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The Halle Berry Effect: 10 Terrible Films Made By Actors After They Won Their Oscar

by Oliver Lyttelton
February 21, 2013 3:09 PM
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Winning an Oscar has many wonderful benefits. You get the acknowledgement of your peers, worldwide fame, the pick of some of the best roles around, and crucially, you get to up your asking price. Because yes, for every actor or actress that uses their newfound place in the history books to take their time and seek out another role worthy of their talents, there's another who take the opportunity to sell out as quickly as possible.

It's entirely understandable -- many of these actors have struggled in relative obscurity for years if not decades, fighting for every role and break, so no one's begrudging them the chance to strike while the iron's hot and make a little dollar. But it can be a short-sighted approach; while some have managed to take a big studio project and still maintain respect, others have taken the first paycheck that came along, and harmed their careers, sometimes irrevocably. We call it 'The Halle Berry Effect.'

So with the Oscars only three days away, it seems like a good time to run down some cautionary tales, and pick out ten of the worst post-Oscars projects picked by Academy Award winners in recent memory. We tried to be strict with the rules. The films had to be projects that the actors signed onto after their Oscar wins, rather than films they'd already shot or committed to. And the films had to be released within two years of their Oscar win (sparing Cuba Gooding Jr, who only started making any old rubbish after a tasteful break post-Oscar glory). Read our picks below, and don't be surprised when Emmanuelle Riva signs on to "Night At The Museum 3" in a few weeks.

Halle Berry - "Gothika"
And where better to begin than with the actress who gives 'The Halle Berry Effect' its name? To be fair to her, the films that followed Halle Berry's "Monster's Ball" Oscar at the start of 2002 couldn't be blamed entirely on her -- she was already shooting Bond movie "Die Another Day," and was contractually obliged to return for "X2" (which is actually very good; in fact, it might be the best film that Berry made post-Oscar). But there's no explaining away "Gothika," the first film she actually chose to make after winning the award. Hailing from Joel Silver and Robert Zemeckis' shingle Dark Castle (the people behind other B-list horror fare like "House on Haunted Hill" and "Thirteen Ghosts"), the film stars Berry as a psychiatrist in a creepy mental hospital (is there any other kind?) who, after encountering a ghost, wakes up a patient in her own asylum, accused of brutally murdering her husband (Charles S. Dutton). Berry isn't bad in the film (which is directed by, of all people, "La Haine" helmer and "Amelie" actor Matthieu Kassovitz), but the script is so ludicrous and overblown, the style so overcranked, and the whole thing so generally reminiscent of a version of "Spellbound" for idiots, that it's impossible to imagine the actress signing on for any reason other than a paycheck. There's a degree to which we're glad the film exists (co-star Robert Downey Jr's comeback began here, and he met his wife Susan, the film's producer, during production), but we wish it didn't serve as such a manifesto for the way that Berry's career has gone since. The bulk of her output, from "Perfect Stranger" to this spring's "The Call," has been made up of this kind of bargain-bin potboiler -- and that's without mentioning "Catwoman," the most infamous of her post-Oscar movies.

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
Angelina Jolie - "Lara Croft; Tomb Raider" & "Original Sin"
Still one of the biggest stars in the world, Angelina Jolie is undeniably a talented actress, something the Academy rubber-stamped when they gave her a Best Supporting Actress trophy for "Girl, Interrupted." But as talented as she is, she doesn't appear to be a good judge of scripts exactly; her post-Oscar resume, with a few exceptions ("A Mighty Heart," "The Good Shepherd," maybe "Beowulf" and "Mr. & Mrs Smith" if we were feeling especially generous) is like taking a trawl through some of the worst-reviewed films of the '00s. And she got started pretty soon, signing on not long after her Academy victory to topline the video game adaptation "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider." In a way, Jolie was a fair choice for the pneumatic Indiana Jones knock-off; she had clear action chops, looked the part, and could pull off a decent British accent. But that didn't make the finished product any less terrible -- an expensive, but uninvolving bore more concerned with its elaborate clock-punk scenery and idiotic action scenes than anything resembling story or character. She followed it up swiftly with another stinker, reteaming with her "Gia" director Michael Christofer on the spectacularly bad period erotic thriller "Original Sin," with Antonio Banderas. The terrible choices just kept coming over the next few years -- "Life Or Something Like It," "Beyond Borders," "Taking Lives," "Shark Tale," "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow," "Alexander," "Changeling," "Wanted," "Salt," "The Tourist." Let's hope she's used the four year break between the last of those and next year's "Maleficent" to rethink her approach to picking screenplays...

