Joining a comic book movie is something that many actors dream of achieving. While it isn’t a prestige film that will win the actor lots of Oscars, it gives them a chance to have a lot of fun, make a movie that their kids will love, and provide them with an opportunity to become a superhero for the world — or possibly a supervillain with dreams of ruling the world. Actors like Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans and Chris Pratt have thrived as superheroes on the big screen, and have taken that to their personal lives as well to become heroes for kids off the screen as well.
However, there is another side to the superhero movie franchises. Some actors and actresses joined the comic book movies and ended up sabotaging their fame thanks to the role. Some of these celebrities ended up rebounding and reviving their careers down the line, but others still struggle today with the decisions they made when making these comic book adaptations. Whether it was a bad attitude, developing superiority complexes while shooting the films, or finding themselves ostracized from Hollywood due to the quality of their performance or movie, here are 15 celebrities whose fame was ruined by a superhero movie.
15. TERRENCE HOWARD
Terrence Howard was excited to play James Rhodes in the very first Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, Iron Man. When you listen to his interviews, Howard even said that he was one of the primary people who helped convince Marvel to hire his buddy Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, despite reservations from Marvel concerning Downey’s past criminal record. However, when it came time to make Iron Man 2, Howard found himself on the outside looking in.
Howard wanted a pay raise when he heard that Downey garnered a multi-million dollar deal based on the performance of the first Iron Man movie. However, Marvel said no and re-cast the role with the cheaper Don Cheadle. In interviews, Howard blasted Marvel, Disney, and his former friend Downey. He even said he called Downey but the man he “helped get a job” wouldn’t even return his calls. Howard was so loud in complaining that it completely ruined his reputation for years after Marvel fired him.
14. CHRIS O’DONNELL
Chris O’Donnell seemed like a glutton for punishment. He first appeared in the third Batman movie Batman Forever, which was the first without Tim Burton. However, while that film was loud and colorful and nothing like the first two, O’Donnell was possibly contracted to return for Batman & Robin, the movie that killed the Batman franchise. While Val Kilmer walked away, O’Donnell came back for more excess and wasn’t happy.
Watch the special features on the Batman & Robin Blu-ray. O’Donnell has no kind words to say about the movie. According to the former Boy Wonder, the cast realized every day that they came to work that they were not making a film, they were making a very expensive feature-length toy commercial. Unlike Goerge Clooney, who had the stature to withstand his open criticism, O’Donnell was young, and his career completely stalled out until he finally found a home as a TV star on an NCIS spin-off.
13. MATT SALINGER
Maybe using the word celebrity to describe Matt Salinger is stretching the definition. However, he is the son of one of the most celebrated literary authors of his era in J.D. Salinger (The Cather in the Rye). While his dad was a recluse who remained out of the public spotlight for over 50 years, his son wanted to bask in the spotlight of his celebrity thanks to his name. The fact that he was J.D. Salinger’s son had to be the only way he got a break in Hollywood.
Salinger got a decent start in movies by appearing in the very popular ’80s comedy Revenge of the Nerds. However, in 1990 it was time for him to sink or swim as a leading man in an action movie. That movie was Captain America. Directed by DTV-mastermind Albert Pyun (Kickboxer 2), Salinger sunk as many reviews blasted his lack of charisma as a leading man. He finished off his career with small TV appearances and produced some indie films.
12. IOAN GRUFFUDD
The cast of the first two major Fantastic Four movies did well for themselves. Jessica Alba maintained a steady pace of work, Michael Chiklis will always have a job, and Chris Evans became Captain America. However, Ioan Gruffudd saw his career stall out after his critically disparaged performance as Reed Richards, the patriarch of the First Family of Marvel.
Before Fantastic Four, Gruffudd appeared in two huge movies in Titanic and Black Hawk Down, and then he took on the lead role in the UK series Horatio Hornblower. However, Fantastic Four was a critical disappointment and didn’t set the world on fire like Fox’s X-Men movies, and Gruffudd disappeared from the spotlight after the films. He had small roles in W. and Horrible Bosses, but Gruffudd never got a chance to lead a major movie again.
