Naturally, we’re always drawn to actors who disappear into roles. Character actors who are like chameleons, those who embody everybody and anybody, and have us invested every step of the way. But for every Daniel Day-Lewis, renowned as being the best actor in the world, there are those who effectively play themselves on screen, or at least a version of themselves that the audience simply get along with. We enjoy the company of these people so much, we long to see them back on screen in a similar guise, and while this may not seem like as worthy a form of performance, there is most definitely a place for actors of this mould. Here we celebrate their work in cinema, tying in with Seth Rogen’s turn in romantic comedy Long Shot, where, that’s right, he’s playing Seth Rogen again. Yet anything would’ve been something of a disappointment.
Woody Allen – One of the true originators of those who effectively just play a version of themselves, albeit something of a caricature, Woody Allen’s self-referential work went as far as to cast himself in romantic narratives opposite real life partners, blurring the line between reality and fiction. His collection of short stories, his stand-up comedy and his indelible screenwriting style meant that he had garnered a huge fanbase that wanted to see him, and his sensibilities realised on screen. And with a film a year to his name, playing the protagonist in the majority of his endeavours throughout the 70s and 80s, it’s exactly what we were treated to, and what made his films so goddam good.
Samuel L. Jackson – Samuel L. Jackson has a way with words, and one in particular, which just so happens to be ‘muthafucka’. For an actor to have something of a catchphrase, despite playing different roles in different films, made by different directors that are in no way entwined, is the perfect example of somebody playing up to type, and giving the audience what they want, irrespective of the character at hand. Snakes on a Plane, for instance, is a film whereby Samuel L. Jackson has to survive on a aircraft full of venomous reptiles. The fact his character is called Neville Flynn is unimportant. It’s Samuel L. Jackson versus snakes, and that’s what we paid to see and what we were thrilled to be presented with.
Jason Statham – Now to say Jason Statham is playing himself would be rather untrue, for we doubt the real life man actually goes around having brawls with various bad guys in dodgy alleyways. But he’s still found a brand that works for him, and a type of character he has become synonymous with. The elusive, quiet but violent man who keeps saving the world. Similarly to Sam Jackson, this becomes evident when cast in overstated b-movie fare, and Statham had the chance to exercise his innermost Statham in The Meg, and like we’ve said already, we weren’t complaining.
Vince Vaughn – It seems a little unfair to put Vince Vaughn in this list given his recent inclination to test himself as an actor and leave his comfort zone, with thrilling turns in the likes of Brawl in Cell Block 99, and recently in Dragged Across Concrete. But before that, the wise-talking, charming comic performer would play himself, because man he was someone we just loved being in the company of. Swingers is the perfect example of this, while films such as The Break-Up and Wedding Crashers further enhance this sentiment.
Adam Sandler – Adam Sandler is actually a brilliant character actor. But that aside, he spent a large period of his career churning out movies where he effectively just played Adam Sandler, but in doing so, build up quite a big fanbase. For around a decade spanning from the mid-90s to the mid-naughties, he was found in comedies where he just played Adam Sandler. Luckily, he’s a very likeable guy so there were no complaints, and even at times when he gave himself a funny wig (The Wedding Singer) or a silly voice (The Waterboy) it was still basically just Adam Sandler.
Paul Rudd – Paul Rudd is arguably the most likeable guy in Hollywood. We knew that back when we was Mike in Friends. Someone we just wish could be our friend. Alas, dreams do not come true, and given we aren’t able to be his friend in real life, we get our Rudd fix by spending time in his company through cinema. If he turned up and played unrecognisable roles, it wouldn’t feel the same. No, we wanted Rudd to be Rudd because we bloody love Rudd. You gotta hand it to the man too, he’s even managed to play Rudd in the MCU, and to inject yourself into a huge blockbuster franchise isn’t an easy task.
Seth Rogen – And now to Seth Rogen, who is currently found playing Seth Rogen in Long Shot, alongside Charlize Theron. In short, we like him. He’s a likeable guy with a likeable laugh, and to see him on screen laughing, well, it makes us laugh too. There’s a whole wave of comedians from a specific generation who are very aware of what works, and they play up to it, and fair play to them. So much so, This is the End was literally a film where they all played overstated versions of themselves, and it’s one of the funniest films of the last decade, which says it all.