3 Actors that DID Shake Off their Career-Defining Roles

There have been terrible cases of the killer defining role spanning entire careers, lifetimes. There have also been admirable occasions where an actor is able to entirely redefine themselves. In response to the recent post about three actors who just can’t seem to shake off those career-defining roles, here’s a look at those wily few who broke out from the shadows…

John Travolta

John Travolta was seen as Danny from Grease for what seemed like an age. His musical performance was sexy, funny and emotional, and it looked to define and damn him for all eternity. But in 1994 there came hope in the form of Quentin Tarintino. Sure, Pulp Fiction hasn’t exactly revived his career like it could have, but it certainly got him some newfound recognition and respect and not just as a song-and-dance man.

Martin Freeman

Martin Freeman, for a very very long time, was known (at least in the UK) as ‘Tim from The Office‘. For all the right reasons, of course. As Tim he displayed a masterful range of emotion as well as expert comic instincts. But who would’ve thought he would become the leading man he is today? He has since fronted the TV hits Sherlock (with Benedict Apple-Crumble) and Fargo, not to mention led the biggest movie franchise out there today as Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit. 

Daniel Radcliffe

To be fair to Daniel, he didn’t mess around when trying to shed his Harry Potter label. He did what any child star should do to wake the public up – go stark naked in a super-serious West-End play (Equus). The thing is, with the magnitude of his childhood role even this shouldn’t have done the trick, but he has beavered away and managed to re-carve his place in Hollywood with impressive performances in The Woman in Black as well as Kill your Darlings. Well done. Potter.

And two who fell into the same trap twice…

Bryan Cranston – A two-trick pony.

There are two actors who broke out of their initial typecasting shackles to then only fall into another one. Silly people.

The first is Bryan Cranston (above). He broke into the big time and into all of our hearts by playing the father in the hit kids sitcom Malcolm in the Middle. He then surprised us all and turned his career on his head by playing meth-cook Walther White in the smash-hit TV drama Breaking Bad. Did you not learn, Bryan?

The second is Tom Cruise. Initially styled as a heart-throb romantic smush he broke big by being that ‘Show me the money!’ guy. Alas, he changed direction, shifting gear and becoming the all-out action star we know him as today. The only problem is, now it’s just a bit weird to see him without an explosion somewhere in frame.

Can you think of anyone else, or don’t agree? Share your thoughts @MovieMasticator!