For most aspiring actors, it’s hard to imagine the role that first put your name on a Cineplex movie poster being reflected on with anything but fondness and adoration.
However, this is not always the case. For many stars, the roles that solidified their success also left them embarrassed, exhausted, and in some cases, ashamed. While some are able to merely laugh it off or grimace about it from time to time, for others the disillusionment proved so strong that they remain steadfastly bitter or even gave up hope of an acting career altogether.
For the rest of us though, it’s strangely comforting to know that even the most seemingly polished of individuals also spend their weeknights obsessing over their grand mistakes. It just makes them a bit more (for lack of a more original term) human. And if we’re being honest, the fact that at least our grand mistakes have been largely kept out of the public eye makes us feel slightly more like winners. Well, at least I do anyway.
Whether it’s a case of poor production, financial issues, perceived mediocrity, or just plain dislike, here are 13 actors who regret their legendary roles.
13. Matt Damon – The Bourne Ultimatum
Many of us probably know of at least one dad/boyfriend/son that has received a Bourne boxset for Christmas. However, this did not seem to matter to Matt Damon when he stepped down from the franchise in 2006 following the release of The Bourne Ultimatum. Despite Damon’s respect for writer Tony Gilroy, he felt that the script was poorly produced, rushed, and lacking in originality. Recently, he seems to be rectifying this himself by teaming up with director Paul Greengrass to write the fifth film in the series titled Jason Bourne, which is set to be released in late 2016.
12. Shia LaBeouf – Transformers
Ever since the end of his Even Stevens days, Shia LaBeouf has often been left wanting in terms of his more established roles. Despite the fact that a large amount of his savings is a result of his role in Transformers, he has limited respect for the franchise. This was especially evident when he chose to live stream himself watching all his films in reverse chronological order at the Angelika Film Center back in November. LaBeouf routinely napped through all the Transformers films not because he was tired, but because he was “going through some kind of crisis.”
11. Penn Badgley – Gossip Girl
Although often recognized from teen favourites such as John Tucker Must Die and Easy A, Penn Badgley got his real start on the CBS drama Gossip Girl as aspiring writer Dan Humphrey. Despite this, he never seems to pass up an opportunity to state how he really felt about the show. When asked about his opinion on the series finale in a May 2015 interview for People, Badgley responded that it “didn’t make sense at all. It wouldn’t have made sense for anyone. Gossip Girl doesn’t make sense!” He also readily states his fatigue over being compared by fans to “a tool on a show with soap-operatic arcs.”
10. Jessica Alba – Fantastic Four 2
2007’s Fantastic Four 2 was the only film that made Jessica Alba question her career altogether. She attributes this to director Tim Story and his attempts to “dehumanise” her performance by telling her to “be prettier when she cried” and to make her face look flat during emotional scenes because they could “CGI the tears in.” Alba was so frustrated that she began to doubt her own abilities and the ethics of the film business:
Am I not good enough? Are my instincts and my emotions not good enough? Do people hate them so much that they don’t want me to be a person? Am I not allowed to be a person in my work? And so I just said, ‘F–k it. I don’t care about this business anymore.”
9. Marlon Brando – A Streetcar Named Desire
Marlon Brando became one of the most well respected actors of his generation thanks to Stanley Kowalski, the brooding salesman from the Tennessee William’s play A Streetcar Named Desire. Despite earning an Oscar nomination for his performance in 1951, Brando couldn’t identify with Kowalski at all and was disgusted that he became a “sexy outlaw” character despite his aggressive and egocentric nature:
“Kowalski was always right, and never afraid. He never wondered, he never doubted. His ego was very secure. And he had the kind of brutal aggressiveness that I hate. I’m afraid of it. I detest the character.”
