TV: When good actors go bad

Mister D: I actually like the movie they picked for Bette!

San Fransisco Gate
TV: When good actors make bad TV or movies
March 27, 2013


I was all set to love the new “Masterpiece Classic” “Mr. Selfridge,” partly because “Masterpiece” generally lives up to its name, but mostly because I love Jeremy Piven. For me, and for many other viewers, Piven was a big reason “Entourage” was such great TV.

So I settled in with a bowl of imaginary popcorn (no carbs, please) and a not imaginary dog named Morgan to watch the first episodes a couple of weeks ago: It was a slog. Even the dog fell asleep and he’s usually a very attentive critic. (By the way, still trying to understand how PBS defines “Masterpiece Classic”: “Selfridge” is based on a 2007 book, but it is about the UK in 1909, so I guess the definition is “anytime someone wears old clothes.” According to that definition, I hereby qualify as a “classic” almost every day of the week.)

Royce (Adrien Brody) and Isabelle (Alice Braga) take aim during their desperate battle against the alien Predators in “Predators.”

Anyway, back to Piven. It isn’t just a case of miscasting, unfortunately. By anyone’s estimation, Piven should have been just perfect to play a loudmouth American department store tycoon trying to get the British to bring their sales techniques into the 20th century.

But his performance just misses the mark. Over and over again. You can find my review here on the premium site.

That got me thinking about many TV shows and films I’ve seen over the years where an actor I have admired finds him or herself flailing in a terrible role in a terrible project. I’m not sure if Adrien Brody is the all-time champ of “when bad films or TV shows happen to good actors,” but he sure is up there. Although he won an Oscar for “The Pianist,” he has made such memorable films as “Dummy,” “The Singing Detective,” “The Experiment,” and “Giallo.” Brody filed suit against the “Giallo” filmmakers to block the DVD release until he got his full salary. The case was eventually settled, which is to say: At least Brody got more out of this film than the audience did.

Brody has done some good work, and some successful work, which is not always the same thing. But his choices are often so odd, if there were an award for good actors in bad films, it would be called the Brody.

Some other potential Brody winners on my list: Nicole Kidman in “Bewitched,” Al Pacino in “The Devil’s Advocate,” Patrick Wilson in “A Gifted Man,” Robert De Niro in “The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle,” Julia Louis-Dreyfus in “The New Adventures of Old Christine,” Dustin Hoffman in “Hook,” Meryl Streep in “Mamma Mia,” James Gandolfini in “The Mexican,” Bette Midler in “Jinxed,” Liam Neeson in “Satisfaction,” Helen Mirren in “Love Ranch,” Daniel Day Lewis in “Nine,” Halle Berry in “Catwoman,” Laurence Olivier in “Clash of the Titans,” Katharine Hepburn in “Grace Quigley,” Bette Davis in “Burnt Offerings,” Olivia de Havilland in “Lady in a Cage.”

I could go on, as the saying goes, but now it’s your turn: Who are your Brody nominations for good actors trapped in crappy roles or projects?

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