Actors Who Broke Their Own Mold And Switched Up Their Genres

For actors who get typecast, it’s difficult to stop “being known” for specific characters, such as the girl-next-door or the funny best friend. But some broke their own mold, killing it in roles people wouldn’t expect.

From Liam Neeson going from the drama of Schindler’s List to the don’t-mess-with-dad character in Taken and Matthew McConaughey dropping his rom-com expertise to win an Oscar for Dallas Buyers Club, here are some actors who totally changed their genre.

Elijah Wood Went From Frodo To The Anti-Frodo

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CaptainOT/MovieStillsDB
CaptainOT/MovieStillsDB

Even though he had some roles prior to Lord of the Rings, most people will most likely recognize Elijah Wood from his three-film performance as the ring-bearer Frodo Baggins. After Return of the King wrapped up in 2003, it’s safe to say Wood wanted people to see him as something other than a hobbit.

So, he did what any normal person would do. Wood took the idea of Frodo and did a complete shift, taking on roles that are best described as anti-Frodo. From creepy Patrick in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind to the serial killer in Sin City, Wood did an admirable job breaking his typecast.

Anne Hathaway Wanted To Break Out Of Disney

Anne Hathaway Wanted To Break Out Of Disney
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

Starting her career as a wholesome Disney star in projects such as The Princess Diaries and Ella Enchanted, Anne Hathaway had no interest in staying a princess for the rest of her career. In fact, in a 2004 interview, the actress laid out her “risk-taking” plan that involved diving into grittier roles.

During the interview, she said, “I’ve already done several roles that are going to pull me out of this…I’ve already done a film called Havoc…Then I’m about to go off and work on Ang Lee’s next movie called Brokeback Mountain.” She even broke into the superhero genre, taking on the role of Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises.

Charlize Theron Proved She Isn’t Just A Pretty Face

Charlize Theron Went From Gorgeous To Killer
Media 8 Entertainment
Media 8 Entertainment

Oh, Charlize Theron. The gorgeous South African actress can play a killer woman who will beat up the bad guys all while looking totally gorgeous doing it, as she does in The Italian Job, The Old Guard, and Atomic Blonde. But in an unlikely turn of events, Theron went into a role completely different from what viewers were used to seeing from the actress.

In 2003, Theron changed the path of her career with her role as Aileen Wuornos in Monster. For the character, the typically lithe actress gained 30 pounds. This role proved Theron’s more than a pretty face and also a serious actress.

Liam Neeson’s Always Taken Down Bad Guys, Just Differently

Liam Neeson's Always Taken Down Bad Guys, Just Differently
Twentieth Century Fox
Twentieth Century Fox

Starting as a stage actor, it makes sense that Liam Neeson would gravitate towards more dramatic roles once he broke through the film industry. It didn’t take long for him to be typecast in those roles, though, such as Oskar Schindler in Schindler’s List and Jean Valjean in Les Misérables.

Thankfully for fans of the actor, he broke out of his mold. He started doing more action-packed roles, starting with Star Wars: Episode I and the Taken franchise. Interestingly, his roles always seem to have one thing in common — Neeson is always taking on some type of bad guy. It’s just now he prefers using weapons instead of words.

Steve Carell Switched To Serious Roles

Steve Carell
Sony Pictures Classics
Sony Pictures Classics

Going from TV to film isn’t easy, especially you’re talking about Steve Carell, who played The Office‘s Michael Scott for so long. But, he took baby steps, starting in some comedic film roles before changing the direction of his career.

Carell went from Anchorman to the likes of Foxcatcher, Battle of the Sexes, and Beautiful Boy. Interestingly, Carell doesn’t see the genres as different. During an interview, the actor said, “A character in a comedy doesn’t know that they’re in a comedy, and the same goes for drama. You don’t act a drama as if you’re in a drama – it’s just life, it’s just what’s happening.”

Zac Efron: Disney Boy Crush To Raunchy Comedian

Zac Efron
Lionsgate
Lionsgate

Zac Efron began turning heads the moment he landed on Disney Channel as Troy Bolton in the High School Musical franchise. And as many Disney Channel actors can attest, breaking from that specific mold can be challenging. But Efron did it, bulking up his muscles and landing role after role in raunchy comedies.

