5 Movies That Made Huge Stars Quit Acting Forever
Every single movie actor who has been called "the greatest in the world" has appeared in at least one irredeemable turd. Daniel Day-Lewis did Nine. Marlon Brando did The Island of Dr. Moreau. Sasha Grey was in several episodes of Entourage. And so on. By now, Al Pacino and Robert De Niro have more terrible comedies on their IMDb profiles than Carrot Top. My point is: Good actors doing bad movies is nothing new. It's one of the unavoidable realities of the business, like having to wrestle a naked, fully erect Gary Busey while trying to enter the studio. You just accept it and try to have as much fun as you can.
That's why I think it's hilarious when a Hollywood icon is driven to retirement not by some intense drama where the director trapped him in the jungle and forced him to eat his own shit for a month to survive, but by a lighthearted little romp that wanted nothing but to entertain people (and make a few bucks). The following acting legends had the necessary mental fortitude to deal with the psychos and bloodsuckers of the film industry for decades, but in the end what finally broke them was something as silly as ...
Richard Dreyfuss -- Silver City, then Poseidon
Silver City is a 2004 political comedy (more on this genre and era below) that shockingly failed to smash movie attendance records, possibly because it turns into a weird murder-thriller halfway through. Poseidon is a 2006 remake of The Poseidon Adventure, directed by Wolfgang Petersen, who presumably only hired respected thespian and Jaws star Richard Dreyfuss because he wanted to fool people into thinking this version included killer sharks. (It doesn't.)
I blame the fact that it underperformed at the box office entirely on that oversight.
Dreyfuss' retirement lasted only a few years, and he has never blamed these movies in particular for getting him fed up with Hollywood. But let's look at the facts: Silver City had been out for less than a month when he said, "I want to do something else. I'll only live once, and I am 10 years out of the hospital or retirement home." It's not hard to imagine him watching the long, long 2 hours and 8 minutes this movie lasts and going, "Holy shit, I'm gonna die."
Dreyfuss wanted to do something worthwhile, so he went back to theater and scored a role in the musical version of The Producers. Finally, he felt alive again! No more of that Hollywood bullshit! What's that? You had no idea the guy from Close Encounters of the Third Kind could sing and dance? He can't, so he got fired. He says he "trolled for work" during this time (mostly on the IMDb message board for Mel Brooks, I'm guessing), but at least he still had his dignity. Then Wolfgang Petersen came along and asked him to drown that dignity in a big studio water tank, and Dreyfuss said sure.
Seriously, please check out this hilarious interview with him from when he was supposed to be promoting Poseidon:
He personally requested the color of his font for this interview.
In the same interview he also said, "The moment the film is over, I'm retired." I like to think he seriously thought he could give Hollywood another shot, and maybe he could find a way to find some joy in being part of these movies. Then he saw how Poseidon turned out and went "Nooooope, I'm out again."
Anyway, he's done 14 movies since then.
Sean Connery -- The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
(Yes, I know Cracked has mentioned before how this is Sean Connery's final movie, but we only told you half the story. Buckle up, because it's gonna get extraordinarily dumb.)
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, or LXG as they desperately tried to shorten it (because LEG would have sounded silly), is loosely based on an Alan Moore comic, itself loosely based on, like, 200 old novels. Connery teams up with gritty reboots of literary badasses like the Invisible Man, Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, and, um, Dorian Gray, to stop Sherlock Holmes' nemesis, who is also the Phantom of the Opera. Oh, shit, that was a spoiler.
When most people watched this completely run-of-the-mill action flick in 2003, they said, "Well, that was dumb," and instantly forgot about it. Connery, on the other hand, went, "Fuck everything. Fuck this world. I'm out."
"Sho long, shuckers."
As I said, Cracked has covered before how Connery just quit movies after this one, which he only agreed to do because he was bitter over turning down a part called "Gandalf" in a movie about midgets or some shit. What we didn't mention was that he turned down that role entirely because he didn't understand the script, a decision that cost him $450 million dollars -- the guy could have his own tropical island nation today if he had just asked someone else, "Hey, is this Tolkien guy any good?" But then the money gods who had favored him for so many decades pitied him and gave him another chance: They also offered him a role in The Matrix, though he hasn't confirmed which one.
