With Michael Corleone himself, Al Pacino, appearing the dismal Adam Sandler film Jack & Jill this weekend, we at Film Misery got to thinking about famous film actors and directors whose once great reputations are no longer held in high esteem. This weekend’s question offers our opinions on that worthwhile discussion.
QUESTION: Which actor or director has tarnished their reputation based on recent film choices?
I don’t think anyone can compete with director Francis Ford Coppola in this category. He made four unflinching masterpieces in The Godfather, The Conversation, The Godfather Part II, and Apocalypse Now. What has happened since? I’m not sure exactly. He made One From the Heart, which was a sad effort. But it only continued to go downhill from there. The Outsiders is reprehensible. And then he made Jack, which is basically The Curious Case of Benjamin Button starring Robin Williams in the 1990s. He quit making films for a while. And then he got reinvigorated by his daughters work (which I almost entirely dismiss as well). His reinvigoration has not inspired hope. Youth Without Youth and Tetro are not good. And so far no good has come of Twixt other than some mild praise for the concept before anyone actually saw the film. That is a downhill path if I’ve ever seen one.
Of course, Oscars aren’t exactly the most reliable tools to use when measuring an actor’s greatness. That said, it’s rather telling and more than a little frustrating that Harrison Ford has only received a single nomination in his wildly successful career. As is the case with many, Ford will always be Han Solo and Indiana Jones in my mind. Perhaps that is the big problem with Ford. Whether it’s due to studios typecasting the action movie superstar or because the 66-year-old actor has simply grown too comfortable to move beyond what he knows, he seems to have hardly made an effort to acclimate himself to roles better-suited – forgive me for saying – to a man his age. As a result, this past decade has reduced the supremely talented actor to phoning in performances in one box office disappointment after another (Firewall, Hollywood Homicide, Cowboys & Aliens), revisiting previous successes (Indy 4) or being stunt-cast in ill-received duds (Crossing Over). We all know from his early days just how talented Ford can be when given the right project. Nothing would make me happier than to see one of my favorite actors of yesteryear begin to challenge himself in his career’s twilight.
My pick would be another Godfather alum – Robert de Niro. After establishing himself as one of the best actors of his generation, he goes on to appear in The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle as the Fearless Leader, one of the most uninspired movie villains ever. He also decided to stick with the Meet the Parents franchise, appearing in Meet the Fockers and Little Fockers. Partially thanks to him, we now know that any movie with the word Fockers in the title is bound to be as funny as watching Adam Sandler in drag, which is to say not at all. In case you haven’t seen either of those three movies, spare yourself and grab a copy of Taxi Driver or Raging Bull instead.
Justin stole mine, so I will just emphasize that I completely agree that Harrison Ford has gone from a huge string of massive hits to obscurity and mediocrity. The actor who I have been most disappointed with over the last decade has been Kevin Spacey. His hits of the 90s included excellent performances in Glengarry Glen Ross, The Usual Suspects, Se7en, L.A. Confidential, and American Beauty. Since 2000 he has done films like K-Pax, Fred Claus, 21, Horrible Bosses, and Superman Returns. He is reportedly quite good in this year’s Margin Call, so maybe the 10s are starting with better opportunities.