The era of the Hollywood superstar is over. From conception until the fledging days of the new Millennium, Tinseltown relied heavily upon the draw of big names and huge stars to sell a movie – witness the identikit Arnie films that were commissioned throughout the 80’s and ask yourself if they would have been green lit without the lumbering Austrian’s involvement. However, we’re in the middle of an exciting new era for the silver screen, one where audiences care more about the concept and execution of a movie than the casting; If the DC franchise decided to cast McLovin as Batman, it’s feasible that a large audience would still exist who’d be willing to buy into the film.
Though studios don’t necessarily need to hire Will Smith or Jennifer Lawrence to sell a movie, their involvement would naturally help at the box office. Studios and casting agents would sell their own grandmothers to bottle the natural appeal that such actors have for audiences and sprinkle it over some of the lesser Hollywood lights. Just as somebody like Lawrence can go through a supernaturally hot streak, there are others who seem cursed to failure, no matter what the project. These unlucky actors are like box office poison, unwittingly harming the takings of the movies they appear in just by having their names on the poster.
It’s hard to say whether this is down to the actors themselves making poor career choices, their individual brands becoming toxic or a failure to connect with an audience, but this article discusses ten actors who, unlike perennial mediocrity Adam Sandler, surely have no right to be featured in a list such as this. They’re the grinning, golden gods of Hollywood, right? Wrong. Despite the ten stars having looks to die for, talent to kill for and bank balances to envy, all of them seem to repel audiences at the moment. Confused? Probably not as much as their agents are.
10. Colin Farrell
Colin Farrell seemed destined for superstardom at the turn of the century. Handsome, charming and roguish, he was the embodiment of old Hollywood. After a mesmerising performance in Tigerland, he was cast alongside box office surety Tom Cruise in Minority Report and everything he touched turned to gold. Since then, audiences have somewhat cooled towards Farrell. The epic Alexander stalled after a decent opening and similar big budget flicks such as the Total Recall remake have only turned a small profit. Worse, Farrell has taken on numerous projects such as The Way Back and Cassandra’s Dream which could only have repelled audiences more if the ushers had punched them in the face on the way in. Though Saving Mr. Banks performed solidly, he was decidedly second fiddle on the billing to Russell Crowe and Will Smith. His career may well hinge on the performance of 2016’s Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them.
9. Michael Cera
Michael Cera seemed destined for big things at the back-end of 2007 with the one-two punch of Superbad and Juno. The indie flicks performed strongly at theatres, both easily crossing the nine-figure threshold and Cera was feted as the poster boy for awkward nerds everywhere. Sadly, Cera was part of an ensemble cast on both occasions and everybody grows out of that awkward stage eventually. When he had to carry a film on his own name alone, the projects crashed and burned at the box office. Indie films Paper Heart, The End of Love and Hits made no money from ticket sales while bigger-budget fare such as the irredeemably awful Scott Pilgrim VS. The World failed to recoup the studio expenditure. Cera has appeared in fewer films each year that he has been active, with 2015 seeing him appear only in the aforementioned Hits and Entertainment, which took less than $49,000. Cera is possibly hoping for a new series of Arrested Development as badly as the rest of us, though for different reasons.
8. Lindsay Lohan
Though she possibly has a long and fruitful career ahead as the Ghost of Christmas Future for todays crop of Disney starlets, LiLo has pretty much killed her box office appeal stone dead. She seemed to have all the attributes for a successful career: undeniably gorgeous, she actually gave good performances in Mean Girls and the underrated Bobby, but there’s only so much vacuous nonsense the general public can take before they write off a star as a joke and steer well clear of any poster bearing their name. Aside from a cameo in the idiot-pleasing Scary Movie 5, none of Lohan’s projects have topped $20 million in takings since the Herbie vehicle (hah!) of the early naughties. The real nadir in Lohan’s poisonous box office performance seem to have come most recently, with 2013’s The Canyons taking $59,000 and InAPPropriate Comedy paying for its awful title with only £228k in the bank. Lohan hasn’t made a movie since.
7. Katherine Heigl
The erstwhile Grey’s Anatomy star hasn’t performed anywhere near as well as many thought she would when she made the transition from the small to the big screen. Though she started off well, with the co-lead in Judd Apatow’s fun comedy Knocked Up, her films have consistently failed to make much of a dent at the box office. The Big Wedding, which she could and did perform in her sleep, took a paltry million more than its budget while One For The Money actually made a loss. The public’s apathy towards Heigl seems to be based on her persona; she is frequently cold and b*tchy during interviews and has complained about previous directors and projects when it may have been wiser to keep her thoughts to herself. Worryingly for Heigl, the public have long memories – she released Home Sweet Hell, Jackie and Ryan and Jenny’s Wedding during 2015. They made a disclosed £3,504 between them.
