A sad fact of the movie industry is that a large percentage of aspiring actors never become well known. Even those actors lucky enough to find that career-defining role often must wade through the mud of lesser and embarrassing portrayals.
In fact, some of the most famous actors of all time have had to work roles which they were later embarrassed by. As such, this list will look at some very famous actors in some of their most embarrassing roles. Every actor on this list is now widely known, and each and every one of them was at one point cast in a role which I would characterize as embarrassing. For some of these entries, the roles are inherently embarrassing, while for others the embarrassment is caused by the roles departure from that particular actor’s public persona.
For some of the entries on this list, the roles were so embarrassing that the actor tried to hide his role in these films (cough cough, Stallone). No matter the reason, every role listed in this article is one that its uber famous actor would love to forget.
Specific facts and dates used in this article are from the first-hand knowledge of the author or are taken from IMDb.com.
15. Mark Wahlberg – Boogie Nights
Through films like 4 Brothers and American Sniper, Mark Wahlberg has become a legitimate action star in Hollywood. As such, it is probably embarrassing for him to look back on his days playing Eddie Adams in Boogie Nights. Acting under the pseudonym Dirk Diggler, Adams is an upstart member of the adult entertainment industry in the late 70s and early 80s. This film contains several scenes of Wahlberg acting ridiculous, and I’m sure that clips of it are still brought up to make fun of him.
Perhaps the best part about this role is that Boogie Nights is actually the film that helped kick off Wahlberg’s career. I doubt if that fact erases all the embarrassment from this bathroom scene, however, so his role in Boogie Nights will go down at #15 on our list of embarrassing roles.
14. Hugh Jackman – Oklahoma
It’s probably never a good thing for an action star to play in a movie described as a “singing and dancing extravaganza”. One of his first on-screen acting gigs, Hugh Jackman plays the main character in a film adaption of the classic musical Oklahoma. This role, of course, has multiple dancing and musical numbers, making for an overall very corny film. Those of you who have seen Jackman in Les Miserables can guess that this role wasn’t too far outside of his wheelhouse.
There is a difference, however, between the widely celebrated Les Miserables, and the terribly written and directed Oklahoma film. A musical role in a popular film is one thing, but a musical role in an awkward and awful made for TV movie is another; thus earning Hugh Jackman’s role in Oklahoma a spot on our list at #14.
13. Sylvester Stallone – The Party At Kitty And Studs
The next entry on our list is the only one featured which delves into the “darker” aspect of the movie industry. If you couldn’t guess from the title, the Party at Kitty and Stud’s was an adult film which famously featured Sylvester Stallone. Stallone has done countless interviews on the subject, claiming that a severe lack of income drove him into doing this film. Stallone claims that at this time he barely had enough money to buy food (let alone pay his bills), so he was forced to turn to the “other film” industry. It wouldn’t be until a few years after this film that Stallone developed a script about a young boxer named Rocky. Stallone would, of course, cast himself into the title role and go on to Hollywood megastardom.
12. Tara Reid – Sharknado
What’s more embarrassing than being cast into an embarrassing role to start your career? Being cast into an embarrassing role several years after gaining notoriety. What’s more embarrassing than being cast into a ridiculously premised Sci-fi movie? Being cast into a series of ridiculously premised Sci-fi movies. Such is the case of Tara Reid’s role in the infamous Sharknado franchise. The films have realized a certain amount of success in recent years, but that probably doesn’t fully erase the stain of these horribly written films. Reid was a one-time Hollywood up and comer, starring in such films as the American Pie franchise (the first two films and Reunion) and Van Wilder. Her partying lifestyle (and an infamous botched boob job) would catch up to her, however, leading her down the dark path to this embarrassing role.
