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10 Actors Hollywood Tried And Failed To Make Happen

by The Playlist Staff
July 31, 2013 1:21 PM
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Gretchen Mol

Gretchen Mol
Attempts At The Big Time: Rounders” (1998), Woody Allen's “Celebrity” (1998), “Donnie Brasco" (1997), Music from Another Room” (1998)

Where Did It All Go Wrong? Here’s the thing: Gretchen Mol is an excellent character actress who has done consistent work for two decades and has really come into her own on shows like “Boardwalk Empire.” But in the late '90s, things were a bit different and not a lot of it was her fault. In 1998, in the pre-extra-super-savvy Internet days, Mol was featured on the cover of Vanity Fair fetchingly wearing a see-through slip dress and dubbed the "It Girl of the Nineties" by the magazine. The problem with this insanely premature proclamation, aside from not even having had the proper time to come true, was it was essentially based on only a handful of movies from 1997 and 1998 (basically the ones listed above)—hardly a definitive consensus what a '90s It Girl should represent. Did Mol have amazing publicists who duped Vanity Fair into thinking the moderate buzz she had was about to transform her into the next A-list ingenue? Yes, but all it really did was set up hopelessly impossible expectations for the actress (at the time, this outrageous media coup/folly was said to be the none-too-subtle bullyish work of Miramax’s Harvey Weinstein that released both “Rounders” and “Celebrity”).

Gretchen Mol Boardwalk

Making matters worse, all the aforementioned movie roles were supporting ones and when she was hoisted on the cover of Vanity Fair in ‘98 she was essentially an unknown leaving the public thinking, “Who???” and the rest of the media suppressing giggles. While Mol continued to go on doing strong character work over the years (“3:10 To Yuma,” David Wain’s “The Ten,” Neil LaBute's “The Shape of Things" and Mary Harron's "The Notorious Bettie Page" being a few examples), the perception was she was poised for greatness, “sank into obscurity” and was felled by the “Vanity Fair cover curse.” In May 2012, Mol was put on the cover of Town & Country with the title, “A star is reborn: how she broke the Hollywood curse.”

One of the elements of the Vanity Fair piece that turned out to be untrue was that Mol was discovered as the hat-check girl at Michael’s, a New York restaurant once known for its ease with which to spot celebrities. “It was the Weinsteins,” Mol said of that nonsense rumor. “[They were] in the business of making stars, with cigars hanging out of their mouths. That was the imagery. And I was a hat-check girl. First of all, who is a hat-check girl? I never checked a hat in my damn life.”

Any Thoughts? Mol felt the sting of Harvey and Vanity Fair’s big decision and watched whatever buzz she gained quickly fade. “It suddenly felt very, 'Hey, she's not all that,' ” Mol told the New York Times in 2003. ''What you find out is that just as quickly as people get behind you, they fall away. I watched as the doors went open. Then, I watched them as they closed."

Stephen Dorff

Stephen Dorff
Attempts at the Big Time: "The Power Of One" (1992) “Judgment Night” (1993), “Backbeat” (1994), “SFW” (1994)

How Did It Go Off Track? Like Skeet Ulrich and other beautiful-faced men in their 20-something prime, Stephen Dorff was on track, at one point in the mid-'90s, to be a big star. Or at least Hollywood and the media saw it that way. He had the disheveled good looks and gruff, bad-boy attitude, he smoked, drank: he was another Johnny Depp or Mickey Rourke, in the making as far as studios, magazine editors and publicists were concerned. After stints on TV including the short-lived “The Outsiders” series, 1992 saw him star in "The Power Of One" opposite Morgan Freeman at the tender age of 19, and then the following year, he scored one of the coveted leads in much-buzzed action thriller “Judgment Night.” Right around the same time as that film’s release, Dorff was cast in the video for Aerosmith’s “Cryin’” which essentially made Alicia Silverstone a star and certainly didn’t hurt him either, and reportedly he was offered the lead in TV’s “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles”—he was on his way.

Accordingly, along came his too-cool-for-school roles, like The Beatles-centric "Backbeat" and "S.F.W.," both of which did minor business, but bolstered his up-and-coming “It-Boy” status. Soon he was living the dream: Details magazine (who actually kind of mattered at the time) called him the “best new actor of his generation” and he was hanging with R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe (they pal around with Tori Amos in a separate Details piece). Stipe even showed up the 1994 MTV Music Awards wearing a hat to promote “S.F.W.” (where he was also bumrushed by MCA).

