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When good films happen to bad actors

Every dog has its day

When good films happen to bad actors
Danielle de Wolfe
09 August 2011

In-between wearing fatsuits and conversing with the ghosts of dead pets, sometimes bad actors feel the odd pang of guilt. What am I doing with my life? What if no one remembers my legacy? How can I look at myself in the mirror for one more day?

On these days, they'll actually read the scripts they usually skim, go to the meetings they usually get their assistant to attend and say yes to the film they usually turn down because of the long words used in the dialogue.

Here are 40 examples of this actually happening:

(Main image: All Star)

Adam Sandler

Film:Punch-Drunk Love

Year: 2002

Reason for praise: The guy who played a hapless golfer, a hapless waterboy and a hapless wedding singer probably seemed like a natural fit to play a hapless small business owner yet when it's in an indie drama directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, of Magnolia fame, it suddenly makes zero sense. He pulled it off though.

Jennifer Lopez

Film:Out Of Sight

Year: 1998

Reason for praise: It's easy to forget how much hype surrounded Lopez after her feisty performance in this cool Steven Soderbergh crime caper. Mainly because she soon found a niche in formulaic romantic comedies that found her falling over in variously 'cute' ways. Shame.

Keanu Reeves

Film:The Matrix

Year: 1999

Reason for praise: Keanu Reeves has had an inexplicably long career despite an acting style that relies solely on him being confused at all times. It actually worked in this phenomenally successful sci-fi thriller as his character was supposed to be completely shell-shocked throughout. Worked less in the sequels...

Hayden Christensen

Film:Shattered Glass

Year: 2003

Reason for praise: Still known by many as one of the criminals responsible for killing the Star Wars franchise, his flat acting made the second two prequels even harder to watch. But in this fact-based drama, his role as a morally skewed journalist helped to win the film strong reviews.

Marlon Wayans

Film:Requiem For A Dream

Year: 2000

Reason for praise: The co-creator of the Scary Movie series wasn't an obvious choice for Darren Aronofksy's follow-up to π but, beside Oscar-winning actresses Ellen Burstyn and Jennifer Connelly, he made a decent impression. Re-found his niche though with Little Man and White Chicks not long after...

Katie Holmes

Film:Batman Begins

Year: 2005

Reason for praise: Christopher Nolan's reinvention of the superhero saga was perfectly cast all round from Christian Bale's gruff yet soulful Batman to Michael Caine's fatherly Alfred yet the casting of Dawson's Creek star Katie Holmes raised a few eyebrows. They were still left raised until she was replaced by Maggie Gyllenhaal in the sequel.

Nicolas Cage

Film:Leaving Las Vegas

Year: 1995

Reason for praise: It's pretty common to ridicule poor Nicolas Cage these days. After shouting his way through The Wicker Man, Next and Season of the Witch though, it's not like he hasn't been asking for it. It's worth thinking back to his Oscar-winning turn as an alcoholic in this gut-wrenching drama and maybe pretending that he just retired right after.

Heather Graham

Film:Boogie Nights

Year: 1998

Reason for praise: Launching her into a career that would hold such promising films as Lost In Space and Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer, her role as Rollergirl in this porn drama was definitely memorable. Might not have been for her acting though. Sorry Heather.

Mike Myers

Film:Inglourious Basterds

Year: 2009

Reason for praise: A small cameo it may have been, but it was definitely a shock seeing The Love Guru crop up in Tarantino's blistering WWII saga. Other than the Shrek films, it's all he's done since 2008.

Matthew McConaughey

Film:Lone Star

Year: 1996

Reason for praise: Best known for being the guy who can't keep his shirt on in romantic comedies you wouldn't even want to watch on a plane, McConaughey actually came onto the scene with a lot of promise back in the day. This John Sayles drama led us to believe he'd be a force to be reckoned with. We was lied to.

Julia Stiles

Film:The Bourne Ultimatum

Year: 2007

Reason for praise: Managing to utilise her scale of emotions (from uninterested to mildly uninterested), her role as an icy operative didn't prove too much of a stretch in the Bourne films. She does however star in the upcoming adaptation of The Bell Jar. Might not work so well...

Cuba Gooding Jr

Film:Jerry Maguire

Year: 1996

Reason for praise: Ah, how we all loved Cuba back in the mid-90s. We even gave him an Oscar. But then Pearl Harbor and Boat Trip and Norbit happened and we all got really angry. If you can remember the last film you saw him in then we'll give you 20p.

