9 Actors That Have Played The Same Role 6 Times
With Hugh Jackman's record sixth entry as superhero Wolverine, we look at whose elite thespian company he joins, such as Leonard Nimoy & Sly Stallone...
Congratulations, Hugh Jackman, you super-devoted madman! Last week marked Hugh Jackman’s sixth tour of duty as Wolverine, a character to which he’s been wedded since 2000. Continuity is rare in major filmmaking, and the fact is no actor likes to be pidgeonholed as a certain character. But there are a select few that can’t help themselves, returning over and over again, often to diminishing returns. Sometimes it’s the paychecks, sometimes it’s the quality of work and sometimes it’s just good to have a job. Once you’ve done it three times, why not throw caution into the wind and keep popping up every couple of years?
Through history, some of the biggest roles in Hollywood have been abdicated from a murderer’s row of actors. No one has ever played Batman more than three times; chameleon Peter Sellers left the infamous Inspector Clouseau to others; Even landmark titillation franchise Emmanuelle couldn’t prevent a roster turnover. Try as some might, there are very, very few ongoing, recurring roles in Hollywood that belong to one man or woman.
Thus, here is a group of some of those six-timers, and how they fared over the years.
Hugh Jackman, Logan aka Wolverine
How Did He Get The Role: X-Men was in production for three weeks while they waited for Wolverine to strap on the claws and go to battle. Unfortunately, the actor they cast, Dougray Scott, had to turn the role down, as shooting had gone long on Mission: Impossible II. In stepped unknown Australian Hugh Jackman, and the rest was history.
How’d He Do On The Sixth Try: Somehow, it takes six movies for the actor who plays Wolverine to actually star in a film called The Wolverine. Nonetheless, the film features Jackman as his furious, hirsute best. The sentimental team leader of the X-Men films (and the dismally misguided buffoon of X-Men Origins: Wolverine) has returned to the characters’ roots, out in the wild, battling the elements, and eventually endless ninjas and Yakuza. Thirteen years after the character’s maiden voyage, Jackman still inexplicably appears as ageless as his character, and he gives a movie star performance of a man angry and haunted. After six movies, it’s a shock, and a credit to Jackman, that you’re nowhere near as sick of him.
Best Outing: Most likely The Wolverine, though he contributes to perhaps the best moment in X-Men: First Class.
Would We See Them Again: Look out, Logan’s back again in next year’s X-Men: Days Of Future Past.
Would He Relinquish The Role: Jackman seemed to be openly campaigning for what’s apparently a lifetime contract with Fox during the recent hexagonal press tour. He’s in his forties, and this is an immensely demanding role, so you can’t imagine he’d continue for much longer. Someday, another actor will assume the mantle of Wolverine, but it will be hard to erase the memory of Jackman, an A+ movie star who really made the role his own.
Leonard Nimoy, Mr. Spock
How’d He Get The Role: Like most of the cast of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Nimoy was carried over from the cast of the hit television show years earlier. It wasn’t early in his career – indeed, Nimoy had a host of television appearances under his belt – but it was still something of a risk that Nimoy rejected a role on Peyton Place for the role that would net him three Emmy nominations.
How’d He Do On The Sixth Try: Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country is a more action-y upgrade over parts four and five in the series, and Nimoy wisely restricts the amount of screentime he had, given an often public love-hate relationship with the part. But his sage and moving performance as a spirited diplomat eager to broker an intergalactic peace, despite the hotter heads surrounding him, makes his presence more B-team than anything else.
Best Outing: It’s hard to knock the pathos Nimoy brings to Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan. The relationship between himself and Kirk proves to be one of points and counterpoints, as Spock’s dispassionate logic is constantly butting heads with Kirk’s increasingly exasperated, reckless emotion. The death scene alone is a genre classic, the sort of hallmark that was mimicked years later in the recent Star Trek Into Darkness.
Would We See Them Again: Nimoy went on to play Spock a spectacular eight times, including playing alongside a younger version of the character portrayed by Zachary Quinto twice. The recent J.J. Abrams films have turned Spock into something of a Trek visionary, using his wisdom to paper over massive plot holes, and while you think they couldn’t return to that well any more times, you would have probably said the same thing after 2009’s Star Trek.
