Occasionally, one of our culture's most celebrated actors will slip up and make a movie that perhaps isn't so great. Then another one. And another one, and then a whole franchise, and next thing you know, their face is CGI'd to the body of a talking baby. Why would these beloved thespians ruin their reputation and legacy like that? If you said "because they want money," you're ... probably right, but sometimes, the reasons are far more fascinating and hilarious than that. For example:
Seeing so many serious actors flock towards Michael Bay movies might be the most baffling thing in cinema since that train came right at the audience. For his latest tits 'n bots sequel, Bay even managed to score the legendary Anthony Hopkins, who called the shouty director a "genius" and a "savant" (two words we thought had a restraining order against Bay). Here's a handy graphic showing the shocking talent crossover between the Coen Brothers' acclaimed filmography and Bay's dumb flicks:
The reason for this might not actually be his talent, but the fact that Bay, the directorial equivalent of doing cocaine off a stripper's cesarean scar, is the coolest guy these actors have met in a long time. John Malkovich, who appeared in Transformers: Dark of the Moon, excitedly described Bay as "delightful," "fun," and "filled with ideas." To good actors, he's the cool rich kid slumming it with the theater geeks. Sure, he might sometimes yell at the staff or give an atomic wedgie to his assistant director, but when you're part of Bay's VIP circle, the world must feel like you're living in the Entourage opening credits.
More importantly, despite his numerous cinematic flaws, Bay knows how to make his sets awesome. Frances McDormand, who apparently signed on for the third Transformers just to ruin the Not-Megan-Fox character for her teenaged son, was immediately blown away by Bay's energetic masculinity. Everything on set was loud, brash, and sexy -- words you probably didn't hear a lot on the Fargo set. The explosions, the action, and the energy had McDormand running around like a madwoman and she loved Bay for it:
Meanwhile, John Turturro says he cried on the set of Transformers II, because Bay had managed to convince the Egyptian royal family to let them shoot atop an actual ancient pyramid. "You just don't get to do this in movies. You don't get to shoot in a place that's 4000 years old," Turturro stammered, overwhelmed by the fact that he, a mere mortal, could bear witness to a marvel of the ancient world, all thanks to 1980s cartoon robots who love to get hammered on magical robot juice.
Nicolas "I Have A Knife Somewhere On My Person" Cage has been in a lot of great movies, but recently, he's just been in a lot of movies. He has seven films coming out in 2017, most of which are headed straight to the trash bin that is the home video market. Why would a movie icon like Cage need to work that hard after the millions of dollars he already made from movies like Face/Off (for which we assume he was paid double)? Because he has an addiction ... to shopping.
You know how it goes. You love vintage cars, so you buy about 30 to 50 of them. You need a place to keep those cars, so you buy an airplane hangar and turn your pool room into a car showroom. Now you need a new place to store your pool cues. Better buy twelve different houses. And two islands. At that point, it's much more cost effective to just own two yachts and a Gulfstream jet instead of wasting money on airplane tickets everywhere. And you'll need that money, because how else are you gonna pay $276,000 for that dinosaur skull?
All of that extravagance was stretching Cage's island-buying budget a bit too thin, especially if you consider all the taxes. Which Cage didn't. In 2009, the Internal Revenue Service cracked down on him for a massive amount of back taxes, forcing Cage to pay $6.2 million just in unpaid property taxes alone (unfortunately, the IRS was unwilling to accept payment in the form of dinosaur skulls).
Since just spending less wasn't going to solve his money problems (or, you know, happen), Cage had no choice but to up his revenue by never saying no to a paying gig again. And while some movie stars see video-on-demand movies as the closest they'll ever get to doing community service, Cage actually seems to accept his downward spiral. In an interview with the LA Times, he revealed that he sees his B-movie career as the natural progression of his art, not really grasping the difference between edgy indie films and the Russian money laundering fronts he now stars in.
TWC-Dimension/Anchor Bay Entertainment
We hope you look forward to Ghost Rider 6, too, as Cage has already declared he'll keep doing this until they bury him in the nine-foot-tall pyramid tombstone he still owns. He says he can see himself making 150 films, like the old golden-age actors. Hopefully he'll be able to afford a full dinosaur by the end.
One of the most famous falls from acting grace has to be Robert De Niro. To one generation, he single-handedly revolutionized acting with his performances in Raging Bull, The Deer Hunter, and Taxi Driver. To another, he's just that grumpy old guy who yells at Ben Stiller. You just have to ask yourselves: Where did it all go wrong?
Based on Rotten Tomatoes statistics, De Niro started slipping into bad movies from 2002 on. His increasing suckage culminated in last year's Dirty Grandpa, a movie in which he gets his scenes stolen by Zac Efron ... which is like saying he got his scenes stolen by an extra pretending to eat a bag of M&Ms in the background.
Illeana Douglas, who appeared in three movies with De Niro in the '90s, defends him by saying that films were just better back then. Now, that's utter poppycock (did you forget the '90s gave us Pauly Shore?), but Douglas did say something interesting -- she tells a story about how when they were shooting Cape Fear, Martin Scorsese would kick people off the set for looking at their watches while De Niro was acting, eventually forcing everyone to go bare-wristed. That's nuts. Now think back to De Niro's most iconic roles. The shooting of Taxi Driver involved De Niro working as an actual taxi driver ...