National Treasure: Book Of Secrets
Helen Mirren - "National Treasure: Book Of Secrets"
Before winning her Oscar in 2007 for "The Queen," Helen Mirren had been admirably averse to selling out. There were the occasional eyebrow-raising Hollywood project ("The Fiendish Plot Of Fu Manchu," "2010," "Teaching Mrs. Tingle"), but nothing that truly stunk of a paycheck. That changed almost as soon as she stepped off the Oscar podium, though. Only weeks after scoring her statue, she teamed up with Jerry Bruckheimer, joining the cast of the family-friendly Nicolas Cage sequel "National Treasure: Book Of Secrets." Science has yet to explain how Nicolas Cage could possibly be the product of the DNA of Jon Voight (who gets to deliver the spectacular non sequitur "What is it about treasure that makes history so fascinating") and Mirren, but that's the case in Jon Turteltaub's bloated, ridiculous sequel. Mirren certainly brightens things up when she appears halfway through the film (she does appear to be actually conscious, unlike Ed Harris, who plays the villain by exactly replicating performances he's given before), but it's still clearly nothing much more than an excuse to buy a second home (as was her next role in the failed fantasy franchise-starting "Inkheart"). But, at least she gets to have a little more fun in those "Red" movies.

Cyborg 2
Jack Palance - "Cyborg 2"
Famously, Jack Palance took to the stage to do one-armed pushups when he won the Best Supporting Actor prize for "City Slickers," believing that much of Hollywood thought he was too old, and trying to prove otherwise. But given that the next film he signed on to was "Cyborg 2," maybe he shouldn't have bothered. We can only assume that no offers came in for the veteran actor, because that's the only reason we can imagine he'd agree to make Michael Schroeder's film, a sequel-in-name-only to the 1989 Jean Claude Van Damme "Terminator"/"Robocop" knock-off. The film stars a 17-year-old Angelina Jolie, in her first lead role, as Cash, a prototype cyborg assassin filled with liquid explosives (yup), who, guided by her cyborg mentor Mercy (Palance) and aided by trainer Colton (a post "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" Elias Koteas), sets out to take down her evil creators. Palance, to his credit, isn't actually on screen all that much (he can communicate through any electronic device, and so features mostly as a voice and close-ups of his eyes and mouth), until he pops up at the end, firing machine guns wildly and eventually blowing up. And he's easily the most entertaining thing on screen when he does arrive, although that's not saying an awful lot. It's a direct-to-video movie in all but name (Trimark did in fact give it a theatrical release in November 1993), and is worth watching about as much you'd imagine a movie called "Cyborg 2" would be.

Kevin Spacey - "The Shipping News" & "K-Pax"
After his first Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for "The Usual Suspects" in 1996, Spacey made some smart choices -- "L.A. Confidential" and the lead in the above-average actioner "The Negotiator." However, by the time that Spacey won his Best Actor Oscar for "American Beauty" in 2000, his picks had already started to waver. After the buzz for Sam Mendes' film began, Spacey signed onto the sickly ill-conceived melodrama "Pay It Forward," with fellow Oscar winner Helen Hunt. The film was poorly received, but the actor seemed to use it as a model with his next two films (excluding indie "The Big Kahuna"), the equally saccharine "K-Pax," and failed Oscar bait "The Shipping News." The former sees Spacey play Prot, a mental patient who claims to be an alien, while the latter was a Harvey Weinstein-backed adaptation of E. Annie Proulx's Pulitzer Prize winning novel with an all-star cast in the safe hands of director Lasse Hallstrom. "K-Pax" is probably worse; the kind of film you suspect even Robin Williams would turn his nose up at. "The Shipping News" isn't unwatchable (Spacey's even ok in it), but it's mostly boring, failing to capture the strengths of the novel, and proving to be something of a byword for botched, middlebrow prestige fare. Sadly, Spacey's career has mostly continued on similar lines since, though he's currently reminding us all of what he can do with "House of Cards."

