First, let’s be clear who we aren’t talking about today: reality stars. If you truly expect people who are willing to do virtually anything to get on television to be decent, hardworking or intelligent, then I’d like to welcome you to our planet, please enjoy these samplings of our finest food and culture. To assume attention-starved, seemingly unbalanced 20-somethings will be pleasant is to assume Donald Trump is a good businessman.
We also won’t be discussing celebrities who assault paparazzi. Given the underhanded, shady techniques in which that profession deals, it’s a wonder the attacks aren’t more brutal.
But there are plenty of genuinely talented individuals who are wild cards. People that, should you work up the courage to approach them for an autograph, may be just as congenial as they appear onscreen or may suddenly break a beer bottle and threaten you.
Then there are the behind-the-scenes stories. For every anecdote about John Candy making lasagna for his entire staff the night he passed away, there’s a dozen Christian Bales yelling at crew. In that particular instance, it’s hard to fault Bale. He was genuinely trying to act and, by all accounts, the director of photography at which he exploded was even more of a douchebag. Yet there are many, many others that were less than justified.
So, just to burst your individual bubbles, here are just 15 actors who may seem cool onscreen, but are frankly unbearable elsewhere.
15. Tommy Lee Jones – Just As Stern In Real Life
Tommy Lee Jones began his acting career in the 70s with the undeservedly successful Love Story. Erich Segal, the author of the novel on which the film is based, is purported to have based Ryan O’Neal’s lead character on two of his Harvard classmates that also happened to be roommates: Al Gore and Jones. You can kind of see it, Gore’s sentimental, sincere core – which has since been on display in documentaries like An Inconvenient Truth and that notoriously over-affection kiss with wife Tipper during the 2000 election – blended with Jones’ self-seriousness.
Jones has always been a reliable, charismatic figure in film – rightfully taking home an Oscar for his role as U.S. Marshall Samuel Gerard in The Fugitive. He also has a streak of hardasses in his filmography, which appears to be closer to Jones’ genuine persona than any of his other roles. Though unverified, there are stories of him having waitresses fired just for acknowledging his celebrity. His grimace throughout awards shows have become something of a meme. And then, of course, there’s the instance he told co-star Jim Carrey that he hated him and that he “can’t sanction your buffoonery.”
14. Chevy Chase – A (Talented) Nightmare
Younger readers may only be familiar with Chevy Chase‘s later work or his everyman role as Clark Griswold in National Lampoon’s Vacation franchise. There was a time, however, when Chase embodied a new wave of cool. The year was 1975 and a show called NBC’s Saturday Night took to the airwaves – you know it today as Saturday Night Live. Chase hosted the Weekend Update, coining the phrase “Good evening, I’m Chevy Chase and you’re not.” TV historians say he got the earliest recognition for being the only cast member to actually be named on the show (the credits at the time were just listed alphabetically, no pictures). But his comic timing was precise, his pratfalls legendary and he oozed a natural charm and a gift for one-liners.
Hollywood called for Chase first, and he left halfway through the show’s second season. And, for a good decade and change, he had a string of hits. The best of which was his performance as Irwin R. Fletcher in Fletch – most of his lines were improved by Chase on the spot. Sadly, he’s a bit prickly, to say the least. When he returned to host SNL, he and co-star Bill Murray got into a huge fight, prompting Murray to exclaim, “F*#*ing Chevy. Medium talent!” That’s an example of not only what a jerk Chase can be, but how cool Murray is – even a heat of fury and rage, he had the guile and wisdom to note that his adversary was somewhat talented.
13. Jennifer Lopez – A Diva Through And Through
In Andrew Niccol’s poorly conceived satire Simone, Al Pacino‘s Victor Taransky will do anything to please a star of his new film. This includes only having certain colour M&M’s in her trailer, as per her contract. It’s an old joke about celebrity contract riders, but every joke contains a kernel of truth. Jennifer Lopez tends to be a diva in the Norma Desmond vein. She seems to have a fetish for white – demanding dressing rooms be adorned with it. She makes this request – along with Cuban food, just about everywhere. Once, she demanded her riders be fulfilled for a cameo in a charity music video. According to TheSmokingGun, she stayed for less than an hour and never touched the food. She’s also built quite a reputation for being completely dismissive of fans.
12. Jonah Hill – Constantly Praising Himself
Jonah Hill got his start with supporting roles in Judd Apatow features before making it on his own as a serious dramatic actor. That path led him to an Academy Award nomination for The Wolf of Wall Street. Given how he’s spoken about his career in interviews since, there’s a bit of buyer’s remorse with Hill. He pontificates about how he’s done “the most difficult thing in Hollywood” by transitioning from a comedic actor to a serious one. There’s no question it truly is difficult to avoid stereotyping – particularly if the comedic voice you embody is as one-note as Hill’s, but constantly patting yourself on the back for it isn’t exactly classy.
