After his longtime on-screen partner and best friend Oliver Hardy passed away in August of 1957, comedy icon Stan Laurel refused to take any more roles. Laurel’s post-Hardy retirement was entirely his own doing and had nothing to do with a lack of roles being made available to him. In fact, Laurel was receiving offers from movie studios left, right, and center, from brief cameos to starring roles in what would have been his first major outings as a solo performer. He was even offered a couple of jobs in a new medium called “television”, which Laurel and Hardy had embarked on a brief flirtation with before the latter became too ill to work. Still, Laurel was steadfast in his decision to never act again and he enjoyed a quiet but well-documented Californian retirement before his death in February of 1965.
Stan Laurel’s refusal to perform without his dear departed comedy partner exemplified a degree of humility and honor which was and still is far too rarely seen in Hollywood. Laurel was willing to step back from the spotlight and allow a new generation of performers a chance to entertain the public, which is not something that can be said of many of the stars of today. Our current culture is more celebrity obsessed than ever before, which means the vast majority of Hollywood’s actors and actresses struggle to come to terms with their declining fame when their star inevitably begins to fade. Only a few Hollywood notables have managed to remain noble in decreasing fame, while their jilted counterparts have lowered themselves to some of the industry’s most demeaning roles in the hope of receiving a payday or simply being recognized on the street.
Here are 15 stars who will do anything for a role.
15 Nicolas Cage
In the majority of those films, Cage showcases his own personal acting style, which he has referred to as “Nouveau Shamanic” and is basically screaming as loud as possible for as long as possible. It is this abrasive, often times overwhelming performance style which has resulted in Nicolas Cage being treated as something of a pariah by serious producers and critics alike, subsequently forcing him to take lesser roles in lesser movies in an attempt to overcome his much-publicized issues with the IRS.
14 Gary Busey
There was a time when Gary Busey was the up and coming star in Hollywood, bar none. Busey saw what was arguably his greatest success in 1978 when he starred as the titular character in The Buddy Holly Story, for which he received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor. In 1988, Busey’s career was completely derailed when he was involved in a devastating motorcycle accident which left him with irreversible brain damage. As a consequence of his condition, Busey is unable to control his impulses and often says and does outrageous things during public appearances, which means major studios are reluctant to hire him.
These days, Busey’s income comes primarily from the few appearances he can wrangle on celebrity reality television shows, such as Dancing with the Stars and various incarnations of Celebrity Apprentice. He has also appeared in a number of self-deprecating sketches on Conan - one of which saw him being chased by a blimp while eating a spaghetti sandwich - and can be seen in the 2016 B-movie atrocity Sharknado: The 4th Awakens.
13 Jim Belushi
Jim Belushi has had a hard time in Hollywood. A frequent target of critics and anybody in any way passionate about quality film and television, the guy was a resounding failure in replacing his older brother John, who was considered to be the next big name in comedy prior to his untimely death in 1982.
Unlike his older brother, Jim Belushi seems to have made virtually no effort to establish himself as a reputable comedy performer and has taken pretty much any role which has been offered to him over the years, the vast majority of which have been commercial and critical failures. Recently, Belushi began appearing on the pseudo-feminist atrocity that was Good Girls Revolt, a series which was, unsurprisingly, canceled in December of 2016.
12 Ice Cube
Straight Outta Compton absolutely blew my mind when I heard it for the first time. In fact, to this day I get chills when I listen to that album, so I’m sure you can imagine how disappointed I am with the Hollywood shill Ice Cube has become since the rise of N.W.A. Today, Ice Cube, who once rapped about the ills of society and protested police brutality and consumerism, can be seen reducing himself to portraying a stereotypical street thug in virtually every film he appears in. It seems that whether Cube is playing the role of a teacher or a police chief, he is willing to turn the character into a hooligan former gang member in order to get some cheap laughs and a ton of money.
Ice Cube has spoken at length about his devotion to the religion of Islam, yet in 2011 he began appearing in advertisements for Coors Light. The consumption of alcohol is, of course, forbidden in Islam, which means the former rapper was willing to betray his own religion in order to get a little bit of money and a boost to his profile.