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  • Michael | June 17, 2014 8:21 AMReply

    This is a silly article. Ever heard of "regression to the mean"? Out of all Oscar winners, and all of their respective follow-ups, you cherry pick a few over the past 50 years and deem them, in hindsight, poor career choices?

  • SP1234 | February 28, 2013 7:57 PMReply

    I wouldn't really count Rachel Weisz in this conversation. Fred Claus is only one film, and after that, came The Brothers Bloom, The Lovely Bones, The Deep Blue Sea, The Bourne Legacy and Oz: The Great and Powerful. Pretty diverse set of films and performances for any Oscar winning actress to have.

  • Shawn | February 26, 2013 4:47 PMReply

    I guess Adrien Brody making out with Halle Berry while receiving his Oscar "Jinxed" her. Halle Berry has been in some atrocious movies. I think the only movie she did that was any good besides X-2 was X-3 and Things We Lost in the Fire.

    Adrien Brody had made some decent movies after the pianist. Dummy, The Jacket, King Kong, are all very entertaining. Its his recent work thats not doing so well.

  • Daniel | February 23, 2013 11:55 AMReply

    I know Angelina Jolie has performed in many so-so movies starting her post-Oscar fame till now, but you should not have put her work on "Changeling" which gained her another Oscar nomination. What the heck are you thinking?!

  • Chris | February 23, 2013 5:12 AMReply

    K-Pax is not a terrible movie

  • CR | February 22, 2013 8:15 PMReply

    Gotta say, Charlize Theron gives damn good hair as Aeon Flux.

  • hg | February 22, 2013 10:44 AMReply

    russell crowe has probably best post oscar career

    since gladiator

    Mast and Commander
    Cinderella Man
    A Beautiful Mind
    3:10 To Yuma
    American Gangster

  • XS | February 22, 2013 10:37 AMReply

    K Pax?!

    There you lost me. One oft my favorite films. Well written, greatly performed... no wonder you critics do not get it.

  • Eamon | February 22, 2013 9:47 AMReply

    Very happy to see an article on this! I've been thinking this for awhile even Daniel Day Lewis was in that Horrible Nine movie.. It's like being on the cover of Madden you will be at least temporarily cursed..

  • yemka | February 21, 2013 8:06 PMReply

    I don't think CHARLIZE THERON should be on this list- YOUNG ADULT proved she knows when and how to pick a great project. ADRIEN BRODY should be here- hell it should be called the BRODY EFFECT. Also HILARY SWANK is an embarrassment. What about MARCIA GAY HAYDEN? She was in a LIFETIME movie recently for Christs sake!

  • Liam | February 21, 2013 6:25 PMReply

    The best post-oscar career I've seen in years is arguably Marion Cotillard after winning for "La vie en Rose". First, she followed her win with "Public enemies". Then she did "Nine" which wasn't critically acclaimed but it was a high-profile movie with an extraordinary cast & director. Then she was in "Inception", "Contagion", "Midnight in Paris", "Little white lies", "The Dark Knight Rises" & "Rust & Bone. She should have been nominated in a supporting role for "Nine", "Inception" & "Midnight in Paris" & she was CLEARLY robbed for "Rust & Bone".
    She still have "Lowlife" & "Blood Ties" to come and maybe even "The diary of a chambermaid" which are all three extremely high profile roles.

  • Jim | February 21, 2013 6:34 PM

    Yeah, totally agree with you. She's like one of the best actress working today, she is one of the actual most famous actress in the industry and around the world while 6 years ago I didn't even knew her name. With her numeroud Dior campaigns (For which she worked with the likes of James Cameron Mitchel or David Lynch among others), her numerous talk shows, magazines' covers, publicity.... She manages her career like a pro.
    Best post-Oscar career around.

  • Duddi | February 21, 2013 5:54 PMReply

    and what about Jean Dujardin, "The Players" it was terrible ... Jean's a fresh example...

  • Lea | February 21, 2013 6:41 PM

    Yeah no because he actually shot "The Artist" after "The Players" even if it came out after & now that he has The wolf of Walt Street & The Monument Men, he career is arguably in good shape.

    About Angelina Jolie, her movies aren't very good but she has a career and a level of celebrity rarely achieved.

  • Duddi | February 21, 2013 5:51 PMReply

    Come on dude, the word "Terrible" is way to harsh to be used for "some" movies that you have includedin the article, especially i have to point out Changeling, K-Pax ...