Brake Stephen Dorff

But while Dorff’s acting chops were... fine, what seems like his undoing was the arrogance which spilled forth in interview and on set. He would dog past roles (apparently telling a reporter “Judgment Day” was so stupid he could have "phoned in the fucker"). Of actors like Sean Penn and John Malkovich he boasted, “I know if I got on the screen with them, the screen would be just blown apart.” And he relentlessly talked himself up even about roles he didn’t take/get, saying “They are talking to five young actors about playing James Dean, but I'm not chasing it because no matter how brilliant I would be, it's gonna fucking work against me."

And so the kind of fame that Dorff and Hollywood were so convinced was coming never arrived. He had some colorful moments: Mary Harron's "I Shot Andy Warhol," John Waters' "Cecil B. Demented," and "Blade," but none of these parts raised his profile significantly and it wasn’t long before he was taking parts in straight-to-DVD action movies like "Steal," "Deuces Wild" and sinking, along with Christian Slater, to topping Uwe Boll's "Alone in the Dark" in 1995.

Dorff has cleaned up in recent years, taking a small, but wise supporting role in Michael Mann’s “Public Enemies” and then making a low-key comeback vehicle of Sofia Coppola's “Somewhere.” Eran Riklis’ “Zaytoun” seemed like another step in the right direction, as was tiny indie "The Motel Life" which he was very good in, but 2011's "Carjacked" and “Rite Of Passage” demonstrate how the temptation for a paycheck gig lurks right around every corner.

Any Thoughts? Dorff isn’t exactly disagreeing with our assessment. “Yeah, I partied, and went a little crazy with the girls and had my drinking days, but I never got addicted to hard-core drugs...I think when I was younger, I was a little more self-absorbed, didn't really think of other people,” he told Vulture in 2010.

Josh Hartnett

Josh Hartnett
Attempts At The Big Time: "Pearl Harbor"(2001), "O" (2001), "Black Hawk Down" (2001),"40 Days and 40 Nights"(2002), "Hollywood Homicide"(2003), "Sin City" (2005), "The Black Dahlia" (2006) "Lucky Number Slevin"(2006) "30 Days of Night" (2007)

Where Did It All Go Wrong? Thinking about Josh Hartnett, which we do only rarely—that’s part of the problem—it’s hard to pigeonhole him into one of the other models of nearly-man: his big break, “Pearl Harbor” may have been a horrible turgid waste of an afternoon but it made money, so he’s no Taylor Kitsch. Nor has he developed a Pettyfer-like reputation for prickishness, that old story about feuding with Harrison Ford during “Hollywood Homicide” notwithstanding (and with Ford’s notoriously curmudgeonliness we’re willing to cut Hartnett some slack there). Nor are his acting chops as questionable as say Taylor Lautner’s. On occasion, Hartnett has impressed, notably in “Black Hawk Down,” “The Virgin Suicides,” intriguing if not totally successful Shakespeare riff “O” and even high-concept vampire romp “30 Days of Night.” So what went awry?

Josh Hartnett 30 Days of Night

In fact, the story now goes that Hartnett’s falling short of the A-list was as much by design as accident. In the early '00s, off the back of a host of “star of tomorrow” articles, not to mention PETA’s coveted “sexiest vegetarian of 2003” ribbon, Hartnett was offered the lead in Brett Ratner’s gestating “Superman” movie. But he turned it down, citing the ten-year commitment and his fear of being stereotyped as the reasons. Now, that movie did not come to pass, but saying no took some nerve: it’s the sort of opportunity more fame-hungry youngsters would pay PR firms just to claim they were even being considered for. And apparently he ruffled feathers, with Hartnett claiming that that decision alienated a lot of Hollywood power players, including his own agents.

Since his motives were noble, perhaps we wouldn’t deem him worthy of inclusion on this List Of Doom, if only the choices he made since then had been better. But somehow the desire to test one’s versatility as an actor seems less admirable when the results are as poor as the overplotted “Lucky Number Slevin,” the dubious “40 Days and 40 Nights” or the just bloody awful “Black Dahlia”—a film to which Hartnett was so committed to that he stayed attached to it throughout its half-decade long gestation. Even a hit like “Sin City” for his “The Faculty” director Robert Rodriguez couldn’t do much for his profile—after all, it’s little more than a cardboard role in a stacked ensemble.

More recently, Hartnett’s move indie-ward has also underwhelmed with “August,” “Stuck Between Stations” and “I Come With The Rain” ranging from just-OK to pretty bad and his upcoming Roland Joffe-directed “Singularity” plagued by production issues. In fact, the biggest blip Hartnett has made on our radar recently was as the result of a Twitter misunderstanding which had him temporarily, falsely rumored to be circling a new take on “Daredevil.” However the speed with which that took off indicates there is some latent awareness of the guy, so maybe a renaissance is not out of the question, and having recently been cast opposite Eva Green in the Sam Mendes-produced Showtime series "Penny Dreadful," suggests it could happen.

