Sometimes a movie is so bad that when it gets sucked down the toilet bowl of life it takes everyone involved with it. The director is soon seen shooting softcore porn films in the Valley and the key grips are turning tricks in the studio parking lot to make ends meet. But no one suffers more publicly than the movies’ unfortunate stars. They go from being adored A-Listers to the punch-lines of Jay Leno monologues all because they took a chance on a role in a movie so horrible that it destroyed their careers.
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Sure, Jake Lloyd didn’t have much of a career before The Phantom Menace (well aside from the award winning Jingle All the Way) but still, a starring role in a blockbuster film anxiously awaited by geeks everywhere should have been the beginning of something, not the end. Then again, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher, and really anyone not named Harrison Ford, can speak to the perils of putting your career in the hands of George Lucas. I mean, even poor Jar-Jar is doing cheap porn in a squalid Jamaican apartment these days. But Jake was just a boy, a poor unfortunate boy doomed to be known as the kid who killed Anakin Skywalker. There was just no coming back from that and poor Jake hasn’t even tried. Who knows what he’s up to these days? With a career filmography of Jingle All the Way and The Phantom Menace, it wouldn’t surprise me if he were a heroin addict, or working as Jar-Jar’s fluffer. Somali refugees probably have better childhood memories.
Look, someone had to take the fall for the abomination that was Batman and Robin and poor Chris was the low man on the totem pole. Before his ill-fated decision to become the boy who lived in Batman’s cave. (I actually accidentally originally typed “the boy who loved in Batman’s cave” which is probably more Freudianly appropriate.) O’Donnell seemed like he was in everything, didn’t he? He was the go-to young actor whenever an earnest young face was needed. He played everyone from D’Artagnan to Ernest Hemingway. After a couple of modest movies in the year or two after Batman and Robin – movies which he was probably already contracted to do – his biggest big screen role has been as the human lead in Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore. So… yeah. He’s made a bit of a comeback as a TV star recently but O’Donnell will never, ever be the A-List actor it seemed like he was on track to be. Oh well, at least he got to wear a suit with nipples and live in a cave with George Clooney and an old man who fed him tea and biscuits while bats hassled him day and night. It’s every young boy’s dream.
Seen Mike Myers lately? No? Well that’s because following The Love Guru, everyone finally got sick of his shit. It’s almost a parody of Mike Myers movies. It’s so wretched that it’s hard to even watch him in anything anymore, including his older, better stuff. Now it all feels as worn out, tired and as desperate as The Love Guru. It was recently announced that Myers was going to make a fourth Austin Powers movie and instead of being excited, everyone just sort of groaned and wondered when he would just let the ghost go. People were already getting tired of his schtick before The Love Guru. That movie just killed it dead.
This one will probably get me death threats but even Caviezel admits that this role ruined his career. To be fair, he thinks it’s been ruined because liberal Hollywood sodomites have it out for him because he dared to play Jesus, and you know what? He kind of has a point. The movie was so polarizing that it was impossible for him not to get caught up in the mess that followed it. To a certain demographic, he’s a hero, but that demographic watches the Hallmark Channel and aren’t exactly the target audience for Hollywood execs. To the rest of the world, he’s just that dude who played Jesus in Mel Gibson’s torture porn epic and it’s impossible to really see him any other way. It’s not so much that Hollywood is biased against him as they just don’t see any way they can make money off his name or face anymore. Don’t blame Hollywood or blame me, Jim. Blame Mel Gibson.
When Battlefield Earth came out, everyone pointed and laughed at John Travolta and rightly so, but Travolta has made a whole career out of f--king up and then inexplicably coming back. The true victim of Battlefield Earth was Barry Pepper. After a career making performance as a young sniper in Saving Private Ryan, Pepper was poised to become the next big thing in Hollywood. All he needed was one big blockbuster to break him open. And for the blockbuster, Pepper chose Battlefield Earth. He chose… poorly. Within a year, he was reduced to starring in made for TV movies and any chance he had at A-list stardom was instantly destroyed. Since then, he has reinvented himself as a damn fine character actor and perhaps that was always where he belonged, but for a short window in the late-‘90s, it seemed like he was destined for bigger and better things. Oh well.
