Top 10 On-Screen Performances That Made The Actor’s Life Hell


Some actors are so good in their roles, that the viewing public forgets they’re watching a fictional movie.  The performance draws them into the character and film until they think it’s real.  This creates awkward situations for the actor who can be, at best, typecast into a particular role.  At worst, they become universally despised and are blackballed out of the industry.

10.  Harvey Keitel: Bad Lieutenant

Critically praised and massively condemned, Bad Lieutenant has run the gamut of both loved and hated.  Critics largely enjoyed the film and, although acknowledging its darkness, refused to shut up regarding Keitel’s amazing performance.  The flip side of the coin was that average suburban American viewers were largely disgusted by the film and blamed the lead actor, Keitel, for these bad feelings.  It’s tough not feeling somewhat repelled after watching him force two underage girls to simulate oral sex as he masturbates, simply because they have their parents’ car out without permission.  Not exactly a “family” movie.

9.  Jane March Horwood: The Lover

Working under the name Jane March, she starred in The Lover alongside Tony Leung.  It is the story of a 15-year-old French girl, who is seduced by a wealthy Chinese man in Saigon.  Jane was cast in the role due to her youth (18 at the time), and her “virgin-like” aura.  However, after the movie was released, she became widely despised.  Her character in the film repeatedly has sex with a much older man, and public opinion devolved into the belief that Jane March was actually doing just that, and enjoying some rumpy-bumpy with co-star Tony Leung.  The masses even came up with a clever nickname for her: “The Sinner from Pinner”, after her local train station.  She went on to be cast in another heavily sexual role in The Color Of Night alongside Bruce Willis, and then, shortly thereafter, faded from view.

8.  Ben Affleck: Gigli

Few people in Hollywood history, except perhaps Mickey Rourke or Christian Slater, have done a nose dive out of superstardom as brutally as Ben Affleck, and the vehicle that made this dive possible was the 2003 abortion Gigli.  Brief plot break down for the blessed who ran from their TVs clawing out their eyes and cursing the gods as opposed to actually sitting and watching this: Ben Affleck is a low-level mob guy named Gigli who has to kidnap a mentally handicapped guy, with the aid of Jennifer Lopez.  Lopez is a “lesbian,” but it’s clear from page one that the two of them will get it on, and they do.   This so enraged the GLBT community that the initial ending was changed, and Affleck, who had done the same thing in “Chasing Amy” was given the title “Benny The Lesbian Changer.”  Both Affleck and Lopez fail horribly in this “film,” but at least J-Lo was already a snotty Latina booty sensation before Gigli, so public opinion of her changed little.  Affleck however, was a respected and well-liked talent, qualities that were immediately stripped away and that took him literally nine years to even begin to re-establish.

7.  Kevin Dillon: Platoon

In 1986, Oliver Stone’s masterpiece Platoon was released to critical fanfare across the board.  Kevin Dillon was cast in the film as “Bunny,” a complete sociopath within the platoon.  In the directors commentary on the DVD, Stone actually admits to having cast Dillon because he had “a coldness about him” that frightened the director and reminded him of certain people he had encountered during his own time in Vietnam.  Dillon was highly believable in the movie, so much so that, after Platoon won an Oscar, very few doors opened for him.  Unlike his co-stars Willem Dafoe and Johnny Depp, who consider Platoon their break out movie, Dillon largely wallowed in relative obscurity.  He only recently found some notoriety playing “Johnny Drama” on HBO’s Entourage.

6.  Kevin Costner:  Waterworld

Everyone has heard of Waterworld, and how it was the most expensive movie ever made, with a budget surpassing $200 million.  The thing is, it isn’t actually such a bad movie, despite what critics say.  But when you star in and produce a 200 MILLION DOLLAR MOVIE, it better be pretty incredible, or it’s going to sink you.  That’s what happened to Kevin Costner after this bloated collection of sci-fi clichés went pretty much belly-up in 1995.

