Oh, what could have been. My first official “assignment” from WhatCulture is here. Today I’ll be picking out which actors’/actresses’ careers were “ruined” (i.e. unceremoniously stalled and/or tainted, either temporarily or permanently) by 10 legendary/infamous directors, the films that contributed to their demise, and (if I can find out) where they are now.
Bear in mind that when I say “ruined,” I don’t mean that they stopped working. But I do mean that their careers took directions that, for one reason or another, could have gone or did go a completely different direction than what they originally intended or hoped for. Bear in mind also that this list is in no particular order, and I will undoubtedly have left some of your personal favorites out, and you may not agree with some of my choices. But feel more than free to include them in the comments section below. So, without further ado…
10. Chris O’Donnell – Batman & Robin
The culprit? Joel Schumacher, of course. Now, dear old Joel is more “infamous” than legendary, but had it not been for his appalling crimes against fanboys everywhere he might not even be mentioned on this list. Nevertheless, O’Donnell had all the makings of the next Hollywood heartthrob, assuredly.
Alright, he was the Sam Worthington of his day. But while he gets a pass for Batman Forever, in part thanks to his admirable chemistry with Val Kilmer, O’Donnell’s career as a film star was effectively shut down thanks to Batnipple. Thank God he’s found work on NCIS: LA, or you might not know who I’m talking about at all.
9. Mark Wahlberg - The Happening
The culprit? Who else but M. Night Shyamalan. Now, this is kind of heartbreaking, because Marky Mark’s been given a ton of flak throughout his career, stemming from his rap days. But I think he’s a damn good actor, and I loved him in The Departed (for which I think he should’ve won Best Supporting Actor, just saying).
But M. Night? No excuses, man, the guy has just nose-dived since The Village. While Wahlberg is still making movies (even dubious ones like Pain & Gain), I think that his association with M. Night unfortunately put a damper on a thus-far decent career.
8. Al Pacino - The Godfather Trilogy
The culprit? Francis Ford Coppola. Let me be clear here, The Godfather & The Godfather Part IIare fantastic films. Superbly acted, impeccably directed, I even give Part III credit where credit is due. From Marlon Brando to Andy Garcia, from Mario Puzo to Francis Ford Coppola himself, there are very few things I can find wrong with this trifecta of mafioso intrigue.
However, in regards to Al Pacino and his storied career, it has followed him and (in my opinion) will continue to follow him until his career is over. Between Godfather and Scarface, Pacino is the ultimate gangster of modern cinema, and he got his start under the direction of one of the great directors of all cinematic time. Had it not been for Francis Ford Coppola we might’ve never even heard of Al Pacino.
But, in part thanks to Francis Ford Coppola, Pacino’s name is now synonymous with “gangster.” A shame, really, because Pacino can do more than just kill people on screen. But I wouldn’t recommend Jack & Jill to anyone anytime in the near (or far distant) future.
7. Brandon Routh - Superman Returns
The culprit? Bryan Singer. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Superman Returns for what it was: a love letter to the Richard Donner/Christopher Reeve films. But by relying too much on audiences’ nostalgia for the material caused Brandon to basically impersonate Christopher Reeve and, well, it backfired. The performance just turned out to be a wooden-faced, facepalm-inducing headache.
Which is sad, because the young man had a LOT of talent. I really enjoyed him in Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, and he was a breakout on NBC’s Chuck. Sadly, he will fade into mediocrity, making films like Dylan Dog and Crooked Arrows, and TV shows like Partners. I have far much more confidence in his successor though.
Keeping up with comic book roles…
6. Gabriel Macht - The Spirit
The culprit? Frank Miller. Yes, yes, I know, Frank isn’t exactly a “director,” but he is legendary to many a comic book fan, so he gets included. Macht was a complete badass in this film, but sadly Miller should simply stick to comics. He chose to go for a left-field approach to the film that simply didn’t pay off, and Macht’s film career was stained.
Luckily he still gets to be a badass, on USA’s Suits. I think it’s safe to say that Miller won’t be going back to film anytime in the near future, but at least Gabriel Macht can carve out a respectable niche for himself in the meantime.
5. Nicolas Cage - Face/Off
The culprit? John Woo. Now what kind of a list would this be without Nicolas Cage? Don’t get me wrong, Face/Off is one of my favorite movies. Cage is great in it, Woo does a great job directing it. But it seems to me that ever since then Cage has just gotten crazier, and crazier….and crazier... and crazier…but we all love him anyway. Nicolas Cage is awesome, no matter if he’s making the most craptastic movies of all time or not.
