Winning an Academy Award doesn’t give you the magic, Midas touch. There’s no guarantee that everything you later star in will also be golden, just as these 7 actors and actresses have learned.
The recent DVD release of Natalie Portman’s troubled Western Jane Got a Gun got me thinking; how many other Oscar winning actors have slummed it in low budget, poorly received films that went straight to DVD ?
1. Sandra Bullock – Our Brand Is Crisis (2016)
Sandra Bullock is no stranger to contrasting fortunes; her contribution to the woeful All About Steve famously bagged her a Razzie Award for Worst Actress the same week she also won her Oscar for her compelling performance in The Blind Side.
But just because Sandy B has an Oscar on her mantle, doesn’t mean she hasn’t landed a stinker or two from time to time. Earlier this year the former Best Actress winner starred in Our Brand is Crisis, a high-stakes political thriller that flunked Stateside before skipping the theatre and slinking onto shelves here in Australia. The film boasted an impressive cast including Anthony Mackie, Scoot McNairy and Billy Bob Thornton (another Oscar winner), but unfortunately this talented ensemble wasn’t enough to convince audiences or distributors that the film belonged in cinemas.
2. Nicolas Cage – Outcast (2014)
An episode of Community once posed the question – Nicolas Cage, good or bad? And, as one character later found out, it’s impossible to reach a definitive conclusion when reflecting on his unconventional filmography.
Cage is an Oscar winner following his work in Leaving Las Vegas, but in recent times he has found himself in an endless B-movie slump. Whilst there are more than a few to choose from, it’s 2014’s Outcast that I’m going to single out as his most baffling career choice to date. The film sees Cage plays a medieval crusader-turned-bandit who is tasked with returning a Chinese prince to his rightful place on the throne. Unsurprisingly, the film currently boasts a 6% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, proving that Oscar glory doesn’t guarantee bountiful critical acclaim later on.
3. Charlize Theron – Dark Places (2015)
Charlize Theron’s chilling portrayal of serial killer Aileen Wuornos in the crime drama Monster may have earned her an Academy Award win for Best Actress in 2003, but not every project fronted by Theron has enjoyed the same critical success in the intervening years – as evidenced by her starring role in 2015’s Dark Places.
Following the success of Gillian Flynn‘s Gone Girl, French director and screenwriter Gilles Paquet-Brenner recruited the talents of Theron for an adaptation one of Flynn’s earlier novels. Dark Places should’ve been able to ride the coattails of Gone Girl into cinemas, but instead a limited theatre run in the United States was met with tepid reviews and meagre takings. The film’s fate was sealed when consigned to the bargain bin, an outcome that is probably for the best – Dark Places is the polar opposite of Gone Girl in terms of quality.
4. Anthony Hopkins – Misconduct (2016)
Anthony Hopkins’ terrifying performance in 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs has immortalised the character of Hannibal Lecter in popular culture forever, but his subsequent Oscar glory hasn’t prevented the seasoned actor’s career from sometimes taking a wrong turn, as evidenced by his recent role in 2016’s Misconduct.
The Shintaro Shimosawa directed crime drama boasts not one, but two past Oscar winners. Joining Hopkins on the bill is Al Pacino. With a cast like this, surely the movie couldn’t fail, right? Wrong. The double-whammy of Hopkins and Pacino couldn’t save Misconduct from limping onto VOD earlier in the year. C’mon guys, we know you can do better than that!
5. Morgan Freeman – Last Knights (2015)
Morgan Freeman’s deep vocals have been coating our ears in honeyed dialogue delivery ever since the mid-eighties. It was his terrific performance in Clint Eastwood’s 2004 boxing film Million Dollar Baby that saw the actor land win his sole Oscar so far.
However, this triumph hasn’t prevented Freeman from sashaying into the world of direct-to-DVD. Only last year Freeman starred alongside Clive Owen in another low-budget sword-and-sandal fantasy epic, Last Knights. Haven’t heard of it? Not surprised; its limited cinema run fizzled out faster than a wet firecracker and ensured the film was destined for an eternity on dusty JB Hi-Fi shelves.
6. Natalie Portman – Jane Got A Gun (2016)
Léon: The Professional, Garden State, Closer, V for Vendetta – Natalie Portman has made a career out of exciting choices, culminating in her terrifying performance in Darren Aronofsky’s indelible and incredible Black Swan. Her total commitment to the role was equal parts frightening and compelling, earning her an undisputed Best Actress Oscar in 2010.
Unfortunately, Portman has been unable to replicate this success since then; originally signing on for hard-boiled Western Jane Got a Gun way back in May 2012, Portman saw the project cycle through various directors and screenwriters. When the film finally made it onto screens in the US earlier this year (over 18 months after its original release date), it scraped in a measly box office taking. The distributor decided to call it quits and put it out on DVD and VOD everywhere else. Shame, as Portman is actually pretty good in the movie.
7. Kevin Spacey – Father Of Invention (2010)
Nowadays it’s hard to separate Kevin Spacey from his smooth-talking politician alter ego Frank Underwood, but back in 90’s Spacey was honoured with Academy Awards for his memorable performances in Bryan Singer’s neo-noir crime thriller The Usual Suspects (1995) and Sam Mendes’ erotic drama American Beauty (1999).
However, dual Oscars haven’t prevented Spacey from popping up in a clunker or two – most notably, 2010’s comedy-drama Father of Invention. The film sees Spacey play an infomercial guru who loses it all when one of his inventions accidentally maims thousands of customers – much like how this film was maimed by critics who mercilessly slapped it with a 0% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s right – zero. Thankfully, Netflix and David Fincher came a-knocking with House of Cards and no one remembers (or probably even saw) this stinker.
Images courtesy of Roadshow Films, Transmission Films, Defiant Screen Entertainment and Anchor Bay Entertainment