He went from Neighbors to Dirty Grandpa, performing opposite the likes of Robert De Niro. Then, he did something shocking. Efron jumped into a dramatic role that no one expected, as Ted Bundy in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile. There, Efron proved his wide range and skill set.

Robert Pattinson Left Being A Sparkly Vampire Behind

Robert Pattinson
A24
A24

It must be difficult to leave the role of a sparkly vampire behind, especially when you’re Robert Pattinson and a majority of the tween population loves you. Alas, he went through with breaking his own self-made Twilight mold after five films, diving head-first into anything that had drama, grit, and, most importantly, no vampires.

From Water for Elephants and The Lighthouse to Mission: Blacklist and High Life, Pattinson has definitely broken out of the teen idol mold. Now, he’s about to break into yet another genre, as the most recent rendition of the Dark Knight, Batman.

Emma Stone Went From Cute To Serious

Emma Stone
Summit Entertainment
Summit Entertainment

Cute, funny, and able to carry a scene with no problem, Emma Stone was a force when she first came to Hollywood. But at the beginning of her career, she was typecast as the comedic sidekick in films such as Superbad and The House Bunny. Like her character in Easy A, Stone broke through the mold people were putting her in.

Now, she is one of the most promising actresses in Hollywood, after nailing dramatic roles in The Help and even a musical role in LaLa Land. For the latter, Stone even went on to win an Academy Award for Best Actress.

Melissa McCarthy Went From Funny Lady To Dramatic

Melissa McCarthy Went From Funny Lady To Dramatic
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Fox Searchlight Pictures

Whether it’s Bridesmaids, The Heat, or even her “Spicy” impression during SNL; actress Melissa McCarthy is known to play some pretty funny characters. It makes sense, though, considering she started her career in the industry as a stand-up comedian. But she wasn’t going to let her comedic background stop her from branching out into extremely different roles.

In 2018, McCarthy proved she isn’t just a funny lady; she can play a serious character, like Lee Isreal in Can You Ever Forgive Me? The actress was even nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance.

John Krasinski Went Anti-Jim

John Krasinski Went Anti-Jim
Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

While John Krasinski was playing Jim on The Office, he was also contributing to various projects, mostly comedies. After the TV show wrapped up in 2013, though, viewers saw Krasinski finally leave Jim and his other Jim-like characters behind, hopping into a different dimension of film.

In a very un-Jim-like manner, Krasinski dove into the horror genre, writing, directing, and starring in The Quiet Place. The movie showed viewers the actor’s range as he successfully transitions from dry humor to more serious roles. Not to mention his anti-Jim action roles, such as Jack Ryan.

Robin Williams Broke Out Of Being The Lovable Good Guy

Robin Williams
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Fox Searchlight Pictures

For a lot of his career, Robin Williams played the lovable and funny good guy. Even if his roles were in dramatic films, such as The Dead Poets Society, Williams’ characters always had a likable demeanor about them, something that viewers typically expected to see from the actor.

Well, Williams went ahead and broke that mold real quick when he took on the role of a psycho stalker photo developer in One Hour Photo. There went any notion of a good guy, and he became someone with whom viewers wouldn’t want to be in the same room for a long time.

Matthew McConaughey Went From Heartthrob To Oscar Winner

Matthew McConaughey
Focus Features
Focus Features

Fool’s Gold, Failure to Launch, and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days all proved that studios knew what they were doing when they cast Matthew McConaughey in their rom-coms. It did take some time, but the typecast “pretty boy” broke out of the genre, making it to dramatic and more serious projects.

It all started with The Lincoln Lawyer. McConaughey’s performance proved he could transform into something other than a guy with a good smile. From there, he was offered some difficult roles, including The Dallas Buyers Club and True Detective. The former earned the actor an Academy Award for Best Actor.

Amy Adams Broke Her Princess Persona

Amy Adams
Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures

Amy Adams has played a wide variety of characters. Many of her earlier roles are that of a sweet, sunny, and oddly talkative character, such as Giselle in Enchanted and the Southern wife in Junebug. But, as Adams said in an interview, “nothing can intimidate her.” And that includes roles that aren’t necessarily on par with her onscreen persona.

But she’s absolutely wrecked her serious roles, including her tough-as-nails role in The Fighter, the wife of a cult leader in The Master, and a miserable woman in American Hustle. Not to mention she flawlessly broke into the superhero genre with her portrayal of Lois Lane.