Would He Relinquish The Role: Nimoy somehow aged out of the role, allowing Quinto to wear the pointy ears, without ever relinquishing the part. Nimoy happily accepts being known as Spock the world over (even if his official designation is Spock Prime in the new films), but sooner or later, he’s going to have to let go of that baton as Quinto runs with it.
Sylvester Stallone, Rocky Balboa
How’d He Get The Role: Stallone was just another two-bit character actor when he wrote the script for Rocky. Though he was barely getting by showing up in b-movies (memorably, Death Race 2000), Stallone would not allow the script to get made unless he played the lead, despite the studios’ dreams of the industry’s A-List in Balboa’s boxing trunks.
How’d He Do On The Sixth Try: Until recently, Rocky Balboa was the swan song, Stallone’s last hurrah more than a decade after people were cracking jokes about his advanced age keeping him from the role. Written and directed by Stallone, the movie is a melancholy return to the character’s roots, eschewing his larger-than-life persona in the middle films of the series. Here, he’s a lonely, sad widower, and he sees a chance to return to the ring as a chance at redemption. Stallone isn’t the actor he used to be; a couple of actual blows to the head, plus surgeries and questionable training tactics, have damaged his speech patterns and slowed his timing. But his sixth turn as the Italian Stallion remains touching and humanist, even if the script takes a generous approach to his character that makes the entire picture into a 100 minute motivational speech.
Best Outing: Stallone was likely his best at the beginning of the series, back when he was a humble underdog. The character evolved into a chatty showoff of sorts in later pictures, but at the beginning, he’s quieter, shyer and uncertain about himself. You can see the fear in his eyes and cracking voice as he goes around serving as a mob enforcer, knowing he doesn’t want to hurt people, doubting this is where he wants to be in his life.
Would We See Them Again: Just last month, it was announced Stallone was partnering with Fruitvale Station director Ryan Coogler for Creed, which would follow the life of the grandson of Rocky’s opponent Apollo Creed. Stallone’s Rocky would have a supporting role in the story, making it his seventh outing as the character.
Would He Relinquish The Role: Stallone hung onto both Rocky and Rambo years after the characters ceased to be relevant, so you’ll have to pry the character of Rocky from his cold dead hands. Seeing as how he’s in his late sixties and still doing Expendables films, good luck.
Robert Englund, Freddy Krueger
How’d He Get The Role: Englund was working as a bit actor in Hollywood, known for his nice-guy demeanor when he had a chance to subvert that with A Nightmare On Elm Street, the beginning of what would be a decade-long phenomenon.
How’d He Do On The Sixth Try: The poorly-named Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare isn’t the best showcase for Krueger’s cackling, unforgettable boogeyman. It plays as partly an origin story, but the story can’t resist cheap moments of camp as it puts the theoretical final nails in Freddy’s coffin. Let it be said that Krueger was never “bad” in the role, per se, but even the one-liners and special effects let him down in this outing.
Best Outing: Englund’s Krueger was never scarier than he was in the original A Nightmare On Elm Street where at the time, it seemed like his major priority was bloody, vicious revenge. He doesn’t talk much in that first outing, preferring the menace of his scarred visage to do the talking; when he does speak, it’s with purpose and terror. Englund was still quite good in later films, however, but he wouldn’t return to that type of menace until Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, where he played Freddy as a character who was upset about basic extinction, and therefore more lethal when cornered.
Would We See Them Again: Englund would wear the fedora, sweater and glove of the memorably tortured murderer eight times, the final being in Freddy Vs. Jason. Englund remains an enthusiastic fixture in horror films today, and has remained highly devoted to the character, enough that if asked, surely he’d be up for returning as the character one more time.
Would He Relinquish The Role: Englund famously gave praise to Jackie Earle Haley, who became this generation’s Krueger in the now-forgotten A Nightmare On Elm Street remake. The best chance for the return of Freddy is more likely in a Freddy Vs. Jason sequel, and if that were to occur (not entirely likely), the bet is they’d go right back to Englund.
