By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist October 24, 2012 at 2:23PM
Last week brought the borderline-absurd news that Nicolas Cage was in talks to star in a new take on the god-bothering "Left Behind" franchise (this is a WTF even for Cage). This week brings the first major movie starring another Oscar-winner, Halle Berry, in five years, in the shape of "Cloud Atlas," as well as the barely-noticeable release of Gerard Butler vehicle "Chasing Mavericks." These things mean many things, but perhaps first and foremost among them, it's that certain actors aren't having the best of times.
Careers ebb and flow and always have in Hollywood, but there seems to have been a particular trend of late, exemplified by Cage above all others, of actors who once sat atop the world now finding themselves in lesser work, long without a hit or an acclaimed performance. To pay tribute to Cage, Berry and Butler, and to wish them better luck in future, we've put together a list of ten performers who really need to have a think about the direction that their careers are heading in. Some are in need of serious help, possibly an intervention. Others are considered some of our best, but lord knows they've made some spotty choices or in the case of folks like Colin Farrell, keep getting positioned by the powers that be as a leading-man hero when clearly the actor is better suited to character work with depth and texture. Check it out below, and let us know which actor you'd most love to pull themselves up by the bootstraps in the comments section below.
After winning Best Actor for "The Last King of Scotland" in 2007, it feels like Forest Whitaker had one of the fastest ever turn-arounds from Oscar-winner to star of... well, a lot of undesirable crap. A character actor favorite who'd long been familiar from the likes of "Platoon," "Good Morning, Vietnam" and "The Crying Game," it was the rare chance of a lead role for the actor, who around the same time was appearing in a TV stint on "The Shield." Whitaker got a little post-Oscar boost, getting some paycheck roles of the kind he wouldn't have had before, in mid-level programmers like "Vantage Point" and "Street Kings," but none were especially well-reviewed, or big hits. Would-be awards bait like 'The Great Debaters" and "Hurricane Season" turned out to be anything but, and the best thing he's done since his Oscar remains a vocal turn in "Where The Wild Things Are." But a glimpse over his CV for the last few years reveals a very disconcerting bunch of direct-to-video movies that you've never really heard of ("Fragments," "Powder Blue," "My Own Love Song," "The Experiment," "The Truth," "Catch .44," "Crossfire"), along with a season back on TV with short-lived "Law & Order" rip-off "Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior"). It may be that Whitaker simply wasn't getting the offers that some do -- he's always been a very specific physical type. But it also seems that there were a lot of bad decisions along the way. You're an Oscar winner for crying out loud! Fortunately, things are looking up these days -- he has the lead in Lee Daniels' starry "The Butler" (unfortunately still directed by Lee Daniels, but it'll at least get a theatrical release), he's in Scott Cooper's "Out Of The Furnace" with Christian Bale, and he's backing up Arnie in "The Last Stand." So a comeback to the roles that should have arrived post-2007 seem to be on the horizon. And hopefully we'll get more of those, and fewer 50 Cent and Bruce Willis movies that go straight to VOD.
Brody co-starred in "The Experiment" with Whitaker, and the film seemed to mark something of a cautionary tale for future Oscar-winners. Like Whitaker, Brody was a popular character actor, and he recovered from having a lead role cut down to shreds in the editing room (Terrence Malick's "The Thin Red Line") to win an Oscar for Roman Polanski's "The Pianist" in 2003. And understandably, Brody seized the chance to become a leading man quite quickly, taking roles in "The Village," "The Jacket" and Peter Jackson's "King Kong" in quick succession. And they were all disappointments to varying degrees, and things have only gotten worse since. Some of what Brody's done since ("The Darjeeling Limited," "Hollywoodland," "The Brothers Bloom," "Splice") were good movies in which he gave good performances. Some ("Giallo," "Predators," "Wrecked," and once more for emphasis, "Giallo") were bad movies, and bad performances. But really nothing managed to properly capture the imagination of the public. Brody was delightful in a tiny cameo as Salvador Dali in "Midnight In Paris," but that hasn't necessarily signaled an upward swing -- he has Paul Haggis' "The Third Person" coming up, but also something called "InAPPropriate Comedy" starring Rob Schneider of all people. Hopefully, that's some kind of nadir. At least "Midnight In Paris" seems to suggest he's willing to do what he should be doing, and taking smaller roles for great filmmakers, rather than leading man roles he's unsuited for (see "Predators"). You're an Oscar-winner, how did you fall off the track this far?
After Halle Berry won the Best Actress prize in 2002 for her raw and blistering performance in "Monster's Ball," her response to her bruising, powerful turn was to try and cement her A-list status with a series of action or horror leads. Aside from two more entries in the "X-Men" franchise she'd already began, there was "Die Another Day," "Catwoman," "Gothika" and "Perfect Stranger," films that steadily got worse and worse as time went on. Berry pulled out of the nosedive with Susanna Bier's "Things We Lost In The Fire," an excellent, underrated performance that might actually be better than her one in "Monster's Ball," but not one that was seen by many unfortunately. She then took three years off, for the most part, with the seen-by-even-fewer people "Frankie & Alice" following in 2010, with only "New Year's Eve" and DTV shark thriller "Dark Tide" coming since. This week, she's starring (multiple times) in "Cloud Atlas," her most high-profile picture in half a decade, and whether you love or loathe the film, it's undoubtedly a step in the right direction for Berry. But it may not last; next year brings another genre entry in "The Hive," a small role in portmanteau comedy "Movie 43," neither of which suggests an absolute return to form. She's clearly got the chops, but she's definitely got to find some meatier roles.