I would imagine that most actors would like from their body of work to be known to movie-goers as one definitive character. A character they so embodied and was so convincing, we can't think of any other actor who would've done a better job portraying that character. Perhaps some actors would luck out and be known as 2 or more defining roles.
When I think of all American boy-next-door actor, Matt Damon, I think of Jason Bourne of Bourne Identity/Supremacy/Ultimatum. But what also comes to mind is the smaller non-blockbuster movie that Damon was so convincing in: The Talented Mr Ripley. Matt Damon was Tom Ripley, just as Jude Law, in my eyes, will always be Dickie Greenleaf. This drama was a taut, on the edge of your seat thriller; so much so that I couldn't decide if I wanted Tom Ripley to get caught or to get away with his crime.
When Tom meets Dickie, the contrast between them couldn't be more different. Beside the fact that the two were from completely different social classes, Tom was a classical music and opera buff, while Dickie lived for jazz. And because of the privileges that Dickie has at his feet, Tom became obsessed with Dickie; first wanting to be his very best friend in the world, then wanting to literally be him. (hello, male version of Single White Female?)
Dickie and Tom. Friends til the end.
When Tom accidentally/on purpose kills Dickie, he then starts to assume Dickie's identity and lives Dickie's life of lavishness.
While in Rome, Tom watches an operatic performance of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin.
Watching the emotional duel scene of Eugene Onegin
When it came to the pistol duel between Onegin and his best friend Lenski, Tom started to weep because he drew parallels from the story unfolding right in front of him onstage, to him having just killed his best friend.
Click here for Lenski's aria from Act 2, Scene 2 that was portrayed in the movie:
Of course he was not sorry enough for what he did, nor did he want to give up his new lifestyle, as Tom continued desperately to play out the rest of the cat and mouse game in the movie.
The Talented Mr Ripley serves as a cautionary tale of "how well do you REALLY know your new best friend?" And also what can happen if you get stuck on a row boat, in the middle of the ocean and piss off said friend.
~ Ling Chan