Actors Known for Roles Most Similar to Who They Are in Real Life

Over 1.2K Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of Actors Known for Roles Most Similar to Who They Are in Real Life
Voting Rules
Vote up the actors who seem most similar IRL to the characters they play.

Sure, it’s cool if an actor transcends their own identity and become someone else. It’s amazing to witness. But sometimes, you just want Bill Murray to show up and be Bill Murray. He doesn’t need to sleep inside a bear and keep himself up for days to please an audience, because he’s one of those actors who are the same as their characters, or at least pretty darn close.

Some actors disappear into a role. Actors who are a lot like their characters prefer to lay a foundation from a familiar place. Larry David usually performs a slightly demented spin on his real life self. Robert Downey Jr. could probably morph into a whole other guy (Tropic Thunder, anyone?), but who doesn't like RDJ just as he is?

No one is saying these actors don’t have chops. It’s just that audiences want to see Morgan Freeman doing Morgan Freeman. Let Walken be Walken. Jared Leto may have the time to live as his character for months on end, but Bruce Willis has sh*t to do. He ain’t got no time for that. Or for memorizing lines, apparently.

Who are some of those actors known for roles similar to their real personalities? Matthew McConaughey, Zach Galifianakis, Bruce Willis...keep reading, if you really wanna know.

Most divisive: Steven Seagal

  • Robert Downey Jr.
    Photo: Disney/ABC

    In real life: (Formerly) Reckless, suave, and charmingly irreverent. Robery Downey Jr. is a smart, smartass motor mouth who is as quick to be your friend as he is to shut you down being a dick. 
    In film and TV roles: Same. Downey is known for bringing himself to the role, with some minor tweaks. Although Downey is capable of disappearing into his part (see Chaplin), he’s mostly asked to play roles that mirror his snarky charm. Tony Stark is Downey is Tony Stark.   
    Notable quote: “I think I've been lucky, being my frequent appearances on Court TV have brought to me another level than just the actor guy.” 

    536 votes
  • Christopher Walken
    Photo: NBC/CBS Films

    In real life: If Christopher Walken isn’t, you know, Christopher Walken, does anyone really want to know? He certainly comes across as being the same on screen in interviews"More cowbell." You did your Walken impression as you read that, didn’t you?   
    In film and TV roles: Walken is the king of kooky, playing offbeat characters that fill audiences (and other characters) with dread and wonder (usually at the same time). And they're always drenched in Walkenness. He' know, just...kind of...wee-erd.    
    Notable quote: “You know, there's nothing you can do about your public image. It is what it is. I just try to do things honestly. I guess honesty is what you would call subjective: if you feel good about what you're doing, yourself, if you figure you're doing the right thing.”

    460 votes
  • 3
    451 VOTES
    Morgan Freeman
    Photo: NBC/Universal

    In real life: He's wise, funny, kind, chock full of style, and intelligent. Please let Morgan Freeman actually turn out to be God. Also, he always talks like he's prophesying divine truth, even if he's having a normal conversation. 
    In film and TV roles: Same. Like, more or less exactly the same, whether the movie is a cynical, grotesque treatise against humanity (Se7en), a superhero blockbuster (The Dark Knight), or a goofball comedy (RED). 

    Notable quote: “People need to start to think about the messages that they send in the movies.”

    451 votes
  • 4
    446 VOTES
    Bill Murray
    Photo: CBS/Columbia Pictures

    In real life: Capable of anything, Bill Murray is living his best life. He’s crashed a kickball game and bachelor parties, done the dishes at a stranger’s house, bartended, eaten random people's French fries, conducted a school marching band, read poetry to construction workers, and sang karaoke with people he just met. 
    In film and TV roles: Bill Murray always seems to be playing slightly altered versions of himself.
     Lost in Translation (an aging movie star) and Zombieland (himself as a zombie) are obvious examples, but there's always some Bill poking out in any role he's playing. Even if he’s morphed into the skin of a former president and is getting a handy from his cousin, he’s still Bill Murray. He's especially Bill Murray.   
    Notable quote: “There aren't many downsides to being rich, other than paying taxes and having relatives asking for money. But being famous, that's a 24-hour job right there.”

    446 votes
  • Samuel L. Jackson
    Photo: BBC/20th Century Fox

    In real life: Samuel L Jackson tells it like it is. He’ll never be accused of taking the back seat or riding b*tch.  
    In film and TV roles: Jackson seems exactly like he is on screen, sans the violence. He’s the reason audiences buy the ticket. No need to hide that.  
    Notable quote: “I’m a good son, a good father, a good husband - I've been married to the same woman for 30 years. I'm a good friend. I finished college, I have my education, I donate money anonymously. So when people criticize the kind of characters that I play on screen, I go, 'You know, that's part of history.’”

    341 votes
  • 6
    384 VOTES
    Adam Sandler
    Photo: NBC/Netflix

    In real life: Adam Sandler has made a career playing a regular, uncomplicated guy, because he’s never forgotten his roots. He came from a working class family and set his sights on being a comedian. Once he achieved his goals, he’s been content with maintaining a career playing regular Joes. He just wants to make people laugh.  
    In film and TV roles: Uncomplicated and not impressed with the trappings of fame, Sandler is just fine making one silly film after the other. Audiences love them. The box office proves it at a collective revenue of $2 billion and counting. He’s had his moments of playing opposite of his usual lovable schlubs in Reign Over Me and Punch Drunk Love, but it seems as though he’s still just playing a more existentially fraught version of himself. Exhibit A: Funny People.  
    Notable quote: “My name is Adam Sandler. I'm not particularly talented. I'm not particularly good-looking. And yet I'm a multi-millionaire.”

    384 votes