So much planning goes into making a film, from scheduling the film shoot, location scouting, hiring a film crew, and casting the right actors. Unfortunately, not everything in life runs smoothly and problems arise in the final film. Like with dominos, if just one domino is out of sync with the others, the whole system fails.
This is especially obvious to viewers when they see actors give bad performances, as the actors are what the audience is watching. Despite all the people involved with the film, it ultimately comes down to how good of a performance an actor puts in and how well they carry the film.
If an actor fails to do this, their career could be in jeopardy. It could account for bad casting, in that the actor, despite being very successful, just was not right for the role and their career suffered for it afterwards. It goes to show how much of acting is affected by the film’s director.
Below are ten actors, who are not necessarily bad actors, who gave horrendous performances in certain films that caused their once thriving careers to come to a halt.
10. Chris Klein – Rollerball (2002)
The 2002 remake of Rollerball has been derided ever since its release, and one person who really suffered from this was its lead actor Chris Klein. His performance was stoic and nothing out of the ordinary, as far as action films go.
Klein proved he had comedic acting chops in both American Pie and Election, usually in dim-witted but nice guy roles. In Rollerball, he was trying to be a tough athlete and action hero, but like the rest of the film, it just did not work.
Although he has had plenty of roles since Rollerball, these roles have gotten nowhere near the fanfare his older roles got.
9. Timothy Olyphant – Hitman (2007)
Timothy Olyphant is a very engaging actor with great screen presence. Most of his previous roles were engaging supporting roles (especially as the crazed serial killer Mickey in Scream 2). However, when he had the chance to play the lead in Hitman, things did not work out for him.
He had zero presence in this role; the performance was very bland and lifeless, just like the movie itself. To be fair to Olyphant, it was the movie that let him down. It is a generic and clichéd action film with little for the audience to invest in or simply to be entertained by.
It is films like this that give videogame-based movies a bad name. It seems like no one who was involved in the film cared about how it turned out and barely put any effort or passion into it at all, and Olyphant seems to have thought likewise.
It is also a shame that Hitman affected Olyphant’s career so much, at least as far as playing the lead role goes. Two of his more prominent roles in recent years were on TV sitcoms The Office and The Grinder, so hopefully roles like these will give his career a boost.
8. Jon Voight – Anaconda (1997)
A B-grade action movie about a giant murderous snake like Anaconda was never going to be taken seriously, despite its A-list cast. However, the most ridiculous part of the movie ended up being veteran actor and Oscar winner Jon Voight’s performance as the film’s villain, which is really saying something.
Voight plays a very stereotypical movie villain, who is an opportunist who only looks out for himself, even when it means other people dying. What makes this performance particularly horrible was the Paraguayan accent he used. It is like a mix of Tony Montana in Scarface and Tommy Wiseau in The Room, and it is really quite bizarre.
Although Voight has acted in many movies since then, Anaconda damaged Voight’s career. It is no surprise that he was nominated for the Worst Actor Razzie for this performance.
7. Colin Farrell – Alexander (2004)
Colin Farrell was a popular and young movie star in the early 2000s, and it seemed like the world was at his feet. The acting roles he was getting offered were only going to get bigger and bigger, and eventually he found one that was too big for his shoes with Alexander.
Playing Alexander the Great, the king of Macedonia, the film is an epic about the great ruler’s life conquering other countries and the treachery within his kingdom, as well as his own personal problems with his parents. In theory, this film should have been a huge hit, but the acting is all around campy and over the top.
Although the whole cast was responsible for this, especially as no one sounded like someone who was alive in ancient Macedonia, it was Farrell who received the brunt of the criticisms. His version of Alexander seemed like a whiny and lost child, and not what people picture as a great conqueror. His fake-looking blond wig did not help either.
Farrell’s bland yet melodramatic performance in this already over-the-top film hindered his popularity and career. Although Farrell has had plenty of acting work since Alexander, his career just was not the same.
6. Halle Berry – Catwoman (2004)
This entry is particularly interesting as Halle Berry had won the Best Actress Oscar for her performance in Monster’s Ball in 2002. She had also previously starred in another superhero franchise as Storm in the X-Men movies. However, her turn in the DC Comics universe should be forgotten.
While Catwoman is just plain bad, it is Berry’s silly performance that led the film to be so hated. Rather than being a seductress with some cat-like behaviour, this version of Catwoman is not sexy at all and goes too far into cat territory. Berry’s character is also of two extremes, from being the meek Patience Phillips to the over the top Catwoman, neither of which can be taken seriously.
Berry “won” the Worst Actress Razzie, but she gracefully accepted the award and “thanked” the producers of Catwoman for letting her star in “a piece of shit.”
5. Nicolas Cage – The Wicker Man (2006)
Although Nicolas Cage’s acting has ranged from one extreme to the other, between brilliance and silliness, there is no denying he can be very entertaining to watch. The same can be said for his performance in The Wicker Man, but for all the wrong reasons.
