The best actors can make us forget who they really are when they’re on the screen. Sure, consciously we know that that’s Meryl Streep, Lupita Nyong’o or Penélope Cruz up there, but for those 90-plus minutes we become convinced that it’s Margaret Thatcher, Patsey or María Elena. It takes a great deal of time and effort for an actor to embody a role enough to convince us of this. It takes weeks or maybe even months to film a feature length movie, and that’s not even counting how much prep work an actor might do. And of course, for a television series, an actor can spend years portraying the same character, to such a point where we, the audience, begin to conflate the character’s attributes and behavior with the actor’s. It’s hard work, but that’s the job of an actor, and the best ones –or at least the most popular ones– are rewarded handsomely for their work.
Given how much time she spends with a character, how hard she works, and how rich and well-regarded she can become from doing so, you’d think an actress would be bound to love all her roles. But this is not so. There have been many high profile cases in which actors have voiced their distaste for roles they have played. Sometimes it’s because they didn’t enjoy filming the movie, sometimes they think the movie or the character sends the wrong message, sometimes the fame and response to a role makes them frustrated, and sometimes the movie just sucks. So here are some of the most famous cases of Hollywood actresses hating their own work.
15. Megan Fox as Mikaela Banes in Transformers
Megan Fox’s antipathy for her work as Mikaela Banes in the Transformers series is one of the better known cases of an actress hating her own work. Partially because Fox is simply very famous, but also because Fox has not been shy sharing her less than positive thoughts on the work. But it’s important to note that Fox doesn’t dislike the character Mikaela, or indeed the movie in general, as much as she dislikes director Michael Bay. Fox and Bay did not get along with Fox alleging that Bay engaged in demeaning and sexist behavior, including requiring Fox to wash Bay’s Ferrari as part of her audition. Eventually, it was too much for Fox and she left the franchise after the second movie. However, she and Bay appear to have patched things up as she worked with him on the 2014 movie, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
14. Blake Lively as Serena van der Woodsen in Gossip Girl
“People loved it, but it always felt a little personally compromising—you want to be putting a better message out there.” This is what Blake Lively had to say in an interview with E! with regards to her breakout role as Serena van der Woodsen on the CW series Gossip Girl. She went on to say, “It doesn’t help when everybody is dating who they’re dating on the show,” referencing her then off-screen relationship with co-star Penn Badgley. So clearly, there was some drama off-camera that complicated Lively’s time on the series. But just what message did Lively disagree with? Maybe there’s a hint here: “I would not be proud to be the person who gave someone the cocaine that made them overdose and then shot someone and slept with someone else’s boyfriend.” What a show.
13. Katherine Heigl as Alison Scott in Knocked Up
While Katherine Heigl was already a TV star because of her work on Grey’s Anatomy, her first real big film role came in 2007’s Knocked Up. The film and her portrayal of Alison Scott were both well received and are fondly remembered to this day. But Heigl herself is not all positive about it. She has said the film is “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.” An interesting criticism, and one with merit, too. While reasonable people can disagree about whether the film’s sexist attributes ruin the fun or if it’s just a light comedy that shouldn’t be taken so seriously, Heigl has certainly made her decision.
12. Ariana Grande as Cat Valentine in Victorious
Before she became the pop princess megastar that she is today, Ariana Grande got her start on the Nickelodeon channel. Grande starred in the series Victorious, and the subsequent spin-off Sam & Cat, playing the role of Cat Valentine. However, nowadays, Grande is happy to distance herself from those days. In an interview with Seventeen, Grande said she “was so unhappy” on set on set and alleged an unnamed cast-mate “told [her] they’d never like [her]”. Harsh. And it wasn’t just off-camera matters that bothered her, but her character, too. Grande said, “I’m really nothing like my character.” Grande presumably objects to the ditziness of Cat, which is far from the young woman Grande has become, crafting brilliant pop songs, voicing political beliefs, and providing erudite critics of America’s obesity problem while licking random donuts, for some reason.
