Versatility Schmersatility: 20 One Character Actors

It is easy to underestimate actors, their standing in front of a camera quickly paling in comparison to your own workload – whether it be driving a bus, entering data or artificially inseminating a horse. There are those, however, that earn their keep; Christian Bale lost more than 60 pounds for his role in The Machinist, Jared Leto gained more than 60 pounds for the role of Mark David Chapman in Chapter 27, and Natalie Portman shaved her head for graphic novel adaptation V for Vendetta. Unfortunately, there are other actors who seem determined to give their profession a bad name, dragging the same sorry character from movie to movie with all the creative verve of a piece of Clip Art.

Adam Sandler

The role: A manchild who – despite his aimless, backward-hat-wearing idiocy – manages to win the girl and turn his life around.

Manchildren are funny, I get it. Whether this is the basis for an entire human being, however, I am less convinced. Beginning his career with 1989’s Going Overboard, Sandler reached peak notoriety in the 90’s, leading such unforgettable movie as 1996’s Happy Gilmore to box office success. Despite proving scientifically that Adam Sandler is not funny (I won’t bore you with the details), everyone who is not me seems more than willing to fund his career on an annual basis by showing up to such shambles as 50 First Dates (yawn), You Don’t Mess With The Zohan (snore) and Grown Ups (face-plants on table). Thanks to Judd Apatow, however, this is no longer an entirely one sided argument. “But what about Funny People?”, they ask? What about Funny People? Just because he can parody himself doesn’t make him versatile, it just makes him cleverer than your average manchild.

Gemma Arterton

The role: An upper class Brit who has been stung in both lips by a particularly toxic bee.

Whether she’s being kidnapped, riding a winged horse or teasing James Bond with her inny and outy bits, you can bet Gemma Arterton will be doing so with a pout, a British accent and a glowing sense of prerogative. You see, despite having crossed genres, deserts and legs, Arterton appears singularly incapable of actually acting.

Zack Galifianakis

The role: A pathological idiot who speaks random as if it were a language in its own right, Galifianakis consistently plays the petulant child with all the likeability of a blocked drain.

This year’s Due Date (previously titled, Zach Galifianakis’ Annoying Character From The Hangover: The Movie) further demonstrated that relative newcomer Galifiankis has more than earned a place on this list. Playing the idiot, he has said such hilarities as “That’s not a purse! That’s a satchel!” (LOL!) and “Dad… You were like a father to me” (ROFL!). Largely starring in movies that just assume that they are funny on account of who is in them, forgetting to include any actual jokes, Galifianakis traditionally stands still, looking excessively beardy and saying the most random thing possible. Bearable in ensemble comedies like The Hangover where there are other characters to compensate with actual humour, Galifianakis raises hairs and grates teeth whenever he is left in front of a camera. He may be able to cry on cue, so at least we can claim that his eyes possess something resembling skill.

Ryan Reynolds

The role: A likeable every-man, Reynolds passes the time until his contractual topless shot stealing scenes and sharpening his wit.

Good looking, likeable and funny, it is easy to overlook how little Ryan Reynolds’ performances vary. Ever since he shot to fame with Van Wilder: Party Liaison (or, if you’re me, Blade: Trinity), Reynolds has capitalised on his overwhelming charisma again and again and again, often proving the best thing in even bad movies. However, with the success of Buried (in which he plays a stressed Ryan Reynolds) and the first trailer for The Green Lantern (in which he plays a spandex clad Ryan Reynolds) it is becoming clear that Reynolds cannot separate himself from his wittily wholesome exterior.

Jennifer Aniston

The role: Rachel From Friends Aniston is a working-girl who is finding it hard to meet a man. That is, however, until she does. Hitting it off big time, all seems to be running smoothly until a convenient plot device is thrown into the works, casting doubt on their happy ever after and padding out proceedings beyond the fifteen minute mark.

Graduating from Friends in 2004, Rachel From Friends struggled to make a name for herself on the big screen. Starring in such mediocrity as Rumour Has It, The Break-Up and Marley and Me, Aniston has continued to portray the blue collar worker with white collar hair.

