Have you ever watched a movie and wondered how an actor could have possibly gotten the role? Yeah, us too. Between inside connections, typecasting, or just plain luck, it sometimes seems like notoriety and talent don’t always go hand in hand in Hollywood. While Tinseltown has failed to cast certain stars for various reasons in recent years, other surprising actors have continued to find work despite being well-aware of how their about their acting chops are perceived. Nicolas Cage, for example, has become so well-known for his, well, sometimes excessive performances that he once told The Guardian, “There is a misperception, if you will, in critical response or even in Hollywood, that I can only do exaggerated characters … Well, this is completely false.”
Be that as it may, a number of actors tend to stick to a specific type of role, while others might simply come across as bland on screen or have taken on parts for which they clearly weren’t suited — all of these situations can totally take a viewer out of a movie. Let’s take a look at some actors who might seriously consider broadening their on-screen horizons and even take an acting class or two.
Jaden Smith: The future of filmmaking?
Jaden Smith is one lucky kid. With a dad like Will Smith, you’d think the Gen-Zer would have incredible acting chops — or at least be open to some practice. Between starring in 2006’s The Pursuit of Happyness alongside his famous father and taking on The Karate Kid alone four years later, Smith’s early stabs at the craft were relatively successful. However, the positive reviews might have been due to the fact that he was simply an adorable child. Nevertheless, things became a bit more shaky once Smith got older. At 15, he and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air alum reunited on screen in M. Night Shyamalan’s After Earth. This box office disaster was relentlessly picked apart by critics, respectively earning the father-son duo Razzie Awards for worst supporting actor and worst actor (via BBC News).
Other flops have included Jaden Smith’s anime debut in the short-lived Neo Yokio. Created by Vampire Weekend frontman Ezra Koenig in 2017, Polygon called it “a bad, attempted homage to Jaden Smith’s strange Twitter persona.” At the day, you’d think the young actor would have the sense to pull back and perhaps sharpen his acting skills … instead of referring to himself as “the future of music, photography, and [filmmaking]” on Twitter.
This director might want to re-enroll in acting classes
We know how this looks: Quentin Tarantino in need of acting classes? It can’t be. While the critically-acclaimed director has a knack for screenwriting and creating utterly captivating characters, he unfortunately lacks a bit in the acting department himself. However, on his journey to the A-list, the Pulp Fiction mastermind actually dropped out of high school in hopes of becoming an actor (via NBC News). Meanwhile, Tarantino coincidentally found out about his behind-the-scenes talents while taking acting lessons. The filmmaker once explained to NPR that he only started writing scripts and took an interest in directing because he needed scenes to perform in class: “I just realized that I love movies too much to simply appear in them. I wanted the movies to be my movies.”
Despite winning two Oscars and other countless awards, Tarantino’s occasional cameo appearances in his films seem to showcase that he simply can’t shake the acting bug. However, one Uproxx writer once devoted an entire piece to his supposed “overacting” — including a “hilariously horrible” attempt at an Australian accent in Django: Unchained. We’ll let you decide your thoughts on that one.
Zac Efron can't stop smiling his way through acting
Known for his dazzling smile, singing chops, and rock-hard abs, Zac Efron rose to fame as a Disney teen heartthrob in the High School Musical franchise. Since leaving the House of Mouse, he’s set his sights on being seen as a serious actor in Tinseltown — but may have to stop grinning so much. We’ll explain. According to Efron himself, he had trouble landing the role of Link Larkin in Hairspray after director Adam Shankman couldn’t get him to stop smiling during his audition. “[I] couldn’t do it,” the actor once told Cosmopolitan (via People). “It was impossible … It took me like four or five tries and he was just shaking his head and making fun of me the whole time.”
Nevertheless, the blue-eyed star’s chipper persona continued to be a problem as Efron attempted to take on more serious parts — like serial murderer Ted Bundy in 2019’s Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile. While Bundy himself was known to be charismatic, some critics felt Efron took the joviality too far and accused him of “romanticizing” the role. With a Razzie Award nomination already under his belt for 2018’s ill-fated Baywatch reboot, this Hollywood hunk should perhaps consider toning down the charm in exchange for some cinematic prowess.
This actor wants you to stop picking on him
It’s impossible to say the name Sylvester Stallone without our minds drifting to his legendary roles in the Rocky series and Rambo. While this actor is no doubt incredibly iconic, you may have asked yourself whether or not he’s simply been repeating performances in these action hero flicks and beyond. This thought has been so widely contested that even Forbes once penned a piece on the star’s legacy: “In short … [Stallone] may have only been a movie star when playing Rocky or Rambo. In otherwise, he served as an accidental template for modern-day franchise-dependent movie stardom.”
