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Top 10 British Actors Who Smashed Their Stereotype

VO: Richard Bush WRITTEN BY: Marc Turner
It's easy to be pigeonholed, but one good performance is enough to set you free. Welcome to WatchMojo UK, and today we'll be counting down our picks for the top 10 British actors who smashed their stereotypes. For this list we're looking at actors who broke away from the sort of roles for which they were usually typecast. Whether it be a single film or a more permanent shift in focus, these are the stars who shattered the mould in dramatic fashion. Special thanks to our user WordToTheWes for submitting the idea on our interactive suggestion tool: WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Top 10 British Actors Who Smashed Their Stereotypes


It's easy to be pigeonholed, but one good performance is enough to set you free. Welcome to WatchMojo UK, and today we'll be counting down our picks for the top 10 British actors who smashed their stereotypes.

For this list we're looking at actors who broke away from the sort of roles for which they were usually typecast. Whether it be a single film or a more permanent shift in focus, these are the stars who shattered the mould in dramatic fashion.

#10: Robert Pattinson


Having previously played Cedric Diggory in the "Harry Potter" franchise, Pattinson's breakthrough role came as the vampire Edward Cullen in "Twilight". Considering his fanbase, he could easily have carved out a career as the next big Hollywood heartthrob. But instead he turned his back on pinup roles and chose to flaunt his acting credentials with more challenging parts in quirky dramas and independent films. Pattinson has since worked with cult directors like David Cronenberg and Werner Herzog, playing everything from a famous artist to an iconic war hero.

#9: Kathy Burke


For most Brits, Burke is best known for her comedy roles in shows like "Gimme Gimme Gimme" and "Harry Enfield and Chums". But there was nothing remotely humorous about her first major film part in Gary Oldman's directorial debut, "Nil by Mouth". In this hard-hitting drama about a dysfunctional family, Burke plays the wife of a violent and abusive husband. Burke won the best actress award at Cannes in 1997 for her performance, one that proved that she is not just a great comedian but also a great actor.

#8: Liam Neeson


Few actors have reinvented themselves in the same way as Ballymena-born Neeson. At the start of his career, he typically played serious-minded characters in dramatic films ranging from "Les Miserables" to "Schindler's List". But the spectrum of his potential roles expanded after he played Qui-Gon Jinn in "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace". Suddenly Neeson was the new action star on the block, with kick-ass roles as Ra’s al Ghul in “Batman Begins” and the ex-CIA operative with a very particular set of skills in the “Taken” trilogy.

#7: Daniel Radcliffe


Child actors often struggle to put behind them the films that made them famous -- particularly when those movies are as popular as "Harry Potter". Emma Watson has made the transition thanks to roles in films like "The Bling Ring". But for this list we've gone with her co-star, Daniel Radcliffe. The former boy wizard has shed his image as the bespectacled Boy Who lived by taking on a broad range of roles including a sentient corpse in the comedy-drama "Swiss Army Man" and an eccentric poet in "Kill Your Darlings". In doing so he's showcased his range, as well as his staying power within the industry.

#6: David Tennant


With his humour, swagger and charisma, Tennant made the Tenth Doctor one of the most popular portrayals of the Time Lord. But the Scot has played more than his fair share of villains too, from the scheming cabinet minister in "The Politician's Husband" to the mind-controlling Kilgrave in Netflix's "Jessica Jones". Tennant once revealed he isn't concerned about spoiling his reputation as a darling of the geek community, saying he finds it both exciting and liberating to play the bad guy. And doesn't he do it oh so well?

#5: Ralph Fiennes


Whether he's a hero or a villain, Fiennes is best known for roles that deliver an emotional punch. He was never considered to be Hollywood's go-to man for comedy -- until, that is, he appeared as a hotel concierge in "Grand Budapest Hotel". With his impeccable comic timing, Fiennes received a BAFTA nomination for his performance, and he has since undertaken more humorous parts in "Hail, Caesar!" and "A Bigger Splash". Fiennes seems determined to avoid being typecast, saying he now looks for roles with "something different about them".

#4: Emily Blunt


Blunt's early career was filled with period dramas like TV mini-series "Henry VIII" and the stage production of "The Royal Family". But she has since transformed herself into an action heroine, undergoing three months of physical training for her role in sci-fi flick "Edge of Tomorrow". Blunt also starred in the 2015 crime thriller "Sicario", playing an FBI agent taking on the Mexican drug cartels. Blunt once revealed she had previously rejected more "hands-off" parts in action films, saying, "If I'm gonna do an action film, I want to see some action."

#3: Helena Bonham Carter


Throughout the '80s and'90s, Carter -- like Emily Blunt -- was predominantly associated with costume dramas. The turning point in her career came after she was nominated for an Oscar for 1997's "The Wings of the Dove", after which she began to be offered the type of parts she says she always wanted to play. Carter's role as Marla Singer in "Fight Club" represented a clear departure from her stereotype, and she has since taken on various eccentric characters like Bellatrix Lestrange in the "Harry Potter" franchise. Nowadays, she can just as easily play Queen Elizabeth or the madcap Queen of Hearts.

#2: Colin Firth


Firth has built a career on playing the archetypal English gentleman, winning an Oscar in 2011 for his portrayal of King George VI in "The King's Speech". But he stepped out of his comfort zone in "Kingsman: The Secret Service" to take on the role of secret agent Harry Hart. Hart was Firth's first real action role, and it required him to undertake six months of training. He once revealed he wanted to take on more tough-guy parts, saying "Kingsman" would act as his audition for future films.

#1: Hugh Laurie


For a decade, Laurie was one of the UK's most beloved comedy actors, playing a series of amiable yet dim-witted characters in shows like "Jeeves And Wooster" and "Blackadder". But he broke that stereotype in 2004 when he took on the part of Dr. Gregory House in the eponymous TV medical drama. Since then, Laurie has stuck to serious roles, with appearances in "The Night Manager" and "Chance". But he hasn't ruled out a return to comedy in the future, revealing he would love to work again with Stephen Fry.
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