Movies are like music. Everything needs to be in harmony, and actors are a huge part of this. The problem is that the harmonies are made up of people, and people can do some pretty silly things. If people are disinterested, selfish, bored or egotistical, they can do something that makes the whole thing fall apart. Maybe they wanted more screen time, more money, maybe they didn’t like the director, maybe they think they’re in love, maybe they’re hitting their ceiling of talent or maybe they were just crazy. Who knows why, but celebs have the ability to save or completely ruin a movie. But there’s no excuse for when a whole movie falls apart because of one person’s actions or abilities.
There are people at the other end, though – people who saved a whole movie, or made it. Yes, it’s like music. Everything needs to be in the right place to make it great, but sometimes, you look at it, and there’s one little bit that’s better than anything else. It might be through talent, or luck. Sometimes it’s just laziness, or illness, but an individual can make a movie. These celebs definitely made a huge impact on their films, some for the better, and some for the worse. This list will explore 8 celebs who broke movies, and 7 people who made them. These are people from all over the food chain that is Hollywood, from many different eras.
15. Justin Timberlake Ruined Shrek
Remember when the Shrek movies were really well-regarded? For a brief period, the series looked set to swipe the top animation spot from Pixar, or at least compete with them. That time is long gone. It’s become the archetypal series that just keeps dragging on. Where did it start to go wrong? Yes, Shrek 2 was a little bloated, but still solid, but the third film, in 2007, was where the quality really dropped.
Turns out we can blame Cameron Diaz. Whatever you think of movie stars doing voice acting (instead of actual voice actors) the stars in Shrek were at least good, accomplished actors. The same cannot be said for Justin Timberlake, who voiced Artie in the third film. He sort of stands out among the otherwise talented cast, and he was only there because Cameron Diaz insisted on him being there. The two were dating at the time, and she put him forward for the role and would not back down. And so he was cast, he gave a flat performance, and the whole film suffered. But it’s okay, they stayed together and…oh wait, they broke up the year the movie came out.
14. Robert Downey Jr. Saved Iron Man
The Marvel movie process is so impossibly well organized now that it’s hard to believe how rough the start was. Their first film, which started it all, 2007’s Iron Man, was a bit rough and ready. The script hadn’t really been finalized, and there were big chunks of it that were either incomplete or simply didn’t work. It could have been disastrous.
Luckily, they had a very talented cast. Robert Downey Jr. and Jeff Bridges would improvise and rewrite vast sections of the film as it was being made. They would have to pause scenes and go off to rewrite them. Both actors compared it to making a small indie film (which, due to their small scale, allowed for a lot of improvisation). However, they had to somehow coordinate it with all the trappings of big budget movie making, like big sets and crews, special effects and lots of extras. Yet, improbably, the film worked brilliantly. It’s not hard to see why and it’s hard not to credit the actors here. As many other films have shown, you can’t just have explosions. You have to have something underneath. Thanks to Robert Downey Jr, they did.
13. Lindsay Lohan Ruined The Canyons
It’s so strange to remember how sought-after Lindsay Lohan was for much of her early career. If there was some textbook about self-destructing former child stars, Lohan would probably be on the cover. By 2013, she’d burned almost her bridges and played almost all her cards, except for one: she had not appeared in the buff. She was in The Canyons. On paper, it sounded like exactly the sort of thing that could get her back on track. It was directed by Paul Schrader (writer of Taxi Driver) and written by Brett Easton Ellis (who wrote American Psycho) and had plenty of indie cred and a lot of potential.
Then came the strange stories about how difficult it had been to shoot the scenes, how Lindsay Lohan had suddenly gotten camera shy and asked everyone else to strip off before she would, seemingly hoping that they would freak out like she had. It didn’t work out. She was, as mentioned, sharing a scene with James Deen, who does this kind of thing professionally. The rumours added fuel to speculation about the film. The director, Schraeder, and writer, Ellis, had sharply disagreed on what the film should be. More rumours came out about how hard Lohan was to work with, the film was delayed, and by the time it came out, whatever buzz had been generated by the long-awaited scenes was spent. Well, the film exists.
12. Alicia Vikander Saved Ex Machina
So, Ex Machina was pretty damn good anyway, and didn’t so much need saving, but the central role of Ava, the android at the centre of the film, was the key in a film with questions about humanity by having a sentient machine. Luckily, the astonishingly talented Alicia Vikander was there. Vikander is going from strength to strength at the moment, and if you’re not sure why, look at Ex Machina. The role could so easily have ended up exploitative, the love scenes gratuitous, and the film cliché with a lesser actress in the role. And while some credit must go to veteran writer Alex Garland, Vikander more than does her part. Her performance is sweet and frightening, and Vikander does it with nothing but her face and body, all while looking like a living Photoshop. A huge part of the film’s ambiguity, mystery and impact stems just from her. It was clear she is one to watch.
