4 Inappropriately Awful Final Movies of Great Actors
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.
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!"
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.
Raul Julia -- Street Fighter: The Movie
Raul Julia was a fairly accomplished character actor who starred in several dramas throughout the 1980s that most of us weren't allowed to see, like Kiss of the Spider Woman and Tequila Sunrise (the latter contains Mel Gibson nudity, which I think officially classifies it as a hate crime). You might recognize Raul as Gomez from the Addams Family movies:
If not, I hope you have absolutely no idea who Raul Julia was, because the only other possibility is that you recognize him as M. Bison from 1994's Street Fighter: The Movie, and quite frankly it would be better if you never even knew he existed.
Van Damme's face is bigger than all of the other characters combined.
Street Fighter feels like someone was held at gunpoint and forced to write a movie using nothing but a shoebox full of G.I. Joes and three pages of the Street Fighter II instruction booklet. It was an early demonstration of Hollywood's firm belief that anyone who plays video games is either 7 years old or was hit in the head by a chunk of concrete dislodged from the front steps of a rec center during a helicopter crash. And Raul Julia is all over this motherfucker, chewing the scenery like he's trying to bite his way through a binding of rope before a bomb explodes.
His eyes are played by golf balls with dots on them.
Street Fighter can't decide whether it wants to be wacky or dramatic, frequently shifting its tone in the middle of a scene and occasionally in the middle of a sentence. For example, at one point two characters are taken to a torture chamber, where the jailer's ineffectual attempts to flay them are played up for laughs. However, the second the jailer leaves the room in frustrated embarrassment, the two characters begin a stonefaced discussion on the horrors of torture. They exchange a few solemn, contemplative nods, and then end the scene by telling a gay joke and ripping a giant iron chain out of the wall with their bare hands. This isn't an isolated incident, either -- every scene in this movie is ludicrous to the point of being gibberish.
I'd like to be able to say that Raul Julia is the film's high point, and I suppose he technically is, but all he really does is wear an assortment of vinyl capes and Nazi hats and deliver the hamboniest dialogue ever written. Unlike the filmmakers, who couldn't figure out exactly what kind of movie they wanted to make, Raul clearly decided that Street Fighter was meant to be utterly ridiculous. He may have gotten this idea from the scene in which he transforms a man into a giant green troll doll with Kool-Aid, or it may have occurred to him during the five-minute sequence wherein he tries to blow up an invisible speedboat with a Super Street Fighter II arcade stick.
What makes this role particularly sad is the fact that Raul Julia only agreed to be in Street Fighter because his kids were fans of the game. He had a couple of automatic-awesome movies lined up afterward, including the role of the main villain in Robert Rodriguez's Desperado. But he died very suddenly and never got to do any of them, so his last contribution to the world of cinema ended up being Street Fighter the goddamned movie.
Hopefully they at least let him keep that jacket.
Sean Connery -- The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Sean Connery is one of the most well-known actors of all time -- he originated the role of James Bond, he played Indiana Jones' father, he taught the Highlander how to chop people's heads off as the most improbable Spaniard in history, and he's responsible for one of the earliest Internet memes, which is a dubious distinction but a distinction nonetheless. Sean Connery is such a giant figure in pop culture that it's easy to forget he hasn't been in a movie since 2003's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, a film so penis-bruisingly awful that it makes Chill Factor look like Schindler's List.
And it's arguably more depressing than the latter.
The worst part is, Sean Connery is totally still alive. He could end this curse any time he wants, but he hated the experience of making The League so much that he refuses to ever act again. Apparently, the only reason he agreed to be in it in the first place was because of residual bitterness over having refused the part of Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings, a role he turned down because he didn't understand the script. And to be fair, I am in no way surprised that Sir Sean Connery, lord of the perpetual scowl and crusher of international ass since 1962, had no fucking idea what J.R.R. Tolkien was talking about. So when The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen landed on his desk like a fat wet turd and he found himself equally baffled by its contents, he decided he had no choice but to accept the lead role. I imagine any attempt on the part of Sean Connery's agent to question the wisdom of starring in a movie that he didn't understand was met with a jawbone-dusting knucklefist explosion.
The League follows a group of famous literary characters who join forces to stop a bunch of terrorists from unleashing Steampunk Apocalypse. Sean Connery's Allan Quatermain is the de facto leader of this bowtie-spinning clownshoe parade, and when his team is finally recruited, they spend about an hour standing around talking to each other before embarking on a trip to a Siberian fortress for a climactic action sequence on one of the worst miniature sets in the history of film.
That's supposed to be the top of a giant submarine in a field of massive glaciers.
The movie barely makes narrative sense, the majority of the characters are dull and completely unrecognizable from their respective source materials, and the special effects are embarrassing, even for 2003. The whole thing ends with Quatermain about to burst triumphantly out of his grave like a zombie pro wrestler, but the credits roll just before we see his clenched fist punch through the burial mound. This cliffhanger was meant to lead into a second installment, but for obvious reasons a sequel was never produced. So the ending is unintentionally symbolic -- Sean Connery would rather molder in the forever darkness of his own interred casket than reemerge and risk being in something as bad as The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen 2. Do you hear me? I would rather be fucking dead."