I was watching the Pillars of the Earth miniseries (thanks to my parents, because I don’t get Starz… I object on principle to anything that should end in an “s” but ends in a “z” instead), and I realized something. Matthew McFayden, who plays Prior Phillip, is and will forever be Mr. Darcy.
Don’t get me wrong, Colin Firth ALSO is and forever will be Mr. Darcy.
But so is Matthew McFayden. I don’t care that he played an ugly guy in Frost/Nixon and now a monk in Pillars. He is Mr. Darcy. And there's nothing he can do about it.
Unfortunately for some actors, it doesn’t matter if they’re really great at their craft or not, because a truly amazing movie role can ruin an actor for any other roles.
Take Elijah Wood. He’s cute, young, and a pretty good actor. But he’s Frodo now. No one is ever going to be able to look at him in a movie and NOT start talking about “my precious.”
Same with Daniel Radcliffe. The poor kid became a superstar, but he is now Harry Potter. (How many of you just said “Harry Potter” in an English accent, entirely because I said it? That’s going to haunt him for the rest of his life. It’s just so fun to say. ‘Arry Pohtah. Love it.)
Matthew Broderick had the same problem, after becoming a household name as Ferris Bueller. And now he’s doing theatre. Because he has to. But I bet anyone who sees him in a play is still standing around at intermission going “Bueller… Bueller…” And that wasn’t even his line!
Some actors DID manage to escape this curse, however. The best example might just be Harrison Ford. In the late ‘70s/early ‘80s, it looked like he was going to be Han Solo forever.
But seriously, he played incredibly memorable roles repeatedly in multiple movie franchises, and that kept him from being strictly Indiana Jones OR Han Solo.
Carrie Fisher wasn’t so lucky. She’s going to be Princess Leia even after she dies. And poor Yoda. He never got another job. (Although Miss Piggy and the Cookie Monster sound a lot like him. Hmmm…)
Tom Hanks, by all rights, should be known for all eternity as Forrest Gump. That was EASILY one of the best characters in any movie. Ever. Hands down.
But Tom Hanks is the exception to any acting curses. Because he’s just that good. Who would have ever seen that coming from the guy who was in Joe Versus the Volcano? (Although, I have to admit, I secretly love that movie and quote it all the time. No one except my dad ever knows what I’m talking about. But the brain cloud thing was awesome. And wherever we go, whatever we do, we are taking this luggage!)
Then there’s my favorite category of actors: the ones who play themselves in every single movie. I don’t mean they’re doing cameos as themselves. I mean, they’re playing very different characters, who somehow all end up EXACTLY like the actor him or herself.
My personal favorite of these is Jack Nicholson.
I love him. I’d watch him in anything. But there’s not a whole lot of range there. And he’s won Oscars! Really, Academy Awards committee? Really? Were you just scared that if you DIDN’T give it to him, he’d come after you with an axe, Shining style? Because I get it if that’s the reason. (Check him out in Tommy though. 1975. He sang in that movie. Seriously. It’s nuts.) But when Jack smashed that person’s car with golf clubs back in the ‘90s, no one was surprised. Because that’s just how Jack is. And all of his characters reflect that. I guess when you’re that awesome/crazy, you can pull that off.
Samuel L. Jackson certainly manages it. And he plays the same psycho in most of his movies too. But he’s entertaining as hell, which might be because he manages to drop more F bombs per minute than anyone else in the world, except my dad. (Who I think looks up to Samuel L. Jackson as a personal hero for that reason. My family is weird.)
Then there are the actors who played memorable roles, but they’re just not good enough for it to ruin their career. Yes. I mean Keanu Reeves. I still look at him and think of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (and their Bogus Journey, aka every other movie Keanu Reeves has been in… Harsh? Maybe. But I can’t watch anything that wooden unless it’s growing leaves and has birds nesting in it).
So to sum up: "San Dimas High School football RULES!"
(Please tell me someone got that reference...)