Sometimes directors make odd choices to join their cast. But once you watch the film you see that their choice wasn’t odd at all, but completely logical. The director just saw something in the actor that fitted the character perfectly and it worked out just like they anticipated. The result of this is some pretty good acting from actors who aren’t particularly well-known for it.
Of course, though, more often, actors just make really poor decisions when choosing what films to star in. And when that happens, sometimes good actors just get swallowed up and spat out by the film industry, unable to claim the glory they were inches away from reaching.
To be fair, some of the actors on this list should really be defined as ‘stars who act’ and not actors. They come from a variety of different backgrounds, most notably martial arts or other sports backgrounds, as well as stand-up comedy, and were never professionally trained as actors.
Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dwayne Johnson are good examples. And while they aren’t necessarily great at acting, they’re a few steps away from being terrible actors (they can at least remember their lines and stay focused… right?). And, of course, there are some actors who have never made a good film (Rob Schneider and Ashton Kutcher, for example).
Also, readers should remember the actors on this list aren’t necessarily bad (though some clearly are). They may still have some good performances coming up in the future. Who knows, maybe some of the names on this list will pull off their own ‘McConaissance’ like Matthew McConaughey or just fade into obscurity…
1. Adam Sandler – Punch-Drunk Love
Will Adam Sandler ever give up trying to make 14-year-olds and under giggle? Watching his films as a kid is awesome. You think you’re being bad watching ‘grown-up comedy’ about grown-up things with swear words and semi-dirty humor. But as an adult, most of Adam Sandler’s films are just sad. Not only are they not funny, the performances he gives are sub-par at best and filled with lousy stereotypes (definitely not stuff you want kids to see). You don’t need to look much further than Jack and Jill to get an understanding of why his films are so bad.
But there is one film that he really excelled in; Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch-Drunk Love. He even stars alongside the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, and he does it well. You can almost think of them as matched when acting together. The film really makes use of how Sandler performs anger. Anger which is prevalent in many of his previous characters – Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, etc. Could it be possible that after seeing the acclaim Punch-Drunk Love garnered, Sandler thought to himself: “well that definitely worked for this film, maybe that’s who I am. I’ll just continue to do that for all my roles for now on”.
Anderson is known for having some interesting casting choices, particularly in some of his earlier films, like casting John C. Reilly in Hard Eight, which he also excels in as well.
2. Marlon Wayans – Requiem for a Dream
The Wayans brothers (Marlon and Shawn Wayans) are synonymous with cheap laughs in the late 1990s and early 2000s, like the Scary Movie franchise. But in the middle of all those in-your-face-but-not-actually-funny-comedies, Marlon Wayans starred in Requiem for a Dream.
Again, it looks like a really strange casting choice, but Wayans pulls it off amazingly. It’s quite strange to adjust to him in a serious role when you’re used to his comedies. Maybe director Darren Aronofsky follows the same rule as Vince Gilligan of Breaking Bad: “if you are an actor at heart and you are also a comedian, you can also do drama”. There is definitely some weight to that statement when looking at Wayans in Requiem for a Dream. To be fair to the talents of Wayans, out of all the low-grade comedy films that he’s been in, it’s usually his performances that are the most memorable.
The question still remains though, why did Wayans choose to act in this film? Was he trying to prove something to himself or his family? And why doesn’t he do more of it? Maybe it’s now far too late and Wayans may believe that he missed that opportunity to transition into something bigger.
3. Stephen Baldwin – The Usual Suspects
What happened to Stephen Baldwin? He almost vanished after making The Usual Suspects. Digging into his life after the film, you could assume that at some point he may be felt acting just wasn’t for him. But that would be a bit weird for someone from the Baldwin clan. After a bit more digging, you’ll see things are a little more complicated than that.
Did he not have many choices after The Usual Suspects or did he just make really bad choices?… Like deciding to play Barney Rubble in the catastrophe that is The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, which just seemed to cement him further in a career decline. Unfortunately for him, both are true.
Well, as it turns out Stephen Baldwin is still alive, but it looks like his extreme political beliefs may have made him very unapproachable. Not too long ago it was revealed that Stephen and his brother Alec haven’t spoken to each other since the 2016 US election.
While Alec mocked Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live, Stephen is one of his biggest supporters. On top of that, Stephen is very religious, at one point taking part in a protest against the opening of an adult bookstore. With such strong views and plenty of controversy surrounding him (he also tried and failed to sue Kevin Costner), it’s not such a surprise the film industry isn’t too interested in hiring him.
These days he’s down to directing Christian-themed skateboarding movies, getting kicked out of the UK version of Big Brother, and getting Hannah Montana tattoos. Stephen Baldwin is proof that just because you are from a wealthy and famous family of actors, it doesn’t mean that you will also be a famous actor too.
4. Jessica Alba – Sin City
Jessica Alba’s career is almost entirely made up of terrible films. Except one, Sin City. She moves from poorly made movie to poorly made movie without as much as a blink of an eye. Films so similar in terribleness they may as well be the same in how much people hated them!
Like Aronofsky, Sin City director Robert Rodriguez also seems to be in the habit of casting actors on the decline in his films too. Mickey Rourke is also in Sin City and the film helped him climb back into the spotlight. But Rodriguez’s reasoning seems to be a little different to Aronofsky’s.
Rodriguez, it appears, likes the image of B-list and below movie stars. He enjoys reveling in their cheesy-Hollywoodness (watch Machete). It’s quite sad to think that possibly the reason Alba was picked for her best film may have been because she’d never made anything half-decent before.
Does she actually have an interest in films or is it really just about the fame and money? Perhaps she has the same mentality as her audience and is genuinely happy making the films she does because they are films she would watch herself.
5. Steven Seagal – Under Siege
Oh boy, Steven Seagal… Can you believe that he is actually in a relatively decent film? Well, it’s true! And that film is Under Siege, which of course is an action movie and was a fairly big blockbuster success.
Aside from Under Siege, Steven Seagal movies are very samey, much like his range of acting ability. There were points in his career where it looked like he might break out of these, dare we even call them B-movies, and into in the mainstream. Obviously, it just didn’t happen. Sadly, Under Siege was as close as he ever got. Now aged 66, it’s not likely we’ll see him in many more movies and so his chances of redeeming himself as an actor are pretty low.
To be fair to the ponytailed martial artist, he was never professionally trained as an actor – he is a ‘star’ (as explained in the intro). And besides, if you’re watching a Steven Seagal movie, you’re likely not watching it for the fearsome depths of acting he epitomizes, are you? You want the action… which, actually, also kind of sucks. Or maybe you are watching it for the acting because deep down inside you’re really shallow and masochistic.