Samuel L Jackson

The role: Samuel L Jackson.

Ever since 2006’s “Samuel L. Jackson on a Plane”, it has been increasingly difficult to see where the actor ends and his onscreen persona begins. Packing his trademark expletives for Coruscant only to have them etched on the hilt of his uniquely purple lightsabre, Jackson has since attempted to hide his unmistakable personality with Jedi robes, a hungry mutant shark and an eye patch, failing almost every time. Whether playing a hero, a villain or a Paladin, Samuel L. Jackson is always playing Samuel L. Jackson.

Hugh Grant

The role: Bumbling British fop whose hair is left to do most of the acting, Hugh Grant will, against all that is natural, charm some ridiculously attractive woman (or Sarah Jessica Parker) into falling for him despite mishap after predictable mishap.

Ever since his exasperated turn in Richard Curtis’ Four Weddings and a Funeral, Hugh Grant has carbon copied his performance to every other romantic comedy in production. Somehow missing Meg Ryan onscreen, Grant has nevertheless starred opposite rom-com stalwarts Julia Roberts, Renee Zelwegger and Drew Barrymore is a series of increasingly contrived romances. He even looks like Four Weddings‘ Charles in his mug shot.

Michael Cera

The role: A painfully awkward teen who finds himself attracted to an awkwardly quirky girl. Awkwardness ensues as quirkiness follows a hand-drawn title sequence to the background of some quirky alternative indy music. Awkwardness peaks with a quirky kiss which ultimately ends the movie.

Although this year’s Scott Pilgrim vs. The World had me debating whether to include Cera on this list, the role he played was hardly a stretch. Playing a decidedly dumber variation of his Superbad self, Cera somehow continues to be enjoyable in his decidedly doppelgänger roles.

Anna Faris

The role: A ditzy blonde that wouldn’t know credibility if she tripped over it hilariously, Faris will most likely be playing a girl whose day involves a pratfall after every meal.

Although still likeable (it really is without fathom), Faris has never really played a serious role. Playing ditzy Cindy Campbell from Scary Movie until whichever instalment we’re on now, ditzy Shelley Darlington in The House Bunny and ditzy Brandi in the awful Observe and Report, Faris doesn’t look set to prove her diversity any time soon with this year’s upcoming Yogi Bear.

Bill Nighy

The role: Mildly neurotic uncle who walks as though his shoes are twelve sizes too big. Rebelling against societal norms in one way or another, he is growing aware of his loneliness which spurs a last ditch attempt at finding love.

Although a highly respected actor and hugely watchable on the majority of occasions, Bill Nighy has more facial ticks than an infested bull-dog. More quirk than character, Nighy’s splutter is so potent that it shone through millions of pounds worth of CGI and innumerable tentacles when he played Davey Jones in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. Indistinguishable in Love, Actually and The Boat That Rocked, Nighy’s characters are always awkwardly hip, even when playing a hundred year old vampire.

Matthew McConaughy

The role: Womanising man’s man McConaughy meets his match in a female impervious to his masculine whiles. For about half an hour at least. Cracking her tough exteriour with minimal effort, the two live happily ever after.

Chasing Kate Hudson through about twenty movies, the two fall for each other in Groundhog Day-esque repetitiveness. Taking a break on occasion to chase other tail – and Sarah Jessica Parker – McConaughy takes the odd vacation from Cloud Nine to wage war on dragons or what have you, but never really pushing any noteworthy boundaries.

Hayden Christensen

The role: A character with all the charisma of a pencil-case who spends great swathes of time looking condescendingly at the screen. Sporadically punctuating his blandness with a furrowed brow, Christensen will have you glancing at your watch whether he’s undergoing surgery (Awake), teleporting to every landmark MICHAEL BAY has ever destroyed (Jumper) or turning to the darkside amid three highly anticipated lightsabre battles (Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith).

Forced to chose between becoming a tennis player or an actor, Hayden Christensen had Star Wars fans reaching for their Death Stars as he got the answer wrong. Out-acted even in Takers, Christensen has forged a career out of playing reluctant heroes that do things and stuff.