New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission
The Godfather series famously had real mobsters hanging around on set. The shooting of Raging Bull was halted for months specifically so De Niro could go on a body-ruining eating binge. For The Deer Hunter, they threw De Niro inside an authentic bamboo cage and slapped him around. And perhaps most terrifyingly, his only worthwhile films made in the past years are the ones where he had to share a set with noted madman David O. Russell. Clearly, De Niro can only get results if he's being put through the sorts of extreme situations that just don't happen when you're sitting in a comfy booth, recording lines for Shark Tale.
Ironically, Kevin Smith, the man who became famous for making comedies that are best enjoyed while high, did all them without ever smoking pot. Double-ironically, he's recently picked up the habit ... and it's ruining his career.
For most of his life, Smith just said "no" out of fear that weed would make him lazy and work-shy. That changed when his path intersected with this guy's:
The Weinstein Company
While working with Seth Rogen on Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Smith was amazed by the perpetually stoned actor's amazing work ethic and constant creativity. At the last day of filming, Smith approached Rogen and, like a shy college freshman, asked if they could share a joint. Smith was so blown away by how uninhibited and creative he felt when smoking, he decided to become a full-time pothead in order to bolster his career. That's exactly the type of idea where you end up saying "wait, no, that's super dumb" upon sobering up, but in Smith's case, that has yet to happen.
Unfortunately, there's a difference between becoming a stoner at 22 and becoming one when you're already a famous filmmaker: 22-year-old stoners get told to shut the fuck up when they have a terrible idea; famous filmmakers do not. This path of least resistance eventually led Smith to Tusk, the marine body dysmorphia horror he came up with while recording his podcast high as balls -- and then wrote and directed in the exact same altered state.
Tusk got savaged both by critics and at the box office. So Kevin Smith learned a lesson. Unfortunately, that lesson was that people needed to get on his level. Smith created cinema's first ever marijuana tie-in and announced that audiences should get high and watch his work "through a different lens." We're pretty sure the only winners there were the people selling candy at the concession stands.
Since becoming a stoner, all of Smith's movies have been utter bombs. That might just be the best anti-drug PSA we've ever heard. Nobody really cares that marijuana might make you paranoid, but that it might make you think that Yoga Hosers is a good movie? Dangerous stuff.
Artists know that you have to suffer for art. Working with Adam Sandler, you won't get to make art -- but you won't have to suffer, either. What you will get is a three-month-long paid vacation hanging out with one of the nicest guys in Hollywood.
How do you get the likes of Harvey Keitel, Jack Nicholson, and Al Pacino in the same movie as Kevin James, David Spade, and Rob Schneider? Hell, how do you get anyone in the same movie as Schneider? By having the best sets in town. That's because most of them are actually just holiday destinations. Sandler stumbled on the idea during pre-production on 50 First Dates. On a whim, he suggested to the studio that they shoot the whole movie in Hawaii -- and they agreed. Since then, Sandler has shot almost every movie he's made either somewhere warm and fun or just in his backyard. Once you start noticing how many of his posters have exotic vegetation in the background, you can't unsee it:
Warner Bros. Pictures
Of course, a tropical beach isn't really worth much if you don't have time to relax on it. Luckily, to quote Sandler, "I didn't get into movies to please the critics. I got into it to make people laugh and have fun with my friends." Turns out that not giving a fuck whether or not you're making bad movies can actually be quite a pleasant experience. The pressure is off because, well, you're working on an Adam Sandler movie -- not even his audiences go in expecting anything more than a couple of semi-amused smirks. The last time Pacino could just have fun acting was probably at his sixth-grade school play. But on the set of Jack and Jill, he could have farted every line and critics would still have blamed it on the movie.
You can't buy this type of peace of mind with all the Academy Awards in the world.
Perhaps most importantly, almost everyone who has worked with Sandler tells the same story: he's sweet, charming, and the most down-to-earth guy in Hollywood. He's always in a good mood, refuses to be treated like a movie star, and interacts with everyone (from Jessica Biel to the best boy) like they're part of the family. So maybe when he asks you to come do his movie, it sounds more like your favorite neighbor inviting you over for a barbecue to shoot the shit and maybe push someone in the pool. Incidentally, we've just described the entire plot of both Grown Ups movies.
No wonder actors flock to Sandler, the only person in Hollywood who will tell them it's alright to just be themselves and enjoy life. Sure, that makes it sound like Happy Madison Productions is a cult, but what would you prefer? That your favorite actor winds up in an Adam Sandler movie, or becomes a Scientologist? Actually, don't answer that.
Cedric really regrets no longer having a reason to hate Adam Sandler. For more of his attempts at witticisms or his famous recipes for toilet wine, do follow him on Twitter.
Check out more in the world of regrettable acting gigs in 20 Stupid Roles That Still Haunt The World's Biggest Stars and 5 Iconic Roles That Made Actors' Lives A Living Hell.
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What the Hell Did I Just Read: A Novel of Cosmic Horror, the third book in David Wong's John Dies at the End series, is available now!