I'm guessing Trinity?
Once again Connery couldn't make heads or tails of it and turned it down, and once again the movie went on to make big bucks. Try to put yourself in his confused, profoundly stupid (remember his "women deserve to be punched" rant?) frame of mind right now: He has apparently been randomly choosing roles for his entire career without having any concept of what makes a good movie, and it's always worked out for him (Highlander II aside), but his mystical luck suddenly runs out. He's on his own now. Then a deeply, deeply ridiculous script called LXG is floated by his desk, and he doesn't know what the fuck it's about either ... so he goes, "Where do I shign, my friendsh?" He seriously thought this was the one that would make sunny Santa Conneria a reality.
It didn't work out that way, obviously, so he tossed his hairpiece into the fire and moved back to Scotland. I know the accusation that Sean Connery is a moron who only became a film legend through dumb luck is kinda heavy, so I'll just leave with this: Since his retirement, one of the only two voice acting roles he has seen fit to lend his wonderful accent to is a CGI cartoon about a skateboarding veterinarian grandpa. I imagine he was majorly pissed off when it didn't outgross every Pixar movie ever.
Gene Hackman -- Welcome to Mooseport
Gene Hackman is a former U.S. president who runs for mayor of a small town against a plumber played by Ray Romano. You can squarely date this movie to the mid-2000 decade because it was done during that brief window of time when people thought political comedies and Ray Romano were viable forms of entertainment. By the way, when you watch the trailer for this movie, one of the suggestions at the end is a video of Hackman being given an Oscar for The French Connection, which proves that YouTube has become sentient and developed a sarcastic sense of humor.
Hackman has never specifically pointed at Welcome to Mooseport as the movie that made him retire, but come on. He flat out stopped after this one. No voice-over work. No Levitra ads. He just stopped. He said: "The compromises that you have to make in films are just part of the beast, and it had gotten to a point where I just didn't feel like I wanted to do it anymore."
Beast = Moose, clearly.
The fact that this revelation presumably hit him while working on a completely run-of-the-mill comedy with Ray Romano is the funniest thing about the movie. Picture grumpy old Gene Hackman sitting silently on a set while someone adjusts a picture of his face over the crotch of a nude man (that is an actual scene from the movie, but I'll spare you the screenshot). Ray Romano comes over, awkwardly displaying his teeth as in every single photo of him that exists, and says in his depressed Kermit voice: "Are you ready for the scene, Gene?" Hackman slowly turns his head. "No, Ray. I don't think I am." He walks off of the set, starts running, and never stops. They have to finish the movie with CGI. (That's how it went in my imagination, anyway.)
"What the fuck? What the fuck am I doing with my life?" (Also, I lied.)
Sure, Hackman was in his 70s by then, but he was still very active and in great shape, judging by that action montage from The Royal Tenenbaums. Before Welcome to Mooseport, he had done 90 movies in 40 years and five in 2001 alone. He was a hardened Hollywood veteran who still scared the shit out of everyone he worked with whose name wasn't Bill Murray. After Welcome to Mooseport, he didn't attend the premiere. He didn't do a single press junket. He dropped out of movie-making and never looked back. Hackman has spent the past 10 years sitting at home working on his novels, which make way less money than even a bit part in a movie, but at least you don't have to look at Ray Romano's face every day.
Omar Sharif -- The 13th Warrior
A movie about Antonio Banderas as a wimpy Arabian philanderer who travels across the world and ends up becoming a wimpy Viking. The possibly literally immortal Omar Sharif appears as Banderas' multi-purpose old guy (servant/mentor/Viking interpreter), although his actual function in the movie is sitting on a camel while wearing a turban so that people will think they're watching him in Lawrence of Arabia and not change the channel.