  • Zack | February 21, 2013 4:12 PMReply

    I haven't seen "Gambit", so maybe I can't make the call, but I find it pretty easy to forgive Colin Firth's output, considering his first major post-Oscar work was "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy", which I thought was Best Supporting Actor-caliber work on his part.

  • Wayne | February 21, 2013 4:08 PMReply

    No mention of Cuba Gooding, Jr.? Seriously?

  • Edward | February 21, 2013 4:16 PM

    read the intro already.

  • Kween | February 21, 2013 4:07 PMReply

    This is a terrible article, many of these films were awesome. The Changeling and Wanted....Critics have to remember not all films are of Oscar caliber but still entertaining. Some of these films had interesting twists that no one could predict. I believe once many actors/actresses have achieved the golden goose that is the Oscars they take a moment and have fun with their craft after that. The pressure is off they have proven their ability now it's all about fun and money.

  • Cinephile | February 21, 2013 4:04 PMReply

    Nicole Kidman, anyone? Bewitched, Stepford wives, the Invasion, Golden Compass, The Paperboy, Trespass, and Just Go With It, only to name a few...

  • caro | February 21, 2013 4:01 PMReply

    Christian Bale and "flowers of war" but i guess it was his most efficient way (a movie in China) to avoid to campaign for the Oscars without to look impolite

  • BEF | February 21, 2013 3:40 PMReply

    Kevin Spacey had one of the best runs as an actor in the 90s; 2000's one of the absolute worst, but that was leading man roles; he's best in an ensemble, the Best Actor prize might have shifted him to where he shouldn't have gone. House of Cards is a refresher and hopefully he'll get sent some better scripts this go 'round.

  • Marcus | February 21, 2013 3:36 PMReply

    I think you guys were a bit harsh with Angelina Jolie. Yeah she made a lot of bad movies after her Oscar win but Wanted and Changeling weren't part of them. Wanted was a big summer blockbuster and she was badass in it and she received another Oscar nomination for Changeling..

  • Zack | February 21, 2013 4:06 PM

    I feel like people have been a lot harder on "Changeling" in hindsight than they were at the time of its release because it was made right before Clint Eastwood started making movies that seemed to be made purely to win awards (he'd made a shitload of awards-bait movies before then, but I'm talking the really blatant Kirk Lazarus-type stuff), and as a result I think it's often unfairly lumped with those.

  • MAL | February 21, 2013 4:04 PM

    Agreed. I was going to say the same thing. In fact, I would even place Sky Captain up there. It was actually a superbly well-made, r0llicking sci-fi adventure in the style of 1930s serials. Not to everyone's taste but a fascinating experiment that actually pays off if you let it.

  • Joe | February 21, 2013 3:24 PMReply

    It should be the Nicholas Cage effect. he just takes whatever comes along for the $$$.

    As a non-white female Halle Berry only gets a 10th of what white males (and females) get offered. If she chose bad projects it's likely because nothing better was sent her way (until Cloud Atlas).

  • Az | February 23, 2013 2:55 AM

    Sorry, but after she bitched about being "relegated" to underwhelming roles, right in the middle of a very strong stretch of movies as a badass superhero who many would view as a very positive role model for young girls of any color, I have no sympathy for Halle Berry. If she can't show appreciation and respect for the great roles she gets, she deserves all of the crappy ones.

  • Roberto | February 21, 2013 11:17 PM

    Was thinking the same thing, there's ni reason this should be named after Halle.

  • Zack | February 21, 2013 4:08 PM

    Berry does seem like a weird choice; I mean, she's made some bad movies since winning, but Cage has a huge head start on her and he easily has 10 post-Oscar movies that are worse than "Gothika".

  • BEF | February 21, 2013 3:37 PM


  • hank | February 21, 2013 3:11 PMReply

    why not go after Adrien Brody or Nicholas Cage as well? Or any oscar winner? Why not call it the Nicholas Cage effect? Every actor, oscar winner or not, has been in a bad film.

  • RC | February 21, 2013 4:32 PM

    Perhaps she passed it along with the kiss...

  • Shala | February 21, 2013 3:56 PM

    Right... I was just WAITING to see Adrien Brody's name in the mix. After Halle, he is the first person I think of.

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