Every film an actor or actress appears in has a chance of being the last one they ever make. It's just the way life is -- people die with alarming regularity. However, they don't always get to bow out gracefully at the top of their game. Some of our favorite performers coast through what was supposed to be an instantly forgettable paycheck film only to end up transcending the mortal realm immediately afterward, leaving us clutching our ticket stubs like Peter Parker holding Uncle Ben's hand after he was tragically gunned down by the Sandman. Here are four actors who deserved a better cinematic send-off.
#4. Chris Farley -- Almost Heroes
Chris Farley was part of the batch of Saturday Night Live cast members who rescued the show from the brink of oblivion at the end of the 1980s. Although he made a handful of memorable cameos in other movies, Farley died before his own film career was able to materialize -- he only has four starring credits to his name. Unfortunately, one of those credits is Almost Heroes.
God owes us all an apology.
Almost Heroes is the bitter pill that was Farley's posthumous follow-up to Beverly Hills Ninja, which incidentally is one of the saddest sentences ever constructed. In it, Farley stars as Bartholomew Hunt, an oafish expedition leader struggling to beat Lewis and Clark to the Pacific Ocean but making plenty of stops along the way to punch eagles, set fire to straw sex dolls and fall down every incline on the American frontier for absolutely no reason whatsoever. Matthew Perry contributes to the hilarity as Hunt's partner, Leslie, who minces around making bug-eyed silent movie faces and flapping his meth-toothed underjaw like a Muppet in the throes of heroin withdrawal. Rounding out the supporting cast is Eugene Levy, who plays a Frenchman, and Kevin Dunn, who plays a Spanish conquistador. For some reason, both actors are using the exact same accent, which is somewhere between Pepe Le Pew and a pirate on his deathbed.
Bafflingly, Tom Wolfe, author of The Right Stuff and The Bonfire of the Vanities, is credited as one of the screenwriters on Almost Heroes, and the movie was directed by Christopher Guest, one of the people responsible for This Is Spinal Tap, Best in Show, and A Mighty Wind, among other things. Wolfe is considered one of the greatest writers of the modern era, and Guest is ostensibly a man who knows the difference between solid improvisational comedy and rambling anti-humor, so I assume attaching their names to this carnival of jokeless shouting was part of some ransom task imposed on them by the Jigsaw killer, and that Farley agreed to star in it under similar circumstances. Either way, there is a finite number of times an audience can watch a fat man fall bellowing onto his face before they reward it with cold, implacable silence, and Almost Heroes discovered that number.
"We did it, everyone!"
#3. John Candy -- Wagons East!!
John Candy was part of the ruling comedy family of the 1980s, starring in movies like Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Spaceballs, Stripes, Uncle Buck, and Cool Runnings. If you watched movies at all between 1979 and 1993, chances are you've seen him in something.
He was the uncle and space dog we never had.
Candy died in the middle of filming Wagons East!, which was made during that puzzling run in the mid-'90s when Hollywood was trying to convince us that the 19th century was hilarious (see Almost Heroes, above). The filmmakers decided to try and finish the movie anyway. As a result, many of Candy's scenes had to be magicked together with computer wizardry and a stockpile of dialogue-free reaction shots, taking what little dignity the film might have left him with and dragging it through the blazing Mexican desert like a rancid coyote lure.
"Is there some way to digitally add our urine to his face?"
The film also stars Richard Lewis, who, for some reason, is dressed like Richard Lewis in 1993, rather than the retired Civil War surgeon-turned-rancher he is supposed to be portraying. He's literally wearing a shirt, a vest, and an overcoat, as if he's about to film an ad for Boku.
We're pretty sure that hairstyle would get you burnt for being a wizard back then.
Most of the plot threads in the movie are never resolved, the primary antagonist dies three quarters of the way through and is replaced by an entirely new character, and the whole thing ends with the most poorly edited fistfight ever captured on film. The fight is so boring that the characters themselves can't even bear to watch it, and they struggle to turn it into a meta joke that only succeeds in emphasizing the failure ballet unfolding before our eyes.
Candy, for the few precious scenes in which he legitimately appears (and isn't being dopplegangered by computers or a stunt double), is depressingly good, like a rare form of terminal cancer that gives you the power of flight and makes everything taste like cake. He is able to rise above material that, at its best, is the antithesis of laughter, and somehow manages to be completely watchable and occasionally funny in a movie that is the comedic equivalent of stabbing a weeping hobo to death in an abandoned boxcar. The strength of his meager performance makes the catastrophic badness of Wagons East! that much worse -- even if Candy hadn't died, it still would've been one of the shittiest movies ever made, so his presence was a tremendous waste either way.
At least it brought that jacket into the world.