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Unbuilt Casting Type

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An Unbuilt Trope is where the Trope Codifier contains elements that its imitators did not - and actually reads like a deconstruction of the trope it would eventually be. The same thing can happen for acting, with regards to Typecasting.

Let's take a look at Alice - a famous actress who is well and truly typecast as a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Everyone goes to see her movies to watch her liven up a brooding guy's life. Except what about her Star-Making Role? She's a Manic Pixie there - but she doesn't get the guy, she has baggage of her own, and the movie is about making her grow up. So she was Playing with Character Type before it even was her type.


Note that this differs from Playing Against Type in that the role has to be a) an early performance from the actor and b) is still within their type - just with a lot of elements that make it seem like they're deconstructing or subverting the character they'd later be typecast as.



  • Deborah Kerr was stuck playing a lot of English Roses and Proper Lady types in her initial years in Hollywood. The film that got her the attention of Hollywood and led to typecasting? Black Narcissus - where she plays a nun who struggles to hold onto her purity and chastity while being tempted by the exotic scenery around her. Essentially it's a 1940s erotic film.
  • Olivia de Havilland likewise got stuck playing Ingenues and good girls after Gone with the Wind. In that film itself, however, Melanie is significantly less naive than she appears. In fact, her Ingenue qualities are shown as empowering and strengthening to those around her - even the shallow and selfish Scarlett.
  • Vivien Leigh is heavily associated with the Southern Belle. But both her Belles are deconstructions of the character:
    • Scarlett O'Hara has been brought up to think of herself as decorative and nothing more. Once the war hits, she's forced to abandon her Belle qualities to save Tara.
    • Blanche Dubois, meanwhile, is in denial of the fact that she's getting on in years and still tries to act like a charming young lady, despite the Sanity Slippage she's going through. Vivien was even cast because Elia Kazan's vision was Scarlett O'Hara losing her mind.
  • Peter Coyote found his niche playing asshole authority figures. In both E.T. and The Legend of Billie Jean, he's the Reasonable Authority Figure. Both were made before Jagged Edge typecast him as the former.
  • Kate Hudson plays a lot of Hard Drinking Party Girls and is always Everyone Loves Blondes. The role that typecast her as such - Almost Famous - shows that her quirky upbeat attitude hides her loneliness and hurt, and she almost dies of an overdose because of it.
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  • Felicity Jones is associated with a lot of Brainy Brunettes and hyper-competent women of privilege. Her first major role was Ethel Hallow in The Worst Witch - an Academic Alpha Bitch who's also a Rich Bitch to boot. It's implied that her high marks and vast knowledge come from having ridiculously high standards to live up to.
  • Keira Knightley is known as Hollywood's favorite 'corset queen' in period dramas. Before getting cast in any of those, she played Spirited Young Lady Elizabeth Swann in Pirates of the Caribbean - who becomes an Action Survivor, and her lady-like qualities are Played for Laughs.
  • Saoirse Ronan in her teen years became one of Hollywood's favorite Plucky Girls and heroic Woobies. Her Star-Making Role was Atonement - where she's a Know-Nothing Know-It-All who ruins a bunch of lives because of her pluck. By the time she Took a Level in Kindness and starts on her titular atonement, she's played by Romola Garai.
  • Johnny Depp is best known as wacky eccentric oddballs. His first role as such Edward Scissorhands is far more subdued than the campy OTT characters he would later portray. Edward is The Woobie who is odd because he's grown up entirely alone with no friends at all - and he's desperate to fit into a society that doesn't want him.
  • Helena Bonham Carter would likewise become known for dark nutcases.
    • The first such role she played in Fight Club is done for drama rather than comedy; Marla is a depressed alcoholic who goes to support groups because they're the only way she can feel anything. She's less a villain and more a tragic figure.
    • Mary Shelley's Frankenstein has her start out as a normal woman who gets murdered by the monster and is resurrected. Upon discovering she Came Back Wrong, she opts to kill herself rather than live as a freak.
  • Milla Jovovich became famous for Action Girl roles in the Resident Evil Film Series, making her one of the biggest female action stars of the 2000s. However her first action role - The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc - deconstructs the concept of a Naïve Everygirl being thrust into a war zone. Jeanne suffers Sanity Slippage after her first battle and is horrified at what she's taken part in.
  • Amy Adams was another actress who was stuck as Manic Pixie Dream Girls and doe-eyed cuties for years. The two roles that brought her to the attention of Hollywood:
    • Junebug has her as a Wide-Eyed Idealist who appears to be in flat-out denial about how disinterested her husband is, and her only hope is that the birth of their child will revive their marriage. She loses the baby.
