Everyone assumes that directors and writers decide what happens in a movie, but many times the movie star is the most powerful person involved with the project. For instance, when Jim Carrey wanted to make a movie about his favorite number, The Number 23 hit theaters across the country. A much more entertaining abuse of this star power occurs when huge movie stars decide they look awesome doing something, and proceed to force that something into every movie they make. For instance ...
#5. Tom Hanks' Career is a Urinary Morality Play
Most movie stars use their careers to build up enough credibility to avoid urinating onscreen. Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller each had a couple piss gags early on, and then they got successful. It's just not a bodily process we're built to share with millions of people. Hell, some people can't go if there's a single person in the same bathroom as them. That's why it's so strange that Tom Hanks has used his impressive career to make us watch him pee.
Perhaps it's our fault for encouraging him. Everyone loved his first scene in A League of Their Own, when he busts into the locker room and takes World War II's manliest piss.
And there's the even more iconic scene in Forrest Gump where he gets to share the screen with the most beloved president in modern history, and uses the opportunity to tell him he has to pee (at which point Kennedy turns to the camera and repeats what he's been told re: Tom Hanks' having to go pee) ...
"Alright guys, we've got enough money in the effects budget to make President Kennedy say one thing. Any ideas?"
If it were just these two iconic moments, it would be easy to dismiss this as a mere weakness for the poop joke's more penis-y cousin. But Gump wasn't the first Hanks character to pull the "'I've gotta pee.' --sneaks off to explore secret house" gambit. In The 'Burbs, Hanks uses the same excuse to investigate the home of his creepy neighbors.
How Tom Hanks lets a room full of adults know that he has to pee.
And in the art-house movie Road to Perdition, he uses his overactive bladder as a spidey-sense when he escapes a hit man by excusing himself to take a whiz.
OK, this is still The 'Burbs. The footage of Hanks grabbing his penis in Road to Perdition wasn't nearly as funny.
When Tom Hanks is actually urinating onscreen, you can be sure that something thematically significant is taking place. In A League of Their Own, it establishes his character's central conflict as a man who refuses to accept people without penises into the locker room. In another early comedy, The Money Pit, his literal pissing contest with a statue is the central symbol of his character's journey.
At the start of the film, Hanks and his wife optimistically buy an old house, and set about pragmatically dealing with its problems. For instance, when the toilet's plumbing doesn't work, Hanks merely goes outside to pee.
When he notices the plumbing is giving the statue in the front yard a fitful stream, he wryly asks if it's having prostate problems while his manly stream continues to flow freely. Here is a man with a world-beating attitude letting the world know in the only way Tom Hanks knows how: peeing on it.
Later in the movie, the house makes Hanks pay for his arrogance by ruining his marriage. Or, translated into Tom Hanks pee stream logic: The pisser becomes the peed on.
This is not the only Hanks vs. a hostile environment movie that uses urine to let us know the score. Early in Apollo 13, man's mastery over space is demonstrated by showing Tom Hanks pee on it.
"So I pee into a tube?
Then I press a button labeled urine dump ...
... and then my urine is sprayed all over outer space just as you'd expect based on how airplanes work? Fascinating! We need to show every step of that process in painstaking detail!"
-- Absolutely nobody except Tom Hanks
Castaway devotes an entire scene to answering another question nobody on the outside of Tom Hanks' head was asking: If you were trapped on a desert island, where would you pee?
"Imagine that! Being able to just pee right in the ocean!"
There are also meaningful pee scenes in Saving Private Ryan (while the other soldiers talk about missing their mothers, Hanks reminisces about a kid who used to piss Vs on everyone's jackets) and The Terminal (his character must wait for an important phone call despite having to pee, like, super bad). But Hanks' crowning achievement has to be The Green Mile.
In 1999, Tom Hanks was arguably as big as any movie star had ever been. He was coming off of Oscar-wins for Philadelphia and Forrest Gump, plus Apollo 13 (nominated for nine Oscars) and Saving Private Ryan (nominated again for Best Actor). Following in the footsteps of great actors like Daniel Day Lewis, Hanks chose a character with a crippling physical affliction for his next role in an Oscar contender. Unlike any character other than Beavis and Butthead in that episode where they forgot how to pee, that physical affliction was painful urination.
Well there's your problem right there.
Tom Hanks used the credibility he built up over one of the most successful acting careers of the past 50 years to play a character whose central conflict was that he couldn't pee in a standing position. And while I can forgive him for the scene where Michael Clarke Duncan heals him by grabbing his penis, I will never be able to look at him the same way following the uncomfortable close-up as he has what can only be described as an extremely slow orgasm while peeing.
Tom Hanks' career, peaking with a peegasm.
#4. Tom Cruise Will Find an Excuse to Make You Watch Him Sprint
Sprinting is one of those random activities that seems to give actors more trouble than you'd expect (along with throwing a baseball, high-fives and anything within a 12-foot radius of a basketball). They make smoking and dancing look cool, but ask an actor to sprint and they suddenly look like their extremities all fell asleep at the same time ...
Look how hard Steven Seagal has to concentrate to run like a girl in the midst of a devastating growth spurt.
Now, Tom Cruise throws a baseball like he's doing it with his off-hand.
But unlike most actors, Tom Cruise is a fantastic sprinter, presumably because that's the only way he knows how to move from place to place.
This is also how Tom Cruise gets from his bed to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
And nobody has known a fact any harder than Tom Cruise knows that he looks good sprinting. As this video montage demonstrates, he has spent bizarrely extended portions of his career running away from giant alien spacecraft ...
Tom Cruise runs approximately eight miles in this scene.
... Chinese chimney sweeps ...