6. Shia LaBoeuf
Is Shia LaBoeuf even an actor anymore? The man himself would have you believe that he’s no longer famous, but also that he’s now a conceptual artist; his latest “installation” involved him sitting at a bank of phones with a small team and inviting people to phone him and ‘touch his soul’. Anything that takes up time that would otherwise be spent making more Transformers films is all well and good, but there seems to be a very definite public opinion of Shia as a bit of a fool, which may or may not be grossly unfair. This certainly seems to keep people away from his lower budget films, with the indigestible Charlie Countryman and Nymphomaniac:Volume One taking less than a million between them. LaBoeuf is canny when picking franchises and ensembles to act in, with his appearances in Indiana Jones, Transformers and I, Robot failing to negate the box office.
5. Vince Vaughn
Watching a Vince Vaughn movie nowadays is a chastening experience for those of an age to remember the buzz about him when he appeared as a lithe, quick-witted chanced in Swingers. He tried to go down the tried and trusted ‘action sidekick’ route in Jurassic Park: The Lost World before excessing his comedy chops in the charming Wedding Crashers. Sadly, Vaughn has been making the same film ever since, with diminishing returns. Films like The Dilemma and The Watch made their budget back (which isn’t the same thing as turning a profit when you take into account advertising costs, etc) while his only recent moderate success would be The Internship, which is underrated but hardly ground-breaking. Vaughn seems unable to break out of the rut he’s in, always playing the fast-talking, well-meaning oaf that audiences once loved, but have grown tired of. Even his much-ballyhooed return to drama in the second season of True Detective turned out to be a critical and commercial disaster, though in fairness there was nobody walking away from that car-crash alive.
4. Halle Berry
Where did it all go wrong for Halle Berry? In the early years of the Naughties, as no-one calls them now, she won an Oscar, played a Bond girl and earned extra zeros on her pay check just for taking her swimsuit off in Swordfish. Since then…nothing worth writing home about. Berry’s career seemed to nosedive after starring in 2004’s comically dreadful Catwoman. The wretched comic book adaptation took $40 million on a $100 million budget on the back of awful reviews, after which Berry’s career began to flatline. Aside from her appearances in the successful X-Men franchise, she picked projects like Dark Tide, which gained limited releases alongside overblown, plotless CGI drama Cloud Atlas, which outrightly bombed. Though a case can be made for Berry exhibiting poor judgement rather than being box office poison, her name didn’t exactly draw audiences to theatres when starring in Frankie & Alice; not only did the film take a meagre domestic gross of $706,506 – only showing in one theatre – it also holds the record for the lowest ever British box office, with a derisory £14 take.
3. Ryan Reynolds
Poor Ryan Reynolds has spent the entire 21st century so far having everything that is interesting about him slowly drained away by Hollywood executives determined to shoehorn him into light, romantic comedies and inoffensive nonsense. It’s a great shame, because he was genuinely unsettling in the remake of The Amityville Horror, which was (not coincidentally) the last time he made a box office splash on his own name alone. Though Reynolds has appeared in successes such as The Croods and X-Men Origins:Wolverine, it has been part of an ensemble or, in the case of inferior comedy The Proposal, as second fiddle to a bigger star. Though his take on Green Lantern crossed $200 million, it barely made any money due to the massive budget while The Change-Up saw audiences stay away in droves and the £130 million Summer movie R.I.P.D. took a catastrophic $59 million. Deadpool’s up next for Reynolds – if it’s a failure, we’ll eat our collective hat but, again this is down to the franchise rather than the star.
2. Johnny Depp
Once, you could have not only had a movie green lit based purely on Johnny Depp’s involvement, but probably have been confident on securing a multi-sequel option, too. How quickly slips the crown in Hollywood. Once a massive draw and the star of mega-hits such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Sleepy Hollow, Depp now appears to curse everything that he appears in. In the past three years, he has starred in some of the most excruciating turkeys of modern times. Transcendence made $77 million less than its budget, Mortedcai took a meagre $8 million (from a budget of $60 million) while the perplexing decision to afford The Lone Ranger a $215 million budget was shown to be a folly when the film tanked. Not only did it only take $89 million and was widely derided, but co-star Armie Hammer’s career seems to have vanished as collateral damage. Is Depp’s box office poison now viral? He’s lucky that he has his Pirates of the Caribbean franchise to fall back upon.
1. Mel Gibson
Hands up who saw Mel at number one coming? Oh, all of you. Well, don’t blame us and definitely don’t blame anyone that Mel tells you to. The fallen icon is pure poison at the box office following his deranged, drunken ranting a few years ago. Once capable of making so-so action flicks such as Conspiracy Theory a smash hit, his booze-soaked sexism and racism have seen audiences avoid his projects in droves. Edge of Darkness failed to make much more than its modest budget of $60 million while Get The Gringo was a seven-figure failure and comeback vehicle The Beaver failed to make the most of the free publicity and/or notoriety, taking a pitiful $6.3 million. Even an appearance in The Expendables 3 saw the lowest take of the whole trilogy. There’s a lesson to be learned here: if you want to carry on bringing home the box office gold, try not to be a hate-filled moron.
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