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.
The Worse of Aging Actors
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.
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’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.
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.
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.
View Reader Comments...