... or just sprinting out of some bushes somewhere.
Tom Cruise just chased down a deer and killed it with his bare hands. Why, how'd you get to the hospital?
And once Cruise starts sprinting, it's difficult for even great directors to get him to stop. If you saw Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol, you might remember the footrace in a Dubai dust storm that took about 15 seconds too long to turn into a car chase. Or maybe you remember the chase at the end of Collateral, when Michael Mann seemingly forgot how editing works in order to let us drink in every explosive footstep.
This is how you film the 400-meter dash, not the movies.
In Mission: Impossible III, J.J. Abrams completely stops the movie so that Tom Cruise can spend what seems like an hour sprinting through Shanghai, telling Chinese people to get out of his way.
He takes a phone call without losing a step.
There's a hairy moment where it appears as though he might completely lose his mind if these people don't get out of his way.
But otherwise, it's just this: 10-second-long tracking shots of Tom Cruise sprinting like a goddamn lunatic.
The scene ends when the camera keeps traveling in a straight line, and Cruise sprints off in a different direction. I have to assume they keep a team of handlers just off camera with a big net for when he gets going like that.
Occasionally the movie fails to even produce a good reason for him to start sprinting in the first place. Toward the end of Jerry Maguire, he sprints through a mostly empty airport. He's not trying to catch a flight or anything, but it's almost the end of the movie, and Tom Cruise hasn't sprinted yet, so ...
"Oh look, a crazy person." -- Everyone in the quiet airport some maniac is sprinting through.
The very first scene of Vanilla Sky was nicknamed the "million dollar shot" because it required director Cameron Crowe to shut down New York's Times Square during daylight hours. At the production meeting before the shoot, the crew was surprised when Cruise showed up to "let everyone know how crucial this scene was," (It's actually just a dream that he wakes up from few seconds later in the movie, but you know ... important to him). In the scene, Cruise finds himself driving a high-performance sports car through the abandoned post-apocalyptic urban landscape that car commercials have been promising us for years. Instead of using the opportunity to do donuts on the world's busiest intersection, he gets out and ... well, you can probably guess what happens next.
Like a young Dalmatian, you need to give Tom Cruise lots of room to run.
#3. Steven Seagal IS ... Clearly Titling All of His Movies
Stephen Seagal doesn't have any performance quirks that he forces on directors, which isn't surprising, since he seems only vaguely aware he's in a movie at any given moment on screen. Instead, Seagal wields his power in the titling department, making sure that all of his movies have names that sound awesome when preceded by the phrase "Steven Seagal IS ..."
If you don't pay entirely too much attention to action movies, you might not realize how rare this is. Arnold Schwarzenegger probably has the second most impressive run, when Arnold Schwarzenegger WAS ... Commando, The Terminator, Kindergarten Cop and The Last Action Hero. But saying someone IS ... Jingle All the Way, Raw Deal or Total Recall only makes it sound like you should be speaking with a thick Russian accent.
Nobody else is out there forcing his name onto the front of movie titles as consistently and with the same level of difficulty as Seagal. At their best, Stallone and Schwarzenegger titles only answer the "who" of ass-kicking (Stallone is Cobra, Rocky and John Rambo). Seagal considers this redundant, since his facial expression has already made it perfectly clear who's about to make you all the wrong kinds of pointy, which is why he skips directly to the oft-overlooked "where" of ass-kicking.
Where is Steven Seagal, you ask? [Ahem.]
"Up here, tough guy."
"Whoops, now I'm down here."
"And POOF! Now I'm out here, getting ready to make Lady Justice thank God she's wearing that blindfold."
There were even a couple Bond-worthy titles that answered the "why" of ass-kicking.
Q: Why did Steven Seagal just kill everything with dreadlocks?
A: Oh shit, you didn't hear? A Rastafarian gang painted blood on his door, and ...
Q: Right, but why did he have that creepy look on his face the whole time?
A: Guy loves to kill people. And I mean loves, if you catch my drift. Yes, I guess you could say ...
Hard, like boner-wise, you see.
And then, just as quickly as he'd burst onto the scene with a poker hand's worth of awesome "Steven Seagal IS..." movie titles, he lost his touch. It wasn't for a lack of trying. In fact, the many "Steven Seagal IS ..." titles he's come up with since then only prove how hard he nailed the first five. But no matter how hard he tries, he's found himself answering the "where" of ass-kicking with ridiculous bullshit like ... [Dry cough]
Steven Seagal is ...
"Up here, like a book on the top shelf that you need a footstool to get to."
"OK, I was using a Thesaurus on that one. No need to reinvent the wheel here. Just go with what works. Steven Seagal IS ..."
"Boom. He's out here. Out for a Ki-- goddamnit, that's not even a phrase, is it? I'm too inside my own head. I get too close to it and it's just like word salad, y'know? Hey, maybe we're asking the wrong question. Maybe the question we should be asking is -- ready? -- "when" is Steven Seagal? Like if you asked someone for the time, and they looked at their watch, and -- WHAAAT? --- their watch is Steven Seagal, and he's super mad. Then you might say that Steven Seagal IS ..."
Half Past Dead was Seagal's last starring role to get a wide theatrical release, and I'm almost positive that it only exists to justify what he thought was an awesome title that would put him back on top. Seagal plays a cop named Sasha who comes back from the dead at the beginning of the film. This seemingly important bit of back story is only referenced in the title and the following piece of dialogue:
You can tell he's desperate because that is the only line that Steven Seagal has ever delivered with an exclamation point. But if you think his subsequent straight-to-DVD irrelevance has taught him a lesson, you must be forgetting that Steven Seagal IS ...
A crazy person.