Tuesday, March 24, 2009

By Way of The Onion AV Club: Musings on Meticulous Mediocrity

Nathan Rabin's brilliant and hysterical My Year of Flops column in The Onion AV Club got me to thinking about actors that are almost meticulous in choosing bad film roles (or roles in bad films, to be more precise). Now, I'm not just talking about an actor taking a shitty role in a shitty movie; that's almost one of the rules of the game (if you're a Hollywood actor, you're bound to be in more than just a couple dogs). I'm talking about actively making poor choices when you have better options lined up for you, and making said poor choices after long and hard deliberations.

As Mr. Rabin pointed out with his entry on Town & Country, why did Warren Beatty, who passed on such roles as the eponymous Bill in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill, Jack Horner in P.T. Anderson's Boogie Nights and Paul Sheldon in Rob Reiner's Misery decide to say yes to a film that went into production without a finished script? (And let's not forget this is a man who said yes to his role in Ishtar.)

As Rabin succinctly put it: "Beatty's like a guy who goes to an ice cream shop, spends an hour and a half sampling all the different flavors, then goes home and eats a cup of generic, freezer-burned vanilla."

Katie Holmes passing on reprising her role of Rachel Dawes for The Dark Knight in order to shoot Mad Money is another example of this that immediately springs to mind, as does Kiefer Sutherland's decision to shoot Mirrors in his down-time from working on the uber-successful 24. In his article on the movie, Josh Modell directly addresses Mr. Sutherland:

"Surely you have a million scripts crossing your desk every day, and you don't need the money. Why not pick something to stretch your acting chops, something 'dangerously' indie? Better yet, why not just go on a fucking vacation?"

Tangentially, this also brings me to Mike Meyers spending years meticulously writing and workshopping (and by "workshopping," I mean, trying the titular character out for test drives in various New York theatres) The Love Guru.

I'm fascinated by this. I mean, you're an actor with a good (or rather, "insane") amount of money, a good amount of prestige and a very limited amount of free time. You must have too many offers to count coming your way. Why on earth would you go out of your way to choose something that's clearly a steaming turdwich (that doesn't even spell "guaranteed box office hit")?

Again, I'm not fascinated with Hollywood actors making bad movies, or bad movies being made: I'm fascinated when great care and consideration is made to act in or make said steaming turdwich.

What compels this behavior? Is it just based on momentary lapses of reason? Poor decision-making connected to weird things going on in their personal lives? Willful career self-destruction? What?

Waiting for his big break to write a re-imagining of Porky's,

James "The Kubrick of Poop" Comtois



Blogger DPS said...

I'd say that makes you "Poobrick".

My God, I'm adorable . . .

10:02 AM  
Blogger Jamespeak said...

Just fucking precious, yes.

10:32 AM  
Blogger BdVdB said...

I'm gonna take a stab at this by blaming the strange glass bubble of Hollywood. Like the delusions of someone with a whole lot of bad plastic surgery, the biz in La-la Land is far removed from reality. The people in it apparently have no idea how real people think. And why would they? "Giant flop" or not, THE LOVE GURU still made 14 million it's first weekend. Spend half a lifetime living in that culture, having passed in and out of the limelight, and even a new M. Night Shamalan movie with a scene where you're trying to outrun the wind might seem like a good career move.

2:42 PM  
Blogger Jamespeak said...

Being in a bubble, surrounded by yes-men and not getting any constructive criticism may be a good reason for this, yes. I mean, to damn Mike Meyers with faint credit, the Austin Powers movies were huge hits, and the character of Austin Powers is no more or less, er, complex, than Pitka. So there was definitely a decent idea that it would do well.

However, I'm still a bit amazed that it took him years to write this script. This was his first on-screen performance in five years (not counting the Shrek films).

2:50 PM  

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