11. Jessica Lange as Margaret Lewin in Losing Isaiah
Losing Isaiah is a 1995 dramatic movie that tries to pull at your heart strings while tackling big issues such as addiction, race, class and motherhood. It tries to… but it doesn’t quite work. It comes off as melodramatic and clunky. Most critics didn’t care too much for the movie, though many did say the brightest spot was Jessica Lange’s performance. Which is odd, because Lange herself is one of the film’s harshest critics. She has said, “I let myself get talked into ‘Losing Isaiah’ because I hadn’t worked for awhile. I knew it wasn’t right, the script wasn’t right, there was no ending. It just didn’t feel right, and it never got right. It was a really difficult and painful experience.” Wow, Jessica, tell us how you really feel.
10. Shailene Woodley as Amy Juergens in The Secret Life of the American Teenager
Shailene Woodley is anything but shy. In interviews in the past she has been vocal about everything from the need to be environmentally conscious to tips for proper care of a woman’s… naughty bits. As such, you’d expect her to have an opinion about her role as Amy Juergens on the ABC Family series The Secret Life of the American Teenager. And her opinion is not a positive one. In an interview with Tribute, Woodley stated: “Towards the end, morally, the things that we were preaching on that show weren’t really aligned with my own integrity… So that was a bit hard to show up to work every day knowing that we were going to project all of these themes to thousands – millions – of young adults across the country, when in fact they weren’t what I would like to be sending out.” Yes, that would be hard.
9. Michelle Pfeiffer as Stephanie Zinone in Grease 2
While not nearly as well remembered as the original, Grease 2 did reasonably well at the box office upon its release in 1982. The film, however, did not do well with critics The film is notable, though, as being the first major movie role for Michelle Pfeiffer, who starred as Stephanie Zinone — a year before she dazzled as Elvira Hancock in the iconic Scarface. However, Pfeiffer does not have a high opinion of her first big role. In an interview with Hollywood.com she pulled no punches, saying, “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”. So, it’s safe to say she’s not a fan…
8. Jamie Lee Curtis as Kit Foster in Virus
Virus (not to be confused with the, at least, four other films of the same name) is a 1999 science fiction horror movie starring Jamie Lee Curtis. The movie was a flop commercially and the movie was a flop critically. Seemingly no critics enjoyed the movie, and neither did its star. Curtis has been downright nasty in her critique of the film. “That’s a piece of s**t movie. It’s an unbelievably bad movie.” Give her points for honesty. Brutal honesty. She elaborated: “There’s a scene where I’m running away from this alien and I actually hide under the stairs. I come down some stairs and then duck up underneath them and I’m quivering and this big thing comes down the stairs and I’m freaking hiding under the stairs! This is something that can open walls of steel and I’m hiding under stairs!” And Curtis knows a bit about these matters; after all, she is the archetypal scream queen.
7. Nicole Kidman as Lady Sarah Ashley in Australia
Australian filmmaker Baz Luhrman’s 2008 movie Australia, is the third-highest grossing Australian movie in history. The film is grandiose in every sense: budget, scope, promotion and its themes. Unfortunately, while the film didn’t receive many outright awful reviews, it seemed to struggle to live up to the hype, leaving a lot of critics underwhelmed. Similar to Jessica Lange in Losing Isaiah, one of the few aspects of the film to receive almost universal acclaim was Nicole Kidman’s performance. And, similar to Lange, Kidman is one of her own film’s harshest critics. During an interview with a Sydney radio station, Kidman stated: “I can’t look at this movie and be proud of what I’ve done… It’s just impossible for me to connect to it emotionally.” Kidman also had a difficult time during the filming of the movie, for which she had to learn how to round up cattle and subsequently fainted while on a horse due to scorching hot temperatures.
6. Mary-Kate & Ashley Olsen as Michelle Tanner in Full House
It’s not just that Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen seem to have disliked their time acting the role of Michelle Tanner on the ABC sitcom Full House, but rather that Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen seem to dislike acting in general. Mary-Kate doesn’t have any acting credits beyond 2011 and Ashley hasn’t acted since 2004. The twins are much more concerned with their work as fashion designers and businesswomen; work that has made them incredibly wealthy. They only got the gig as Michelle Tanner by something of a fluke, as they began “acting” on Full House before they were even a year old. And for the next seven years of their life, the world watched them grow up on screen. Nowadays, while not exactly recluses, they seem much happier out of the spotlight than in it. If there was any question about how the Olsens felt about acting, they were answered in 2016 when Netflix released Fuller House, without the twins, who had declined to reprise their role.
