Both Diane Keaton and Michael Douglas have been in some fantastic films and played some wonderful roles. Sadly, they’ve also been in some pretty terrible ones as well. The atrocious “Because I Said So” comes to mind for Keaton. Also, remember how Douglas was in “Ghost of Girlfriends Past”? Yeah, we tried to forget that one too.
The duo’s latest foray into the realm of the terrible is “And So it Goes,” a movie so bad that we at Indiewire just couldn’t take it anymore and walked out halfway through. The fate of excellent actors subjecting themselves to terrible movies will always be a disappointment; even more disappointing is the fact that this film was directed by Rob Reiner, an excellent director in his own right.
But Douglas and Keaton aren’t the only ones who’ve wasted their talents. Here’s a list of 11 actors whose careers could use an indie intervention. Let us know who you else think needs to take a dip into independent fare in the comments. Perhaps Reiner and some other directors need an intervention too?
The rugged-looking Scottish actor exploded on to the movie scene as the lead in Zack Snyder’s 2007 film “300.” Since then, Butler has, for the most part, continued making big-budget action films such as “Gamer,” “Law Abiding Citizen” and most recently “Olympus Has Fallen.” Occasionally, he’ll mix it up with a romantic comedy (“PS I Love You,” “The Ugly Truth”) or family films like the “How to Train Your Dragon” series, but he always stays on the safe side — the studio side. Although Butler’s name is tied to a long roster of successful studio films, they haven’t made him a superstar in the same way that Robert Downey Jr. benefitted from the “Iron Man” franchise. Given Butler’s ability to successfully work across multiple genres, shifting focus away from studio projects and lining up roles in a few indies could provide his career with the stand-out roles it desperately needs. The intimacy of an indie project would not only give Butler more ownership over the roles he plays, but also help viewers make that connection as well — thus strengthening both his on and off-screen personas.
Though we’ve already extensively covered why Tom Cruise shouldn’t make any more blockbusters, it’s important to reinforce the point: Tom wants to be loved again. We all know he can make plenty of cash by recycling the same action flicks for the rest of his career, but the man once had serious ambitions. Ambitions that lead him to the longest film shoot ever with “Eyes Wide Shut” and exclaiming “Respect the Cock!” in Paul Thomas Anderson’s indie opus “Magnolia.” Whether or not he can win an Oscar — or even whether or not he wants to win an Oscar — is now almost secondary; if he wants to earn back some of the fans who’ve drifted away from the superstar for whatever reasons, he better believe it’s by making courageous choices like he did in the ’80s, ’90s, and early aughts. As great as “Edge of Tomorrow” was, its predictable box office performance speaks to how many new fans he’s attracted.
You would think that a veteran theater actor would be more inclined to choose film projects that are more suited to her enormous talent. The Tony winner broke into film in the 90s, but didn’t turn heads until her Academy Award nominated performance in 2008’s “Doubt.” Then, in 2011, Davis wowed critics and audiences once again with her Oscar nominated performance in “The Help.” Since then, however, she’s opted for smaller roles in larger yet mediocre studio pictures like “Ender’s Game,” “Beautiful Creatures” and “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.” But rather than receive an indie intervention, Davis is doing what many smart and incredibly talented film actors have done recently: turning to television. This fall, Davis will star in Shonda Rhimes’ legal thriller “How to Get Away with Murder” as a criminal defense professor. Despite the fact that Davis has opted for a television intervention on a series that will most likely be a success, we’d still love to see her take on some indie roles that are worthy of her talent.
No question about it, playing a legendary Irish-American Boston crime leader is an interesting career choice for the man who will always be associated with Jack Sparrow (sorry, Captain Jack Sparrow). Hopefully, in the upcoming “Black Mass,” he can successfully embody Whitey Bulger and yet avoid the curse of a failed attempt at a Boston accent. Either way we certainly miss the Depp of years gone by. Seemingly alternating between weird and realist, Depp’s range of talents cannot be questioned. Impressive in films such as “Edward Scissorhands” and “Donnie Brasco,” Depp has shown his ability to carry a film. So why doesn’t he? Certainly something like “The Lone Ranger” did not need his help and that type of role came dangerously close to self-satire for the quirky star. He is keeping active, to his credit, tied to six movies set for release in the next few years. But again, half of them are Disney. What was once off-the-wall original has become the same-old-thing from Johnny Depp, who at 51 years old is not getting younger.
Look, a bad relationship always has some sort of impact on your career. Whether you end up missing some work because of a messy breakup, or find yourself submerged in a mysterious religious group thanks to your marriage to a major movie star, there are always consequences. Fortunately, Katie Holmes is no longer Mrs. Tom Cruise, and it’s time for her to dip back into the indie pool to make us all remember how beloved she was as Joey Potter on “Dawson’s Creek.” Because Holmes has actually made use of the indie world to strengthen her acting chops before — even while still on “Dawson’s Creek,” she made appearances in well-liked small pictures like “Go” and “The Gift.” “Pieces of April” alone proved that Holmes is able to carry a quirky yet serious indie dramedy. Her pre-Cruise career, in fact, is full of risky, interesting choices — post-Cruise, hopefully, will see her make similar decisions. The divorce is final, after all. She doesn’t have to do things like play Adam Sandler’s wife in “Jack and Jill” anymore. She is now free.
