“Know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em”
So sangeth Kenny Rogers a billion and seven years ago.Wise words…
For some reason appearing in a single hit movie or series results in some actors feeling that they’ve ‘made it’ and somehow ensures that they belong among Hollywood’s regulars.
15 minutes later they are drink driving, paparazzi slapping and line snorting their way across town with a self-satisfied smirk, shrugging off autograph requests, shedding ‘past’ friends for the newer shinier ones (that are sure to stay loyal forever… right?) and spending the next 20 years worth of multi-millions in advance.
Cos this gravy train is never stopping…
But what some of the following guys n gals don’t think of is that sometimes lightning strikes once. That sometimes mere recognition isn’t an assurance of acceptance of work. For every Pete Postlethwaite (R.I.P) and Billy Bob Thornton there are a kazillion Joe and Jane Nobodies who arrive and depart just as rapidly.
You can’t blame these people for having aiming high and aspirations, the benefit of hindsight just allows us the luxury of telling certain people that even though their career is just started and seems to be skyrocketing – they might not want to pre-book that expensive holiday in 2025. You might that need that money to pay the rent.
Linda Blair The Exorcist 6
Linda Blair’s turn as the young girl possessed by various demons was an amazing performance and exhibited maturity well beyond her tender years. And sure she was of course a lock for the inevitable sequel – which sucked. By the time The Exorcist 3 arrived she had wisely opted out (except this one was actually pretty good!).
Blair worked a lot in the 35 years that followed, but not in anything you ever heard of, unless you are an eagle-eyed TV watcher who loves a cameo role. As far as films go the only thing you may have heard of is Chained Heat, and probably not for reasons Ms Blair will be ecstatic about.
It’s hard to tell a 13 or 14 year old girl coming off a hit that your career has just peaked and you might as well quit. But that’s nonetheless what should have happened here.
Jon Heder Napoleon Dynamite 31
Napoleon Dynamite was one of those films that arrived from nowhere and became instantly quotable. Unfortunately it dated just as quickly, and a mere 6 months later anyone throwing an exasperated ‘GOSH’ into a conversation was sure to have eyes rolling around the room.
Supporting roles as the awkward friend followed, as well as numerous ‘guest star’ appearances in sit-coms like the great My Name is Earl. Then came some regrettable Will Ferrell, Rob Schneider sidekick roles Heder has seen his career settle into mainly voiceover work for animation including… da-da-daaaa, the Napoleon Dynamite cartoon.
The saying is that he has a great face for radio. He seems a funny guy so maybe it’s a shame he now looks like ‘that voiceover guy’. Maybe another show will take off for Heder. For example Dead Grandma… maybe not.
(See also ‘McLovin’)
Mark Hamill Star Wars trilogy 242
First hint; imdb lists Hamill’s ‘Known for’ roles as the following; Star Wars (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983). This despite the fact Hamill has 242 screen credits!
Nar I wracked my tiny brain for a trace of recognition for Mr Hamill, and aside from some roles where he lampoons his own signature role (Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Robot Chicken), the only films I remembered were a 5 minute blink and you’ll miss it cop role in Sleepwalkers and a part in Village of the Damned that I’ll bet he wishes was much shorter.
Hamill is another who has a bunch of voiceover work, in fact he seems to be in every second video game released since the 90s.
I suppose once you’re the pivotal character in one of the best trilogies of all time your legacy is assured – and your remaining career forever limited. Didn’t stop Harrison Ford though…
Brooke Shields The Blue Lagoon 69
Brooke Shields was such an example of the ideal non-threatening female that Michael Jackson dated here – even though she wasn’t a pre-pubescent boy. Ironic then that Brooke’s signature role helped usher an entire generation into puberty, with only strategically placed sticky tape stopping so many dreams coming true.
Unfortunately the collective will of a million 12 year old males wasn’t enough to displace the tape. And the lead in a decidedly average cookie cutter 90s sit-com couldn’t prove that the former Mrs Agassi was anything other than a bland one-note flash in the pan.
Shields is still eminently recognisable, you just can’t remember why anymore.
Andrew Dice Clay The Adventures of Ford Fairlane 32
As Ford Fairlane ‘Dice’ was rude, crude, lewd and fucking funny. He also seemed to use all his material, meaning his next film which tried to replicate the unlikely success, Brain Smasher… A Love Story, fell flat on its face.
Who saw that one coming? Probably everyone really. ‘Dice’ was a stand up comedian renowned for pushing the boundaries and for his larger than life persona, although his whole act seemed to be a series of Tourettes’ style physical tics and spasms, and his ‘jokes’ always seemed to end up with a disgusting physical act graphically described in lieu of an actual punchline. That’s funny to teenage males – and was to me at the time – but it’s hardly a recipe for commercial success.