11. January Jones Ruined X-Men: First Class
The X-Men films have had the best and worst luck with their leading ladies. X-Men: First Class was no exception. It had solid performances from Jennifer Lawrence (back when she cared) and the ever-talented Rose Byrne, but January Jones… ugh. Many were amazed at Jones’ work on Mad Men. She was so incredibly good as the Stepford wife bubbling with barely restrained anger and resentment. Everything else she has been in, however, has left us sure that that’s not so much a product of the show as just Jones’ default setting. Every line in the movie, talking about armies of mutants and nuclear war, is delivered in the same bored monotone she used playing Betty Draper. And it really stands out. Everyone else is firing on full cylinders, but January Jones sounds like she’s worried about us getting too excited, and is going out of her way to make sure we don’t. It nearly works.
10. Keanu Reeves Saved The Replacements
There are a few stories about Keanu Reeves that could apply. He famously took a huge pay cut on the Matrix movies to make sure the visual effects teams got paid properly. He also regularly works for much less than he could easily demand (being Keanu Reeves and everything) and gets small films made that otherwise wouldn’t (John Wick was made for less than other movie stars get paid) but the sweetest one was what happened on the set of 2000’s The Replacements.
Reeves was at the peak of his career at the time, fresh off The Matrix, The Devil’s Advocate, and a whole decade full of hits. The Replacements was a small, feel-good football movie about a bunch of average Joes playing in the NFL. They’d wanted Gene Hackman to play the curmudgeonly old coach but the film’s budget wouldn’t allow for what Hackman was worth. Keanu happily took a pay cut (rumours say it was as much 90% of his cheque) to make sure Hackman was in the movie.
9. Chris Tucker Ruined Rush Hour 3
He’s almost completely disappeared these days, but Chris Tucker used to be in quite a few things. Aside from screwball comedies, he even managed roles in really good movies like Dead Presidents and Jackie Brown. He struck box office gold with Rush Hour, a film that helped Jackie Chan finally break into Hollywood properly. They made a sequel that was an even bigger hit. Then, it took forever for the third to come out. It turned out that it was Chris Tucker holding it up. He was demanding $25 million dollars.
For you younger readers, there used to be these things called “movie stars,” people who could carry a movie by themselves. You didn’t need much else, just this star, and you built the film around them. Tom Cruise is pretty much the only one left. The biggest stars would demand 20 million a movie, that was the top tier, and Chris Tucker was demanding more than that. We have no idea how you can figure that Chris Tucker is worth that much, especially when he’s opposite Jackie Chan.
8. Rihanna Saved Valerian
Okay, she didn’t save Valerian, the ill-fated science fiction bomb from earlier this year (seriously, it lost a lot of money), but Rihanna came the closest of anyone in the film’s bloated, talented, but underperforming cast, which is truly surprising. When a film has Dane Dehaan, Cara Delevingne, Ethan Hawke, John Goodman, Rutger Hauer and Clive Owen, you wouldn’t expect Rihanna to be the strongest link in the film. She pops up as a shapeshifting performer named Bubble, and in just a few minutes, she creates the film’s most memorable character: a sympathetic, tragic figure who nonetheless fights hard to do the right thing. More impressively, the character is CGI for much of its time, leaving Rihanna with only her voice to do her acting, and she still does really good work. When she leaves the movie, a victim of its heavily episodic structure, her absence is sorely felt.
7. Edward Norton The Incredible Hulk
For you younger readers, Edward Norton was a really big deal at one point. With a good eye for scripts and a buttload of acting talent, he knocked out a few classics in a really short amount of time. Nonetheless, there’s an argument for striking while the iron is hot, and Norton didn’t seem to be doing so. It was all fixed in 2008, when he was announced to be playing Bruce Banner in Marvel’s Hulk reboot. It seemed a massive coup, getting someone as good as Norton for a comic book movie. However, as the release date approached, fans were worried to hear… nothing.
There were no trailers, no promo images, no gushing interviews about how excited everyone was to be working on the movie. Then the rumours started to surface. Edward Norton was holding it up, demanding the ability to rewrite scenes, or demanding credit for rewrites he’d already done. It wasn’t clear exactly what he wanted, but it was clear the film had been badly stalled. The film finally limped out into release, to a disinterested shrug from audiences. Norton was replaced by Mark Ruffalo in subsequent films.
6. Benicio Del Toro Saved The Way Of The Gun
This is probably the least famous movie on the list, but it’s worth remembering, because it’s fantastic. The Way of the Gun was a small budget crime caper with a surprisingly excellent cast. It’s part of that well worn sub genre where some small time crooks, Ryan Phillipe and Benicio del Toro in this case, attempt to move up the ladder and accidentally attract the attention of much bigger fish. It’s well-written, well-acted, and well-shot, but the best feature of the movie is what isn’t said. And it turns out it was down to Benicio Del Toro.
