A character actor is an actor who mostly plays unusual or eccentric characters. Some character actors have distinctive voices or accents that limit their roles, while others develop careers because of specific talents that are required in genre films, such as dancing, horsemanship or, swimming ability. 
The earliest known use of the term character actor is in the 9 November 1883 edition of The Stage, which defined it as "one who portrays individualities and eccentricities, as opposed to the legitimate actor who [...] endeavours to create the rôle as limned by the author."
Notable character actors
Notable character actors include:
- Jack Nicholson (The Shining, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, About Schmidt)
- Edie McClurg (Eating Raoul, WKRP in Cincinnati, Ferris Bueller's Day Off)
- Rip Torn (Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, Men in Black, Down Periscope)
- James Rebhorn (Lorenzo's Oil, Independence Day, How to Eat Fried Worms)
- James Cromwell (The Green Mile, The Sum of All Fears, Babe)
- Giovanni Ribisi (Avatar, Saving Private Ryan, Gone in 60 Seconds)
- Vincent D'Onofrio (Full Metal Jacket, Men in Black, The Thirteenth Floor)
- Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote, Charlie Wilson's War, The Big Lebowski)
- Quinlan, David (1995). Quinlan's Illustrated Directory of Film Character Actors. USA: Batsford Press. ISBN 0713470402.
- Voisin, Scott (2009). Character Kings: Hollywood's Familiar Faces Discuss the Art & Business of Acting. BearManor Media. ISBN 978-1-59393-342-5.