The “Spider-Man” franchise (the first one) seemed to be the start of a very promising career for Tobey Maguire. Following those films, which launched him into celebrity status, Maguire appeared in Jim Sheridan’s “Brothers,” which, despite receiving mixed reviews, was a great showcase for the actor — he received a Golden Globe nomination for his role. Unfortunately, things then took a turn for the worse, and Maguire went on to appear in the bizarre “The Details” and the Baz Luhrmann’s divisive “The Great Gatsby.” Although he’s been working with some pretty great directors, Maguire hasn’t had much luck as of late. It’s too bad because he’s a talented guy; worthy of better material than we’ve been seeing.
After earning a ton of respect for her supporting turn in “Bridesmaids” — it’s easy to forget that the role earned her an Oscar nomination — McCarthy has largely squandered that good will on projects as disappointing as they are predictably bad. “Identity Thief” was universally trashed and “Tammy” didn’t bring her back to the good graces of most critics (even if it was a marked improvement). Her films still make money — “Tammy” is at $73 million and counting, a lower number than anticipated but a solid result for a one-woman show — but McCarthy has potential for so much more. Perhaps she should follow the path of her “Bridesmaids” co-star Kristen Wiig, who has dipped into dramatic roles like “Girl Most Likely” as well as off-kilter indies (“Hateship Loveship”) while still showing up for the well-written blockbusters “Despicable Me 2,” “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” and “How to Train Your Dragon 2.” McCarthy could do that, too, and then some. But perhaps she needs to free herself of that TV show, first.
Time and time again, Mickey Rourke has gotten his much needed indie make over, but we suppose that old habits die hard, and “Sin City” is an old habit. Rourke’s last career rebirth came as a battered professional wrestler in Darren Aronofsky’s “The Wrestler,” for which Rourke earned an Oscar nod and a Golden Globe. As Randy “The Ram” Robinson in that feature, Rourke personifies tired regret. The old man’s body is beginning to fail him, but as a stand-in for his failed personal relationships, wrestling was all he had. Many see Rourke’s powerful performance as an inspired one, fueled by the parallels between his and his character’s careers. The difference is, while the movie cuts to black to end Randy’s tale, Rourke went on with higher expectations than ever. We’re still waiting for those to be realized.
It would probably be a hard task to convince Will Smith, the king of the summer blockbuster, to take a role in a smaller, independent project. But just remind him that his reign in that area has begun to dwindle. After the debacles that were “Men in Black 3” and “After Earth,” Smith needs to quit relying on huge, effects-heavy tentpoles to showcase his talent. Sure, he’s usually pretty great in those types of films, with his charismatic personality and comedic timing, but it would be great if Smith chose instead to revisit the dramatic chops that he showcased in “The Pursuit of Happyness” or “Seven Pounds.” Sadly, it doesn’t look like Smith has plans to take that step, since his upcoming projects include “Bad Boys 3” and “Hancock 2.” Fresh Prince, go back to your roots! Go back to Philly!
Oh, boy. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s return to acting post-governance has been a “Maid Gate”-level catastrophe. While he appeared in cameo roles for the somewhat successful films “Terminator: Salvation” and “The Expendables,” his first starring turns — “The Last Stand,” “Escape Plan,” and “Sabotage” — were met with middling reviews and shockingly poor box office tallies (“Escape Plan” is the highest grossing of the three, with $25 million; “Sabotage” only made $10 million). Now, Schwarzenegger has never been much of an indie guy. His speciality from the get go was loud, violent, big-budget action-paloozas. Clearly that’s not working for him anymore. The “Terminator” needs a reboot and it wouldn’t hurt him to play off type in an alluring indie feature. He could even go the Clint Eastwood route and play a grouchy, old has-been getting one last chance to do something right. Just, you know, keep the action to a minimum and beef up those characters. Let’s see if Arnie can lift that weight.
Last year, regarding his latest starring and writing endeavor “The Internship,” satirical news outlet The Onion reported that, “Critics say the upcoming Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson film about interning at Google has everything an audience in 2005 could want in a comedy.” That pretty much sums up the present state of Vaughn’s career, trying to cling for as long as possible to the decade old success of things like “Old School” and “Wedding Crashers.” Including Vaughn on this list serves as a proxy for much of the so-called Frat Pack who collectively peaked at about that time (Paul Rudd is the shining exception) — the whole group could benefit from phasing out major studio work. Maybe Ben Stiller, who just completed the years long process of writing/directing/starring/editing “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” could work with Vaughn, teaming up for the sort of dramedy that would make use of Vaughn’s skills as a non-verbal actor.
[Casey Cipriani, Eric Eidelstein, Shipra Gupta, Brandon Latham, Liz Shannon Miller and Ben Travers contributed to this list.]