The personal downfalls of Hollywood figureheads have always fascinated the public, from abuse allegations against the likes of Woody Allen and Roman Polanski, to Mel Gibson’s racial ranting and alcoholism. Here, Vulture Hound takes a critical look at the bad choices and diva attitudes of Hollywood’s top actors and directors now struggling to garner the admiration and attention they once enjoyed.
1. Robert DeNiro, actor:
An undeniable titan of the film industry, Robert De Niro will forever be up there with the likes of fellow method actors Marlon Brando, Al Pacino and Dustin Hoffman. However from 2002 onwards, his output has had all the pizazz and originality of a whoopee cushion, with endless limp comedies churned out, one after another. The man whose performance in Martin Scorsese’s fearless and gritty Taxi Driver (1976) was so powerful it inspired Meryl Streep to pursue acting, he showed unmatched versatility and a total devotion to the craft. He is hailed as the greatest actor of all time, known for his outstanding performances in Raging Bull (1980), Casino (1995) and Cape Fear (1991), to name a few. Fast forward to present day, the paltry offerings such as The Big Wedding (2013), Last Vegas (2013) and the simply unfunny-bordering-on-foul Dirty Grandpa (2016) De Niro has lost the once-unshakeable respect from the past by trading in quality for quantity. He once said of his career: “You can rest when you’re dead!” Perhaps it’s time to take a break.
2. M Night Shyamalan, director:
Shyamalan’s trademark twist technique can be seen across the spectrum of his directorial outputs, the classic and best ones being The Sixth Sense (the second-highest grossing film of 1999) Unbreakable (2000) and Signs (2002). All three grapple with otherworldly themes that, in the wrong hands, could easily have come out as hackneyed or corny. Instead, authentic emotional angles and plot mystique make for some damn fine storytelling. Sadly for Shyamalan it was a failing on the ‘one size fits all’ policy, where the repeated use of ‘the twist’ grew less imaginative and character development started to lack sincerity, resulting in the flops of The Village (2004), The Happening (2008) and The Last Airbender (2010). The last one in particular was a notably incoherent mess which, combined with an unsuitably white cast, alienated loyal fans of the TV series and original books. A comeback could be on the cards however, so we’re keeping an eye on him.
3. Kevin Costner, actor
Kevin Costner’s career downfall is perhaps the strongest testament to the fragility of Hollywood poster boys. After holding his own against the big boys Robert De Niro and Sean Connery in The Untouchables (dir. Brian de Palma, 1987), Costner went from strength to strength with the likes of Dances with Wolves (1990), JFK (1991) and The Bodyguard (1992). Dances, which he directed, produced and starred in, beat out both Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola for the Oscar, proving his status as a Hollywood honey pot very quickly, and coupled with his squeaky clean private life, Costner was the golden egg of the ‘90s. However, his involvement in some utterly ridiculous films including one with the plot of a philosophising drifter-turned-postman wandering around post-apocalyptic America (yes, you did read that correctly), amongst a few other stinkers, was all it took to knock him off the radar. We haven’t heard from him since.
4. Mischa Barton, actor
Mischa is one on this list that suffered more from personal issues that affected her work rather than bad career choices (although the two are pretty much synonymous). She found fame as Marissa Cooper on the hit show The O.C. however her talent on-screen was apparent from a young age, thanks to her role in The Sixth Sense as young murder victim Kyra Collins. It seemed to be a classic case of too much, too soon for Mischa, who having shot to fame at just 16, slipped off the public radar and landed a DUI in 2007. Just two years afterwards, she spent time recuperating in a psychiatric ward for allegedly threatening suicide. Unlike her co-stars Rachel Bilson and Adam Brody, who both moved on to other successful TV shows, Mischa hasn’t returned to the level of fame she reached during her O.C. days. However, her talent hasn’t gone unnoticed, with Richard Attenborough describing her acting as ‘riveting’ after her performance in his film Closing the Ring (2007). With several works in the pipeline for this year and next, she could still make a comeback, but the clock is ticking.
5. Adam Sandler, actor
Star status as a comedy actor remains, at least in my eyes, to be one of the most difficult achievements in the film industry: not only does one have to make people laugh, they have to keep on doing it, and if they decide to change direction and go for drama, that demands complete believability from the audience which is rarely given. Adam Sandler is one such guy who, apart from noted 90s classics such as The Wedding Singer (1998), Billy Madison (1995) and Big Daddy (1999) has since been totally out of sync with his audience. A large part of comedic longevity is daring to be different, evolving with the times. Sandler tried this with Spanglish (2004) and although it’s a little underrated, his attempt at an endearing portrayal of self-identity issues seemed forced and awkward. Oddly, I found the emotional aspects of Big Daddy genuinely sad, so it’s not that he’s incapable of doing it, but after trying to move towards more dramatic roles, he seemingly gave up and swung back to his roots in the moronic You Don’t Mess With the Zohan (2008). After all the chopping and changing, fans were unable to take him seriously in either direction, and he hasn’t made anything watchable since.