    • Enchanted has her playing a Disney Princess forced into New York. While she does work a lot of magic with her sunny attitude, she also has to learn that life is not idealized like a fairy tale and ends the story having found firmer ground.
    • Another role made right after her breakout, Sunshine Cleaning, shows her as someone who's desperate to appear perfect and wholesome - when in reality she's sleeping with her (married!) high school boyfriend and can't accept her own flaws.
  • Audrey Tautou got typecast as a Manic Pixie Dream Girl after Amélie. But in that film herself, she plays a girl who is given reasons for her odd habits (namely trauma from her mother's death) and she's actually terrified of pursuing her own love interest. They don't even share the screen until their Last Minute Hook Up.
  • Before Channing Tatum became a meathead with the likes of G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and Step Up, he played around with what would eventually become that image:
    • A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints shows that he's a meathead because he's grown up in an abusive household and has never been shown any love or kindness. He ends up going to prison for murder.
    • Stop-Loss has him playing a soldier who, faced with the end of his term, re-enlists because he has no idea how to readjust to civilian life and feels that he's just Dumb Muscle and nothing else.
  • Rufus Sewell spent the early 2000s playing lots of villains in American films, and usually the Romantic False Lead too. In his first American film Dark City he plays someone who's suspected of being a murderer but was about to be implanted with a serial killer's personality. Also, there's friction between himself and his wife because she had an affair prior to the film's beginning. It's oddly prophetic of his roles in A Knight's Tale and The Illusionist.
  • Brad Pitt became known for handsome, charming leading men early in his career. His first major role Thelma & Louise has him appear charming - but then he steals all of Louise's savings after a one-night stand with Thelma. He's also an Affably Evil robber.
  • Bruce Campbell is best known for being a comedic badass, based off his work as Ash in the Evil Dead franchise. But in the first film in the series, Ash starts out as a normal guy who spends a lot of time getting trapped under bookcases and being something of a Distressed Dude. Essentially he becomes an Action Survivor as opposed to a Rated M for Manly badass.
  • Anthony Perkins got typecast as villains after playing Norman Bates in Psycho. But the thing with Norman was that he started out seeming like a sensitive young man - before being revealed as the major antagonist. But this twist is lost on modern audiences.
  • Blake Lively was known for her Ms. Fanservice and Everyone Loves Blondes roles early in her career. Gossip Girl - which was her breakout role - has Serena trying to distance herself from the seedier parts of her past, and she's a frequent target of attack from other people because of her beauty and status. She begins the series as a Fallen Princess but morphs into Blake's usual typecasting around Season 3 or so.
  • Since his rise to the A-list, Chris Pratt is often featured as a Manchild 'lovable womanizer' archetype. But the role that brought him to the A-list? Guardians of the Galaxy - where it's shown that Peter Quill's immaturity stems from having to watch his mother die of cancer at a young age, get abducted and grow up in a semi-abusive lifestyle. The franchise itself deconstructs the toxic masculinity in his character - whereas his later roles in Jurassic World, The Magnificent Seven (2016) and Passengers (2016) just have him as the Manchild. Similarly, in The LEGO Movie from the same year, the reason why his character Emmett a Manchild is that he is playing a role in a story created by an actual child.
  • Emily Blunt is usually a Jerkass Woobie or Good Bad Girl. Even when she's a villain, she's given lots of sympathetic qualities. Her debut film? My Summer of Love - where the sympathetic qualities (including a sister who died of anorexia) are all lies made up by her. She also seems to love using her trauma just to toy with people.
  • Rita Moreno usually played Spicy Latina roles, most famously in West Side Story. Her first role in So Young, So Bad addresses issues of growing up as a Latina in a white neighborhood - giving her severe mental health issues.
  • Christopher McDonald is mostly known for playing the platonic ideal of a smarmy jackass villain, as codified by his role as "Shooter" McGavin in Happy Gilmore. It makes his early role as a genuine Nice Guy in Breakin' seem very odd in retrospect.
  • Rachel Weisz is frequently the Brainy Brunette and no-nonsense woman of science or some intelligent field. She first got famous as Evey in The Mummy (1999) who, while knowledgeable and intelligent, is also highly impulsive, slightly bumbling and struggles to be taken seriously as an intellectual because of this. Notably in The Mummy Returns, Evey has matured and become much more competent - matching her with Rachel's new typecasting.
  • Bruce Willis is famous for his wisecracking tough-guy characters, including the role that put him on the map, John McClane from Die Hard. However, McClane comes off as a deconstruction of these characters: for all his wise-ass remarks, he's clearly terrified, and he's using his smartassery as a coping mechanism; meanwhile, he takes a serious beating over the course of the movie, and is clearly glad the ordeal's over at the end.