This particular performance has been somewhat unfairly tied with the film’s overall weirdness and stupidity. From having Cage constantly yell when there was no need for it, to running in a bear costume and punching a woman, to screaming “Not the bees!” while being trapped with a swarm of them, no one was going to take either the film nor Cage seriously.
While Cage has, of course, taken on intentionally campy roles, it is obvious that Cage was playing his character straight in The Wicker Man and the laughs were in no way intentional.
Cage’s notoriously over-the-top performance in The Wicker Man has become an Internet meme. Such a performance makes it hard to believe that this is the same actor who won the Best Actor Oscar for a subtle but harrowing performance in Leaving Las Vegas. While Cage still has a very active career, he is nowhere near as popular as he was years ago and mostly stars in B-grade action films these days.
4. Geena Davis – Cutthroat Island (1995)
Geena Davis was one of the most popular actresses of the late 1980s and early 1990s. With such hits as Thelma & Louise, The Fly, and Beetlejuice, there seemed to be no stopping her. At this point in her career, she was known for mainly romantic comedies and dramas, so when she tried to become an action star, it did not go over well. Much of this happened because of the film’s director Renny Harlin, who was Davis’ husband at the time.
Davis just was not engaging enough to pull off a heroine role and carry an epic action blockbuster by herself. In fact, she seems quite out of place in a pirate movie. She tries to appear tough and comical at the same time, which is hard to do for any actor. However, she did not have much to work with, as the whole film is a very generic pirate film where even the action scenes are not entertaining.
Cutthroat Island is one of the biggest and most notorious movie flops of all time, so Davis can take comfort in the fact that it was not just her career that went down with both the metaphorical ship and the actual ship in the film.
Cutthroat Island is also responsible for damaging the careers of Harlin, co-star Matthew Modine, the pirate genre, and worst of all, Carolco Studios.
3. Chris O’Donnell – Batman & Robin (1997)
Chris O’Donnell had played Robin/Dick Grayson previously in the hit movie Batman Forever, so in theory, making another Batman movie should have been the right move. However, as Batman & Robin went further into camp territory, so did O’Donnell’s performance and his career.
Although Robin was whiny in Batman Forever as well, it was more justified as in that film he was grieving over his dead family. In Batman & Robin, however, he is often complaining to Batman about how to fight criminals and his position as Batman’s sidekick, which gets annoying quickly. It really undermines O’Donnell’s acting ability.
O’Donnell showed his true acting chops in his previous films Scent Of A Woman and Mad Love, and even another action film with The Three Musketeers. Being a young man at the time, he looked like a rising star in Hollywood. Although in theory being in a Batman film would be a huge help for his career, the silliness and bad directing of Batman & Robin ruined O’Donnell’s career.
2. John Travolta – Battlefield Earth (2000)
John Travolta has been nominated for Oscars and has had a great but varied career. While Travolta is still starring in movies, he is nowhere near as popular as he used to be, and part of that can definitely be blamed on his over-the-top performance in Battlefield Earth.
While the film is considered bad overall, Travolta’s performance, while very enjoyable for its campiness, is not subtle at all. His performance as the evil alien commander Terl is the very definition of over-the-top, complete with a “mu-ha-ha-ha” laugh. His character is evil for the sake of being evil, which is cartoonish. In any case, it does look like Travolta had a good time playing such a blatant villain.
Travolta is a member of the Church Of Scientology, so he persisted for 20 years to get the book on which Battlefield Earth was based, written by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, up on the big screen. So really, that was 20 years of work that ended up causing his career downfall.
1. Hayden Christensen – Star Wars: Attack Of The Clones (2002) and Revenge Of The Sith (2005)
In theory, playing a lead role in one of the biggest film franchises of all time would guarantee future success for any actor. However, this is definitely not the case with the Star Wars films, and definitely not for Hayden Christensen.
Christensen’s performance as the adult Anakin Skywalker in two of the three Star Wars prequels has received heavy criticism over the years. The performance came across as a big whining child rather than the man who would become the feared Sith lord Darth Vader, one of cinema’s most iconic villains. Another criticism that Christensen faced was that the forced romantic dialogue with Natalie Portman was beyond cringeworthy.
It is a shame Christensen’s career did not go further after Star Wars, because despite these valid criticisms, he is actually a solid actor. Many feel that his bad performance and dialogue were more George Lucas’ fault, and they are right. His performances in the dramas Shattered Glass and Life as a House were very good.
The only hint of this calibre of acting was in Revenge Of The Sith, with the menacing and hateful look on Anakin’s face once he succumbs to the Dark Side and starts hunting Jedis. One strength Christensen has as an actor is his facial expressions, and this was something with which he could convey his emotions in a far better way than the clumsy dialogue Lucas wrote.
Originally published here at tasteofcinema.com on Wednesday 7 December 2016