Just about any actor would be thrilled to catch a break as great as Mark Hamill did when he landed the part of Luke Skywalker. One of the downsides of fame, however, is that some actors never achieve nearly as much success in anything else they do. Our Roundtable this week is about actors who couldn’t escape one iconic role that defined their careers.
For seven seasons and four motion pictures, Brent Spiner was nothing short of fabulous playing Lt. Commander Data on ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’. But while some of his co-stars have gone onto other things (and others have not), Spiner has never really been able to find a career outside of ‘Star Trek’.
I remember him popping up in the Jack Lemmon/Walter Matthau comedy ‘Out to Sea’ and, of course, most remember his supporting role as Dr. Okun in the two ‘Independence Day’ flicks. However, Spiner has been pretty much relegated to bit parts these days, or making cameos as himself on shows like ‘The Big Bang Theory’. That’s a shame, since he’s probably one of the best under-used talents out there.
As someone who loved the ‘Harry Potter’ movies and the performance he gave in all eight of them, I’m bummed that Rupert Grint (a.k.a. Ron Weasley) hasn’t been able to shake his lovable teenage wizard character. Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson have been able to break the bands, but poor Rupert is stuck. I noticed that he landed a leading role in a ‘Snatch’ TV series, but since it’s a Crackle exclusive, I can’t bring myself to give it a shot. For two rounds of ‘Doctor Who’ casting, there was speculation that he would take over the title role, which just might get me to watch the long-lasting BBC series, but the rumors never came true.
I have to go negative with Matt LeBlanc. His Joey role as part of the ensemble ‘Friends’ cast was a crucial part of the show’s charm, big enough even to get an ill-conceived spinoff. But in everything else, from ‘Lost in Space’ to ‘Top Gear’, he has either come off as forgettable or outright off-putting. The ‘Top Gear’ presenter role in particular doesn’t work. While I haven’t seen all of LeBlanc’s work, I can’t help but hope that he follows through on his threats to retire from acting.
Early fame is often a curse for child actors. At the age of 15, Linda Blair starred in ‘The Exorcist’, which was for its day the biggest box office hit of all time and landed her an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Sadly, her career was all downhill from there. Although Blair returned for ‘Exorcist II’, that movie was both a critical and commercial disaster. Once she hit adulthood, her personal life became a mess due to substance abuse issues, and before long the only acting jobs she could score were in sleazy D-grade exploitation movies with titles like ‘Chained Heat’ and ‘Savage Island’. Although she’s something of a camp icon today, for most viewers, Linda Blair will forever be the little girl who vomited on a priest.
As far as I know, Daniel Radcliffe seems to be a bit better adjusted than that. Considering that he was only 12-years-old when he was thrust into the lead of one of the biggest blockbuster movie franchises of all time, it’s kind of amazing that he hasn’t yet suffered a massive public meltdown. Nevertheless, Radcliffe’s attempts to break out in other big studio productions like ‘The Woman in Black’ and ‘Victor Frankenstein’ have largely fizzled, and his quirkier indie fare like ‘Horns’ and ‘Swiss Army Man’ are essentially cult curiosities, respected among small groups of viewers but unknown to most. For everyone else, Daniel Radcliffe will always be Harry Potter. I think he may even be OK with that.
What other actors got stuck in one role they couldn’t escape? Tell us in the Comments.