Any Thoughts? "After 'Black Hawk Down' there was a real lull. Everybody was trying to put me in action movies and heroic roles and I wanted to find more complex things. They just didn't suit my taste so I thought, 'OK, I have to be brave enough to say no.' And for a while that hurt me immeasurably in the Hollywood world. A lot of people felt jilted," Hartnett said in the UK's Daily Record in 2011.

Vehicle 19

We kept the list to ten, but other actors who fit the bill that we considered include Clive Owen (somewhat in the Farrell mode, he just can't seem to break out the way Hollywood thinks he should and has probably now settled into a respectable niche just below big-stardom) and Paul Walker, who has been pushed a couple times but outside of the "Fast and Furious" franchise has never been able to overcome a certain blandness. Jason Momoa was being put forward as a new action star after his turn in "Game of Thrones," but with his stint (season 1) just a distant memory and "Conan The Barbarian" and "Bullet to the Head" both flopping hard Drogo needs to shake it up if he's not going to slide into B-movie obscurity forever. Orlando Bloom has proved time and again just too slight a presence to be able to carry a film without the support of a massive "Lord of the Rings" or 'Pirates' machine around him; Topher Grace we mentioned recently in TV Comedy Stars Whose Big Screen Careers Faltered, so enough said there; and further back in the past the likes of Chris O'Donnell and even William "Billy" Baldwin got maybe a few more do-overs than they deserved, without making any of them really stick. And yes, we're aware how many of these choices are white and male, but whether that's because we're blinkered or because Hollywood in general doesn't make as huge a push for female stars (who are unlikely to head up a summer tentpole) or stars of other ethnicities (ditto), we'll leave you to decide.

So whose relative lack of success do you find inexplicable and who do you think has about as much chance as "Fetch!" of ever happening, no matter how high on them Hollywood might be? Let us know below. - Jessica Kiang, Oliver Lyttelton, Rodrigo Perez

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  • EB | April 26, 2014 2:12 AMReply

    The word "tentpole" is used 8 times in this article.

  • Jakin | August 31, 2014 5:21 AM

    Shit man... Is there a law against it?? You can only use it 7 times?? Jerk..

  • B.B. | April 8, 2014 1:45 PMReply

    Some interesting points brought up but really, now. These actors you deem 'failed' are to me under-the-radar actors who have done cool but obscure movies. Your mention of Clive Owen is ridiculous - his performances in Sin City and Closer were great.

  • Troy | February 22, 2014 1:48 AMReply

    Some of these guys are still young enough "to make happen"

  • Jay | December 26, 2013 6:59 PMReply

    Add Shia Labeouf to that list, his career is non-existent nowadays after he left Transformers.

  • Cheistophet Orseth | December 25, 2013 9:11 PMReply

    I do not agree with at least some of these actors on this list.

  • carmeisha eans | December 15, 2013 4:07 PMReply

    I want to play a part

  • James | December 12, 2013 10:37 PMReply

    I am surprised you mentioned Taylor Lautner but not Kellan Lutz.

  • Alex | December 12, 2013 10:24 PMReply

    You missed Hayden Christensen and Armie Hammer, and I like several of the other actors here, and that includes Sam Worthington and Josh Hartnett. I like Lucky Number Slevin, very much as a matter of fact, and I hope he makes a comeback. I believe, and I was talking about it with a friend who is insane about action films and the lack of young action stars, that Taylor Lautner is perfect, tailor made for that position. He is a natural athlete, he is in amazing shape, and has no big acting skills, so, tailor made! Just give the kid a chance, he is still very young. As for Alex Pettyfer, he is being punished for speaking frankly. He is good looking, he is a good actor and has screen presence; he just needs a better publicist, that's all, and a manager who can take care of him; after all, isn't that what managers are for? I like Ryan Reynolds better when he is not doing comedies, like Safe House and Buried. Never thought a film like Buried would keep me intersted from beginning to end, and he's the only actor onscreen. And come on! John Carter is not a masterpiece, but there are SO many bad films, I really don't get why this one in particular was so cursed. I am sure Taylor Kitsch will be back as well.

  • chrissy | December 9, 2013 4:51 PMReply

    Erm...Speaking as an Actress who is currently working on a job that pays equity minimum, this article is a crock! For the most part these Actors are HUGE stars...Not everybody is going to have Brad Pitt's career and why should they, they are all different actors bringing different things to the industry. Just because an actor isnt on a path to "leading man" does not mean theyve failed to make it happen. Everyone has their own path and all of them are young enough/hot enough/popular enough to still make some extremely successful movies. In anycase they have all had successes, made a bucket load of money and are in the public eye.
    If you are calling these people failures then what the hell are the rest of us!!!!! Get real.