As the rest of Dice’s career has proven beyond doubt.
Alex Winter Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure 21
At least Bill S. Preston Esq. knew his limits, though more likely he had the limits imposed upon him.
Of the 20 some credits in his career spanning nearly three decades only his turn as one half of the cerebrally challenged metal loving duo Bill and Ted is worth mentioning. I even had to wrack my brain for a couple minutes to recall his role in The Lost Boys, which was essentially ‘standing behind Kiefer and looking vampish’.
Even now almost a quarter century on, I guarantee that Winter gets asked more about when the long rumoured Bill and Ted 3 is actually happening, probably most of all by the bank that holds his mortgage, while former running mate Keanu Reeves has only gone on to worldwide stardom…
But ‘is Bill and Ted 3 happening?’ would likely be the second question I would ask Alex Winter, the first would be ‘Can I have a cheeseburger meal thanks?’
Natasha Henstridge Species trilogy 50
Oh come on, even South Park credited her as ‘The Chick from Species’ when she did a voice for the show, and she approved it!
Species first role as the hottie alien Sil resulted in her disrobing – memorably – about every 12 minutes or so, thus ensuring a mediocre sci-fi series would always have a viewership on late night TV. Her first action role cast her alongside Jean-Claude Van Damme – and best believe she got ‘e, pit again.
Species 2 re-introduced her chest to the world, Ghosts of Mars would have benefited from any number of things including pointless nudity, and the rest of her career has been a series of bit parts and ‘what movie?’ titles.
Even Denise Richards got to play a scientist and an elite space pilot, despite not being able to spell either of those things. So maybe Henstridge might feel gipped that she became best known for having one of the most recognisable chests in the world (though I’m sure it will be a lovely story to tell in the nursing home in a few decades).
Scott Speedman Underworld 47
“Hey man it’s me Scott. Just calling cos I got some great news today. Yeah my career’s really about to take off. My agent just rang to tell me I got the lead in this new vampires vs werewolf thing, I really think it could be a franchise. Huge…
Yeah my part is basically the only human to know about the two warring groups, I kinda bring the story together. I mean that’s great right? An entire franchise with me in the middle. I’m sure it’ll be crazy, there’ll be websites about me and the chat rooms will go wild.
I can’t wait for this to take off. Your boy is going big time!”
“Who else is in it? Not sure really, a bunch of no names I guess. I think that some British actress is playing one of the vampires, Kate Beckin-something… Who knows and who cares man. I’m gonna be the one of the mag covers and getting interviewed by Leno!”
Jason Scott Lee Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story 29
I can’t think of anyone better equipped before or after Dragon was released in 1993 to embody the most well known martial artist in history. Physically he might not have been Bruce’s equal but it was as good an approximation as you can imagine (maybe Tony Jaa?), and his performance showed Bruce’s spark and natural charisma.
Unfortunately though it seems Lee has had regular work since, it’s not the kind of stuff that jumps out and grabs you. I knew of The Prophecy sequel, but was frankly unaware that Lee was even in Back to the Future 2 despite watching it in the past 12 months, and he was merely one of a huge cast of actors desperate for screen time and attention in Balls of Fury.
Jason Scott Lee seemed a likable and genuine guy, but that wasn’t enough to demand signature roles even after playing martial arts’ version of The Greatest.
Haley Joel Osment The Sixth Sense 52
Consider this the male version of Linda Blair. Osment was terrific in The Sixth Sense and his powerful performance showed both vulnerability and real nuance. Consider this, if Cole Sear wasn’t played well it probably wouldn’t have mattered that the film had a rockin’ twist at the end.
It’s not Osment’s fault that now 14 years later he still looks like a kid, and a Lego kid at that. (I’m not sure he shaves yet.)
But the fact remains that despite several credits, Osment hasn’t found a decent role since his balls dropped… (sorry).
The wash-up of the washed up
In the interests of full disclosure in an early draft I included Orlando Bloom (who I will only ever see as Legolas) and Jonah Hill (Superbad all the way).
I was shouted down by my wife and others for having it against Orlando because of Miranda Kerr envy – guilty as charged. I just think the guy will always be Legolas.
Jonah Hill on the other hand has found consistent work since Superbad, but for mine he is not a gifted comic actor, but an easily frustrated fat guy with a knack for swearing, which conveniently was all he was asked to be in Superbad.
Still the fleeting nature of celebrity and the myriad of crappy channels, magazines and *gulp* hastily scrapped together websites, means more undeserving celebrities are created each year. Many emerge and vanish as quickly, others – like the guys n gals above – turn their moment in the sunshine into a career.
And good on ’em I guess…