11. Robert Downey Jr. – The Shaggy Dog
Despite the litany of titles to his credit (and his role in big films from an early age), Robert Downey Jr. Is most recognized for his role in the Iron Man and Avengers franchises, as well as his epic portrayal of an actor playing an actor in Tropic Thunder. Those of us who grew up watching the Disney Channel in the early 2000s, however, may recognize him as the diabolical doctor from the Shaggy Dog. That’s right, nationally renowned actor RDJ was the evil scientist who transformed Tim Allen into a dog in this classic Disney film. Despite the ridiculousness of this role, you can clearly see the sarcasm and wit that has marked Downey’s career and has made Tony Stark the most beloved of all the Avengers.
10. Mila Kunis – Family Guy
Current Hollywood superstar Mila Kunis famously got her acting start playing the annoying, but lovable, Jackie Burkhart on That ’70s Show. Since then, she has gone on to star in such blockbuster movies as Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Friends With Benefits, and Bad Moms. What many people do not know, however, is that shortly after Mila was cast in That ’70s Show, she was also cast to play the universally despised Meg on Family Guy. Originally, Lacey Chabert (of Party of Five fame) was cast to do the voice of Meg, but when the shows taping started to conflict with her schoolwork and other acting roles, she would relinquish her role. After some coaching from the show’s creator Seth MacFarlane, Kunis was cast to replace Chabert as the voice of Meg. With the success of Family Guy, this might not be the most embarrassing role found on this list. But with the perpetual hatred of this character by both the characters and the general public, this has to be one of Mila’s most embarrassing roles.
9. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson – Tooth Fairy
Since his big screen debut as the Scorpion King in The Mummy franchise, perhaps no actor has been on such a monumental rise as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Not only has he been the lead in several of his own films (Walking Tall, Hercules, etc.), but he has also been able to reinvigorate several iconic movie franchises like the Fast and the Furious and the Journey films. Always seeking to diversify his resume, Rock signed on to be part of the family comedy film Tooth Fairy. This may sound shocking, but the film is actually worse than it sounds. Aside from the poor acting and bad writing, there are several scenes which place the action star in a pink tutu. Pretty embarrassing for a multi-time WWE Champion and a guy who has built so much of his career on being a tough guy.
8. Jennifer Aniston – Leprechaun
For whatever reason, this list is about to be filled with horror movie entries. Perhaps the most famous of these roles is Jennifer Aniston in her film debut in Leprechaun. As far as horror movies go, this one is actually pretty good (though perhaps not as good as its sequel, Leprechaun, Back 2 Da Hood). This, however, doesn’t change the embarrassment of such a high-profile actress as Aniston starring in such a low budget film. Like most of the entries on this list, Aniston was able to transfer it into her most famous role on Friends. Not only that, but unlike the #6 entry on this list, Aniston actually manages to survive in her horror film. These factors make us wonder if she really regrets her most embarrassing role.
7. Tim Curry – It
When most people think about clowns, an (albeit disturbing) image immediately surfaces of Pennywise the Clown from 1990’s It. Based on the horror novel by Stephen King, this TV mini-series seared in our brains a fear of both clowns and sewer drains. Many people will be shocked, therefore, to learn that the man behind the clown face paint was none other than Tim Curry. Curry, of course, is known for his work in a diverse range of theatre, film, and television productions. This includes his most famous role as Dr. Frank-N-Furter in the 1975 cult film The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Perhaps the most famous comedy horror actor of all time, who would have thought that fifteen years later Curry would also become one of the most terrifying horror icons of all time.
6. Johnny Depp – Nightmare On Elm Street
We could make a whole other list of famous actors who were unceremoniously killed off in horror movies before they were famous, but there is one actor who fits that description who must be mentioned here. A cult classic, the original Nightmare On Elm Street Film has been the inspiration for countless memes and articles. One of the most infamous characters from this film was Glen Latz, the boyfriend of the heroine Nancy Thompson. The important thing about this role for our purposes was that the role of Glen was given to a young man making his film debut; that young man being future Hollywood superstar Johnny Depp. Depp’s untimely death in the film would not prevent him from being noticed and cast to play in such films as Private Resort and Platoon. These films would then pave the way for Depp’s breakout role in the Fox television series 21 Jump Street. It’s possible that none of this would have happened were it not for his role in Nightmare on Elm Street and his infamous midriff football jersey.