6. Vince Vaughn, actor
Vince Vaughn falls into a similar category to Sandler, except I’ll admit I like his style more. Films such as DodgeBall (2004) and Wedding Crashers (2005) are the ultimate ‘pizza night’ movies, full of hilarious moments and some impressively quick-witted deliveries from Vaughn, particularly in the latter. His timing and dialogue talents were also noted by renowned critic Roger Ebert when reviewing Couples Retreat (2009), but since then Vaughn has seen five flops in a row, including another bromance movie with Owen Wilson in The Internship (2013. He also made an attempt to move out of his comfort zone in the more heartfelt Delivery Man (2013) but critics felt it paled in comparison to the hit Canadian comedy that inspired it, Starbuck (2011). In 2015, Vaughn hit the headlines by changed agencies from CAA to rival WME in hopes to turn his luck around, and that may be in the works due to his involvement in the hugely popular True Detective series. Once a box-office record breaker, Vaughn may benefit from a change in direction by taking on more daring, challenging roles- for example, although perhaps not quite on the same talent level, Robin Williams’ change of direction tack in psychological horror One Hour Photo (2002) comes to mind.
7. Val Kilmer, actor
The youngest person to ever be accepted into the prestigious Juilliard School for the performing arts, Val Kilmer’s Achilles heel reportedly came from his difficult behaviour on set, sparking clashes with directors for his egotistical rants and diva attitude. Kilmer is best known for his work in Top Gun (1986) alongside Tom Cruise, where he played Navy fighter pilot ‘Iceman’, and along with his solid performances in Tombstone (1993), espionage thriller The Saint (1997) and as Bruce Wayne in Batman Forever, Kilmer became a household name and sex symbol in the ‘90s. However, Batman Forever director Joel Schumacher found Kilmer to be “childish and irrational”, with rude behaviour directed not only towards Schumacher but cameramen and costume staff, as well as consistently being late to set. Indie director John Frankenheimer (Ronin, 1998) also had issues with Kilmer, stating: “There are two things I will never ever do in my whole life. The first is that I will never climb Mount Everest. The second is that I will never work with Val Kilmer ever again.” Indeed, Val Kilmer’s expanding waistline has been more attention grabbing than any of his creative work post-‘90s, however a Top Gun 2 has recently been confirmed, so he’ll have to lose both the paunch and the attitude.
8. John Carpenter, director
Known as one of the most influential directors to revitalise the horror genre, John Carpenter is best known for his distinctive visual and musical style (he is also a composer) showcased in works such as Halloween (1978), The Thing (1982) and sci-fi romance drama Starman (1984). His early career as an independent filmmaker saw the launch of cult cop drama Assault on Precinct 13, where his penchant for heroes battling near-impossible odds united with seemingly opposed characters marked him to be both original and box-office friendly, with Halloween inspiring seven sequels and the 1970s love for ‘slasher’ horror films. Carpenter was not always well received upon arrival, but he eventually enjoyed a cult following as a director ahead of his time and an inspiration, with many of his films used in academic discussion, such as his unique approach to the widescreen frame. Sadly this vision hasn’t featured much in his recent outputs, as Vampires (1998), Ghosts of Mars (2001) and The Ward (2010) all suffer from weak scripting, bland plotlines and a surprisingly generic approach to the genre. Perhaps it proves that horror films and their directors are often plagued by the zeitgeist dilemma: something that worked in the ‘70s won’t work in the noughties if there’s no style evolution, and Carpenter has become something of a product of his time that lost its market audience.
9. Mike Myers, actor and director
Myers’ path to stardom began with the success of hugely popular Wayne’s World (1992), a next-to-no-budget off-beat comedy that rips into Hollywood stereotypes, product placement and gormless American teenagers. It was an instant cult classic, and followed by Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997) including two sequels, and Shrek (2003), another SNL-turned-movie star was born. Myers displayed a unique, Brit-influenced sense of humour (he founded a comedy club in ‘80s London called The Comedy Store Players) that somehow conquered Hollywood. Cue the tumbleweed, however…after the disastrous reception of The Love Guru (2008), a crass, dull film for which he won a Razzie for worst actor, we haven’t heard or seen much from him in the last decade, and no-one really knows why. The duration of his absence could prove beneficial to him in terms of giving him a fresh start, but he will need to be far more innovative and embrace the modern audience, rather than relying on old tricks that have seen better days.
10. Eddie Murphy, actor
Eddie Murphy can be partially credited for reviving SNL when it was facing cancellation in the early ‘80s, with classic character portrayals of Buckwheat, Gumby and Mr. Robinson making him a standout comedian against his rivals. His film debut in buddycop action thriller 48 Hrs. alongside Nick Nolte received critical acclaim as one of the best movies of 1982, and although the film itself isn’t particularly original, the interaction and quick-witted dialogue between Murphy and Nolte was widely praised. After finding repeated success in Trading Places (1983), Murphy made the critical error of saying yes to just about anything, and after a series of amusing but ultimately forgettable films such as The Nutty Professor (1996) and Doctor Dolittle (1998), his bad luck was cemented when he found himself embroiled in a scandal involving the arrest of a prostitute in his car in 1997. Personal blips aside, the issue with Murphy’s career isn’t that he wasn’t funny or that people don’t look upon his films fondly- they just weren’t very good movies. After trying to reinvent himself as family-friendly comic, he suffered again from a seemingly inexhaustible string of flops, and coupled with his infamous 2011 Oscars exit, it’s looking unlikely he’ll resurface anytime soon.