I can accept any actor in any role, especially if they’re Meryl Streep or Tilda Swinton or Daniel Day Lewis, but with others it’s a bit easier if their personal vibes or political associations don’t contrast too strongly with whomever or whatever they’re playing. I’m not talking about an actor not being able to sell a character against type, but certain actors in certain roles can lead to feelings of initial resistance. Which can dissolve in a matter of minutes or even seconds — don’t get me wrong — but that doesn’t mean hurdles aren’t there to begin with.
Audiences of the ’40s would have had difficulty with, let’s say, Lou Costello as Jack the Ripper or Ulysses S. Grant. Which isn’t to say Costello wouldn’t have theoretically killed in either role. But people have to believe in advance that you can bring a certain type to life before they’re willing to sit down and watch you do it.
Let’s say for the sake of hypothesis that HE’s own Jon Voight, by anyone’s yardstick a militant, Obama-loathing rightwinger, is cast as a bleeding-heart liberal in some kind of political drama. Would that mean I couldn’t accept him as such a character? No, but I’d be facing a slight roadblock going in. Most of us would. Just as I would have an easier time accepting the conservative-minded Gary Sinise as, say, a CIA contractor or an Army lieutenant rather than a Socialist mayor or an anti-war priest.
By the same token it would require a little adjustment to accept Susan Sarandon as a corporate spokesperson for a notorious polluter or a rural woman who sells AR-15s at gun shows. Not that she couldn’t pull it off but I would snicker at the thought. Ditto if flaming lefties Rob Reiner or Martin Sheen tried to play, say, a gun-rights advocate or an anti-abortionist or a rightwing Congressman.
Obviously Sheen played one of the worst righties of all time in David Cronenberg‘s The Dead Zone, but that was before his name became strong associated with liberal causes. And yes, the ardently liberal Richard Dreyfuss played Dubya vp Dick Cheney in Oliver Stone‘s W., but commandingly. Jane Fonda was fine as a chilly corporate bossy type in Aaron Sorkin‘s The Newsroom, but she’s been around forever and can play anyone or anything.
I basically don’t believe in painting actors with simplistic brushes or casting the same actor to play the same type of character over and over, but it obviously happens. Throwing this up for discussion, which actors do you feel are bulletproof in this regard (i.e., can play anyone or anything and nobody says a word) and which actors would you have trouble believing in this or that specific role?