As we all know, casting is of course a huge thing in the film industry; who is in the leading roles in a film can make a difference of many millions in the film’s budget and the box office it can potentially expect. As film fans, when we see a certain name attached to a film it can make us want to watch it more (or have the opposite effect) and some names are usually a reasonable guarantee that the film is going to be good.
Well, there are two sides to every coin and of course there are the actors who seem to consistently turn up in utter rubbish and put in performances that are just as bad, making it beyond believe that they keep on getting work. I am not even going to go into to the subject of integrity or the fact that they should be embarrassed by their output because I expect they earn far more money than the average person and probably do not care one bit.
Well, here are my worst ten offenders based on the last ten years. I of course could cheat and use two bit names that only turn up in TV movies, but these are household names that would be familiar to even the most casual film fan. Some of these actors are Oscar winners that have turned up in great films and given us some truly memorable characters, earning their place among the all-time greats. This only serves as more frustrating because when we waste 2 hours of our valuable time watching the tripe that they churn out these days they are just laughing at us as they enjoy their excessive and undeserved wealth.
There are of course exceptions to anything, and as a reasonable man I will of course mention the rare exceptions. However, for the last ten years we have been guaranteed that if these famous names appear on the DVD cover (most of their films tend to avoid cinema release and therefore any kind of poster) of a film, it is likely to be utter crap and the actor just embarrass themselves. Read and weep!
10. John Cusack
Once there was a time that Cusack was either the charismatic lead in a romantic comedy or being immensely watchable in the likes of a variety of genre pieces like Con Air, Identity and Runaway Jury as well the unforgettable Being John Malkovich and underrated festive noir The Ice Harvest. However in the last ten years his choice of films has been very questionable, it seemed clear that he couldn’t be bothered in Hot Tub Time Machine and was there just to pick up the cheque (though even he avoided being in the recent sequel) and in recent years he seems happy to be in middle of the road straight to DVD ‘thrillers’, and the less said about the abysmal 2012 the better. If the front cover has a picture of John Cusack holding a gun, avoid it!
Exceptions: Cusack showed he still can be a charismatic screen presence with two wonderfully sleazy performances in Maps to the Stars (review) and The Paperboy (review), and he was OK in the decent but formulaic thriller 1408.
9. Jennifer Aniston
Thanks to Friends Jennifer Aniston became a household name in the 90s. However looking at her filmography she should be more proud of the fact she had a haircut named after her Friends character than any of her film roles. There is nothing necessarily wrong with an actor knowing their limits and sticking to what they know best, and to her credit Aniston is consistent, but her tendency to be in horrendous romantic comedies and the horrifically vile vomit inducing Marley & Me prove that if any film’s marketing has Aniston with a smug/quirky grin on it, avoid it! Recently she has decided to go for supposedly more raunchy roles, but as the likes of Horrible Bosses 2 (review) and we’re the Millers were not very good, they are just further embarrassing editions to her CV.
Exceptions: The recent Cake was a completely different genre choice for Aniston, and though this serious drama received mixed reviews, there was no denying Aniston was very good. So maybe her horrendous CV is down to bad choices as opposed to a lack of talent?
8. Vince Vaughn
Remember 1996’s Swingers? Well the young Vince Vaughn was very charismatic and genuinely funny in that. Though playing Norman Bates in Gus Van Sant’s horrendous remake of psycho was a bad idea, Vaughn made a career out of playing admittedly similar roles, but his particularly venomous delivery of dialogue was used to maximum effect in genuinely funny turns in the likes of Old School, Dodgeball, Starsky & Hutch and Mr & Mrs Smith. He was even OK in Jurassic Park III. However in the last ten years not only has Vince Vaughn starred in festive clunkers Fred Clause and Four Christmases (Festive films are usually a bad career choice) but he pretty much optimizes the laziness, cynicism and being crude for crude’s sake that seems to be the low standard for mainstream comedies and its star pulling a stupid face on the front cover.
Exceptions: Film wise; nothing, but the announcement of his casting in season 2 of True Detective was certainly met with hostility, can Vince prove us all wrong?
7. Christian Slater
In what may be a case of peaking too early, after a great turn in the excellent Heathers, in the 90s Christian Slater was most certainly a household name that starred in some of the decade’s biggest films and was always good value for money. His sometimes manic style earned him the nickname ‘Mini Nicholson’, but the film industry can be a shallow business and perhaps Christian Slater is a name that producers think will no longer get bums on seats as in the last decade it is hard to remember seeing any film at the cinema featuring him. It is obvious from his performance in the unintentionally funny financial flop Soldiers of Fortune (review) that he thought that was his big return or indeed Stallone clunker Bullet to the Head (review). Well, alas it most certainly was not and it would seem Slater is now doomed to be in straight to DVD low budget tripe.
Exceptions: More a case of being a good film than Slater’s minor role being particularly memorable, but despite his slightly iffy accent in Nymphomaniac (review) he did star in some of the film’s most moving scenes.