  • Werner Kyne | November 29, 2013 10:38 PMReply

    I feel it is justified to add Russell Crowe to the list.
    Started small in NZ/OZ got big quick in Hollywood quite early and then fizzled ever since.
    Everything after The Insider was just going through the payday motions and his Superman cameo did not impress - though the suit of armour was badass, just not on a not very tall, 50 year old greying guy with a paunch.
    He is not a man who is ageing well.
    I hear his Noah gig may go straight to DVD, as a few of his recent films have.
    If only Mel stayed in Australia - he'd still be at the top of his game, and Crowe irrelevant.

  • Sal | November 29, 2013 8:51 PMReply

    Sam Worthington, yes.
    How about another Aussie in Myles Pollard?
    Graduated from same class as Worthington and was instantly a success, where the other was not.
    Pollard now just doing small DSLR shot features and online shorts, plus some pokey TV here and there.
    But of course he is not yet listed here and Worthington is, so perhaps all is not lost for Pollard just yet.

  • Paul Muller | November 29, 2013 3:55 PMReply

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  • Moniqu | November 28, 2013 2:59 AMReply

    I really like Colin Farrell but I think I'd like to see him as a bad guy. He looks and seems like he would make a very good QUIET and sexy villain. I definitely like him as an actor but he does need to expand his character types. Perhaps he would be good in a romantic comedy. ?? If he has done one then forgive me. lol

  • Daniel Mann | November 26, 2013 2:02 AMReply

    This great information , you need your imdb.

  • Stampece | November 9, 2013 1:25 AMReply

    Ever see a movie made before 1990?

  • ken lang | November 3, 2013 8:41 PMReply

    (underscore does not show up on my email even though I typed it in right after ken.)

    I just now read this column. Were there previous editions? Because I'd like to know if Travis Fimmel ever appeared here.

  • Allie | November 3, 2013 2:24 AMReply

    Sean Bean, Alec Baldwin, and Rutger Hauer.

  • jon | October 25, 2013 12:52 PMReply

    Where the hell is Pia Zadora?

  • you | October 1, 2013 6:07 PMReply


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  • fran | September 11, 2013 3:39 PMReply

    Umm.. I'm pretty sure they've made it they have all starred in big Hollywood movies movies and are probably filthy rich!

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  • John | August 14, 2013 8:05 AMReply

    Some of the actors on this list - namely Colin Farrell and Ryan Reynolds - don't really belong under the title 'tried and made it fail to happen'. Next to Farrell's name you've listed 11 movies in 10 years, with half of them being profitable. His problem - along with most box office flops - is that he has this ability to pick scripts which are destined to fail.

    I can usually immediately tell whether or not a film is going to make a significant return by reading a synopsis and looking at the title, and I'm pretty sure a lot of other people can. But it doesn't matter who you are, if you are offered a huge budget box office film you're not going to turn it down. What puzzles me is how the studios sign off on some of them.

  • verss | August 11, 2013 3:12 AMReply

    I saw Josh Hartnett in London at a play "Rain Man" (character Charlie Babbitt) and was amazing,also he's surprising in "Mozart and the Whale"(character with Asperger's syndrome ) and in movies as August and Lucky Number Slevin really excellent performances

  • Billy The Kid | August 8, 2013 11:50 PMReply

    GERARD BUTLER. enough said.

  • H.M Barnett | August 8, 2013 10:26 PMReply

    Very obscure one but Chris Klein? He opened with 2 biggies-"Election" & "American Pie" which were critical & box office successes with great buzz & are still fondly recalled. I know sadly that his drinking was definitely involved in his downturn. I wish him well and hope he is able to move on from his troubled past. Saw that he's listed on some episodes of "Wilfred" currently...the show with Elijah Wood (who may be another guy good for this list?).

  • Zac | August 7, 2013 4:35 AMReply

    Alex Pettyfer shouldn't feel too flattered about the Lee Daniels gig as Daniels only hires attractive white young guys so he can have them flopping around in wet see-thru underwear. Pettyfer's role will most likely be a similarly fetishized, sexualized role consisting of him skinny-dipping frequently and/or dancing in a towel.

  • Chris | August 6, 2013 7:42 AMReply

    Mediocre or outright poor scripts haven't helped these performers but the main problem is that alot of the guys(and gal) on the list aren't or weren't really charismatic or talented enough to rise above the material which is exactly what makes a movie star.