Shortly before filming started, the director, Christopher McQuarrie, found Del Toro’s copy of the script. Del Toro had made some changes, not the usual diva-esque changes, demanding more lines or screen time, but the exact opposite. He’d been chopping his own lines out. McQuarrie confronted him about it, and Del Toro pointed out how silly it would be for two hardened criminals to constantly chat. The director agreed. And the changes made the whole film.
5. Jennifer Lawrence Ruined X-Men: Apocalypse
It’s hard to completely blame her. X-Men: Apocalypse is easily the worst film in the series, which is quite a feat, given the lows that the series has hit. It had too many plot lines, too many characters, had no structure, the villain looked stupid, etc. You can’t help but think that Jennifer Lawrence might have anchored the film if she’d cared, that she might have turned in a strong performance. She’s the film’s default lead, since everyone else has such a confused plot, while hers is relatively straightforward. She didn’t, though. She seemed determined to provide a textbook entry for the idea of “phoning it in.” She could not look more bored, even as entire cities blow up in front of her. She wasn’t being paid enough. Jennifer Lawrence is hot property, and has been for a few years, but the X-Men films snagged her way back before then, when she was just another talented young actress. She had massively appreciated in value, but her locked-in contract had not.
4. Harrison Ford Saved Indiana Jones And The Raiders Of The Lost Ark
You know the film, and you know the story. What was supposed to be an elaborate fight scene instead became the best gag in a great movie. While shooting Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, Harrison Ford got really sick, and it was right when they were shooting a big fight scene. The end result is classic. The big henchman steps forward, sword in hand, twirls it menacingly, and Harrison Ford just shoots him, and he only did it to get out of shooting the fight scene.
What you may not realize is how much it makes the film. Jones is never a superhero, more like a tough, determined guy who makes the best. He’s not actually interested in the fight, and the fight is never the point of the movie, it’s a means to an end. Ford doesn’t want to fight; he wants to rescue Marion, and, as a result, skips past an elaborate fight scene, keeping his eyes on the prize
3. Wesley Snipes Ruined Blade: Trinity
This one was widely publicized at the time, but that was only the tip of the iceberg. Blade: Trinity was a disaster of a movie. As the behind the scenes stories began to come out, it was amazing that it ended up as good as it did. They were clearly setting up Ryan Reynolds and Jessica Biel to have a spinoff, and so the two got much more screen time, at the cost of screen time for Snipes. Wesley Snipes didn’t take this well. He apparently physically threatened the writer/director repeatedly.
The situation with the spinoff had left Snipes deeply paranoid and he increasingly refused to come out of his trailer, smoking a huge amount of weed. He would send strange letters to the director and would sign them “Blade.” When Snipes confronted the director about yet another problem, and threatened to walk off the set, he answered that he probably could, since they had most of what they needed and could do the rest with a stand in. Snipes is rarely in any wide shots, and there’s several scenes that are the other actors talking, then a cut to Snipes reacting. You can also, with the benefit of 2017 high-definition, spot a lot of time when Snipes head has been digitally pasted in.
2. Joss Whedon Ruined Justice League
The dust is still settling on this one, but it’s hard not to pin a fair bit of Justice League’s…ahem, lukewarm reception on Joss Whedon. We could start with the visuals. Whedon’s got sharp dialogue when he writes, but he has no sense for how to shoot things. It was fun to look at The Avengers’ bland cinematography and just blame some combination of rushed production and studio interference, but looking at Justice League, it turns out he just does that.
Then there’s the film’s Wonder Woman. It was clear that Wonder Woman’s solo movie was going to be big, though I don’t think even optimists would have realized how big the film would be. Justice League was not a good follow up. With a combination of the strange sexy Amazon costumes in Justice League (a far cry from the battle gear of Wonder Woman), a bunch of weird quips that nobody thought through, the release of Whedon’s own terrible Wonder Woman script and the disturbing account of their marriage from his ex-wife, it’s hard to look at Whedon’s version of Diana without feeling creeped out.
1. Alec Guinness Saved Star Wars
You kind of have to feel sorry for Alec Guinness. Without Star Wars, he would be one of the many outstanding classically trained actors the British isles keep producing. As it is, his outstanding career (including true classics like The Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago) is completely overshadowed by Star Wars, which he thought was a really stupid movie.
There’s a lot of great stories about the great actor’s disdain for the film (like how, after a young fan told him that he’d seen the film 100 times, Guinness made him promise not to watch it again) and that he insisted on being killed off so he could leave. The thing is, he probably saved the film by doing so. Star Wars: A New Hope is a perfect example of how much has to fall into place to make a great movie. It’s hard to nail it down to one thing, but the death of Obi-Wan Kenobi gives the film a core. It shows us what the stakes are and that people can and will die. Yes, we’d lost the anonymous rebels in the opening scene, along with Luke’s adoptive parents, but they’re all peripheral characters. A major character dying gives the swashbuckling adventure weight. And it’s all because a grumpy British actor just couldn’t wait to be out of there.
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