11. HALLE BERRY
No one fell harder than Halle Berry after a superhero movie appearance. Berry was no stranger to comic book adaptations, although while many other members of the X-Men cast received praise, most people focused on one Storm line to Toad that fell flat for most critics and moviegoers. However, that didn’t doom Berry, who went on to win an Oscar in 2001 for the movie Monster’s Ball.
After that Oscar win, it seemed the future was Berry’s for the taking. The problem is that two years later, she appeared as Catwoman in the DC Comics movie of the same name. Critics destroyed the film, which, among other more systemic factors, is said to have set back female-led superhero movies a decade. Berry followed up her Oscar win with a Razzie for Worst Actress. That was the last time Berry was the primary lead in a mainstream Hollywood movie.
10. GEORGE REEVES
If anyone wants to learn the troubled, and often tragic history in the Superman movie franchise, check out the novel Superman vs. Hollywood: How Fiendish Producers, Devious Directors, and Warring Writers Grounded an American Icon. This book includes the tragic story of George Reeves, the man who was, for years, the face most people associated with the Man of Steel. However, Superman was a role that eventually sunk Reeves’ acting aspirations.
Reeves always said he wanted to be a real actor and felt he became typecast as a man wearing what he called a “monkey suit.” However, Reeves knew that it was his goldmine and did enjoy how he could work with children thanks to the role. Despite this, he never shook the role and it defined him until his death at the age of 45 by a gunshot wound ruled a suicide, although there are those who believe the man who was Superman was murdered.
9. TOPHER GRACE
Topher Grace gained substantial fame thanks to his television role as Eric Forman on That ’70s Show, but he quit the series after seven seasons because Grace felt he was ready to move on from television and wanted a big screen movie career. Grace got an excellent start in his first movie role in Traffic and in 2007 he got his most significant role to date. Grace got a chance to portray the Spider-Man villain Venom in Spider-Man 3.
That was a role that killed his Hollywood career. Grace was not a realistic fit for Eddie Brock, although his casting made sense next to Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker. However, the biggest problem was that Sam Raimi didn’t care about Venom, didn’t want him in the movie, and pushed his story off to the side. Critics felt that Grace didn’t exhibit the screen presence needed to carry a villain in a major blockbuster and it was four years before a studio trusted him with another significant role.
8. JENNIFER GARNER
Jennifer Garner and her superhero movie Elektra is often lumped in with Halle Berry and Catwoman as a reason that female-driven superhero movies kept getting shot down in Hollywood. However, Garner had already played Elektra before in Daredevil, a movie critically panned in theaters but that has a much better reputation since the director’s cut was released on DVD. Despite that, her solo film left a lot to be desired.
Garner had proven with her action spy series Alias that she could be a marketable and bankable butt-kicking female action hero. However, all the goodwill she built up starring on Alias went out the window when Elektra flopped. Even worse, Garner’s entire career became secondary to her marriage to Ben Affleck, which started thanks to their starring in Daredevil. Garner has developed an excellent dramatic career over time, but her original goals of an action hero franchise died with Elektra.
7. TOBEY MAGUIRE
There have been a lot of articles written over the years about how Tobey Maguire’s career died thanks to his role as Spider-Man in the Sam Raimi trilogy. It is an interesting thought process because the first Spider-Man movie was well-received and many people consider the second to be one of the best superhero movies of all-time. However, when people talk about the success of the films, it seems the consensus is they succeeded despite Maguire.
Before Spider-Man, Maguire was mostly an indie darling, and then he got his chance to lead his own franchise. One thing that hurt Maguire was that his boyish looks left and he needed to carve out a new persona for movies, something he never accomplished. Maguire never got another chance to be a Hollywood star after he left his role as Peter Parker, and stuck with small roles and producing jobs.
6. MICKEY ROURKE
Mickey Rourke has had a career with so many ups and downs that it almost looks feels like a roller coaster ride. He was a sex symbol and heartthrob thanks to movies like 9 1/2 Weeks and Angel Heart, but then an ill-advised boxing career and some ill-advised life choices wreaked havoc on his looks, and that early career ended. After that, Rourke disappeared into B-movie roles and stayed there for a decade.