"Ugh, it's the HD remaster where you can see all the wrinkles."
Sharif's "retirement" after The 13th Warrior lasted only a few years, but I'm giving him a spot on this list because I think it's hilarious how angry he got at this movie. His part wasn't even that big -- it was probably a few days of shooting in exchange for a big paycheck, but it still made him say: "Let us stop this nonsense, these meal tickets that we do because it pays well ... bad pictures are very humiliating, I was really sick." He talks about this thing like it's his own personal Vietnam: "It is terrifying to have to do the dialogue from bad scripts, to face a director who does not know what he is doing, in a film so bad that it is not even worth exploring." Doctor Zhivago himself apparently wakes up in a cold sweat every night, replaying this in his head:
"The horror, the horror."
I think he might have exaggerated a little bit. This isn't what you'd call a good movie, but it's not Bio-Dome either. It is my opinion that the director who made Die Hard is incapable of doing a film that's 100 percent without merit, no matter how hard he tries. And yet, after the movie flopped in 1999, Sharif was so disgusted that he stopped acting for a while and didn't sign up for another Hollywood film until 2004 (dude's got bills to pay and a mustache to maintain).
Perhaps the important consideration for Sharif was that his teenage grandchildren were now making fun of him because of his bad movies, and if you don't have the respect of a 16-year-old with a Big Johnson T-shirt, then what do you have? He's done other movies since 2004, mostly in Europe and Asia, but the main activity of the now 82-year-old former actor seems to be punching, head-butting, and slapping people in public without provocation.
He seems much happier in this new career.
Greta Garbo -- Two-Faced Woman
Every serious dramatic actress has it: that one completely ridiculous movie they do when people start saying their roles are getting too heavy, so they decide to leave their dignity aside for a while. Glenn Close has Mars Attacks!, Meryl Streep has Death Becomes Her, and Greta Garbo (the original "intense movie lady") has Two-Faced Woman, a romantic comedy about a woman who pretends to be her own rumba-dancing twin sister to seduce her husband. It's a pretty standard plot. I could see Jennifer Lawrence doing that movie today, flopping, and then moving on with her career.
They should keep that exact same tagline. Even the Garbo part. That is perfect.
This silly little movie ruined Greta Garbo. Broke her. It was the Bane to her Batman. She was only 36, one of the great leading ladies of classic Hollywood, had three Oscar nominations, her previous film had been a huge hit ... and Two-Faced Woman ended everything. She called it "my grave" and didn't do another movie for the next 49 years, until she went to her actual grave.
No, I didn't Photoshop this. I went there and placed the sticker.
Again, this lady was so massively famous that most of you reading this right now have never seen even a single second of her movies, and you still know her name and occupation. She's synonymous with "good actress." By 1941 she had only one big flop, but she made up for it by hitting a home run with Ninotchka, which got Garbo her third Oscar nomination ... and third Oscar snub, but only because the Academy probably figured, "Eh, she's gonna keep making movies for decades, we'll give her one or five some other time."
But then this minor comedy that should have been a footnote in her career came along and fucked everything up like a discreet, mildly amusing rumba tornado. The reviews were brutal: Those smack-talkers at Time Magazine saidTwo-Faced Woman was "almost as shocking as seeing your mother drunk" (if your mom was 36 and actually still pretty hot). Garbo was so embarrassed that she went into a "temporary" retirement that she never came out of. It's not like the movie was so unfunny that she was blacklisted or something: She was still offered roles by famous directors, but she said no to most and had an awesome eye for only picking ones that never got made.
When the Academy gave Garbo an honorary Oscar in 1955 as a "hey, come on, we didn't mean it" gesture, she didn't bother to show up and they had to mail it to her house, which she rarely left by then. It's like she was so ashamed of that one so-so movie that she decided to live her life in exile as punishment. Be right back, gonna go steal some of her blood and inject it into Shia LaBeouf.
Maxwell Yezpitelok was recently interviewed on the occasion of his joint Nobel Prize/Teens Choice Award win. His Twitter is here.
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