In the late-‘80s/early-‘90s, Geena Davis was considered one of the top female stars in Hollywood. Her name was mentioned alongside Julia Roberts and Jodie Foster. Then she made Cutthroat Island, a movie which bombed so horrifically that it not only shredded her career, it helped shred her marriage to the movie’s director, Renny Harlin. Within a couple of years of the film’s release, their marriage was over and she was in the midst of a three year stretch in which she didn’t even bother to make a single movie. When she finally reemerged, it was in the kids movie Stuart Little. She then tried her hand at TV and over the last decade her career has consisted of mostly ignored Stuart Little sequels and failed television series. Maybe she should have actually driven off that cliff at the end of Thelma & Louise.
The only reason why Affleck isn’t even higher on this list is because he’s managed to slug his way back to A-List status, reinventing himself as an actor/director/all-around creative threat rather than as just a famous dude who makes shitty movies and bones famous ladies. Gigli was the nadir of Affleck’s career, the heart of a stretch in which he was better known as being one-half of “Bennifer” with Jennifer Lopez – whose career was also decimated by Gigli – than as a respected actor. I mean, this was a dude who won an Oscar for best screenplay so everyone knew there was talent in there. He had just seemingly pissed it all away chasing all the wrong things and to most people, Gigli was just the last piece of proof that they needed that he could be safely written off. And he was. For over half a decade, Affleck only appeared occasionally, almost never in leading roles, and for a three year period from 2006 to 2009, he didn’t show up in anything. Then he went back to his Boston roots. At first, he just starred behind the camera, writing and directing Gone Baby Gone in 2007. But then in 2010, Affleck decided to take back his leading man status, starring in The Town, which he also wrote and directed and finally, after almost a decade of wandering in the wilderness, he found himself back on the A-List. But thanks to Gigli – and to his ill-fated romance with Lopez – it’s a decade he can never get back.
Technically, Costner’s career managed to survive Waterworld and wasn’t really killed off until the disaster that was The Postman, but really, Waterworld was where it all started. It was the movie that tarnished his A-List status and left people leery about seeing anything else he was involved in. Before Waterworld, Costner seemed bulletproof. Waterworld shredded that bulletproof vest and left him utterly vulnerable to the killshot that was The Postman. Sure, he still shows up in movies from time to time, but his name is never the one above the title, his face is never the one on the poster, and he sure as hell isn’t the name that appears following the words "directed by…" That’s because nobody in Hollywood trusts him with their money anymore and Waterworld is the reason why.
Give Elizabeth Berkley credit – she took a huge risk in her attempt to break free from her Saved by the Bell past, and who can blame her, given that the alternative was to end up like Screech or Mr. Belding? Then again, she – along with the rest of us – should have known that the risk wouldn’t pay off. After all, if you’re going to willingly star in a piece of shit like Showgirls, you have to at least have some serious acting chops to pull it off, and we all remember her sterling performance in that Saved by the Bell episode where she got addicted to speed and sang “I’m So Excited,” right? Right. Oh well, at least her career is only, at worst, the third most embarrassing of all the Saved by the Bell cast members, maybe even fourth depending on how you view Mario Lopez’s epic body of work. But at least he never wildly humped Kyle MacLachlan in a pool. At least not on film.
Look, I couldn’t write this without including Eddie Murphy. I mean, he has to be included on any list about actors who ruined their careers with bad choices, doesn’t he? He’s practically the patron saint of this list. But how could I choose any of his epic flops over the others? I mean, is The Adventures of Pluto Nash really any more embarrassing than Norbit? Or Imagine That? Or Meet Dave? Or A Thousand Words? Or… you get the point. I could keep going, though. It’s a testament to how brilliant we all know that he really is deep inside that we keep giving him chance after chance to steal back what he’s lost. Anyone else would just be dead and gone by now, but not Eddie and that’s because we want him to come back, we need him to come back and so we keep enabling this horrible shit. Maybe we just need to cut him off. I don’t know. This is too depressing to even think about anymore, and frankly, that’s why he’s number one on this list.
(Originally published on April 11, 2012.)