Some actors have all the luck. Some get selected from many to star in a major movie and be the face of a future franchise in some studio blockbuster that will yield millions of dollars and breed sequels and spin-offs. That fame in turn will allow them to do pretty much whatever they want, including small dramatic films showcasing their real talent. For example, with Disney’s Marvel Universe, it seems they breed actors in some laboratory in Hollywood, churning out hunky action star (Chris Evans) after hunky action star (Chris Hemsworth) after hunky action star (Chris Pratt). They’re all named Chris, by the way – they are interchangeable. But they can go off and have fun and do something different after enduring such huge productions.
Not all are so fortunate. Perhaps it’s because of reputation or attitude, perhaps its due to a certain disinterest and unwillingness to compromise, and maybe it’s just dumb luck, but there are plenty of talented actors whose skills are wasted and presence underutilized. Meanwhile, some get their big break and then fail to make the right choices when given the opportunity. It’s not simply about navigating the mainstream film world and jumping back and forth to indies. Actors like Bill Murray and Tilda Swinton have appeal on both sides of the coin, able to do what they want without sacrificing art. There has to be something else that is keeping worthy actors at bay.
So let's consider those interesting screen presences that are being wasted with cliche stories and banal films. Those that gave glimpses of greatness and show inherent charm, but aren't being utilized to their best potential. Their choices are bad, and thus the following actors must have bad agents, because they are much better than the work they are doing, and they should be more popular. Here are ten actors in Hollywood who clearly have the worst agents – and need to fix that, because they can do so much better.
10 Colin Farrell
At long last, Colin Farrell looks to be heading out of this list. That is, if Season 2 of True Detective is anything like that first. The talented and smoldering Welsh actor has such charisma and proven such range that it’s sad he has been forced into certain banal films. Remember Daredevil or Alexander, or even The New World? The thing was, Farrell was always a solid actor, and he just was stuck in bad films that someone thought would help him become a star, but that was all unnecessary. A change is coming: in addition to the HBO series, he was the best thing about Saving Mr. Banks, and things are looking great.
9 Liam Neeson
We get it Mr. Neeson, you’re really tough. This late career turn into an action hero has gone far enough though. Taken was great fun and totally surprising, while even The Grey and Unknown were worthy thrillers. But A Walk Among the Tombstones is so familiar and boring, and Non-Stop was not particularly good either. And what are you doing in Seth MacFarlane’s A Million Ways to Die in the West? And Clash of the Titans? Finally, it’s painfully clear that there was no reason to do two sequels to Taken (other than for money) – how many times is your family going to get kidnapped?
8 Angelina Jolie
One of many Oscar winners on this list, Jolie has proven her acting talent, as well as her skills behind the camera and her dedication as a humanitarian and activist. Surely she knows what she is doing, but something is going on with some of her film choices. She was great as Maleficent but the film was poorly made and had some very unsettling messages about motherhood and love. Alexander was a mistake, Lara Croft did not pan out, and The Tourist was awful. It’s as if she chooses films she knows won’t be particularly great, but where she will shine within them.
7 Jennifer Aniston
Jennifer Aniston is trying, she really is. And she definitely has some acting skills; she is just taking on bad films. She has certainly made an effort over the last decade to distance herself from her role on Friends, to prove she is more than just a blonde romantic, slightly goofy character. Her early choices definitely didn't help, and things like Just Go with It were awful. Horrible Bosses showed off her crass, sexy side, but that was about it. Then there was the recent Cake, a worthy if not heavily produced film where Aniston played a woman battling chronic pain. She was good, but the film was so clearly an Oscar bit that it was off-putting. She is close, but not there yet.
6 Clive Owen
Clive Owen seemed like he was almost going to be James Bond – almost. And while he claims that it was indeed a blessing he didn't get the role, his film credits don’t exactly back up that claim, from a box office or critical standpoint. Most recently he was in Last Knights, a generic medieval tale of revenge and honor. Words and Pictures and Hemingway & Gellhorn were meant to be these artistic, intimate portraits of relationships and work, but neither was particularly memorable. Duplicity and Killer Elite were pretty forgettable too, and Shoot ‘Em Up was just ridiculous. He’s on a solid show on HBO now, so maybe he’s finally finding his groove.
5 Cameron Diaz
It is certainly possible Diaz is buoyed by those around her, but it does seem like she has quite a bit of acting talent that isn't about her looks. She has shown she can be part of fun, ridiculous, and interesting films like Being John Malkovich and Knight & Day, but then she does terrible comedies like Sex Tape and What to Expect When You’re Expecting. What’s more, The Other Woman and Annie were just bad, but Diaz is still a comedic talent, which is why this is so peculiar. I guess she’ll be back for Bad Teacher 2, so that’s something, but she could be doing more and better.
4 Gerard Butler
Gerard Butler might be the Irish Clive Owen, a rugged and tough yet charming and warm actor who has dabbled in all different genres. All the while too, he gives hints of great talent and charisma while still being stuck in studio film disasters and unwatchable comedies. 300 was pretty great, but then he does The Bounty Hunter or Playing for Keeps. He showed his immense talent alongside Ralph Fiennes in Coriolanus, but also does Olympus Has Fallen. Will the real Gerard Butler please come forward and do another interesting movie and stop teasing us?
3 Forest Whitaker
This man won an Academy Award, so let us not forget that when we wander through his filmography (though hard it will be). He was indeed incredible in The Last King of Scotland, but either he has a terrible agent giving him bad advice, or he just didn't care after. That’s because since then, he has found himself pretty much playing a similar character: some sort of law enforcement officer. He did that in Taken 3, Out of the Furnace and The Last Stand. He’s gone back and forth from film and TV and still is working away, it just seems every time he shows up on screen now, something ridiculous is happening and he is mugging for the camera.
2 Johnny Depp
The joke is that Johnny Depp just loves to wear makeup and costumes and that’s how he picks his roles. It’s a joke because, well, he really does don a lot of eye-liner in his parts. His career has taken a strange turn, because while he has risen steadily to huge fame and wealth, his films have taken a steady decline. Edward Scissorhands was great, and even the first Pirates of the Caribbean was fun because of him. But then there is Mordecai, The Lone Ranger, The Tourist and Dark Shadows, all widely panned and annoying films. Anything fantastical and he is there, often alongside Tim Burton. And when he’s not doing that, he’s back to Pirates, now filming the fifth film in the series.
1 Nicolas Cage
Maybe it’s that he doesn't have a bad agent, maybe it’s just he wants to only do bad movies. Or maybe he just wants money – yeah, definitely money. Whatever is it, Nicolas Cage puts out a solid four or five awful films in a row before maybe doing something different and interesting. Just look at the last couple years and see how interchangeable and terrible these films are: Gone, Left Behind, Rage, Drive Angry, Seeking Justice, Stolen…what are these? They are so similar – someone close to him is either murdered or kidnapped and he snapped and goes on a rampage. But then he does things like Joe and Kick-Ass and you remember he can be good when he wants – he won an Oscar! What is going on with Nicolas Cage?