5. Emma Stone – Superbad
Those in the movie business will tell you that when Superbad debuted in 2007 it was a very big deal. Seemingly an heir to the American Pie franchise, this comedy helped launch the careers of both Jonah Hill and Michael Cera. A relatively unknown actress in the film, who has since become uber famous, is Emma Stone. Stone plays Jules, the love interest of Hill’s character, and you can already see in her portrayal the makings of the wit and quirkiness which have since made her a legitimate Hollywood star. Following her debut film role in Superbad, Stone would follow it up with roles in comedies like The Rocker and House Bunny. It wasn’t until she starred in Easy A in 2010, however, that she became the household name she is today. A box office success like Superbad doesn’t seem that embarrassing, but Stone has said in interviews that this was her most embarrassing role so we’ll take her word on it. Maybe it was something about Jonah Hill puking all over her shoes.
4. Kevin Bacon – Animal House
This is easily my favorite entry on our list. Thanks to his roles in blockbuster films like Apollo 13 and Footloose, everyone knows who Kevin Bacon is. Thanks to the iconic performance of John Belushi as the depraved John Blutarsky, everyone has at least heard of the film Animal House. Many people would be surprised, thereby, to learn that Bacon made his film debut in the cult fraternity film. Playing the penultimate “brown noser,” Bacon was so unlikeable in the film that you couldn’t help cheering for Belushi and gang. This wouldn’t lead to immediate career success, however, as Bacon would have to go back to waiting tables after his debut role. It was not until his prominent role in the slasher film Friday the 13th that Bacon truly got his big break, thus relegating his role as Chip Diller to a footnote in an incredibly successful career.
3. James Avery – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
A central theme throughout this list is that actors can become so popular in a single role that we cannot possibly imagine them playing another character. Such is the case with the #3 entry on our list, as James Avery has become synonymous with his portrayal of Uncle Phil on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Avery was cast to play Will Smith‘s uncle in 1990 and would hold onto the role until the show’s completion in 1996. Being so synonymous with this role, it came as a surprise to us the litany of voice over work that Avery has done. Perhaps the most embarrassing of these was his role as the voice of the villainous Shredder from the animated series, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Avery had a fairly distinctive voice, so it is impressive that he was able to bring so many animated characters to life without being recognized as Uncle Phil.
2. Vin Diesel – The Iron Giant
Famous for his role in the Fast and Furious franchise, it is widely known that Vin Diesel provided the voice of Groot in the recent Guardians of the Galaxy films. A bit of Diesel’s voice over work which is perhaps not so well known was as the title character in 1999’s The Iron Giant. A popular animated film, Iron Giant is the story of a young boy stuck in the midst of a confrontational alien landing. The Giant’s voice was originally going to be electronically modulated, but the filmmakers opened up in a past interview saying,
“[We] Needed a deep, resonant and expressive voice to start with,” so Diesel was hired for the role. This movie is pretty childish, so it must cause some embarrassment for such a “bad ass” actor as Diesel.
1. Flea – The Wild Thornberrys
The final entry on this list proves that you don’t have to be an actor to take on surprising roles. Michael Balzary, better known by his stage name Flea, is best known as the bassist for the band the Red Hot Chili Peppers. One of its founding members, Flea is considered by many to be one of the most talented musicians of all-time.
What many people do not know about Flea, however, was that he provided the voice of Donnie for Nickelodeon’s The Wild Thornberrys. Donnie was the feral adopted brother of the Thornberry crew, mimicking Flea’s own reckless personality. Still, it must be embarrassing for such a talented musician to have been cast as a character who had a vocabulary that amounted to a series of grunts.