8. Christopher Plummer – The Sound Of Music
The Rodgers and Hammerstein classic The Sound of Music simultaneously enchanted families everywhere and launched the then unknown Christopher Plummer into stardom. However, Plummer was “a bit bored” with his role as Captain Von Trapp and said that “trying to make him interesting was a bit like flogging a dead horse.” He described the rest of the film as “awful and sentimental and gooey” and refused to attend a cast reunion until 2010. He refers to the film by a host of affectionate nicknames including “The Sound of Mucus,” “S&M,” and even just “that movie.”
7. Sean Connery – James Bond
007 plucked Sean Connery out of obscurity and ensured that at least one person will always recognize him no matter how old he gets. Connery himself though, doesn’t appear to think quite along these lines. Throughout his reign as the indestructible James Bond from 1962 to 1983, he remained in constant conflict with producers over the fact that he received just $3 million out of a franchise that was worth $1.6 billion in the U.S. alone. Despite his success, Connery remains bitter and maintains that he has “always hated that damned James Bond…I’d like to kill him.”
6. Katherine Heigl – Knocked Up
Knocked Up may have put Katherine Heigl on the A-list, but she nevertheless found the portrayal of her character, journalist Alison Scott, one dimensional and “a little sexist”:
“It paints the women as shrews, as humorless and uptight, and it paints the men as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys. It exaggerated the characters, and I had a hard time with it, on some days. I’m playing such a bitch; why is she being such a killjoy? Why is this how you’re portraying women? Ninety-eight percent of the time it was an amazing experience, but it was hard for me to love the movie.”
5. Kate Winslet – Titanic
Kate Winslet also weeps every time she watches Titanic, but perhaps not for the same reasons we do. During the film’s re-release in 3D in 2012, she stated that she can’t bear to watch what she perceives as an under-developed performance by her younger self:
“…Even my American accent, I can’t listen to it. It’s awful. Hopefully it’s so much better now. It sounds terribly self-indulgent but actors do tend to be very self-critical. I have a hard time watching any of my performances, but watching Titanic I was just like, ‘Oh God, I want to do that again.’”
4. Michelle Pfeiffer – Grease 2
Although almost everyone with a pulse remembers Grease, its 1982 sequel came nowhere near the success of its predecessor. Even though the film gave the then unknown Michelle Pfeiffer her first lead role and consequently put her one step closer to the A-list, she revealed in 2007 that she is deeply embarrassed by her performance and blames it on her youthful naivety:
“I hated that film with a vengeance and could not believe how bad it was. At the time I was young and didn’t know any better.”
3. George Clooney – Batman & Robin
George Clooney was able to transition from swooning daytime audiences on ER to late night movie screenings when he replaced Val Kilmer as Batman in 1997’s Batman & Robin. The film hosted a multitude of obvious failures including cheesy and pun-riddled dialogue, dayglow sets, and to top it all off, nipples on the Batsuit. Since then, he has apologized profusely for his performance and admits that he thought he’d “destroyed the franchise” until Christopher Nolan resurrected it.
2. Joseph Gordon Levitt – 500 Days Of Summer
The 2012 rom-com 500 Days of Summer gave Joseph Gordon Levitt widespread fame and teenage infatuation. Although he does like the film, Gordon Levitt still cautions against looking to his character, Tom, as a romantic role model as he believes him to be embroiled in unhealthy fantasy projection:
“I would encourage anyone who has a crush on my character to watch it again and examine how selfish he is. He develops a mildly delusional obsession over a girl onto whom he projects all these fantasies. He thinks she’ll give his life meaning because he doesn’t care about much else going on in his life….That’s not healthy.”
1. Jake Lloyd – Anakin Skywalker
1999 should have been the start of a fruitful career for Jake Lloyd. At just eight years old, he was cast as Anakin Skywalker in George Lucas’s Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. However, Lloyd describes the experience as “a living hell”, largely because he was forced to give up to 60 interviews a day without being properly prepared for the excess media attention. He was also bullied by other children who made lightsaber noises whenever they saw him, which became unbearable. Upon the film’s completion, he promptly destroyed all his Star Wars memorabilia and gave up acting for good.