Daniel Radcliffe, Harry Potter
How’d He Get The Role: It took a massive casting search to find The Boy Who Lived, the perfect choice to bring J.K. Rowling’s prose to life. Radcliffe ended up signing on for what would be a whopping eight films in the series.
How’d He Do On The Sixth Try: There’s a heavy consistency to the Potter films, particularly the later ones, and director David Yates didn’t stray from the formula, making active, busy fantasy films with a surplus of special effects. Radcliffe, the actor, becomes swallowed by this. In the plot-heavy Harry Potter And The Half Blood Prince, it feels like he’s being upstaged by the sheer amount of excess on display. Even the death of beloved headmaster Dumbledore doesn’t give Radcliffe a chance to properly reflect; if anything, it’s Emma Watson who seems like the breakout performer in some of the later films.
Best Outing: The strongest film in the series is Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, where Radcliffe is finally maturing from a boy to a teenager; the two year gap between the second and third films saw Radcliffe undergo a growth spurt, and director Alfonso Cuaron gives him a chance to actually act, to explore the darker edges of being uncomfortable with who you’re growing up to be simply because you don’t know that person. Radcliffe has his share of strong moments in the series, but it feels as if the third picture was the only one that allowed him to breathe.
Would We See Him Again: Radcliffe was signed on for all seven books, though they eventually stretched the final one into two films. Eight films in total for Radcliffe as Potter, a lifetime over only a ten-year period.
Would He Relinquish The Role: It’s not a surprise that Radcliffe would publicly talk about never playing Potter again, as his memories are fond, but it’s a role that swallowed up his entire childhood. Since the film series ended, Radcliffe has taken on a diverse collection of roles on stage and screen, showing that not only is he more than happy to leave the story behind, but that he’s got a strong-enough career to tend to beyond J.K. Rowling.
Tyler Perry, Madea
How’d He Get The Role: Madea is the result of years and years spent writing and touring nationwide for Mr. Perry, a successful entrepreneur-turned-auteur, of sorts. Perry had mastered the character of the sass-talking, pot-smoking, wisdom-dispensing granny years before she would pop up as a supporting played in Diary Of A Mad Black Woman.
How’d She Do On The Sixth Try: Madea’s Big Happy Family is mostly indistinct in Perry’s filmography, borrowing much of the domestic conflict from Madea’s Family Reunion, but these films are mostly greatest hits reels celebrating themselves, so the core audience never really cares. At any rate, Madea isn’t nearly as fresh anymore, and while there are a couple of vintage rants, for the most part Madea avoids the class conflict that sets the plot in motion.
Best Outing: Perry could be credited with a spirited comedic creation in the soapy, ridiculous Diary Of A Mad Black Woman. Perhaps the missing ingredient from the later films is that this earliest film was the only one featuring Madea not directed by Perry, so his energies are focused on the multiple characters he plays. Madea is best used in small bursts, as she is here, a background catalyst for revenge and not a wacky fish-out-of-water goofball.
Would We See Her Again: Perry has logged seven big screen appearances as Madea, and judging by the numbers, the character’s appeal has not declined in popularity. If IMDb is to be believed, we’ll be seeing Madea two more times before the year is over.
Would He Relinquish The Role: In spite of the massive Perry empire, he really needs the onscreen persona of Madea to prop him up as someone who gives off the appearance of being bankable as an actor: two non-Madea outings, Good Deeds and Alex Cross, were met with total indifference. Then again, does anyone really WANT to play Madea? The character’s not really much more than an amalgamation of various Black Mammy caricatures.
Sean Connery, James Bond
How’d He Get The Role: Connery segued easily from weightlifting to the silver screen, starring in a couple of smaller pictures before being offered the role of Ian Fleming’s superspy in Dr. No.
How’d He Do On The Sixth Try: Diamonds Are Forever was Connery reclaiming the role from one-timer George Lazenby, despite producers’ flirtation with actor John Gavin. Connery slipped back into the tux of 007 with ease, and while Diamonds has a lighter sensibility, the picture still benefits from four-time Bond director Guy Hamilton at the helm. It’s not considered one of the finer films in the series, but Connery keeps the same charismatic talent while surrounded by a sea of silliness, and the picture features one of the best Bond themes in the franchise.
