Sometimes actors are cast in roles not suited to their particular talents

Emma Thompson is a superb actress. But watching her in Late Night is a reminder that no actor or actress can successfully do everything.

She's good in the off-camera scenes but seems utterly miscast in the role of someone hosting a current, long-running US late-night talk-show.

Emma Thompson seemed miscast as Katherine Newbury in Late Night. Picture: Supplied

Emma Thompson seemed miscast as Katherine Newbury in Late Night. Picture: Supplied

It's not that the character is a woman, though the American late-night milieu is certainly a boys' club.

This host's persona and preferences - refined, highly intellectual - just wouldn't fly nowadays. (Dick Cavett had a show that blended controversy, erudition and lighter material in the 1970s but it wasn't a ratings powerhouse: still, it ran for five years).

That's more of a conceptual (or alternative universe) thing. If, like me, you find her a bit out of place in the role, it's a sign that casting is often a challenge.

Some actors know their limitations and play to their strengths: stars like Dwayne Johnson and Arnold Schwarzenegger aren't going to take on Shakespearebut will stick to action and comedy.

Some need the right role: Keanu Reeves was stiff and uncomfortable in Bram Stoker's Dracula and Much Ado About Nothing (particularly apparent when he was working with experienced Shakespeareans like Kenneth Branagh ).

But he worked well in varied roles in the Bill and Ted, Matrix and John Wick movies.

Russell Crowe was not a convincing rom-com lead in A Good Year. Picture: Supplied

Russell Crowe was not a convincing rom-com lead in A Good Year. Picture: Supplied

And some are just plain wrong for certain things. Russell Crowe is an excellent dramatic actor, but casting him in A Good Year was a mistake. He's too serious and intense to be a convincing romantic comedy lead in a role that would have better gone to someone like Hugh Grant. And Grant - so skilled in lighter roles, whether as twit (Four Weddings and a Funeral) or cad (the Bridget Jones movies) - could never have played Maximus in Gladiator.

It's not that actors most associated with drama can't do comedy. But it has to be the right kind for them. Robert De Niro has spent (too) many of his latter-day years trading off his tough-guy persona when acting in comedies: some good, some terrible, but at least casting him effectively. And Crowe was effective playing off Ryan Gosling in the dark comedy noir The Nice Guys.

 Channing Tatum, left and an impressive Steve Carell in Foxcatcher. Picture: Supplied

Channing Tatum, left and an impressive Steve Carell in Foxcatcher. Picture: Supplied

It goes the other way, too: those known for comedy can work in dramatic roles. The star of the sitcom The Office, Steve Carell was excellent in Foxcatcher, and The Mask's Jim Carrey was also impressive in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

But Jack Black in King Kong and Vince Vaughn in the remake of Psycho just didn't work (Vaughn did do well in Hacksaw Ridge). It probably didn't help they were in remakes of classic films, particularly for Vaughn, up against Anthony Perkins' indelible performance.

And Bill Murray's fans weren't interested in his 1984 passion project, The Razor's Edge, based on W. Somerset Maugham's novel about a man who seeks meaning in life. Murray's success in more serious films like Lost in Translation alongside the comedies came much later: Groundhog Day while still comedic, helped show he could even be a romantic lead as well as handle meatier material than, say, Caddyshack.

Sometimes it's about the casting, sometimes the timing. And, as so often, sometimes it's about luck.