When an actor takes on a role, they are almost always expected to do some form of promotion for the film. Often this is built into the contract, but even when it isn’t, it’s usually in everyone’s best interest to participate in promotional events. Be it screenings, press junkets or interviews, most people don’t have a problem pitching in. Sometimes however, this doesn’t take place, and an actor refuses to promote the film. Whenever this type of thing happens, people ask questions: What happened? Is there some sort of fight going on? Where’s the beef?
In these situations, it’s the media’s job to dig in and find out the true story. Once they get the truth, they stretch it, sensationalize it, and then publish it. Scheduling conflicts become disagreements between actor and director, contract stipulations become fist fights, it’s the nature of the beast. If they can’t find any story whatsoever, they just make something up. Yet, sometimes, and it’s rare, but sometimes, there is actually a story there. In this list are those true stories. We’ve gone through and collected the moments when the stars of films either refused to promote their movies or did it in such a way that the filmmakers probably wished they had done nothing instead. Here are 15 stars who failed miserably at promoting their movies.
15. Edward Norton – The Incredible Hulk
There’s not a lot of concrete evidence about what went on between Edward Norton and Marvel Studios when The Incredible Hulk was made. We got a lot of he said/she said, but no one ever confirmed or denied anything. Norton came out after the fact and released a statement on the matter, but it was a transparent attempt at covering over something larger. He pretended that everything was fine and that everyone was happy, but the big question always remained: Why didn’t Norton show up to promote the film? While everyone else involved took part in several press junkets, Norton only did a few early on. By the end, he was nowhere to be found. The story is that Norton, as he tends to do on his films, rewrote a significant portion of the film. He and the director wanted a longer piece, but Marvel decided against it and excluded Norton’s name from the writer’s credits. Is it this that made him skip out on future promotional events? Yes. That’s the answer.
14. Bruce Willis – A Good Day to Die Hard
While promoting his new film A Good Day to Die Hard, Bruce Willis took to BBC One for an interview, looking about ready to fall asleep. With the star almost nodding off between questions, Willis answered questions with short mumbling responses. Clearly not too enthralled by the film he had just made, Willis then asked the hosts, “what about the title? Were you confused by it?” He then went on to say, “It’s a difficult title. A Good Day to Die Hard? It’s like, have a sandwich and let’s go shopping – then Die Hard.” Later, Willis would apologize and blame the appearance on jetlag, but we’ve got to back this guy up a bit. Watch the interview. These two hosts basically have rainbows shooting out of every hole in their bodies. Like calm down people, it’s seven o’clock in the morning; you’re stressing John McClane out.
13. David Cross – Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked
When David Cross was doing his promotional tour for Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, he visited the Conan show and gave a brutally honest response when asked about the film. “In all honesty it was the most miserable experience I’ve ever had in my professional life,” Cross said. He would go on to describe it as a “big commercial for Carnival Cruise Lines.” Later, after disparaging one of the film’s producers, Cross said “If you see the movie — and don’t — first of all, ‘Chipwrecked,’ it’s a pun. Five year olds love puns.” Now, we will admit that the film wasn’t going to do well whether Cross said good things or not. But, let’s face it, the people who were lined up to see this film probably had no idea who Cross even was. Our question is: what did Cross expect? He complained about having to be in a pelican costume. It’s a kid’s movie man. There are going to be some humiliating moments when you sign on for an Alvin and the Chipmunks sequel.
12. Robin Williams – Aladdin
Before they started the filming for Aladdin, Robin Williams had a number of stipulations in his contract about the amount of promotional work he would do for the film, basically none, and how much of his character, the genie, would be used in promotional materials, very little. For example, for the poster, Williams asked that the genie represent “not more than 25% of the promotional poster for the picture.” Before you start thinking that Williams was a jerk, this was all done because he didn’t want to compete against himself and another movie of his with another studio, Toys. In the end, there was a problem because one of the posters had a massive genie overshadowing all others on the poster, a direct violation of his contract demands. Disney would also use plenty of the genie in the commercials, though they did omit Williams’s name from the promotions.