In an interview on WTF with Marc Maron, he casually name-dropped Dustin Hoffman as “a family friend” – so it’s not exactly like Hill didn’t have help.
11. Sandra Bullock – Just A Really Good Actor
Sandra Bullock was inescapable in the 90s. She quickly transitioned from a supporting cast member into Hollywood’s everygirl, and for the most part she played it well. Speed, A Time to Kill and the extremely creepy While You Were Sleeping helped cement her place in pop culture as the idealistic charmer. Sometimes, you have to examine the company they keep. People nearly revolted when they learned her husband Jesse James had been unfaithful but…well, just look at the guy.
There’s also a report of her yelling at a wheelchair-bound fan for requesting an autograph. Credit Bullock with at least knowing it. She told Starpulse, “I am a bitch. I am a horrible, evil bitch but I’m a good actress and I can act like a really sweet person.”
10. Billy Bob Thornton – Overboard In Interviews
“Would you ask Tom Petty that question?!?” Billy Bob Thornton asked. It was a bit rhetorical, or at least asked at Canadian journalist (and noted creep) Jian Ghomeshi while he was trying to conduct an interview about music. The whole interview is worth a listen. Apparently, Thornton had insisted on no questions about his film career. He and his band, The Boxmasters, had released an album and he wanted to only discuss music. Ghomeshi had agreed to his demands, but made the mistake, by way of introduction, of mentioning his acting career. Thornton shut down, rambled on about an old Famous Monsters of Filmland contest he entered as a child, then got downright intense and rude.
9. Jared Leto – A Nightmare On Set
Sometimes, when actors go method, they manage to deliver astonishing performances. Daniel Day Lewis spends years preparing for a role, and essentially takes home a golden statue every time. They may seem standoffish during filming, but it’s no reflection of who they are in person. They’re chameleons.
There’s an old story about method acting. While filming Marathon Man, Sir Laurence Olivier saw his co-star Dustin Hoffman looking tired and asked if he was okay. Hoffman explained that he was method and he – like his character – hadn’t slept in three days. “Dear boy,” said Olivier, “Why don’t you try acting?”
Jared Leto should have taken the same advice. His antics behind the scenes during Suicide Squad for his “method” performance are completely absurd and seemingly added nothing to his Heath Ledger impression. Reportedly, he mailed used condoms to other cast members (hey, remember the comic book when the Joker did that? Neither do I). All that effort for ten minutes of an over-the-top, frankly stupid performance.
8. Michael Pitt – Weirdo On (And Off) Screen
Michael Pitt first came to national attention for his role as Jimmy Darmody in Boardwalk Empire, but he spent much of the 90s and early 2000s just on the fringes of fame. His most haunting performance is as the sociopathic Paul in Michael Haneke’s shot-for-shot remake of his own film, Funny Games. He’s played killers before and after, and he’s worked out a nice little niche for himself in the charismatic-yet-creepy-lunatic-type.
At least one journalist has implied he was more like his characters than one might like to believe. And by “implied” I mean “called him a ‘creepy douche’.” The journalist had gone to interview the actor at his home when he was seemingly stoned. She felt as though she “interrupted a drug deal.”
7. Miles Teller – “Cut My Food For Me!”
Miles Teller gained critical praise for his performance as the tortured drummer under the tutelage of J.K. Simmons fascistic band leader in Whiplash. In an earlier decade, his name would be John Cusack.
Except, by all accounts, John Cusack isn’t a d*ck.
“You’re sitting across from Miles Teller at the Luminary restaurant in Atlanta and trying to figure out if he’s a d*ck,” begins an unfailingly profile of the actor in Esquire. By the end of the article, the answer is a resounding “yes, he is.” The actor brags about how much better looking he is than expected, then – no joke – has the journalist cut his food for him. It gets so strange you start to worry that he’ll ask for it pre-chewed.
6. Shia LaBeouf – Is It Still Just An Act?
Shia LaBeouf‘s prickliness may be part of an act – an attempt at performance art not unlike Joaquin Phoenix‘s performance in I’m Still Here. Audiences didn’t respond well to Phoenix’s experiment in douchebaggery, but at the very least it was a fascinating exploration into the pitfalls of fame and ego. LaBeouf, on the other hand, has no upcoming film to accompany his strangeness. And, again unlike Phoenix, he won’t stop doing it. If it is one long piece of performance art, someone should tell him he had enough material for the exhibit years ago.