Vinnie Jones

The role: A British thug who looks angry for the entire running time, making occasional jokes which stretch the definition of humour.

Usually cast as some sort of hooligan for his talents when it comes to pretend-punching, Jones is usually a fist for hire who is ready to maim and kill people either because his favoured football team lost or Magneto told him to.

Michelle Rodriguez

The role: Husky voiced Rodriguez flirts with danger in an attempt to win hearts and impress boys. Upon drawing trace amounts of audience empathy, she will be unceremoniously killed off to show what is at stake and advance the plot.

Able to fix cars, navigate the floating mountains of Pandora and chew gum, Rodriguez challenging stare is almost always hidden behind a pair of sunglasses. Although somewhat underrated, it is impossible to deny that she hasn’t been typecast as a latino badass. If there was a female Expendables, she would be in it; until she is killed off of course.

Seth Rogen

The role: Another manchild who sets out to prove himself as a damagingly unconvincing, and largely unsympathetic, police officer/father/hero.

Catnip to Katherine Heigl, Elizabeth Banks and Anna Faris, Rogen is the everyman who quickly pales in comparison to any man. Always incompetent, often bearded and usually stoned, Rogen looks set to bring all this and less to the apparently iconic role of The Green Hornet.

Nicolas Cage

The role: An aging Bachelor with an unmistakably enthusiastic speech pattern, Nicholas Cage must overcome some hokey mystery before the numbers run out.

Lauded for wearing a Hawaiian shirt in Raising Arizona, Nicolas Cage wears his dedication like his hair: all over the place. A leading man who brings the same forced smile to every role, whether chasing national treasures or treading controversy in a CG World Trade Center, Cage has even gone as far as wearing a leather jacket to become flaming superhero Ghost Rider.

Megan Fox

The role: A ‘sexy’ vixen of sorts who drapes herself over something or other while everyone else busies themselves with such trivialities as acting and dialogue.

Clad in a short skirt and foundation, Fox has – in relatively few roles – typecast herself as foreground scenery. Whether running away from pixels, eating Kyle Gallner or causing Simon Pegg to lose friends and alienate people, Fox is an expert at doing such things as trampily as possible. Able to sit, lie down and roll over, Megan Fox no doubt has a lustrous career ahead.

Sarah Jessica Parker

The role: The single most annoying human being of all time.

At her best hidden behind Kathy Najimy in Hocus Pocus, Sarah Jessica Parker has since lost track of humanity in her desire to wear nice shoes and – a major plot point in Sex and the City 2 – only watch old black and white movies on her bedroom television. Sarah Jessica Parker has found her way out of the city and into a series of rom-coms, failing to launch with Matthew McConaughy and entering the witness relocation programme with Hugh Grant. She is best known, however, for her turn as Carrie Bradshaw in the bafflingly successful HBO series: Sex and the City. Having spun off onto the big screen twice now, the franchise has few fans left as her vacuous character trampled the rest of the ensemble in her pursuit of hay limelight.

Jack Black

The plot: A down and out loser who, through a strong love of ‘music’, manages to turn his life around and attract a human mate.

Tenacious D singer Black, who garnered praise for his turn in High Fidelity (alas, sadly there was not enough room on this list for co-star John Cusack), has turned his gummy schtick into a multi-million dollar empire. Filling the void left by Jim Carrey when he went off in search of the Number 23, Black majors in physical comedy. Although he starred in 2005’s King Kong, he didn’t bring enough credibility to the role to excuse him from this feature. Playing the same outrageous character across Nacho Libre, Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny and Tropic Thunder, Black’s biggest accomplishment is a moderately toned down turn in rom-com-bomb The Holiday.

Keanu Reeves

The role: Dude, he’s totally a stoner who sets out to prove himself as a laughably unconvincing hero.

Joe Average who just happens to find himself on a speeding bus/business trip to Transylvania/ in a fluid filled pod having escaped an alternate reality, Reeves must overcome his apparent intoxication long enough to save the day. Although he has done some incredible things during his career, Reeves even manages to look stoned uncomfortably.

Come on Hollywood, we’re on to you!

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