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Just Be You, Rogen! Playing Yourself Works for Lots of Actors


Like the rest of us, actors need to take the easy way out once in a while. The best way to do that? Just play yourself. It’s even a great way to break into movies (see Eminem in 8 Mile) But sometimes it can really ruin your impression of an actor when you realize “Hey, Matthew McConaughey actually IS Wooderson from Dazed and Confused.” When actors play themselves, they’re swimming in dangerous typecasting waters. Herewith, a greatest-hits list of actors playing characters that hit a bit too close to home.

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Seth Rogen in Knocked Up  (2007)
It’s hard to believe that Seth Rogen was able to pull off the incredible feat of playing a lazy stoner who doesn’t do anything but get high and watch porn. Kidding! Rogen was entirely too authentic as the ne’er-do-well Ben Stone. Gee, how ever did he research that part? There’s hope for him yet though: Horizon-broadening turns in Observe and Report (2009) and the upcoming The Green Hornet suggest there’s more motivating Rogen than the quality of his weed.

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Jack Nicholson in Something’s Gotta Give (2003)
Nicholson’s
been making great movies and dating beautiful woman to great success for
decades, so if he takes the easy way out once or twice — OK, all the
time — can you really hold it against him. Nicholson’s character in
this menopausal comedy has a penchant for younger woman that makes it
hard not to draw comparison to his real-life preferences d’amour. (He
recently had Lindsay Lohan showing up at his house in the middle of the night, for what that’s worth). In Something’s Gotta Give, he learns a valuable lesson on inner beauty. Somehow, we don’t see Jack learning that same lesson in real life.

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Christian Bale in American Psycho (2000) and Batman Begins (2005)
Christian
Bale is a case where hindsight changes the
perception of some of his signature roles from “Great job” to “Well,
that’s just creepy.” Thanks to his much-publicized on-set meltdown, the
public is well aware that Bale can be intense to a frightening fault.
In retrospect, his performance as murderous banker Patrick Batemen in American Psycho becomes naturalistic. Even his lauded performances in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight
(2008) are called into question. Would anyone be
surprised to see Bale clad in black and wailing on a mugger in an
alley?

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Mel Gibson in Conspiracy Theory (1997)
When Conspiracy Theory was released in the happy-go-lucky ’90s, Mel Gibson’s
reputation was still mostly in tact. Years
later, it’s no longer surprising to see
Gibson playing a conspiracy fanatic and true believer in this action flick. Now everyone knows
Gibson is a bit of a fanatic himself and prone to crazy conspiracies.
(During his famed DUI, he told his arresting officer that “Jews are
responsible for all the wars in the world.”) Just how easy was it to get into this role, Mel? We’re guessing: Pretty easy!

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Matthew McConaughey in Dazed and Confused (1993)
McConaughey
has truly taken the idea of playing yourself to another level. His
character David Wooderson’s most famous line in Dazed and Confused?
“You just gotta keep on livin’, man. L-I-V-I-N.” Matthew McConaughey’s
person motto? Just keep livin’. He even founded the j.k. livin foundation!
Take McConaughey back to ’70s Texas, give him a ‘stache and
you’d get Wooderson. Give Wooderson some money and put him in current
Texas and you’d get McConaughey. Enough said.

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Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator (1984)
Not to question the wisdom of California voters, but Arnold sounds equally flat whether he’s playing an emotionless robot from the future or giving an “impassioned” speech on the wisdom of prison reform. For a man who would aspire to the Presidency if not for our pesky Constitution, it ought to be a little unnerving that he’s still most associated with the monotonous one-liners of the Terminator. A bad actor whose one great part was a robot? Seriously, guys. If this is typecasting, Arnold’s a Cylon.

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Sylvester Stallone in Rocky (1976)
Sylvester Stallone is a pretty smart guy. (Well, he did write Rocky.)
Unfortunately, the lasting image of Sly is probably as this
not-so-bright champion boxer who took a few too many blows to the head.
There’s just something about the perfection of Stallone as Rocky that
suggests that Stallone just can’t be that smart in real life. Sure,
Rocky may speak a slowly and deliberately to mask his inherent lack of
smarts, but that’s how Stallone talks in real life! Coincidence?

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