Nevertheless, he endures, being rude to fans (those that are left) and staging public protests and unsightly beards. No one can accuse LaBeouf of being the coolest guy onscreen, but his offscreen antics are enough to make his performance in the Transformers franchise a thing of angsty beauty.
5. Katherine Heigl – Notoriously Difficult
Katherine Heigl‘s newest film, Unforgettable, is a relic of the 90s – a Fatal Attraction/Unlawful Entry-era throwback. And while its title is wholly inaccurate, there’s no question Heigl’s creepy performance is one of its few highlights. No one has ever called Katherine Heigl a bad actress. They have other rather unpleasant names for her.
Her rather ugly persona first made headlines when she complained about the way Judd Apatow portrayed women in Knocked Up. She was branded an ingrate, a frigid pain in the ass. It’s somewhat ironic, as male critics in years since the film have made similar complaints about Apatow’s rather shallow approach to the opposite gender. So while it may not have been the classiest thing for an actress to do, her appraisal of the film is spot-on. The criticism against her is largely unjustified.
Where it is justified is her role in the sappy, Shonda Rhimes-created Grey’s Anatomy, from which she was fired for being “difficult.” Also, much like Jennifer Lopez, she’s known for obscene, ostentatious contractual demands – most of which involving undeserved increases in salary.
4. Mike Myers – Not Just A “Fat” Bastard
There was a time, before Shrek and The Love Guru, that Mike Myers was funny. Not only was he funny, he was one of the biggest names in comedy. Wayne’s World, a spinoff from his successful run on SNL, was a critical and commercial hit. When Austin Powers came out of nowhere, it was another welcome surprise. Fans were even re-appraising earlier flops such as the cult hit So I Married An Axe Murderer. He was also one of the few actors since Eddie Murphy who could portray multiple characters in a single film without ever getting redundant.
Then came the stories. The reclusive, control freak emerged. He and director Penelope Spheeris clashed over the final cut of Wayne’s World, to the point where he prevented her from directing the sequel. “I hated that bastard for years,” Spheeris once said. Upon seeing Austin Powers, she reportedly forgave him.
Then his career imploded. His own internal machinations began tinkering with whatever onscreen magic he once had, and his self-indulgent Deepak Chopra gobbledegook he began to invest heavily in gave us The Love Guru. We didn’t want it.
3. Gwyneth Paltrow – Pretentious And Unrelatable
Gwyneth Paltrow is a terrific actress. She must be. Her performance as Pepper Potts in the MCU is light, relatable, strongly independent and consistently charming. She’s a welcome presence in a film franchise machine that often gives women the short end of the stick. But when Paltrow became a lifestyle guru, her relationship with the public quickly turned south. What she doesn’t seem to realize is that not everyone has been blessed with a famous parent (Blythe Danner) and an endless stream of money, so her advice to fans regarding diet and beauty regimens has been consistently tone deaf.
2. Bruce Willis – “Soul-Crushing” To Work With
Bruce Willis has been one of the biggest box office draws in the action genre. He’s even had some success (though not much) in comedy. And it’s easy to see why – anyone who’s seen Die Hard knows how easy he can be with a one-liner. So when professional nostalgist Kevin Smith got the chance to work with one of the most seemingly cool guys in Hollywood on Cop Out, he was thrilled. The two had already worked together on Live Free or Die Hard – for a scene he hated for being “funny” when Die Hard should always be serious. Willis was impressed with Smith’s script-doctor work on set, so he agreed to do his next film.
Though Smith praised co-star Tracy Morgan as someone he would “lay down in traffic for,” he described working with Willis as “soul crushing.”
1. Sean Connery – No Problem Hitting A Woman
Sean Connery was the first James Bond anyone noticed (though there was a previous Bond in an episode of CBS’ Climax! series). The Scottish-born Connery oozed sexuality and charm – everything Bond needed to seduce the long list of women he goes through like Kleenex. Even in his later years, before The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen convinced him to retire from acting, his charm was undeniable. His performance in The Rock is often thought to be just an older, retired Bond.
The problem is that Connery took Bond’s treatment of women a little too much to heart. For instance, he’s totally cool with domestic violence. “I don’t think there is anything particularly wrong with hitting a woman,” he told Playboy in 1965. It only got further disheartening. He even has a specific way of hitting the opposite sex. “An open-handed slap is justified.”
One might chalk this up to a sign of the times. It was the era of Mad Men, when men were men and women were domesticated. Sexist and awful though that still sounds, he didn’t seem to change his opinion 20 years later. “I haven’t changed my opinion,” he literally told Barbara Walters.