5.  Joaquin Phoenix: I’m Still Here

I’m Still Here, chronicling Joaquin Phoenix’s mental breakdown and his attempts to re-invent himself as a rapper, was a hoax.  Everything about it was purest fiction and all an act.  So who cares, right?  Well, apparently Hollywood cared, and they did not enjoy Phoenix and his accomplice, Casey Affleck, pulling the proverbial wool over their collective eyes.  Since it has been released, both Phoenix and Affleck have come forward and have been forced to apologize numerous times and defend what they initially claimed was a documentary, but now claim is a performance piece that many have called a mock-u-mentary.  Burnt bridges are tough to rebuild, even for a former powerhouse like Phoenix.

4.  Omar Sharif: The 13th Warrior

This 1999 Antonio Banderas vehicle bombed.  It deserved to as well, because it was awful.  Just a bloated, silly, slaughter-fest of a film, devoid of anything redeeming whatsoever.  Apparently, this was too much for Omar Sharif, who had a brief cameo in the film as an advisor to Banderas.  This small scene alone was ridiculous enough for him to say later that he had retired from acting, simply because of this movie.  Having his friends and loved ones see it was too embarrassing, and he felt degraded, acknowledging that he has taken the part simply to get paid.  He didn’t work again until 2003.

3.  Kris Kristofferson: Heaven’s Gate

In 1980, Michael Cimino, the genius behind The Deer Hunter, directed Heavens Gate, and single-handedly put United Artist Studios out of business.  The movie bombed in every conceivable way.  Despised by critics, and pulling in a measly $3 million at the box office, it also did one other remarkable thing: it put the brakes on Kristofferson’s career. He plays the lead role and, after Cimino, he took a large portion of the blame despite performing well.  After Heavens Gate, he didn’t have another serious movie role until 1984, and toiled in relative obscurity until the late 1990’s, surviving on B-level country music releases and TV movies.  Only in the last 15 years has he finally managed a bit of a comeback, both on the screen and in music.

2.  Michael Massee: The Crow

Everyone knows that “The Crow” tragically ended Brandon Lee’s life.  What many people do not know, is that Michael Massee was the young actor who pulled the trigger.  While playing the character “Funboy” in a scene, Masse was supposed to fire several shots at The Crow, killing him.  Unfortunately, the gun being used had a projectile of some sort in the barrel, which was thrown out by the explosive charge of the blank going off, and this killed Lee.  Masse was the first to notice that something was obviously wrong, and went into a panic.  The incident, and the death of his fellow actor, affected Massee so much, he went back to New York and, according to him, “did nothing.  No work.  Nothing,” for over a year.  The memory of the event still haunts him to this day.

1.  Ted Levine: Silence of the Lambs

(Video NSFW)

Ted Levine should have gotten a Best Supporting Actor award for his role as Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs.  He didn’t get one because he was TOO good.  His character was so incredibly polarizing that, besides copious amounts of hate mail from across the spectrum, the movie role offers largely dried up.  In addition, the preparation he did for the role, bizarre things he adopted based on habits he gleaned while studying serial killers, such as the habit of watching copious amounts of hardcore pornography, began taking a psychological toll on the man whose friends and co-workers describe as “the nicest guy you will ever meet”.  Levine was forced to go back into television until popping up in Heat in 1995.  What is most interesting, however, is that, according to both Levine and director Jonathan Demme, his initial audition was far more terrifying than what we have seen on the screen.

Eric Yosomono also writes for and you can check out, and hopefully like, his Facebook page.

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  1. I never understood why so many people absolutely hated “The 13th Warrior” . Besides the awkward name, I find the movie fascinating. I had no trouble following the plot and there were a number of fine performances in it, most notably Denis Storhoi as viking warrior who mentors Antonio Banderas’s character. I would agree that Omar Sharif was terrible in it. But I thought the journey of Banderas’s character and the relationship between him and his mentor was well done, and to me (especially given Banders’s final voiceover), it was the central plot of the film. Of course, I never read the book. I also thought it was sumptuously photographed and the final battle sequence where the dying warrior chief (Vladimir Kulich) comes out to fight with his men whilst reciting the elegy for the dead is great. And BTW, greatswords ARE incredibly heavy; middle eastern Damascus scimitars are much much lighter and much easier to wield.

    Also, I never understood why so many people got P.O.’d at Ted Levine for “Silence of the Lambs” either. He was superb in a very difficult role; it wasn’t his fault that the author of the book does not seem to know a damn thing about serial killers. His explanation of “Buffalo Bill”‘s motivations is even more bizarre in the book. I always thought he and Anthony Hopkins did great jobs of taking ridiculously written characters and turning them into compelling cinema. I was really glad to see his career finally begin to pick back up because I felt he was very unfairly blamed for the weirdnesses of the character.

