the wheel, as well as several firearms and other killing tools. Italian Job also found him at his most charismatic (he did play "Handsome Rob" after all), he is usually the reluctant anti-hero, stoic and emotionally closed off, with exceptions made for kids and the occasional bad damsel.
We have an idea of how he can baby-step outside his comfort zone. Two words: American. Accent. All of his fellow Hollywood Brits have done at least once, right? And what would be the perfect role to test said accent? We'd love to see the Stath in something along the lines of a Mr. Mom remake. Minivan or not, at least he'd still be driving.
Character Type: Eccentric hero
Johnny Depp is one of the greatest actors alive. That's undeniable. Now that we got that out of the way, though, let's address the elephant in the room: Dude is in a serious career rut these days.
Ever since his at-the-time bold performance in 2003's Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl became a billion dollar commodity, Depp has been settling for roles that are simply just weird and quirky versions of Captain Jack Sparrow, but with different make-up. The frequent Tim Burton collaborations aren't helping much, either. We said earlier that Burton enables his wife, Helena Bonham Carter, but what he and Depp are doing is an even bigger offense. They haven't made an interesting flick since Sleepy Hollow (1999), and Dark Shadows doesn't seem like it's going to break the mold.
The last couple of times that Depp took leaps outside the box, the landing didn't stick. See: 2010's The Tourist, his banal action-comedy with Angelina Jolie. On second thought, if that lifeless performance is the alternative, we guess we'll take the strange Jack Sparrow carbon copies. See you on the line for Dark Shadows!
Character type: Suburban MILF
No disrespect to Mrs. Apatow, but ever since she, along with her and filmmaking husband Judd's real-life daughters, imitated life in 2007's Knocked Up, she's been playing the same beat in all her subsequent roles, even those outside of the family business.
Mann played mother to her own kids again in Judd's under-performing dramedy Funny People (2009), and her slightly foul-mouthed, sexy soccer mom doesn't differ much from her turns as sexy soccer mom wife to Jason Bateman in last year's The Change-Up and Matthew Perry in 17 Again (2009). So basically she's every comedian in Hollywood's dream girl. We get it, but we kind of miss earlier roles before she blew-up/found her niche, like Corinne the Hooters waitress in Big Daddy.
Character Type: Awkward yet affable teenage geek
What is Michael Cera going to do when he (finally) stops being able to pass for a 16-year-old? He's been in some great, even classic projects (Arrested Development, Juno, Superbad), but if we were channel-surfing and came across, say, any of the three different films pictured above, we'd have to look beyond his performance before we knew which one we were watching.
Unlike most of the other people on this list, dude may be facing a lengthy stay in career purgatory if he doesn't take a cue from Jesse Eisenberg and change things up a little. From where we're sitting, if he stays this course it's not hard to picture him twenty years from now in the Jon Cryer role on a Two and a Half Men style sitcom.
Character type: Bland action hero
Just look at the face Paul Walker is making in both of the pictures above. Even while holding a gun on someone, dude wears the same nonchalant expression, as if he's actually thinking about what he's going to have for dinner than the scene he's currently acting in. In trying to be a "cool customer," he always ends up coming off as a customer in line at the deli.
How he managed to turn that into a career, dependent on the Fast and the Furious series or not, is both astounding and baffling. Sure, he knows how to look the part in an action scene, and he has the appearance of your typical dashing leading man, but the real reason all of his roles are the same is because he's equally boring no matter what.