You keep on truckin’, Ghost Rider! I personally believe that Cage just loves to work and act, and so as long as a part or a script or a director intrigues him, he’ll do it. And I can actually see it in a lot of the films he’s done. Unfortunately a lot of the time what he thinks might be fun to do might not gel with what moviegoers think will be fun to watch. I personally don’t care, as Nic Cage owns everything he touches, whether good or bad, he is unabashed and hard-working, and I applaud him. For me, it’s like looking in a mirror, only…. not.
4. Heath Ledger & Matt Damon – The Brothers Grimm
The culprit? The truly legendary Terry Gilliam. Yes, you can’t deny that Gilliam is among one of the greats, but because this movie just went down faster than the Hindenburg, both Matthew “Jason Bourne” Damon and the Late, Great Heath “Why So Serious?” Ledger (all hail!) get to share this spot. Predating the abhorrent Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (by the way, that film’s ONLY saving grace is Gemma Arterton. Yowza.), it attempted to put a fresh, steampunk-modern twist on the tale of the brothers responsible for some of the world’s best-known fairy stories.
Unfortunately, this film just plain stunk, though I do like it as a guilty pleasure from time to time. Now we all know what Ledger went on to do, but Damon has definitely moved past his earlier, sometimes questionable choices, and carved out a niche for himself that keeps him coming back for more and more diverse roles. Nevertheless this film will always surprise people when they learn both who directed it and who starred in it.
(Note of interest: Both Brothers Grimm and Hansel & Gretel feature the awesome Peter Stormare, who gets a pass in anything because, well, he’s Peter Stormare.)
3. Mark Hamill - Star Wars (Original Trilogy)
The culprit? George Lucas. The ultimate scifi epic trilogy put Hamill on the intergalactic Hollywood map, but also boxed him into a corner that no actor would ever want to be in: forever remembered as one character. For those of us who grew up with Batman: The Animated Series, however, we know him as the ultimate incarnation of the Joker outside of Heath Ledger, but in terms of his film career, Hamill was forever dogged by his role as Luke Skywalker, the ultimate zero-to-hero story.
And while I don’t think anybody else could have given Luke the gravitas and innocence that has become so central to the character and his journey, I do think Lucas inadvertently hindered the rest of Hamill’s career by giving him such a profound and epic debut. It’s on the same level as Elijah Wood and Lord of the Rings, to use a more recent example. So while not necessarily “ruined” (I can’t wait to see Hamill return as Luke in J. J. Abrams’ Episode VII), it severely limited his marketability as an actor from being “Mark Hamill” to simply “Luke Skywalker.”
2. Blake Lively - Green Lantern
The culprit? Martin Campbell, the guy who introduced us all to both Pierce Brosnan’s and Daniel Craig’s iterations of James Bond in GoldenEye and Casino Royale, respectively. I like Blake (we’re EXACTLY the same age, how crazy is that?!), but since trying the jump from TV to silver screen she just hasn’t caught the right projects (Savages I’ll make an exception for, though).
And how Campbell allowed himself to be leashed by Geoff Johns I’ll never know. This could’ve been the Star Wars of comic book movies like he SAID it would’ve been, but sadly it was more like the Babylon 5 of comic book movies. So sad, so sad. I heard Lively is actually a very good actress, and she apparently did very well in Brian de Palma’s Savages. I would like to see her get more work in the future, as she has the lasting kind of looks and ethic that could provide for a long and healthy career.
That being said, she’s still ludicrously hot, so that’s something.
1. Leonardo DiCaprio – Titanic
I know, surprising right? The culprit here, of course, is James Cameron. And this, THIS, ladies and gentlemen, is the true definition of “accidental.” DiCaprio gave a masterful performance (even though at the time I hated him worse than I hate Lautner now), yet he was snubbed for the Oscar. And ever since then DiCaprio’s been chasing that little golden statue like Stan Marsh chasing the dragon playing Heroin Hero.
I hope one day Leo gets it, because while Titanic under NO circumstances ruined his career, it has put this albatross of a goal around his neck. He works incredibly hard on each film he does, and there are countless other roles that he should have won an Oscar for (Blood Diamond and Shutter Island are two that come to mind), and for the love of God he’s really the only actor I want to see win, just so he can have his day in the sun. But you know what, old sport? He makes a damn fine Jay Gatsby, a damn fine Jay Gatsby, old sport.
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