5. Jessica Alba as Susan Storm in Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer
Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer had a very good opening weekend. And it was all downhill after that. The movie raked in considerably less during its second and third week in theaters. More than that, it was panned by critics, who largely saw no redeeming qualities in the film beyond its use of special effects. Chief among those critics was one of the film’s stars, Jessica Alba. Her biggest criticisms stem from working with director Tim Story and the hollowness of the superhero genre. In an interview with Moviefone, she said the director told her, “‘It looks too real. It looks too painful. Can you be prettier when you cry? Cry pretty, Jessica.’ He was like, ‘Don’t do that thing with your face. Just make it flat. We can CGI the tears in’”. The experience was bad, it made Alba question her entire career, saying, “[T]here’s no connection to a human being. And then it got me thinking … 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’”.
4. Kate Winslet as Rose DeWitt Bukater in Titanic
Canadian filmmaker James Cameron’s 1997 film Titanic, was the highest grossing film of all time, until Cameron released Avatar 12 years later. Not only was the film a commercial success, so too was it a critical success, winning the praise of critics as well as awards all over. And some of that plentiful praise was directed Kate Winslet’s way for her performance as Rose DeWitt Bukater. While Titanic wasn’t exactly a breakout role for Winslet as she was already an established actress, though only 22 at the time of the film’s release, it certainly elevated Winslet to the A-list echelon in Hollywood. However, when a 3-D version was released in 2012, Winslet was not very positive about her performance, saying, “Every single scene, I’m like ‘Really, really? You did it like that? Oh my God’… Even my American accent, I can’t listen to it. It’s awful. … 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’”.
3. Miley Cyrus as Miley Stewart/Hannah Montana in Hannah Montana
It’s hard to find somebody who has tried to distance herself more from her breakout role than Miley Cyrus has distanced herself from her work on the Disney Channel series Hannah Montana. Cyrus is more focused on her music now, barely acts at all beyond cameo roles, and has changed her appearance, shearing off her hair and dressing and behaving in a much more, err, “adult” manner. It’s clear Cyrus does not look back fondly on her time being a teen idol. But this has less to do with the character she portrayed and more just the lifestyle that was required of her. In an interview with Marie Claire, Cyrus stated, “From the time I was 11, it was, ‘You’re a pop star! That means you have to be blonde, and you have to have long hair, and you have to put on some glittery tight thing.’ Meanwhile, I’m this fragile little girl playing a 16-year-old in a wig and a ton of makeup. It was like Toddlers & Tiaras.”
2. Halle Berry as Catwoman in Catwoman
Catwoman was an utter dumpster fire of a movie. Just awful. Anybody who has ever seen it knows that. Most people who haven’t seen it know that. And the film’s star, Halle Berry, knows it, too. Catwoman had a terrible plot, terrible dialogue, largely missed all that was appealing about the DC Comics character, and came off as more sexist than sexy. Berry is well aware of all of this. And she has handled the reaction to this disaster of a movie about as well as one possibly could. She hasn’t tried to defend it or hide from it. She even personally picked up her Razzie Award for Worst Actress. In person. In doing so, she demonstrated that she has a sense of humor and honesty.
1. Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia in Star Wars
You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. It seems that only now after her recent death that some people are truly starting to appreciate the wit and candor that Carrie Fisher brought to the table. Here’s an example from her memoir Wishful Drinking: “George Lucas ruined my life. And I mean that in the nicest possible way.” Yes, Fisher is rather conflicted about the role to which she will forever be linked. It wasn’t Leia that Fisher hated, or Lucas, or even the Star Wars stories. It was the crazy fandom and fame that surrounded it that caused problems for her. She was uncomfortable being marketed like crazy, with her face appearing on everything from dolls to PEZ Dispensers. As far as her role went, she didn’t like the weird mishmash of an American/British accent she put on in A New Hope, nor did she like her iconic bun braids. Fisher also was uncomfortable being a sex symbol. And yes, she hated the Gold Bikini, saying: “When I laid down, the metal bikini stayed up… So Boba Fett could see all the way to Florida.” That’s a hit to the collective male sexual psyche. In any event, Fisher liked Leia enough to reprise her role for The Force Awakens. It’s just a shame we won’t see her any more. RIP.