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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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The Illustrated Man
Rod Steiger - "The Illustrated Man"
While "In The Heat Of The Night" might have been a safe Best Picture winner in the year of "The Graduate" and "Bonnie & Clyde," few would begrudge Rod Steiger his Best Actor Oscar. He'd already lost out for both "On The Waterfront" and "The Pawnbroker," and was overdue. This bought Steiger more credit than he ever had before, but sadly, he used it on the 1969 adaptation of Ray Bradbury's seminal science fiction anthology "The Illustrated Man."  Directed by Steiger's old friend Jack Smight, and starring his then-wife Claire Bloom, the film (which sees three unrelated sci-fi tales, each starring Steiger, Bloom and Robert Drivas, and narrated by Steiger's heavily tattooed figure of the title) has all the hallmarks of a vanity project. And unfortunately, it never rises above it; the "Cloud Atlas" of its day, it's to be praised for its ambition, but is decidedly lacking in its execution, particularly thanks to a swinging '60s vibe that must have dated the film as soon as the credits started rolling, and a wildly over-the-top performance from Steiger.

The Black Dahlia
Hilary Swank - "The Black Dahlia"
Like Spacey, Hilary Swank made some fairly respectable choices, at least after winning her first Best Actress Oscar for "Boys Don't Cry" in 2000. She managed to squeeze in "The Gift," "Insomnia" and "The Affair of the Necklace," all reasonably respectable picks, before going for the blockbuster inanity of "The Core." Second time around, after her 2005 win for "Million Dollar Baby," Swank wasn't so wise, with her next part coming in Brian De Palma's wildly terrible 2006 adaptation of James Ellroy's crime classic "The Black Dahlia." There are so many things wrong with the film that it's hard to know where to start, but Swank's performance doesn't help. She's incredibly miscast as bisexual femme fatale Madeleine Linscott, one of Ellroy's most fascinating creations on the page. It's not just that she looks nothing like victim Elizabeth Short (Mia Kirshner), who the rest of the cast seem to believe she's identical to -- Swank just isn't capable, at least not here, of the kind of morally ambiguous, demonically sexual character she's been asked to pull off. With basically every other actor in the film equally adrift, and De Palma way off his A-game, it might somehow be the worst film anywhere on this list, not least because of the missed opportunity (David Fincher, among others, circled the script at one stage, and one can only imagine what a superior film he'd have turned in). Swank continued with the questionable choices, not least with the decidedly "Gothika"-like supernatural thriller "The Reaping," and doesn't look likely to pick up a third Oscar any time soon.

"Aeon Flux"
"Aeon Flux"
Charlize Theron - "Aeon Flux"
Charlize Theron might finally have managed to prove her blockbuster bona-fides with "Prometheus" and "Snow White & The Huntsman," but her first attempt at pulling it off, soon after her Best Actress Oscar win for "Monster" in 2004, was a true disaster. Paramount wooed Theron to star in "Aeon Flux," a long-in-the-works adaptation of the MTV animated series that was briefly popular in the mid 1990s. Directed by "Girlfight" helmer Karyn Kusama, who nearly crashed her career as soon as it had begun, and from a script by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi that strips all of the subversion and humor from the source material, it stars Theron as the title character, a badass rebel in an underground rebellion hoping to overthrow the rulers of a dystopian future-state. For a film with such out-there costume and production design, it's remarkably boring, with a mostly charisma-free cast (Marton Csokas! Jonny Lee Miller!), a plot that's both rote and incomprehensible, barely-competent action sequences, and a performance from Theron that, given how great she can be elsewhere, is almost inexplicable. If anything, it's notable only for being something of a perfect storm of actresses fallen prey to The Halle Berry Effect; along with Theron, there's also Frances McDormand (accompanied by a sort of ginger Robert Smith hairdo), and "Hotel Rwanda" nominee Sophie Okonedo.

Fred CLaus
Rachel Weisz - "Fred Claus"
When she won her Oscar for 'The Constant Gardener" in 2006, Rachel Weisz was already filming her follow-up, Darren Aronofsky's "The Fountain." And while it's a love-it-or-hate-it kind of film (we love it), few could begrudge her that one. But excluding that, and a voice-only role in terrible fantasy movie "Eragon," the next time Weisz was seen in theaters was in the worst role of her entire career; the love interest in the toxic Christmas movie "Fred Claus." The ill-advised reunion between "Wedding Crashers" director and star David Dobkin and Vince Vaughn sees the latter play the title role, the estranged older brother to Santa (Paul Giamatti), who has to take over to save Christmas etc etc etc. And among the film's many, many, many baffling decisions is Weisz, entirely wasted in an extended cameo as Wanda, Fred's parking enforcement girlfriend (!). Weirdly mean-spirited, torn between being an improv-happy Vaughn vehicle and a kids' flick, and more expensive than any comedy should ever be, the film's entirely misjudged at every level, including Wanda, who exists only to nag Fred, disappear for most of the film, and then reconcile with him at the end. Why the filmmakers felt it was a good enough part to offer to an Oscar-winner like Weisz is one thing, why she'd feel obliged to take it is another.

Vantage Point
Forest Whitaker - "Vantage Point" & "Street Kings"
A veteran character actor, Forest Whitaker certainly made the most of a rare lead role as Idi Amin in Kevin MacDonald's "The Last King of Scotland," which won him the Best Actor Oscar in 2007. But things have been mostly downhill ever since, with Tyler Perry movies, direct-to-video actioners and a swiftly canceled TV procedural among the ignominies. And one can put it down to his post-Oscar career choices to a certain degree. Whitaker's first post-Oscars project, Denzel Washington's "The Great Debaters" was reasonably respectable, even if it borrowed something from Kevin Spacey's playbook. But the next two were more disastrous; big commercial sell-outs, in the ludicrous thriller "Vantage Point," in which Whitaker mostly looks lost and confused in a nothing role, and "Street Kings," in which the actor xeroxes Washington's performance in "Training Day" to a much, much lesser effect. Here's hoping the upcoming "Out of the Furnace" picks things up.

Also on the list of shame: Mercedes Reuhl ("Last Action Hero"), Dianne Weist ("The Associate"), Jennifer Hudson ("Sex And The City"), Louis Gosset Jr ("Jaws 3D"), Tommy Lee Jones ("Blown Away" & "Batman Forever"), Robin Williams ("Bicentennial Man"), Alan Arkin ("Get Smart"), Christoph Waltz ("The Green Hornet"), Sally Field ("Back Roads," "Surrender'), Holly Hunter ("Copycat"), Helen Hunt ("Dr. T & The Women"), Reese Witherspoon ("Rendition"), Sandra Bullock ("Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"), Art Carney ("Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood"), Richard Dreyfuss ("The Competition"), Denzel Washington ("Out Of Time") and Colin Firth ("Gambit").

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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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