To make matters worse, Stallone has earned a whopping nine Razzies (and countless nominations) for his decades-long work. In 2017, Golden Raspberry president John Wilson told The Hollywood Reporter that this not-so-coveted award reportedly became quite a sore spot for the celeb. “When he heard he was up for Worst Actor of the Century we did get a voicemail that sounded like him,” Wilson claimed, adding, “His point was, ‘My movies make money, stop picking on me.'” The thought of a muscular action star like Stallone asking not to get picked on is only slightly ironic … but he may have had a point.
The Hoff knows he doesn't get 'the respect of coolness'
While viewers tuned in weekly to catch David Hasselhoff as iconic crime-fighter Mark Knight in Knight Rider, this ’80s staple hasn’t necessarily withstood the test of time. When the series briefly made its way onto Netflix, it was largely met by the muffled giggles of adults realizing their highly-cherished childhood hero was, in reality, not so great. Calling it “criminally awful,” a critic for The Globe and Mail once noted, “Mr. Hasselhoff reads dialogue the same way nearsighted patients read optometrists’ eye charts.” Ouch.
While Hasselhoff was later able to hide behind the fame of costars Pamela Anderson and Yasmine Bleeth on Baywatch, starring in the ’90s hit didn’t help the actor much in this area either. However, it led to some refreshing self-awareness about his career. As an executive producer on the series, Hasselhoff once turned down none other than Leonardo DiCaprio for a role. “He introduced me to his parents. And I said, ‘I’m responsible for your son being a huge star’ … If Leonardo had gotten the role, I don’t think he would have become the Leonardo that he is,” he told GQ in 2017, before explaining, “When you do a show like Baywatch or Knight Rider, you don’t get the respect of coolness within the industry.” And just like that, our hearts went out to The Hoff.
Adam Sandler says he isn't a 'particularly talented' actor
Rising to fame in the ’90s as the hilarious funnyman on Saturday Night Live, Adam Sandler became known for his slapstick-style parodies and impersonations. Fans adored his performances in comedy classics like Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore, but times change (and so do trends in comedy) — meaning actors must be able to adapt to what the public wants. The issue with Sandler? Nothing’s really changed.
No stranger to the Razzie Awards, the comedian set a jaw-dropping record by winning all 10 of his nominations in 2012. Another impressive albeit saddening feat? His 2015 parody film The Ridiculous 6 boasted a shocking zero percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. You may be wondering: Does the actor care about all the negativity? Not really. “I didn’t get into movies to please the critics,” Sandler told the Independent in 2013. “I got into it to make people laugh and have fun with my friends.” To each their own, we suppose. That said, this movie star would be the first to admit to his seemingly one-dimensional acting chops. “My name is Adam Sandler. I’m not particularly talented,” he quipped to an audience at the 2008 ShoWest convention (via The Star). “I’m not particularly good-looking. And yet I’m a multimillionaire.”
Inside connections didn't help Tori Spelling's acting skills
Oh, Tori Spelling. The actress who could have had it all. Coming from a wealthy family of Tinseltown’s elite, the blonde star is the daughter of the late producer Aaron Spelling — meaning landing the role of Donna Martin in the original Beverly Hills, 90210 series may have had nothing to do with her acting chops. “I went in under a different name,” the starlet said of her audition to Entertainment Weekly. “Then I got the part of Donna — which I’m sure had something to do with my dad.”
After the iconic show ended, Spelling had some trouble scoring high-profile roles, sticking mostly to made-for-TV movies, unheard-of flops, and a slew of reality TV shows. According to TMZ, her personal life hasn’t fared well either, with the star reportedly struggling financially. So, you’d think Spelling would count her blessings when she was called on to do a reboot of BH90210 in 2019. Considering it would portray its cast as exaggerated versions of themselves, an insider cited by Radar Online claimed this wasn’t the case: “Tori didn’t want to portray her real life, which is being broke and on the D-list … [she] wanted to live in a big mansion in Beverly Hills and show the life she envisioned her character would be leading.”
Does Hollywood's nice guy need some acting classes?
Being known as one of the friendliest actors in Hollywood has done wonders for Keanu Reeves’ career. While countless fans have raved over the movie star’s kindness, this doesn’t always equate to being a versatile actor. Starring in roles of legendary films, like the Matrix series and Speed, Reeves’ apparent one-dimensional acting has certainly worked, as the fast pace of these movies doesn’t leave much room for award-winning emotion. His fan base has also been quick to point this out, causing the actor to become the topic of many online threads and jokes surrounding his supposed lack of thespian prowess. But it’s not just adoring fans who’ve been talking, as critics have sometimes slammed Reeves, as well. “Reeves speaks his lines robotically,” Entertainment Weekly once noted, adding, “And his face rarely moves (it’s that placid Keanu mask).” Yikes.