    Back in the 90s before he became the consistent box office draw of today alot of Denzel Washington's attempted star vehicles were in pictures that aside from flopping or underperforming also weren't worthy of his talent (HEART CONDITION, RICOCHET etc) and yet from movie to movie he always remained a watchable presence. You never harboured doubts that Denzel would get to the level ppl were pegging for him despite the failures.

  • Emerson | August 5, 2013 10:12 PMReply

    I agree with a lot of this list, but I also agree with most of the names in the comments as being eligible for the list. Is it possible that the real issue is that "movie star" in the classic Hollywood sense is gone? That they existed in an era where the studios built them and marketed them through a very limited number of essentially captive marketing outlets. Once the star/studio system broke down, the public was still inclined to follow the world of the stars that had been created, and met new stars in their films, so the cycle continued. With the explosion of other avenues for media and marketing, controlling the image and attention is much more difficult. I think exploring whether or not there has been a single new "bankable" star in the last 20 years shows that it's not inherently these actors faults. We, the audience, have changed. We haven't really allowed any new star to join the "we'll show up just because they are in it" firmament - because we don't think that way anymore. It doesn't matter who they are. Even historically "bankable" stars have to be careful not to step too far out of what we want from them if the money is going to roll in. When even Will Smith can flop massively, it seems the greater point is there may never again be true movie stars and they should stop trying to make them and focus on the quality of the project, the script and the talent - and quit trying to ensure the fame of an actor is enough to cover any and all other failings in the process.

  • Jeff | August 5, 2013 6:01 PMReply

    Nicholas Hoult should be added to this one day.

  • Bash | August 4, 2013 11:48 PMReply

    Paul Bettany?

  • MishuPishu | August 3, 2013 8:04 PMReply

    My wife and I were just talking about how this happened to Alec Baldwin back in the early 90's. He seemed poised for this leap into leading man territory as a steely-eyed tough guy but it just never took off. It's nice to see him reinvent himself as a comedic actor all these years later.

  • eddie | August 3, 2013 4:03 PMReply

    This article is so ridiculous. Who told you being considered A-list is everything? That doesn't mean being talented or genuine or having a good personality. It just means being a box office hit and we know even lousy actors can do that. Sylverster Stallone is one, morons. Adam Sandler, the Twilight kids, Schwartzenegger are examples too. The Playlist wants lousy controversy, not real journalism. PATHETIC. Shame on you.

  • daisy | August 3, 2013 3:49 PMReply

    Robert Pattinson deserve to be in this list. Outside that crappy franchise he hasn't had one hit. It's flop after flop, even pushing him as the lead to attract women. It's not working. Now he is just a supporting actor in obscure B-films.

  • BPositive | August 9, 2013 11:36 PM

    Remember Me and Water for Elephants earned more than three times their budgets!

    Cronenberg's Cosmopolis starring Robert Pattinson was warmly applauded at Cannes.
    It appeared on 25 Top 5 BEST FILM 2012 lists and on 69 Top 10 lists.

  • Dalovely | August 5, 2013 9:59 PM

    Agree. He has only received attention because he and ex, Kristen Stewart are forever Robsten. His acting is very bland because he has no range. I suspect we will here about a reunion with his ex because that brand Robsten is all he can ever really sell.

  • BRUBANK | August 3, 2013 4:04 PM

    He was godawful in the godawful Cosmopolis, one of the worst films I've ever seen. Go away! Nobody wants you anymore.

  • kobain | August 3, 2013 3:55 PM

    Yeah Pattinson's 15 minuts is over. He was proven unsuccessful as lead actor and is a C-list name now. Good riddance by the way. He is godawful. And fugly.

  • Amanda | August 3, 2013 2:49 PMReply

    Gerald Butler should be on this list. Consider every movie he's made after 300. Even Michael Fassbender who had a tiny role in 300 has surpassed him by miles...

  • Sal | November 29, 2013 10:27 PM

    Jesus, enough already!!!

  • Amanda | August 3, 2013 2:48 PMReply

    Gerald Butler should be on this list. Consider every movie he's made after 300. Even Michael Fassbender who had a tiny role in 300 has surpassed him by miles...

  • Amanda | August 3, 2013 2:48 PMReply

    Gerald Butler should be on this list. Consider every movie he's made after 300. Even Michael Fassbender who had a tiny role in 300 has surpassed him by miles...

  • Amanda | August 3, 2013 2:47 PMReply

    Gerald Butler should be on this list. Consider every movie he's made after 300. Even Michael Fassbender who had a tiny role in 300 has surpassed him by miles...