11 Danny DeVito
I should preface this entry by saying I actually find Danny DeVito’s willingness to do anything for a role to be quite admirable. Unlike the vast majority of entries on this list, DeVito’s history of humiliating himself comes not out of a desperate desire to keep his name in the spotlight, but rather out of a determination to better every movie or television series he appears in.
In It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, for example, DeVito’s character, Frank Reynolds, is an absolutely reprehensible human being with poor hygiene and questionable morals. Frank has been shown urinating in a bucket, stripping to his underwear in a playground, and emerging from the inside of a couch without a stitch of clothing on (long story). These are all hilarious visual scenes which an actor with an inflated sense of self-importance - or any sense of self-importance, for that matter - would not have been able to pull off effectively, but Danny DeVito managed to squeeze every last laugh out of every last second he was on screen.
10 David Spade
There was a time when David Spade seemed like he was on the fast track to becoming a comedy superstar. With appearances on Saturday Night Live as well as roles in Police Academy and Coneheads, it looked as though the guy was going to be a very successful - if a little one-dimensional - comedy actor. However, all that independent fame began to fade away the moment Spade hitched his trailer to Adam Sandler.
Hollywood pundits and insiders have noted that Spade seems to be absolutely in awe of Sandler and has pretty much cast aside any aspirations he ever had for himself in order to further Sandler’s already absurdly tight stranglehold on mainstream movie comedy. Whether it’s an ill-fated Grown Ups sequel or a haphazardly written Broadway Danny Rose rip-off, David Spade is willing to appear in any film as long as Adam Sandler’s name is attached to it.
9 Robert De Niro
Robert De Niro is the latest actor to join what is a worrying trend of established, often times legendary talents throwing their reputations to the wind and taking whatever roles are offered to them. I don’t know if De Niro is doing it for the money or the fame or for something else, but, for whatever reason, he can today be seen in films he would have turned his nose up at in his younger years.
De Niro’s apparent willingness to do anything for a role has led to him appearing in a series of critical and box office failures, including 2016’s Dirty Grandpa, which saw him portrayed as a foul-mouthed, unhygienic geriatric with a penchant for women less than half his age. Seeing any actor demean themselves in this way is heart-wrenching, but the fact that the actor in question is the same guy who starred in Taxi Driver makes it borderline depressing.
At the height of his fame, supposed comedian Sinbad appeared in such “classic” family comedies as First Kid, Houseguest, and Jingle all the Way, so he was never at the top of the ladder when it came to acting merit. Once his star began to fade and issues with the IRS began to rear their ugly head, however, any shred of artistic integrity the guy may have held went out the window.
In order to keep his name out there and combat the perpetual decline of his bank account, Sinbad began appearing in any movie which came his way, and even signed on to a couple of those cringe worthy “celebrity” reality television shows. Sinbad’s most memorable recent gig - and perhaps the most memorable gig of his entire career - saw him appear as himself in an episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Throughout the episode Dennis Reynolds: An Erotic Life, Sinbad is portrayed as a total lunatic who is confined to a psychiatric hospital and is so desperate for attention that he burns holes in his hands to create Christ-like wounds.
7 Rob Schneider
Rob Schneider’s willingness to take virtually any role which comes his way has been the subject of mockery for years now. The guy almost rivals Nicolas Cage when it comes to sheer complacency, which is evident from his filmography of almost 50 films (his first notable movie role came less than 30 years ago).
Schneider seems to be totally willing to do whatever is asked of him in a never-ending search for Adam Sandler’s approval. He has appeared alongside Sandler in such reputation destroying (if his reputation wasn’t already destroyed) films as Grown Ups, The Ridiculous 6, and Sandy Wexler. He has also starred in his own Netflix series, Real Rob, which was essentially a shameless rip-off of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Louie, and Maron.
6 Larry The Cable Guy
The vast majority of the stars featured on this list had, at one point in time, a promising career and at least some sort of reputation as a competent performer. Larry the Cable Guy, however, has always been a recipient of criticism from those with any degree of taste. Having earned the dubious distinction of being “the dumb one” on The Blue Collar Comedy Tour, Larry the Cable Guy is the kind of actor mainstream movie studios refuses to touch unless they absolutely can’t find anybody else willing to take a role. For example, after Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson refused to appear in a sequel to the poorly received 2010 family comedy Tooth Fairy, Larry the Cable guy was recruited to don a pink tutu and fill the role. He was a poor substitute for the highest earning film star in the world and ultimately only further established himself as the hack’s hack.