    Oh, and btw Haldor, I loved “Big Trouble in Little China” too, a hilarious low budget action/magic/ adventure piece that some great moments. But then, I really liked the cheesy ultra low budget “They Live” too.

    One actor who REALLY ought to be on this list is the fine Frank Langella, whose career was all but destroyed by the dreadful “Masters of the Universe”; although I thought he did okay as Skeletor, the rest of the movie stunk up the screen badly. Lordy, there are so many actors whose careers have been obliterated by just one really bad role, we could do this forever.

  2. it is funny how some roles didnt really affect the actor. it is a good list, i too like waterworld.

    one actor that i hated after his role in the movie “sleepers” was kevin bacon….man that was f***ed up in so many ways….

  3. Hugo-Arild Madtzog on

    I would have thought that Andrew Robinson as the bad guy in “Dirty Harry” merited a placing in this list.

  4. 13th Warrior may not have made money, but that probably says more about how it was marketed than anything about the quality of the movie. Big Trouble in Little China is another quirky movie that bombed financially (being released 2 weeks before the release of Aliens pretty much ensured that).

    I am glad 13th Warrior was made, it had one glaring problem (swords are not these massive heavy clubs you have to be a body builder to lift), but other than that I found it very entertaining.

    Too bad Omar Sharif felt bad about making the movie, but appearing in it hardly “sunk” his career.

  5. How about Tim Curry as Dr Frank N Furter in ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’? Despite the fact that he created the role onstage, & it was his breakout film, he actually spent years disowning it as it attracted too many psychos & weirdos to his door.

  6. Uh, I hate to admit that I actually sat through Gigli (but only because I wanted to find out why it was so horrible), but the mentally handicapped brother wasn’t J Lo’s brother, he was someone else’s bother.

    Fortunately for me, I didn’t actually remember whose brother he was. I had to look it up on wikipedia to find out that he was Al Pacino’s characters little bro (odd, since they A. look nothing alike and b. there’s a good 40 years age difference between them)

    Just saying.

  7. Ted Levine was a good choice.

    Even though the movie was released in the late 80’s, a role like Buffalo Bill would have stigmatized any actor. Not only is the character a creepy serial killer, but some of the risque things he did like that weird dance sequence, would have destroyed many an actor’s career. Indeed, after that role I didn’t see Ted in anything for a long while, though he did pop up in that one Van Damme movie. So I kind of felt sorry for him, but after a while he came back and was in several movies and was great in that t.v. series Monk so I was happy for him.

    Another actor that comes to mind is Ned Beatty. After he did that ‘rape’ scene in “Deliverance,” thought that would be the end of him.

    What about John Turturro’s Pino character in “Do the Right Thing?” I heard he got flack from many Blacks after that movie came out, though in real life he isn’t hateful and racist at all.

    • Considering the rumors surrounding Ledger and his alcohol problems after Broke Back Mountain, nothing that occurred in The Dark Knight really surprised me.

      Who can LIKE Waterwolrd and scarf at Dances With Wolves? Amazing.

  8. The 13th Warrior was not that bad, but should have been recut and marketed as a horror movie. Then it would have added something a bit different to a genre that gets old and stale very quickly. Unfortunately, it ended up as a rather awkward adventure type film instead.

    • It wasn’t that bad but I expected a lot more after reading Crichton’s novel “Eaters of the Dead”, which the movie was based on. But of course, with a few exceptions, books rarely translate well into movies.

  9. Good list. But one thing I would like to clarify is that “Waterworld” was not responsible for Costner’s downfall. Not totally, at least. Had it not been for “The Postman”, people would have forgotten that hiccup for otherwise then major actor. “Waterworld” was actually good, for me at least. But if you read the original post-apocalyptic novel, “The Postman” by David Brin before watching the movie, you would hate “Postman” movie a lot more.

    The arrogance of Kevin Costner for “The Postman” resulted in his downfall but as “Waterworld” was being ridiculed right from the start and not many people actually watched “The Postman” which came right after “Waterworld”, it is being discredited more for his downfall.