  • pots | August 16, 2013 5:08 AM

    Obviously a GB one-nighter/throw away

  • pots | August 16, 2013 5:08 AM

    Obviously a GB one-nighter/throw away

  • trey | August 15, 2013 12:18 AM

    We fucking got it the first time.

  • FILMBUFF | August 3, 2013 2:26 PMReply

    Of course I realize the injustice of this list being predominately white male, but I was also struck by the fact that half the actors on this list are not Americans. Meanwhile three of the five American actors listed got their big breaks back in the 1990s. The trend too hire foreign actors to play Americans in big film roles is not an accident. Its all part of the economic war on Americans also known as globalization. Hollywood union busts by outsourcing TV & film production to other countries such as Canada, or Right to Work Southern American states. They hire non-American talent to prevent donations to the Democratic Party.

  • steve | April 7, 2014 10:58 PM


  • Julian | August 3, 2013 3:16 AMReply

    urgh.....and now I need to add my edits..."jawline"....and "good" in the final sentence.

  • Julian | August 3, 2013 3:14 AMReply

    Here's something ACTORS view. Had it occurred to you that lack of talent has nothing to do with the "bankability" of these guys, and that they just had the bad luck, or bad agent, to have picked DUD movies. I do not go to a movie to gush over the "lead", I want to be told a story and believe that he is part of it. Reynolds has GREAT comic talent and an engaging personality in non-comic roles maybe he just picked movies that were not going to do much for him. The main problem in the whole industry now is just what you have been talking about, movies being touted on WHO is there rather than about the actor, watch the actor, and try to ignore the fact that most of the film is rehashed, plot-less, bilge. There was a time when a movie about IDEAS sold, now it has to have whizzbangs every 10 seconds or the audience falls asleep. That says nothing about the quality of the acting, just the quality of the audience.....when the jawling outweighs the talent......give up on the about now would be a food time.

  • LuLo3280 | August 3, 2013 2:43 AMReply

    Umm what about Jaleel White? Hello???

  • Alex | August 3, 2013 2:22 AMReply

    For some reason. Gretchen Mol is the only one of these people I find attractive.

    Anyway, I swear the Avatar guy always looks like he's been computer-rendered to me, no matter what thing of his I'm watching. Skeet Ulrich got a bad rap because he played a Johnny Depp-esque role in Scream. I don't think you can call any of these actors failures, we certainly know who most of them are and a few of them probably made some decent cash.

  • This is Mean | August 2, 2013 7:53 PMReply

    Not only is this mean, it isn't how acting careers work. Way to go, IndieWire. I'm going to write an article about articles you tried and failed to make happen. Dicks.

  • Jerry Hoffman | August 2, 2013 3:34 PMReply

    This is an interesting and obvious list. One has to come across from it and think - some of these actors are non-American and Caucasian. It is difficult to be the leading man type and sale a big budget film. I wonder if the opportunity is giving to minorities a 1/3 of the time as the Caucasian received and what will the results be. I just wonder if America is tire of watching a certain leading man type - read, boring. Because, in the past, the leads were very interesting on film. Maybe is time to diversify, not for the sake of diversifying to satisfy a particular quote in a racial harmony sense, but, to branch out in style of film making. I'm interested to see what will happen in the upcoming years in the film industry, where, the mentioned actors, even Johnny Depp in Lone Ranger is not a guarantee in big returns. Will they prop up more of the same kind of actors in the pool or take risk of interesting choices.

  • MandiLikesFilms | August 4, 2013 11:46 AM

    Will studios continue pushing the same thing that's not working OR try to reflect societal demographics on screen and give us a wider range of movie stars?
    If only they'd spend as much time looking for the Michael B Jordans of the world instead of the square-jawed white guy who wise-cracks and is on a solo mission to save the world...

  • Xas | August 2, 2013 11:47 AMReply

    Colin Farrell is a good character actor, don't get me wrong, but all his big Hollywood productions failed in expectations, the same thing happens with Ryan Reynolds -His performance in Buried is imo underrated-. Reynolds and Farrell are two steps up of the list. They have chance to reinvent their career.

    About the other names of the list:
    Taylor Kitsch: He's mostly a bland actor -And yes, I saw all his "good" performances-. I still remember the lousy People's article called him: "The next Brad Pitt" lol
    Sam Worthington: I give him chops for Somersault, The Debt and Last Night, but anyone else, ugh. But aside Farrell and Reynolds, he's the only one with a big chance of comeback.
    Alex Pettyfer: Personally i'm glad. Maybe his destiny will be starring low budget erotic films like Martin Hewitt did after "Endless Love"
    Taylor Lautner: While I think he's a lousy actor, maybe we should wait how Tracks will perform.