Sylvester Stallone

Film:Cop Land

Year: 1997

Reason for praise: Acting alongside Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel and Ray Liotta is intimidating for any actor but for Sly it was an almost inconceivably tall order. While he'd made some classics, he'd never really found himself in such a challenging position.

Paul Walker


Year: 1998

Reason for praise: Playing a surfer/person that likes surfing is spot-on for Paul Walker but anything else proves a problem for the human Ken doll. Taking on a role in this intelligent comedy drama gave him an early break and clearly turned him off doing films which include words with more than three syllables.

Kate Hudson

Film:Almost Famous

Year: 2000

Reason for praise: Ah, remember when Kate Hudson wasn't starring in romantic comedies? True, it didn't last long but her Oscar-nominated turn in Cameron Crowe's music drama gave us a dangerous amount of false hope. But since the release, every film she's starred in has been deemed a turkey on Rotten Tomatoes.

Chris Klein


Year: 1999

Reason for praise: If you haven't seen Chris Klein's totally serious and unintentionally brilliant audition for Mamma Mia! then you should now. If you have then you'll be aware of his acting abilities. His role as a goofy, air-headed student in this smart high school satire played to his strengths. Long time ago, mind.

Freida Pinto

Film:Slumdog Millionaire

Year: 2008

Reason for praise: While everyone got wrapped up in the feel-goodness of Danny Boyle's Oscar-winner, it became easy to forget what Freida Pinto actually brought to the table. Her work ever since has further questioned this. Once you've seen Rise of the Planet of the Apes, you'll be even more confused.

Gerard Butler

Film:How To Train Your Dragon

Year: 2010

Reason for praise: Taking time off from starring in romantic comedies aimed at people taking long-haul flights, Butler lent his voice for this Oscar-nominated animation. It's one of the best non-Pixar offerings out there and if the sequel is half as good, he'll be taken off this list immediately.

Jessica Alba

Film:The Killer Inside Me

Year: 2010

Reason for praise: Beautiful as she might be, Jessica Alba just hasn't manages to catch a break. Generously, she takes zero credit for this and instead blames all the directors she's worked with. But after a career based on her looks, she finally let them get well and truly destroyed in this chilling slice of noir.

Tim Allen

Film:Toy Story 3

Year: 2010

Reason for praise: The most successful animated film of all time and one of the few to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, the third film in the franchise (yes, we hear there's going to be a fourth) was a godsend for Allen. His career has veered from bad to worse of late (bad being The Santa Clause and worse being The Santa Clause 3).

Tara Reid

Film:The Big Lebowski

Year: 1998

Reason for praise: Before she managed to become Hollywood's poster girl for why getting drunk and having plastic surgery were both dangerous, Reid played against type as an airhead in the Coen Brothers classic. At least she came back to star as every single role in the sequel. Let's just hope she got the joke...

Vin Diesel

Film:Saving Private Ryan

Year: 1998

Reason for praise: It's hard to remember a Vin Diesel who wasn't stealing cars and/or fighting aliens but his repetitive resume received an early jump start with a role in Steven Spielberg's WWII drama. Next to be seen in 6 Fast 6 Furious or whatever it's called...

Sofia Coppola

Film:The Godfather: Part III

Year: 1990

Reason for praise: Not really her fault but Sofia Coppola is not a natural actress. Agreeing to star as a favour to her dad, her skills were limited to say the least. It didn't stop the film from being nominated for seven Oscars though. Thankfully, she acts no more.

Katherine Heigl

Film:Knocked Up

Year: 2007

Reason for praise: Before she starred in enough romantic comedies to make your teeth rot and your stomach ache, Katherine Heigl managed to make this unconventional relationship with Seth Rogen work in the hit Apatow film. Of course she publicly disowned the film after. We guess it was out of character for her to star in something watchable.

Andie MacDowell

Film:Groundhog Day

Year: 1993

Reason for praise: Back in the 90s, Andie Macdowell was considered human enough to be deemed a believable living and speaking person in a number of high-profile movies. But when she wasn't feeling no rain, she was starring alongside Bill Murray in this damn-near-perfect comedy.

Kevin Pollak

Film:The Usual Suspects

Year: 1995

Reason for praise: Mainly cropping up in comedies that question the very definition of the word (The Santa Clause 3, Dr.Dolittle 2, Grumpier Old Men, The Whole Ten Yards'), Kevin Pollak was also allowed to see what the set of a non-sequel, non-turkey looked like back in the mid-90s. No such look since though.