Sandra Bullock Started Off In Rom-Coms And Then Drama

Sandra Bullock
Netflix
Netflix

While Sandra Bullock is a very well-known actress, it didn’t start that way. Her first projects are pretty much-forgotten rom-coms. But she got her footing after Speed, a drama that was a one-off project before she returned to comedy. Bullock didn’t stick to the genre for very long, breaking out of her Miss Congeniality mold and swerving towards drama once again.

Bullock won an Academy Award for Best Actress for the 2009 drama The Blind Side. After that, she stunned the Netflix community with Birdbox, a serious role that transformed the way people saw the actress.

Jim Carrey Is More Than A Few Laughs

Jim Carrey
Focus Features
Focus Features

As a comedian, it’s hard to picture Jim Carrey in anything other than roles such as Ace Ventura or dumb and Dumber. But Carrey is a man of many talents, and he was able to break out of his ditzy-guy typecast and lean into more serious and dramatic roles.

Much to viewers’ surprise, Carrey absolutely killed his more serious roles, even though it’s “out of his character.” From The Truman Show and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind to Man on the Moon and Doing Time on Maple Drive, Carry proved he’s good onscreen for more than a few cheap laughs.

Jennifer Aniston Went From Girl-Next-Door To War Dramas

Jennifer Aniston
Saban Films
Saban Films

When people think of actress Jennifer Aniston, most automatically picture Rachel from Friends. Well, that character, or any of the various other comedic roles she’s played throughout her career that have made her one of the most beloved actresses of all-time. That’s why it’s interesting to learn that Aniston is more than a comedic actress.

She’s been able to break out of her funny girl-next-door roles for more intense performances. Aniston reinvented her style, jumping headfirst into drama with her roles in Cake and the war drama The Yellow Birds, two films that were definitely out of her typical wheelhouse.

Kate Hudson Started With Rom-Coms And Moved To Drama

Kate Hudson
The Weinstein Company
The Weinstein Company

At the beginning of her career, Kate Hudson was the pretty gal, showing up in all of the picture-perfect rom-coms in the early 2000s, including How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and Fool’s Gold. But like her co-star in both those films, Matthew McConaughey, Hudson was able to break free from her mold and jump into various other roles.

To start, she suddenly changed over to musicals, landing the role of Stephanie in Nine. After that, Hudson moved towards drama, proving that she was able to transform in order to further her career.

Jonah Hill Went From Funny To Completely Serious

Jonah Hill Went From Funny To Completely Serious
Amazon
Amazon

Jonah Hill was the overweight funny kid when he first wound up on the silver screen in the comedy Superbad. Even as he grew up and furthered his career, Hill didn’t stray far from the comedic genre, taking up roles in films such as 21 Jump Street. Eventually, Hill broke out of his mold, taking up roles fans didn’t really expect.

Funny-guy Hill went from comedy and did a complete 180 flip into dramatic roles such as He Won’t Get Far on Foot, proving that he’s a man of many talents.

Ben Stiller: From Comedy Man To Serious Man

Ben Stiller
Samuel Goldwyn Films
Samuel Goldwyn Films

When you’re part of a group called “The Frat Pack,” it’s safe to say there’s a reason for it. In actor Ben Stiller’s case, it’s because he’s known for being typecast in comedic roles, such as Dodgeball, Night at the Museum, and Tropic Thunder. Eventually, he wanted to break out of his Zoolander persona, taking on more independent film projects and dramatic roles.

Some of those roles include Greenberg and, most recently, the drama The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. The latter was a breakthrough for the actor, as he was able to showcase his range and the ability to get through a film without cracking jokes.

Adam Sandler Broke Flawlessly Into A Serious Role

Adam Sandler
Netflix
Netflix

In the films Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, and Grown Ups, Adam Sandler showcases his natural state of yelling, but in a joking manner. The comedian is known for his dry humor and is definitely an actor that isn’t necessarily for everyone. But Sandler proved otherwise when he broke out of his mold and moved into a very different role from the rest on his resume.

In 2019, Sandler took on the role of Howard Ratner, a gambling addict in Uncut Gems. Many critics called it one of the actor’s best performances to date.