Actors that have moved past iconic breakthrough roles

screech

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So this came up in my youtube feed, and it made me wonder, what actors/actresses who got their big breaks in incredibly iconic roles have managed to avoid being completely typecast in that type of role?
I mean, while Daniel Radcliffe will always be Harry Potter, he's taken on such a variety of projects on stage and screen that he's kind of broken past having everything compared to that one role (unless you look at the youtube comments on things like the video I linked), or being cast only in similar roles.
Conversely, also thinking of Harry Potter, after his breakthrough in Die Hard Alan Rickman seemed to get regularly cast in roles where he did not play the nicest of people (Robin Hood, Love Actually, Sweeney Todd, Harry Potter series...)

Tom Hiddleston is another one who has avoided being locked into roles similar to his breakthrough. Loki is incredibly iconic, however he's a trained Shakespearean actor, has been considered for James Bond, and has even voiced Captain Hook in a Tinkerbell movie!. Like Radcliffe, he'll always be known for that iconic role, but he's taken on such varied parts that it's not all he's known for.
 

VGThuy

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I often wonder if it’s harder for television actors who are known for broader, more comedic roles. With the popularity of dramedies and one-camera tv shows, that seems much less of a problem.
 

Wyliefan

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Conversely, also thinking of Harry Potter, after his breakthrough in Die Hard Alan Rickman seemed to get regularly cast in roles where he did not play the nicest of people (Robin Hood, Love Actually, Sweeney Todd, Harry Potter series...)
Perhaps, but I think just as many people remember him now as the lovable Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility, so he moved past it in the end.
 

screech

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I often wonder if it’s harder for television actors who are known for broader, more comedic roles. With the popularity of dramedies and one-camera tv shows, that seems much less of a problem.
Very true. Though he did have dramatic success, including an Oscar for a dramatic role, Robin Williams is still known mainly as a comedian. And while he's definitely had dramatic success, Will Smith will always be the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. However, Jamie Foxx is rarely thought of as that guy from In Living Color (or similar roles), whereas Jim Carrey who also got his break on that show, is constantly cast in comedic roles (often where he contorts himself or his face in unusual ways).
 

Yehudi

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Matt Smith and David Tennant have been more successful post Doctor Who than the first generations Doctors were in moving past the role. Both have actually gone on to play memorable characters who were the total opposite of the Doctor. Kilgrave was a psychopath while Matt Smith’s characters have gone from jerk to murderer
 

VGThuy

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I think audiences these days are more accepting of actors in different roles. Back in the old days, actors seemed more like personalities and were so associated with whatever role it was that made them super famous and known. I also think we don't have the same level of celebrity we did back then. There are still A-listers and famous people of course, but not in the same level as in the past where it seemed every household in one country were watching the same shows and there were less choices in programming and access to film.
 

Cachoo

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I would pick Keanu Reeves. He broke out in "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" as a lovable dimwit and he could have stayed in those roles. But he has played so many other types of characters from action hero, to romantic comedy, to sci-fi to drama. I'm not sure he ever revisited the lovable dimwit except in the Bill/Ted sequel.
 

Jay42

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Matt Smith and David Tennant have been more successful post Doctor Who than the first generations Doctors were in moving past the role. Both have actually gone on to play memorable characters who were the total opposite of the Doctor. Kilgrave was a psychopath while Matt Smith’s characters have gone from jerk to murderer
Karen Gillan as well. Especially as she genre jumps like nobodies business. From 2 different franchise blockbusters to small indie movies and everything in between. She’s also written and directed one feature length film and some short films. I’d love to see her do more comedy though.
 

genevieve

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Larry Hagman - the lasting legacy of JR Ewing has eclipsed his prior work, but he previously held the iconic role of astronaut Tony Nelson in I Dream of Jeannie. I think there were a lot of fans who were upset at how drastically his character changed in Dallas.

There are lots of examples of actors who jump from TV to film (Woody Harrelson, for instance, who was known for the lovable goof Woody on Cheers but then became a Serious Actor) but I think the most iconic example is Mary Tyler Moore when she starred in Ordinary People. Which also reminds me of Farrah Fawcett's turn in the tv movie The Burning Bed.
 

Judy

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Very true. Though he did have dramatic success, including an Oscar for a dramatic role, Robin Williams is still known mainly as a comedian. And while he's definitely had dramatic success, Will Smith will always be the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. However, Jamie Foxx is rarely thought of as that guy from In Living Color (or similar roles), whereas Jim Carrey who also got his break on that show, is constantly cast in comedic roles (often where he contorts himself or his face in unusual ways).
I was just going to post this as well. Brilliant actor.
 

Bunny Hop

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Perhaps, but I think just as many people remember him now as the lovable Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility, so he moved past it in the end.
Indeed (though also 'Galaxy Quest' :D). And it depends on what you watch. I was completely mystified when Alan Rickman died and all the media referred to him as "Harry Potter's Alan Rickman" as that was definitely not what I considered him to be famous for, particularly given his large body of work prior to that.

