VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu
WRITTEN BY: Nick Spake
We can't imagine their careers without these roles, but these actors have some regrets. For this list, we'll be looking at performers across film and television that are primarily known for playing certain characters they'd like to distance themselves from. Our countdown includes "iCarly," "Titanic," "Star Wars," and more!
Top 10 Actors Who Wish They Never Got Their Iconic Roles
Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Actors Who Wish They Never Got Their Iconic Roles.
For this list, we’ll be looking at performers across film and television that are primarily known for playing certain characters they’d like to distance themselves from.
Would you have accepted these iconic roles? Let us know in the comments.
#10: Dakota Johnson & Jamie Dornan
“Fifty Shades” franchise (2015-18)
Some roles make you famous. Others make you infamous. With Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey, it was a bit of both. Given the popularity of E. L. James’ novels, whoever booked these coveted roles would be the talk of the town. Yet, the subject matter and not-so-hot writing would also lead to numerous jokes. Johnson and Dornan seemed to be in on the joke, but these roles still came with a level of embarrassment for them. While Johnson’s regret “comes in waves,” she’s happy that the trilogy led to more opportunities. Dornan was also grateful for the benefits of playing Mr. Grey, although he stated, “I probably won’t ever take a job with this much attention and scrutiny and public opinion directed at it again.”
#9: Jennette McCurdy
McCurdy stole the show on “iCarly” as rebellious best friend Sam Puckett. Behind the scenes, though, McCurdy knew at a young age that she didn’t want to act anymore. It was her mother who was determined to make McCurdy a star. For McCurdy, the best thing to come out of “iCarly” was probably her friendship with co-star Miranda Cosgrove, which lasted beyond the show’s conclusion. She wasn’t as close with Ariana Grande on the spinoff “Sam & Cat,” which McCurdy was glad to see end after a season. McCurdy was also glad when her mom died, inspiring the title of her memoir. Cosgrove asked McCurdy if she’d like to appear on the “iCarly” revival, but she’d rather leave her acting career in the past.
#8: Robert Reed
“The Brady Bunch” (1969-74)
“The Brady Bunch” is a perennial comfort food sitcom where any conflict could be resolved in roughly 25 minutes. In reality, Robert Reed wasn’t as chipper as family patriarch Mike Brady. The Shakespearean-trained thespian thought a lighthearted sitcom was beneath him, but the money was too good to pass up. Reed tried taking the series in a more grounded direction, frequently clashing with creator Sherwood Schwartz to no avail. Things got so confrontational between them that Schwartz likely would’ve replaced Reed had the show gotten a sixth season. While Reed wasn’t a fan of the character or show, he would develop close bonds with his Brady co-stars, which might explain why he kept returning for the reunion specials and films.
#7: Zac Efron
“High School Musical” franchise (2006-08)
Troy Bolton put Zac Efron on the map, turning him into an overnight teen heartthrob. Looking back on “High School Musical” more than a decade later, Efron admitted that he’d like to beat up his former Disney Channel self. For a period, a lot of people just saw him as the “High School Musical” kid, and Efron couldn’t help but understand where they were coming from. After finishing the first film, Efron told others that this wasn’t what he wanted to do. Even after graduating to more adult roles, he found it hard to shake off Troy Bolton and didn’t hesitate to make fun of the franchise. If only there was a way that Efron could be 17 again, he might’ve done things differently.
#6: Kate Winslet
“Titanic” became the highest-grossing movie of its time and tied the record for the most Oscar nominations, which included Kate Winslet’s Best Actress nod for playing Rose DeWitt Bukater. Like Rose, however, Winslet faced some struggles behind all the glamor. It’s not so much that she regrets accepting the role. Rather, Winslet regrets how she played Rose. Revisiting her performance, Winslet rolled her eyes at many of her decisions. She was especially critical of her American accent, which she described as “awful.” While Winslet wishes that she could do a retake, she acknowledges a lot of good came from “Titanic,” including her enduring friendship with Leonardo DiCaprio. It also established a working relationship with James Cameron, who’d reteam with Winslet for another water movie.
#5: Robert Pattinson
“Twilight” franchise (2008-12)
“Twilight” is a franchise that people either love or hate with a passion. Leading up to the release of “Breaking Dawn – Part 1,” Robert Pattinson opened up about his true feelings regarding playing Edward Cullen. In a Vanity Fair interview, he confessed that it was “weird” being part of something that he didn’t particularly like. In another interview, Pattinson candidly said that if he was just a casual viewer watching “Twilight,” he’d “mindlessly hate” it. Pattinson managed to grow out of the Edward role with parts in other blockbusters and critical darlings. Although Pattinson doesn’t seem eager to ever play Edward again, he did defend the franchise in 2022. It wasn’t the highest praise, but Cullen said that making fun of “Twilight” was “so 2010.”
#4: George Reeves
“Adventures of Superman” (1952-58)
Nowadays, almost every A-lister embraces the opportunity to play a superhero. At one point, though, this was considered a potential career killer. Not everyone could bounce back from “Batman & Robin” like George Clooney, who still makes fun of that film. Even when an actor found success playing a superhero, they risked being typecast. The most tragic example is George Reeves as Superman. This American actor rose to fame playing the Man of Steel, a title that one young fan took too literally when he showed up to an appearance with a loaded gun. Nobody was harmed, but Reeves regretted depicting the character as bulletproof. Reeves’ life sadly ended from a gunshot wound. Some believe this was self-inflicted with Reeves’ struggling career contributing to his depression.
#3: Marlon Brando
“A Streetcar Named Desire” (1951)
Before he was a silver screen star, the stage was Marlon Brando’s stomping ground and nobody could play Stanley Kowalski with the raw intensity he brought to the role. So much so that when the play was adapted to film in 1951, Brando reprised his role. Although Stanley marked an essential turning point in Brando’s career, he’d come to detest the character. Brando described Stanley as “the Neanderthal man” and “a blue-jeaned slobber mouth.” As acclaimed as Brando’s performance was, scoring him an Oscar nomination, some people scoffed at the idea of sloppy Stanley Kowalski playing Mark Antony in “Julius Caesar” years later. Brando proved his range, but it was difficult to disassociate him from Mr. Kowalski, especially since he shared some similarities to the character.
#2: Alec Guinness
“Star Wars” franchise (1977-)
Alec Guinness was among his generation’s finest actors, winning the Academy Award for “The Bridge on the River Kwai.” For younger generations, however, he’s best known for playing Obi-Wan Kenobi. We’re not sure how Guinness would feel about that if he were alive today, but he made his thoughts on “Star Wars” clear during his life. Not a huge fan. During the filming, Guinness recalled telling George Lucas that he “couldn’t go on speaking those bloody awful, banal lines.” Guinness accepted the role under the condition that he wouldn’t have to do any promotions for the film, although the fandom became inescapable. While Guinness had reservations about “Star Wars” and the publicity that followed, he couldn’t deny that the income was a blessing.
#1: Christopher Plummer
“The Sound of Music” (1965)
“The Sound of Music” is one of the most joyous films ever made. We can’t imagine anyone not being charmed by this timeless musical, except maybe Captain von Trapp himself. Well, not the real-life Captain von Trapp. We mean actor Christopher Plummer, who notoriously called the film “so awful and sentimental and gooey.” Plummer didn’t think highly of his character either, finding him boring and even comparing him to a dead horse. He’d skip the film’s 40th reunion, although he agreed to the 45th on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” The Canadian actor did take pride in being in a film that brought so many people happiness. He just didn’t understand the appeal. In his eyes, “The Sound of Mucus” would’ve been a more appropriate title.