    And maybe we should add other names:

    Hayden Christensen: The perfect example of this phenomenon.
    Orlando Bloom: Even his "succesful films" weren't exactly HIS films
    Jessica Biel: The female Hayden Christensen. At this stage, her career is being "Mrs. Justin Timberlake"
    Kate Bosworth: She's mostly known for her relationships than her work
    Julia Ormond: At least Mol and her are succesful character actresses.
    Katie Holmes: Right now, Michelle Williams is the most respected actress from Dawson's Creek.
    Jessica Alba: Albeit her performance in "The Killer Inside Me" is great, her career is lackluster at best.

    And I have doubts to put Rachel McAdams on the list: She's "Mean Girls", "Red Eye" and "The Vow", but her career felt on expectations, especially after "Morning Glory". But maybe "A Most Wanted Man" is her comeback role

    The best part of this is that nothing is written in stone yet for some names and they can have a second opportunity or have the opportunity to be character actors:

    Channing Tatum: Before 2012, he was on roll of this phenomenon, but then five consecutive box office hits and even critical acclaim took him on stardom.
    Jake Gyllenhaal: With "End of Watch" and his theater work in 2012 he's having a second wind.
    Garrett Hendlund: Excellent choice going to the indie route first like Ryan Gosling and Joseph Gordon-Levitt did
    Julia Ormond: Like Gretchen Mol, she's better as character actress.

  • lifeisaboxof | August 3, 2013 4:11 PM

    Agree about Hedlund. He was spectacular in ON THE ROAD, a very difficult role he nailed completely. He owned that film and people who saw him only in Tron Legacy is completely wrong and bad informed about this actor. He is working with The Coen Brothers in the next film also. One of the most talented actors of his generation for me.

  • Xas | August 2, 2013 11:49 AM

    Oh, I forgot Kirsten Dunst in the career rennaisance after 2010.

  • sne | August 2, 2013 11:41 AMReply

    So no matter your acting chops, you only get a push if you are white. Well Danzel and Will are truly special for what they've done.

  • Ignacio Balbuena | August 2, 2013 11:14 AMReply

    I just wanna mention that 'Blade'', was directed by Stephen Norrington, Blade 2 was directed by Del Toro. Both are great, though.

  • Sadie | August 2, 2013 5:51 AMReply

    Jason Statham has earned his place on this list!

  • Ams | October 12, 2013 3:11 PM

    Jason's great at what he does. It's his domain. When asked if he would ever try a romantic comedy, he said he'd leave that to Hugh Grant. He said you have to play to your strengths. Love him.

  • Erica | August 3, 2013 9:53 AM

    I think that Jason is profitable for Hollywood because of the type of movies he makes but despite the profit it does not necessarily mean he is GOOD actor. In fact, you don' t have to be to make a movie that somehow appeals to the population. I do not think Will Smith is a great actor but he has shown that he can bring in the bucks this is why he is more present in movies than other actors like Colin Farrell whom I think has not done well for Hollywood but has the stuff as an actor---FAR more than Will Smith but this is my opinion, of course.

  • Lisa | August 1, 2013 11:22 PMReply

    Jason Ritter is a gem and relatively unknown as an actor. I've seen him in so so to not so good projects and he still manages to stand out and do his thing (Joan of Arcadia, The Event, Peter and Vandy). He was fantastic in the movie Good Dick (2008).

  • Indie Wire jumps the shark | August 1, 2013 10:53 PMReply

    Thoughts? A once-promising blog has descended into utter shite. Maybe you should take a hard look at your own careers.

  • Steve | August 1, 2013 6:16 PMReply

    Adam Brody?

  • John | August 1, 2013 10:17 AMReply

    WHY ARE THERE NO WOMEN ON THIS LIST? Gretchen Mol is the only female actor you could think of, really?

    It's tremendously frustrating when the writers at Indiewire, who damn well know better, compile lists like this and only, or predominantly, choose male actors. Why do you do that, writers? Why?!

  • Erica | August 3, 2013 9:55 AM

    You are SO right!! I think Vera Farmiga is just amazing and Maggie Gyllenhaal--she was BRILLIANT in Sherry Baby.

  • Indie Wire jumps the shark | August 1, 2013 10:55 PM

    Because women don't rile up their knee-jerk feelings of inadequacy the way other young men do.

  • James | August 1, 2013 12:06 PM

    Yes, why are there no women on this list focusing on failure?! Women can fail as well as men. I demand to have an equal number of women added to the list to show how easily actresses can fail to connect with an audience. That will definitely represent a step forward for women.