Best Outing: Opinions certainly differ, though most credit Goldfinger with being Connery’s best Bond outing. Connery’s third turn as 007 doubles down on the gadgets and elaborate action sequences, and Guy Hamilton’s invested direction allows for some of the more indelible images in the Bond canon. It’s perhaps the best balance of Bond’s lighter adventures and the darker escapades, and it still cements Connery as the most beloved actor to take on the role.
Would We See Him Again: Connery would surprisingly play Bond one more time, twelve years later in Never Say Never Again, a loose remake of his own Thunderball. It was seen as sort of a gimmick, as Roger Moore had been playing Bond for a couple of years at that point, but that didn’t stop the film for becoming another hit.
Would He Relinquish The Role: Clearly not without a fight. Connery wrestled the role back from George Lazenby for Diamonds Are Forever and from Moore in Never Say Never Again, but he left the role in his fifties, content with where it had taken his career. Much later, he would reprise the part for a video game voiceover.
Roger Moore, James Bond
How’d He Get The Role: When Connery left behind the mantle of James Bond, the replacement was getting into trouble every week on television. They simply dialed up Simon Templar, the man known as The Saint to TV fans. Moore became a lighter, sillier alternative to the Bonds before and after him.
How’d He Do On The Sixth Try: Octopussy is mostly an excuse to make Bond look ridiculous in a globe-trotting adventure setting that, for the first time, shapes Bond as a square peg. Moore’s portrayal always leaned towards the lighthearted, but by the time he’s in a clown disguise to enter the circus, the character’s credibility dies just a bit. Even among diehard fans, Octopussy is mostly a punchline.
Best Outing: Everyone has their own favorite Moore Bond, though the choice today is The Man With The Golden Gun. Surprisingly, Moore plays this picture a bit straighter, and while he’s still the most flamboyant Bond, he honestly goes toe-to-toe with an unforgettably sinister Christopher Lee. It may not be the best Bond film, but it has one of the best actual rivalries between Bond and nemesis.
Would We See Him Again: Moore hung up the tux after his seventh time at bat, A View To A Kill.
Would He Relinquish The Role: It’s not his to give up, is it? Moore was followed by three more Bonds, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig. Today Moore is part of a legacy, but no one considers him the best of the actors who would play 007.
Jim Varney, Ernest
How’d He Get The Role: Varney had long developed Ernest as a popular regional character in a number of small budgeted commercials. Eventually, the character developed quite the following, allowing him to branch out into comedy shorts and eventually his own films.
How’d He Do On The Sixth Try: Ernest Rides Again was the last of Ernest’s theatrically-release films, dumped onto screens on the same weekend as Jurassic Park. The character’s mainstream viability was now gone, and so too was the budget, as this was the most modest of the Ernest adventures. The story actually seems like more of an effort to teach children about the Revolutionary War, sticking a few historical lessons in the middle of a heist storyline. Needless to say, it was not Mr. Varney’s finest hour.
Best Outing: We’ll go with Ernest Goes To Jail, which features the most outlandish Ernest plot of all of them, and finds Varney taking flight thanks to some plot-convenient superpowers. No, these movies aren’t very good, in case you were guessing.
Would We See Him Again: Varney would play the role three more times for film, though Ernest Goes To School, Slam Dunk Ernest and Ernest Goes To Africa went direct to video. He also, surprisingly, had a robust career after retiring Ernest, voicing a role in Toy Story and in the franchise picture 3 Ninjas: High Noon At Mega Mountain.
Would he Relinquish The Role: Varney was synonymous with Ernest, and though he was more of a minor comic creation, it would be highly unusual to see another actor play the beloved backwoods doofus.
OTHERS: Both Warwick Davis and Doug Bradley played the boogeymen in the Leprechaun and Hellraiser series’, with Davis retiring from the role after six outings, and Bradley sticking to the Pinhead villain for eight installments. Christopher Lee has also played variations of Dracula in nine films, while Peter Cushing played both Dr. Frankenstein and Dr. Van Helsing more than six times each.