11. John Cusack- Better Off Dead/One Crazy Summer
Originally the idea for Better Off Dead and One Crazy Summer was that they would be connected films. This all changed when the first screening happened for Better Off Dead. Apparently, the then-young star, John Cusack, thought that Better Off Dead was going to be a different movie than what came out. When Cusack saw the screening of the film, he walked out and basically disavowed the film and the director, Savage Steve Holland. Since Cusack was signed on for a two-picture deal, he showed up to film the second film, One Crazy Summer, got down to business, finished filming and left. Co-star, Curtis ‘Booger’ Armstrong said of the experience, “after One Crazy Summer was done, that was it… [Cusack] wouldn’t have anything to do with anything, and he wouldn’t publicize the movie, or anything like that.” Though he’s changed his tune a bit in the last few decades, for many years afterward, Cusack refused to talk about either film in any way.
10. Katherine Heigl – Knocked Up
We like to bring this one every few weeks. Full disclosure, our goal is to never let anyone ever forget how much of a snooty ingrate Katherine Heigl is. Even though she’s done a lot of damage control since, Heigl, when promoting Knocked Up, said that it was “a little sexist. It paints the women as shrews, as humorless and uptight, and it paints the men as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys. … I had a hard time with it, on some days. I’m playing such a bitch; why is she being such a killjoy?” When Judd Apatow, the director, was asked about those comments, he said, “it doesn’t make any sense [because] she improvised half her sh*t.” Apparently, Heigl didn’t see what was wrong about her comments until she saw Seth Rogen at a restaurant and went to say hi, but the actor was visibly upset. It seems that where Heigl comes from you can trash the people in your life without any repercussions.
9. Marlon Brando – The Freshman
When Marlon Brando was asked to give his thoughts on the film he had just wrapped up shooting, The Freshman, the legendary star called it “horrible” and “a stinker.” He then predicted that it was “going to be a flop.” Eying retirement, Brando blamed The Freshman for ruining his retirement film, saying, “I’m so fed up… I wish I hadn’t finished with a stinker.” Well, despite the bad promotional press from Brando, The Freshman did much better than the star predicted. Most film fans consider it to be a great film, a return to form for Brando who had taken significant time off recently. Too bad, he never liked it.
8. Brad Pitt – The Devil’s Own
The month prior to the release of The Devil’s Own, star Brad Pitt wasn’t happy with the film and let his frustrations be known in an interview. Particularly angered about the fact that he showed up to film and discovered that the script wasn’t complete, Pitt called the process, “the most irresponsible bit of filmmaking – if you can even call it that – that I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t believe it.” Pitt suggested that only his contract kept him working on the film, otherwise he would have, and maybe should have, abandoned the film. Reportedly, the two stars, Pitt and Harrison Ford, were not too friendly on set either, so that might have had something to with Pitt’s hatred of the film.
7. Shia LaBeouf – Nymphomaniac: Volume 1
Shia LaBeouf is a weird dude. No one will question that. Over the years, he’s gotten progressively stranger, but it all came to a head when promoting the Lars von Trier film, Nymphomaniac: Volume 1. It may be one half LaBeouf confusing people into forgetting about his embarrassing plagiarism antics, while the other half leverages LaBeouf’s weirdness to promote the film, but who can say for sure? What we do know is LaBeouf walked out of the press junket after regurgitating a semi-famous quote from soccer player Eric Cantona’s press conference, “When the seagulls follow the trawler, it’s because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea. Thank you very much.” Later that night, LaBeouf appeared at the film premiere wearing a bag over his head that read, “I am not famous anymore.” While this is clear misdirection, it is a smart move by the star. If you get people talking about your new weird, they’ll easily forget your old weird.
6. Jim Carrey – Kick-Ass 2
Before the release of Kick-Ass 2, one of the stars of the film, Jim Carrey, took to Twitter to denounce the film, a move that all involved felt was totally uncool. Carey Tweeted out the following, “I did Kick-Ass 2 a month b4 Sandy Hook and now in all good conscience I cannot support that level of violence. My apologies to others involve[d] with the film. I am not ashamed of it but recent events have caused a change in my heart.” The weirdest part about the whole thing, and the creators have discussed this, is that Carrey’s character in the film has an anti-gun stance. Carrey denouncing his role was totally unnecessary. He could have just embraced his character’s mindset and used the character to voice his political agenda.
5. Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz – Dream House
Strangely, during the promotional events for Dream House, the stars, Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz, and the director, Jim Sheridan, were all absent. The details then came out about a dispute on set between the three and Morgan Creek Productions, the company in charge of the film. Apparently, Sheridan was asked to re-shoot some scenes because test audiences weren’t too fond of them, which he did. However, even after this, the people at Morgan Creek took over the editing process, not allowing Sheridan the chance to cut his own film. This move didn’t go over too well with the directors or the stars. To make matters worse, the trailer that was cut by Morgan Creek was incredibly revealing, even going so far as to ruin some of the twists. As a trio, Sheridan, Weisz and Craig all decided that they weren’t going to be promoting the film to stick it to the man.
4. Vince Vaughn – Four Christmases
This one is based on a whole lot of rumors and speculation, but when Vince Vaughn, one of the stars of Four Christmases, didn’t show up to promote or watch the film during the premiere, it appeared that much of the speculation was true: Vaughn and co-star Reese Witherspoon did not get along. The rumors started on set when Vaughn and Witherspoon’s professional habits clashed. Witherspoon is a perfectionist and Vaughn likes to ad-lib. This led to bickering and arguments throughout. Even though Witherspoon has denied these allegations, Vaughn has remained steadfast not to talk about the film, so we know what’s up. Nice try, Reese.
3. Mo’Nique – Precious
When Mo’Nique won an Oscar for her role in Precious, there was a group of people who believed everything was about to change for the star, but where has she been? You would think she’d be everywhere after that win. But no. It turns out that Mo’Nique, when asked to do promotional events for the film, declined, complaining that she was not paid for the extra work. The star reportedly got $50,000 for the film, but she was expecting to be compensated for the extra press. This all came to a boiling point at the Academy Awards when Mo’Nique refused to wine, dine and party with the Academy members, the voters and the financiers afterward. It wasn’t long after that Mo’Nique was told she’d basically been blackballed in the industry for “not playing the game.”
2. Lindsay Lohan – The Canyons
No one would expect anything less from Lindsay Lohan, but after she filmed The Canyons, she completely bailed on the film instead of promoting it. The director, Paul Schrader, who jokingly said of the experience, “Today I am a free man. For the last 18 months, I have been a hostage, of my own choosing, to a very talented but unpredictable actress.” This tongue-in-cheek humor turned to desperation when the star of the film, Lohan, refused to show up to any promotional events. Schrader took to Facebook to frame the situation:
“I am mystified and disappointed by [LiLo’s] refusal to support The Canyons. She is a producer of the film, a 25% owner. She has received wonderful reviews (among the negative) for her performance. I hired her when no one else would. She fought to keep the role when I wanted to fire her for unreliability. She has no other films in the can. She has received her $250,000 deferment. The Venice red carpet is one of the extraordinary plums of the festival circuit. She repeatedly said she would come to Venice but never did. She said you would support the film but never did. She never showed for the photo sessions, including the session for the ad campaign art. Richard Brody of the New Yorker wanted too do an appreciative profile but somehow she didn’t have time to meet him. Film Comment gave her the cover but she would not give them an interview (I had to write a profile piece to save the cover), I shifted the film’s European premiere from Locarno to Venice so she could make her promised post-rehab appearance. But she did not show.”
1. David Prowse – Star Wars
In 1978, two years before The Empire Strikes Back was released, David Prowse, the actor who played Darth Vader’s body (James Earl Jones dubbed over the voice), spoiled the ending of the film to a crowd of screaming fans. Prowse revealed that they had begun shooting the sequel to A New Hope but that fans would have to wait until 1980 to see it. However, he did confirm that a third film would follow closely behind. Prowse should have left it at that, but he finished by joking that there would be a fourth film as well because “father can’t kill son, son can’t kill father.” While some have suggested that Prowse could not have known the ending at that point in time, it seems quite obvious that he did or he guessed well.
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