  • M | August 1, 2013 9:12 AMReply

    Where's the terrible terrible ASHTON KUTCHER?! Just Married, Cheaper by the Dozen, A Lot Like Love, The Guardian, What Happens in Vegas, Valentine's Day, Killers, No Strings Attached and New Year's Eve! And Kathryn Heigl for suuuuuuuure! Milla Jovovich, Jessica Biel, Russell Brand (love him but his films are never a hit), Katie Holmes, Megan Fox, Jessica Alba, Sienna Miller and Kate Bosworth!

  • Daniel Delago | August 1, 2013 7:38 AMReply

    Whatever happened to Gretchen Mol? She was good in a quirky rom-com titled, 'The Shape of Things' also starring Rachel Weisz. Interesting how Weisz's acting career skyrocketed and hers never took off. I think Brad Pitt said it best, "Fame is a bitch, man."

  • Alan B | August 1, 2013 9:14 AM

    You two are aware of a little channel called HBO and a series called 'Boardwalk Empire', right? Scorsese ring any bells?

  • bob hawk | August 1, 2013 7:58 AM

    I think the first time I was really aware of Mol was in the Off Broadway production of Neil LaBute's THE SHAPE OF THINGS, holding her own with the rest of the excellent actors (Weisz, Paul Rudd and Fred Weller) who also did the film version. The last time I saw Mol (within the past year) was again Off B'way -- managing to maintain her dignity and cred in a woefully underdeveloped play.

  • Ella | August 1, 2013 7:00 AMReply

    The fact that they are acting at all means they are successful. Not everyone has to be Johnny Depp. Colin Farrell is v successful and Taylor Lautner hasn't had time to prove himself yet/ He's 21..

  • Xas | August 2, 2013 11:26 AM

    Not everyone has to be Johnny Depp. Oh please Ella. The object of this article is exactly what you saying. Which actors were promoted as big star and failed. Even if you ask many of them, they would want the same.

  • bob hawk | August 1, 2013 6:02 AMReply

    This is a stupefyingly stupid article -- rambling all over the place, from constantly employed actors with large bodies of works to some who have barely entered puberty (metaphorically, of course) in their careers. And who can say which of them even WANT to be "stars" in the conventional industry/studio sense? How can you even put Colin Farrell and Taylor Lautner under the same umbrella? And what's with the token female, Gretchen Mol? Absurd. Skeet Ulrich, whose career has been rich and diverse, if erratic, put it best: "Whatever labels are being pinned on me have nothing to do with me." I think in some cases these actors' careers have suffered because of bad management, but, as stated above, how can any of us presume to know what the motivations and goals are of these individuals?

  • Indie Wire jumps the shark | August 1, 2013 10:59 PM

    Your writing and critical thinking skills far exceed the author's.

  • CrombyMouse | August 1, 2013 2:49 AMReply

    You can not count Hedlund for example because he had only one shot for stardom (which is Tron) which was not good but it was not so bad and there's a potential. Since he picks up interesting projects - On the Road (in which he was good), Llewyn Davis and upcoming Mojave and film with Amy Adams. I put my money for him.

    Farrell and Owen are also no good choice. The played various roles films of various quality to be honest but still they are both good actors.

    I would also add Gerald Butler to this list.

    As for Worthington, Kitsch, Walker, Lautner - they are all just terrible actors. The paradox with Worthington that he turned out to be B-class actor who has a contract to star in most profitable project ever. So he'll receive he's next chance soon.

    But my main objection to this artcle is that I don't see the point. Maybe some actors are just don't want to be "stars". Ryan Gosling, for instance, had all the cards to do it after "The Notebook" but prefered to go indie.

  • brycedavid | July 31, 2013 11:34 PMReply

    Where's Eric Bana? Seriously he has had more high profile projects with big directors which flatlined than anyone on the list.

    The lack of actresses on the list is also suspect.

  • Danh | August 1, 2013 12:12 AM

    Are you serious. Did you see Munich? The guy was f'ing incredible in it. And he actually made a believable Hector in "Troy". He was criminally underused in Star Trek.

  • Daniel | July 31, 2013 11:30 PMReply

    Great list.

  • Pretty White Actor #6439 | July 31, 2013 10:46 PMReply

    What a diverse array of actors who really stand out from the crowd. I'm shocked that Hollywood is treating them like they're all bland and interchangeable 18-34 year old pretty white actors.

  • Helluva | August 2, 2013 9:49 AM


  • JD | July 31, 2013 9:57 PMReply

    How was Oliver Stone's ALEXANDER in any way shape or form a "tentpole"? It was an Oliver Stone movie.

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