At the end of the day, Reeves has continued to try to get as much work as possible — even if he’s mostly landed roles in indie films and the occasional action hero flick. Admitting that “it sucks” to not score much on-screen work with big studios, the John Wick star simply told IndieWire in 2014, “It’s just the way it is.”
Is Elizabeth Berkley to blame for her poor acting choices?
Elizabeth Berkley was a staple on TV screens across the country in the ’90s. Best known for playing overachiever Jessie Spano on Saved by the Bell, the actress did just fine on the teen sitcom — save for that one infamously melodramatic performance in an episode about her character’s caffeine addiction. After the show ended in 1992, Berkley decided she wanted to shake off her cookie-cutter image with a role in Paul Verhoeven’s risqué film Showgirls. Unfortunately, the flick was a total flop, critics butchered Berkley’s acting chops, and the starlet won a Razzie Award for worst actress. In short, it completely tainted her career.
However, it turns out Berkley’s poor acting may not have been her fault. While discussing the negative feedback years later, Verhoeven himself revealed to Rolling Stone, “People have, of course, criticized her for being over-the-top in her performance. Most of that comes from me.” He explained, “I pushed it in that direction. Good or not good, I was the one who asked her to exaggerate everything — every move — because that was the element of style that I thought would work for the movie.” Needless to say, his pushing didn’t do much for Berkley’s career prospects.
This intergalactic monologue was too awkward for critics
Poor Hayden Christensen had no idea he’d become the butt of all jokes when he took on the coveted role of Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars prequels. Although the franchise was wildly popular, this sci-fi trilogy has often been criticized for its actors’ stiff performances — with the blond star unfortunately being the top target. You may recall, for example, one of Episode II: Attack of the Clones‘ most awkward moments: Anakin’s monologue about his hatred for sand. A fan of the beach or not, Christensen was nominated for three Razzies for his role, and embarrassingly won two of them.
With all the negative feedback, we assume Christensen had nothing else to do but take the criticism in stride. While attending the 40th Anniversary Star Wars Celebration panel in 2017, the star was inevitably asked for his own thoughts on sand. The actor’s response? Mocking his once-popular character along with the rest of the audience. Christensen once revealed to the Los Angeles Times that he decided to quietly leave Hollywood behind following a few more post-Star Wars flops so he could settle down, buy property, and start a family. However, we can’t help but wonder if it had anything to do with all of the ridicule.
The actor who fled criticism behind the camera
After riding the wave of Good Will Hunting‘s success alongside bestie Matt Damon, multi-talent Ben Affleck found himself typecast in a plethora of action movies, playing the all-too-familiar good-guy-gone-bad. Then came 2003’s Gigli, in which he starred with then-girlfriend Jennifer Lopez. Although Bennifer were madly in love at the time, the movie was a total box office flop, their on-screen connection had, as Rolling Stone put it, “zip chemistry,” and the duo parted ways just months following the cringe-worthy flick’s release.
As the winner of multiple Razzie Awards, Affleck was well-aware of the public’s relentless lampooning. “I don’t think that if you can’t handle being criticized and you can’t take a joke and you have skin that is too thin that you should be in the entertainment business,” he told the Independent in 2008. “You have to be able to deal with it. You have to be grown up.” However, the Hollywood A-lister may have had enough of the criticism, considering his later turn toward directing — which has thankfully fared much better than his mid-noughties acting gigs. After taking home an Oscar for best picture for his work on Argo in 2013, this celeb seemed to nestle comfortably into a different corner among Tinseltown’s elite.
Tommy Wiseau: The world's most legendary disaster artist
No list would be complete without the honorable mention of Tommy Wiseau, the actor-director mastermind behind 2003’s The Room. According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the failed flick has since been dubbed the “Citizen Kane of bad movies,” becoming a cultural phenomenon in the process. The cult classic was so appallingly bad that James Franco went on to to direct and star in The Disaster Artist, a 2017 comedy about the making of the movie.
While Wiseau himself is an unintentionally comedic actor, with his bizarre accent, lack of timing, and overacting in the worst possible moments, his real-life persona and cash flow have become shrouded in complete mystery, as well. Following the release of Franco’s parody, Wiseau revealed to The Hollywood Reporter, “I’ve been in the fashion industry from way before. Actually, I used to build buildings, that’s where the money came from [for The Room] … But yeah, I’m very proud of it.” That said, The Room‘s unintentional success has allowed Wiseau to milk his 15 minutes of fame for well over a decade now. As of 2019, his next big endeavor will be a follow-up horror movie called Big Shark. It has, as one would hope, a big shark in it. We don’t know about you, but acting classes or not, we can’t wait.
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