John Travolta

Film:Pulp Fiction

Year: 1994

Reason for praise: After starring in Look Who's Talking Now (when the animals start talking as well), Travolta's career received an adrenaline shot to the chest in Tarantino's crime classic. Since then, it could do with another. From Battlefield Earth to Old Dogs, something needs to be done.

Zac Efron

Film:Me & Orson Welles

Year: 2009

Reason for praise: The High School Musical star ditched the corridor wailing to star in Dazed and Confused director Richard Linklater's period comedy and while co-star Christian McKay received all the plaudits, it was a rare ray of hope for Efron.

Gary Busey

Film:Thunderbolt & Lightfoot

Year: 1974

Reason for praise:Entourage viewers will at least be aware that Busey is comfortable with laughing at himself. Which is good, given a career that's included roles in The Gingerdead Man and Slap Shot 2: Breaking The Ice. It has also included an Oscar nomination (?!?) and a role in this Clint classic. Recent work has included being completely crazy.

Mariah Carey


Year: 2009

Reason for praise: When your biggest role was playing a singer in a Razzie-sweeping film called Glitter, there's nowhere else to go but up. Still, no-one could have predicted that Carey would "dress down" for a tough drama about abuse to play a social worker. Worked out though. Nothing since however.

Eddie Murphy

Film:48 Hrs

Year: 1982

Reason for praise: Back before he started getting really annoying, Eddie Murphy was a fresh and funny presence in the 80s. In his debut film, he was kind of a big deal. Cut forward to the 90s, 00s and 10s and the good films were few and far between. Holy Man? Norbit? Meet Dave? The Adventures Of Pluto Nash? Jesus.

Eric Roberts

Film:The Dark Knight

Year: 2008

Reason for praise: God love the guy, he tries. If IMDb is to be believed, Eric Roberts has 14 movies out this year. from past experience however, we doubt any will be worth watching. Even ironically. But back in 2008, in-between starring in Witless Protection and Light Years Away, he also starred in a little film about Batman...

Lindsay Lohan

Film:Mean Girls

Year: 2004

Reason for praise: Back when she was just a simple, drug-free girl who was legally allowed to leave her house, Lohan made a strong impression in Tina Fey's biting high school comedy. Now, she's sadly limited to doing things like this.

Josh Hartnett

Film:Black Hawk Down

Year: 2001

Reason for praise: Given a variety of leading man roles in the late 90s/early 00s, Hollywoood soon wised up and dropped Josh Hartnett like a dirty penny. His best film came from Ridley Scott who gave him the lead in the frenetic war drama. He was last seen by no-one in films that you haven't heard of.

David Caruso

Film:King Of New York

Year: 1990

Reason for praise: If overacting was the same as good acting. damn if Caruso wouldn't be up there with the greats. Instead, his shouty shtick has become a thorn in the side of anyone with fully functional eyes and ears. Back in this simpler time, he was starring alongside Christopher Walken and being directed by Abel Ferrara. Many, many years have since passed.

Orlando Bloom

Film:The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

Year: 2003

Reason for praise: While the acting may not have been the main focus of the trilogy, the cast were still a solid ensemble from Ian McKellen to Viggo Mortensen. Bloom landed on his feet with a central role in each film, just as his profile was gaining. We hate to see he peaked but he totally peaked. All over the shop.

Kyle MacLachlan

Film:Blue Velvet

Year: 1986

Reason for praise: Okay so maybe his stilted acting style made some sort of sense in David Lynch's surreal classic but ever since, it's been a major distraction. Okay, maybe it made sense in Showgirls too...

Tom Arnold

Film:True Lies

Year: 1994

Reason for praise: The incredibly fun James Cameron action comedy (remember when he had a sense of humour?) cast Tom Arnold, star of The Stupids and the life of Roseanne, as Arnie's wacky best friend. We can't see Arnold cropping up in Avatar 2. He's far too busy making a film called Jewtopia with Jennifer Love Hewitt.

Ice Cube

Film: Three Kings

Year: 1999

Reason for praise: The rapper-turned-actor-turned-screenwriter (no, really) has managed to be an impossible to remember replacement for Vin Diesel in XXX: State Of The Union and was outacted by an animatronic snake in Anaconda. But in this smart Gulf War flick, he found himself in a vaguely believable situation, acting alongside real people!

Stephen Dorff


Year: 2010

Reason for praise: Taking time off from starring in films like Botched (an Irish/Russian comedy horror about Ivan the Terrible) and Shadowboxer (a crime drama where Helen Mirren plays Cuba Gooding Jr's lover and stepmother), Dorff took the lead in Sofia Coppola's award-winning indie. He did play an actor though.