6. Steven Seagal
OK, Seagal was never the greatest actor ever, but at least in his prime he released some enjoyable action films and most certainly looked the part, and if the film’s marketing had Seagel’s name on it you know you were going to be entertained, even if perhaps you sometimes laughed at the film more than with it. However as Seagal’s wrinkle count has increased, the quality of his films have consistently decreased. The plots may still be pretty much the same, but as Seagel increasingly relies on editors to conceal the fact he is way too slow to actually fight and seems to be only capable of one expression his films have gone from from vacuous entertainment to boring straight to DVD drivel that is to be avoided.
Exceptions: None whatsoever, not even the horrendously overrated Machete.
5. Cameron Diaz
When Cameron Diaz first came onto the scene in The Mask she most certainly had an instantly likeable aura about her and she definitely gave us likeable turns in comedies like There’s Something About Mary, Very Bad Things as well as good performances in the likes of Vanilla Sky, Gangs of New York and Being John Malkovich. However in the last decade she seems to have not only decided to be in terrible films, but also have an expression on the poster that is just as annoying as her performance. These irritating ‘comedies’ seem to get worse and worse with last year’s The Other Woman (review) and Sex Tape (review) being painful viewing, but when not in these terrible supposed comedies, she is giving cringe inducing and misjudged performances in drama like The Counsellor (review).
Exceptions: Diaz was bearable, but did not have any positive contribution to the enjoyable Knight & Day, and she did suitably tone down her usual tendency to overact in the genuinely moving drama My Sister’s Keeper.
4. Bruce Willis
Once if an action blockbuster had Bruce Willis on the poster you knew you would be entertained, he was always the most charismatic and best at portraying the everyman compared to Stallone or Arnie. Likewise Willis proved his worth in both comedies and serious dramas. However in the last ten years the quality of his output has gradually diminished with a combination of rubbish big budget films that are made with an equal measure of laziness and cynicism like Die Hard 5 (review) and Red 2 (review) as well as equally rubbish low budget straight to DVD films in which he turns up in a handful of scenes. It seems that these days Bruce cannot be bothered to act anymore, and we should not be bothered to watch the films he is in anymore either.
Exceptions: Wes Anderson somehow got an incredibly rare good performance from Willis in Moonrise Kingdom, and though it was slightly overrated as a film, Willis was admittedly OK in Looper.
3. Adam Sandler
If there is one man (other than Vince Vaughn) that sums up the vile cynicism of mainstream cinema these days, it has to be Adam Sandler; in the 90s he provided us with some decent and watchable comedies and even proved in Punch Drunk Love that he can do serious acting. Sandler is essentially the boss on all of his films and in the last decade each ‘comedy’ that he produces is a heinous crime against cinema, What is more depressing is that they continue to make money, which will only encourage him!
Exceptions: In a rare serious role, Sandler produced a genuinely moving performance in 9/11 drama Reign Over Me and was also half decent in the flawed Men, Women & Children.
2. Nicolas Cage
Of all actors, none get quite as much ridicule as Nicolas Cage, but looking at his filmography it is completely deserved. He was never the greatest of actors, with his tendency to overact producing comedy at his expense as opposed to with him, and looking at his performances in some of his earlier films it is slightly baffling how he ever managed to become such a big star. At least the films Cage strreda in were genuinely enjoyable rides and some of the best blockbusters of the 90s, and of course he also nabbed an Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas.
However in the last 10 years it seems that Nic just does not care and has been starring in increasingly awful films. Some do qualify for the ‘so-bad-it-is-good’, with The Wicker Man (“Not the bees!”) and last year’s Left Behind (review) being the pinnacle of this, but with his films increasingly going straight to DVD, the site of Nicolas Cage on the poster means a film to avoid. Each actor these days seems to get the chance to play one superhero character (apart from Chris Evans – greedy!), but with Ghost Rider poor old Nic seems to have picked the worst one with a terrible first film followed by an utterly abysmal and seemingly plot-free sequel.
Exceptions: (admittedly there are a few): Lord of War was excellent, Cage’s trademark unhinged style was perfect for the wildly entertaining Kick-Ass and Bad Lieutenant. In the excellent Joe (review) Cage did prove that he can be a charismatic and good actor in a serious drama when he wants to be, National Treasure 2 just about got away with its utter ridiculousness and animated film The Croods was good fun and featured Cage lending his dulcet tones as the film’s main character.
1. Robert De Niro
Given the context of Bob’s CV he has to be at the very summit of this list; his filmography is an endless list of all time classic films and iconic and unforgettable characters and performances. There is of course nothing wrong with taking things easier when in the later years of your career, but looking at De Niro’s filmography from the last ten years it is not unreasonable to just wish that he had retired. 2000’s Rocky & Bullwinkle was a warning sign when De Niro did a Travis Bickle impression, but in the last ten years he has consistently turned up in various genre, but the comedies, dramas and horror films have all been equally terrible, with last year’s Killing Season (review), which starred John Travolta (who narrowly missed being on this list himself) being one of the very worst films.
Exceptions: He may have embarrassed himself in his performance, but Stardust was great fun and though Silver Linings Playbook was very overrated, De Niro was admittedly very good in his deservedly Oscar nominated role in.
Of course is anyone has any names that come to mind that they feel I have missed then please let me know.