5 Adam Sandler
Two decades ago, Adam Sandler was one of the most respected names in all of Hollywood. I mean, the guy’s comedy films weren’t all that spectacular, but they were funny enough that the vast majority of comedy fans could turn one on and be sure of a couple of laughs. Over the past ten years or so, however, something seems to have changed. Some say Sandler has become too concerned with money, some say he has become too concerned with fame, there are those who say he is no longer concerned with anything, which has enabled him to display a shocking level of complacency when choosing roles. Whatever the reason, Adam Sandler seems to take whatever movie is offered to him. This has been made painfully apparent by Sandler’s recent Netflix deal, which has spawned such crimes against cinema as The Ridiculous 6 and Sandy Wexler.
4 Bob Zmuda
Bob Zmuda is the quintessential sleazy Z-list celebrity willing to do whatever it takes to keep their name in the spotlight. Zmuda, who was never really that famous to begin with, achieved some degree of notoriety writing for Andy Kaufman, the now beloved prankster who passed away in 1984 after a much-publicized battle with cancer. Because of Kaufman’s penchant for blurring reality with fantasy, many of his most loyal fans doubted the entertainer’s demise, and Zmuda, smelling a payday, took full advantage of their inability to come to terms with their hero’s death.
Since Kaufman’s death over three decades ago, Bob Zmuda has written numerous books and has appeared on countless podcasts, always offering a new explanation as to how Kaufman faked his death. Zmuda has used his association with Kaufman and the mystery surrounding his death to score appearances on multiple television talk shows and even the occasional feature film role. In 2013, the scumbag allegedly recruited an actress and paid her to announce herself as Andy Kaufman’s daughter during a meeting with the late actor’s brother before proclaiming her alleged father was in hiding.
3 Andrew “Dice” Clay
Andrew “Dice” Clay is one of those guys that you either love or hate. Unfortunately for him, it seems the vast majority of people choose the latter. Clay is primarily known for his “adult” humor, which has been interpreted by many as sexist (a not entirely unjustified label) and has earned him the scorn of women’s rights groups the world over. Clay’s perceived sexism has led to numerous stars of both genders refusing to work with him, which has, in turn, greatly limited the number of roles which come his way today.
In an attempt to stay relevant and establish himself as a sorry excuse for an actor rather than a sorry excuse for a comedian, Andrew “Dice” Clay has made a habit of accepting any offer to appear in any movie, regardless of its plot or budget. Ironically, this is about the only time in Clay’s career when he has not displayed a degree of discrimination.
2 Michael Richards
Michael Richards has been persona non grata in Hollywood ever since a now infamous performance at the Laugh Factory in 2006. Infuriated by an African-American family interrupting his set, Richards embarked on a rant so loaded with profanities and racial slurs that it would make Lester Maddox blush. The whole incident was caught on camera and spread like wildfire around the internet, undoing the star power Richards had earned through his role as Kramer on the iconic television series Seinfeld.
Unable to find work in the years immediately following the incident, Richards pretty much retired from the spotlight and did not show his face again until 2009, when he was cast as himself in Curb Your Enthusiasm. Richards spent the majority of his time on the show mocking his own misfortune and did not see a noteworthy role again until he was cast in Kirstie Alley’s poorly written, poorly planned, and poorly received “sitcom” Kirstie.
1 The Iron Sheik
The Iron Sheik enjoyed his greatest success in the early 1980s as the number one foreign bad guy of the then World Wrestling Federation. During this period, Sheik developed a love of drugs and alcohol which pretty much destroyed his in-ring career and made it impossible for him to find work in the industry to which he had given his best years. Through social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, The Iron Sheik carved out a new career as an online celebrity, largely owing to his drug-fuelled rants about a variety of wrestling stars and larger Hollywood celebrities.
The Sheik soon discovered that his newfound social media following could be used to score roles on television talk shows and in commercials, and so he significantly increased his output of racist, homophobic, and totally insane ramblings. Today, The Iron Sheik’s Twitter page reads like the diary of a fallen star willing to do and say whatever it takes to earn some money and keep his name in the virtual news.