However, Robert Rodriguez found him and brought him back in Once Upon a Time in Mexico and Sin City, and Rourke was suddenly back in demand. After an award-winning performance in The Wrestler, Rourke was on top of the world. That earned him a role as the villain Whiplash in Iron Man 2 and the wheels came off. Rourke didn’t play well within a studio environment, complained about everything, bashed the movie when it came out, and has slipped back into appearing in B-movies.
5. UMA THURMAN
Uma Thurman got her start in Hollywood at a young age, with roles in the teen flick Johnny Be Good and Terry Gilliam masterpiece The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. Over the years, Thurman had some interesting roles, including her breakout in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. After that, she was able to pick up a huge role in 1997 by portraying Poison Ivy in the critical disaster Batman & Robin.
In new interviews, Uma Thurman said that her career was derailed thanks to Harvey Weinstein following Pulp Fiction, but her role in Batman & Robin was a big one three years later and was enough to turn many fans away from Thurman thanks to the poor writing and disappointing character work. Thurman kept working but never really recovered until she rejoined Tarantino again for the Kill Bill saga, six years after disappointing comic book fans as Poison Ivy.
4. BILLY ZANE
Billy Zane is the ultimate character actor and seems to have no problem at all in making fun of himself in a movie, as evident by his role in Zoolander. However, at one time Zane was supposed to be a leading man, and that is what Hollywood was grooming him for. After appearances in a number of Hollywood action movies, and a fantastic performance as the villain in Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight, Zane landed his break as a superhero in The Phantom.
What happened was that The Phantom flopped, much like Shadow two years before and The Rocketeer before that, although the latter movie remains a cult favorite. The problem wasn’t Zane, who was great in what he was given, but the movie’s failure fell on his shoulders, and he ended up moving into a career as a supporting actor. The plans to make Billy Zane a leading man ended.
3. ALICIA SILVERSTONE
Alicia Silverstone was one of the It-Girls in the ’90s. She started her career in the thriller The Crush, where she scared most boys to death, and then had her huge breakout two years later in Clueless, a movie that was a monster hit and became a young adult institution, one of the best teen movies Hollywood produced in the ’90s. Her career was heading straight to the stars, and then Batman & Robin came along.
While it might seem like Batman & Robin is taking a bashing here, it did ruin a lot of actors’ careers. Silverstone went from the go-to girl in Hollywood movies thanks to Clueless to an afterthought in just two years thanks to her role as Batgirl. Fans hated the role (almost as much as Silverstone herself), as it was not the real Batgirl, and moviegoers soured on the role, with Silverstone struggling to move beyond her valley girl personality. Clueless remained her career high, and Batman & Robin completely froze her career trajectory.
2. VAL KILMER
Batman Forever was better than Batman & Robin for a number of reasons. Jim Carrey was great as Riddler, although Tommy Lee Jones was too over-the-top as Two-Face. Val Kilmer was great as Bruce Wayne and was a better option than George Clooney, the actor who followed him. However, much like how Tommy Lee Jones caused problems on set due to his issues with Carrey, Kilmer caused problems as well due to his being difficult to work with.
Kilmer was watching his star rise in Hollywood thanks to roles in movies like Top Gun in the ’80s and both Tombstone and The Doors in the ’90s. His great looks and charisma made it seem obvious he was the next big thing in Hollywood. The rumors flew rampant that Kilmer was hard to work with and caused a lot of problems on set, often refusing to even talk to his director. He did impress people the same year with his role in Heat, but his stint at the top of Hollywood ended after Batman Forever, a movie he said was clearly not meant for Batman fans.
1. PAMELA ANDERSON
Pamela Anderson has had an interesting career. She gained her first notice as a centerfold and used the fame from that to pick up a career in television. She started out as the Tool Time Girl on Home Improvement and then moved on to become the crush of every teenager thanks to Baywatch. However, when Anderson tried to make her way from TV to Hollywood, things went wrong.
Her biggest Hollywood role came in the comic book adaptation Barb Wire. The movie had a fascinating plot — a comic book post-apocalyptic take on Casablanca — but Anderson’s sex-appeal took center stage, and the story lost out to the T&A on display. In what Anderson hoped could be her significant breakthrough, she was typecast. Outside of a Baywatch movie two years later, Anderson ended her Hollywood aspirations in a comic book movie.
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