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The Best and Worst of Aging Actors: Part 2
Article by: Greg Roberts

In Part II of our two part series, we look at actors who have had their careers flat line as they have aged in Hollywood. We don’t attribute the drop off in their performance to their age necessarily, but there is no denying that some of these heavy weights used to be box office gold. Now, they appear to be sleepwalking their way through paychecks. Our list is not ranked or in any particular order and consists of names that pain us to call out with such an article.

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Part II
The Worse of Aging Actors

Harrison Ford

Buddy! Pal! What happened? We remember when everything you touched made you look like Midas. Some of your characters are as iconic as they come in film. Indiana Jones. Han Solo. Jack Ryan. The freakin’ President of the United States! You were a vulnerable and believable action hero that made studios billions in box office revenue. Then, in and around 1997, right after Air Force One, you took roles in films that were abysmal. Six Days , Seven Nights began the downfall and you went into freefall soon after with Random Hearts, Hollywood Homicide and Extreme Measures. What’s worse is that you even tried to bring Indiana Jones back to our hearts and minds with 2009’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. This fourth film in the franchise was an abomination of film and fell just short of running the entire box set with its toxic crappiness. You seem so far removed from your old playful self, we don’t know if you could find your way back even if we google mapped you directions. Buddy! Pal! What happened?

Robert De Niro

It hurts to have De Niro in this category. The same guy that made Taxi Driver superb, Heat explosive, Goodfellas a fantastic ensemble and don’t get me started on your Oscar worthy role in The Godfather. Having your name attached to a project immediately meant penciling you in for nominations and award considerations at any year’s end. From Raging Bull to Casino, De Niro had a string of films on his resume spanning 15 years that showed unprecedented depth and range. De Niro’s career began to flutter after Michael Mann’s Heat in 1995. De Niro then had less hits (Ronin, Wag the Dog) and more misses (Flawless, The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle). The turn of the millennium was not kind to Bobby and he underperformed in terrible movies such as Showtime, Hide and Seek, Men of Honor and Righteous Kill. This once bankable actor now looks to be sleepwalking through his casting calls and his name attached to a marquee no longer is associated with the quality that was his earlier works.

Eddie Murphy

Those of you old enough to have lived through the 1980’s know of Eddie’s greatness. He jumped off the screen and upstaged his co-star Nick Nolte in 48 Hrs. in 1982. Murphy followed with a string of magical box office gold. Trading Places (1983), Beverley Hills Copy (1984) and The Golden Child (1986). Even his bad films were made watchable thanks to his kinetic energy. Best Defense (1984) and Coming to America (1986) both made money for the studio and Eddie was named the best bang for the buck in terms of box office revenue generated by his presence. Things fell apart quickly before the 1980’s even finished. Murphy tried sequels to his 48 Hrs. and Beverley Hills Cop successes. Both films were panned by critics and received lukewarm receptions by the paying public. In 1995, Murphy’s tried horror/comedy with the abysmal Vampire in Brooklyn, arguably the worst film of that year. Murphy did have success with The Nutty Professor (1996) and that seemed to ignite his desire to appear in less serious or family oriented films. Dr. Doolittle, Holy Man, Showtime, I Spy, Daddy Day Care, Haunted Mansion and Norbit all followed. To dig the knife even deeper, Murphy appeared in the musical/drama Dreamgirls in 2006 and showed us again the talent that has been wasted over the past 15 years. Just how far has he fallen? His film A Thousand Words was completed in 2008 and still has yet to be given a release by Dreamworks SKG.

John Travolta

John Travolta’s career is a roller coaster ride. From the highs of Saturday Night Fever (1977) and Grease (1978) to Two of a Kind (1983) and Perfect (1985). Travolta was all but forgotten by Hollywood when Tarantino came calling and he was cast in Pulp Fiction (1994). With an Oscar nomination for his role as gangster Vincent Vega, it looked as if John’s Look Who’s Talking days were behind him. Get Shorty (1995), Broken Arrow (1996) and John Woo’s Face/Off (1997) secured Travolta as a bankable and versatile actor for the second time in his career. But then, tragedy struck. Tragedy in the name of Battlefield Earth (2000). The film, which was of great personal interest to Travolta, bombed and is considered as one of the biggest box office failures (and worst films) of all-time. Travolta seemed lost after Battlefield Earth and roles in Lucky Numbers (2000), Basic (2003) and Domestic Disturbance (2001) did little to help us forget his Battlefield failure. John continues to struggle by taking roles in inferior films as Old Dogs (2009) and From Paris with Love (2010). If it wasn’t for the occasional half-descent film (Bolt, The Taking of Pelham 1,2,3), Travolta would be on the trash heap waiting for the next Tarantino to resurrect him. Again.

Al Pacino

It pains me to no end to have De Niro and Pacino’s name represented in an article that is not praising the two icons for their film contributions. But facts don’t lie, and Pacino has hardly been giving us his best work in recent years. The same talent responsible for Scarface, The Godfather, Dog Day Afternoon and Scent of a Woman has been languishing in hell now in his twilight years. Here’s a list of eight movies he did in a row from 2002 – 2008: S1mone, The Recruit, Gigli, The Merchant of Venice, Two For the Money, 88 Minutes, Ocean’s 13 and Righteous Kill. We went back over our archived reviews and only Ocean’s 13 did we give a passing grade to. And that was a 2.5 out of 5! Pacino has lost a lot of his clout in a younger Hollywood stream. And younger audiences that were introduced to Al through Any Given Sunday, The Devil’s Advocate and Insomnia have not seen the true talent of this 5’ 7” megastar. It’s unfortunate as Pacino is the one name on this list that appears to still be trying. Ford, Murphy and De Niro haven’t chosen a role to add to their resume highlights in years. At least Pacino had two HBO features with Angels in America and You Don’t Know Jack that appeared to show that the talent is still there even if the role optioning is not.

Jim Carrey

Yet another former bankable funnyman. Carrey was on top of the world in mid to late 1990’s when he was bringing hilarious and manic characters to the screen in rapid succession. Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994), The Mask (1994) and Liar Liar (1997) turned him into a $20 million a film man. Carrey branched out into serious cinema with Man on the Moon (1999) and The Majestic (2001). Both films flopped at the box office, but critics were kind to Carrey’s performance in both films. But then Carrey’s choice of roles got eclectic. There was brilliance in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) and groans with The Grinch that Stole Christmas (2000). He tried thriller films unsuccessfully with The Number 23 (2007) and fell below expectations when he went back to his comic roots with Fun with Dick and Jane (2005). The jury is still out on Mr. Carrey and there is evidence that out of everyone on this list, he may be the one that recovers from his career slump. However, when you can’t get your latest film – I Love You Phillip Morris – to even get a release and your next big film is titled Mr. Pooper’s Penguins, we are not holding our breath.

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