I have also learnt from this thread that Tom Hiddleston has an iconic role. I thought he was great in 'The Night Manager', but don't watch superhero movies, so had no idea he'd even been in one.
 

manhn

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Robin Williams as Mork.

Christina Applegate as Kelly Bundy.

Hugh Grant in Four Weddings and a Funeral.

Cher as Cher. Lady Gaga as Lady Gaga.

Was Alan Rickman in Die Hard as a villain really that difficult to overcome? Like Meg Ryan overcoming her romcom image hard? I figure general audiences viewed him as one of those British Shakespearean types who can do all types of roles.
 

Jay42

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Was Alan Rickman in Die Hard as a villain really that difficult to overcome? Like Meg Ryan overcoming her romcom image hard? I figure general audiences viewed him as one of those British Shakespearean types who can do all types of roles.
Depends on the audience I think. Action fans remember him for Die Hard, romance fans remember him for Sense & Sensibility, Harry Potter was the biggest overall though just from a pop culture perspective.
 

aliceanne

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I would say the most successful is Sally Field, who went from Gidget and the Flying Nun to Norma Rae, Steel Magnolias, and Smokey and the Bandit. She has had critical and box office success, plus longevity.

Tom Hanks started out in television sitcoms (Bosom Buddies), although they weren’t iconic, which makes his film success even more remarkable.
 

Cachoo

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Mary Tyler Moore: She was so lovable on tv in her own show and the Dick Van Dyke Show. I was surprised to see that Robert Redford cast her as Beth Jarrett in “Ordinary People.” I could not believe I could see MTM do well in such an unsympathetic role. She nailed it: I couldn’t stand her.
 

kwanfan1818

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I think like the running jokes, now decades old, about "How my kids think Paul McCartney is famous for being in a band called Wings," context is everything, and being seen/recognized for the first time by in a different kind of role in any huge hit, TV or movie, will lock that actor in place in people's minds. My parents used to howl over how I knew all of the movie stars they grew up with as guest villains in Batman, or on soaps (ex: Elizabeth Taylor on General Hospital), or on evening TV shows (ex: Carolyn Jones as Morticia.) I'd heard of them, but I'd never seen them before. And oh the disappointment the weekend I was stuck with only late Saturday afternoon old movie re-runs while staying with relatives, and, no, Carolyn Jones was not supposed to be a long-suffering woman in a relationship drama :drama:

About stars, when they were studio property, their roles were controlled with an iron fist, and their public personas were strictly enforced by the studio owners with a lot of controlled, focused, mainstreamed media bombarding the audience to make the audience believe in them, with a small group of gossip columnists and publications both upholding and trying to shoot them down. (Even without this, Jenna Fischer spoke about getting called out for cheating on her onscreen husband when she was with her actual husband, so, yes, people still buy into what they see on the screen if it comforts them.). With social media, performers do much of their own "curating" and there's a lot more competing noise.

I wonder if there's a generational divide in the media, including obituary writers, especially since how many are already pre-written and updated periodically (the prototype for Wikipedia articles?), and audience who grew up pre-cable, with the three big channels plus PBS and low-budget local channels, talking about the same 10 TV shows and watching "families" grow up, let alone in internet times, and that people growing up now are less likely to typecast performers because they see them in some many different ways, or if humans are as change-adverse and want their performers to be locked in character forever.
 

aliceanne

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Actors also seem more business-savvy and invest their money in their own productions instead of waiting for a producer to hire them. Ron Howard spent his childhood and young adulthood as a television actor and is now an A-list movie director/producer. Or you have someone like Joe Rogan, who hosted reality tv and was in a sitcom, who made a big name for himself on YouTube and Spotify with his unedited podcast interviews. His stand-up comedy now plays in arenas like Madison Square Garden. And of course there is Oprah, who started as a local newscaster.
 
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Spun Silver

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Clint Eastwood. He went from macho detective/cowboy roles (which I loved, but I'm not sure it was for his acting exactly) to Unforgiven which was on a different level altogether and then to becoming an auteur as both actor and director.
 

screech

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Definitely Leo. He broke out with Titanic and became a huge heart throb. Since then he's had a career playing many diverse roles for directors like Scorsese and Tarantino.
Leo was already huge with heartthrob status and an Oscar nom under his belt before Titanic. I still remember him from Growing Pains, but he was already well known for What's Eating Gilbert Grape, The Basketball Diaries, and Romeo + Juliet before Titanic.
Now he seems kind of typecast as a guy who wont do comedies (because he was after that Oscar). I'd love to see him in a true comedic role.
 

The Accordion

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Leo was already huge with heartthrob status and an Oscar nom under his belt before Titanic. I still remember him from Growing Pains, but he was already well known for What's Eating Gilbert Grape, The Basketball Diaries, and Romeo + Juliet before Titanic.
Now he seems kind of typecast as a guy who wont do comedies (because he was after that Oscar). I'd love to see him in a true comedic role.

I thought he was soooo funny in Django- funny / disturbing.
 

skateboy

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Sally Field went from fresh faced, All-American Gidget to the lovable Flying Nun (which she hated), but finally broke through to more mature and dramatic roles, successfully.
 

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