What Were They Thinking? Good Actors' Bad Choices

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Sunday, July 8, 2007

Robin Williams used to be good, in some very good movies. For more than a decade and a half, he starred in films that were both popular and critically praised: "The World According to Garp," "The Fisher King," "Mrs. Doubtfire," "Dead Poets Society," "Good Morning, Vietnam."

But lately? Not so much. Since winning an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in "Good Will Hunting" (1997), Williams has made mostly, um, curious choices.

He still draws plenty of paychecks (he's in the horrendously reviewed "License to Wed," which opened Tuesday), but with each passing year, the projects he picks have gotten dopier, drearier and more forgettable ("RV," "The Night Listener," "The Big White," "Flubber," etc.).

Perhaps it's another curse of stardom: Your judgment gets cloudy. But whether influenced by bad advice, bad agents or good old-fashioned greed, some very talented people have appeared in some curiously bad films in the past few years. Here are others who've been busy diluting their premium brands.

-- Paul Farhi

Steve Martin

Like Williams, Martin is a comic-actor with extraordinary gifts. And like Williams, Martin has made one movie after another that has that whiff of someone who's mostly in it to bankroll the new beach house. With the exception of the self-written "Shopgirl" (2005), Martin stopped making interesting movies more than a decade ago, seemingly to concentrate full time on fluff: "Father of the Bride" (I and II), "Sgt. Bilko," "The Out-of Towners," "Bringing Down the House," "Cheaper by the Dozen." Recent career lowlight: "The Pink Panther."

Samuel L. Jackson

Jackson apparently can't go several months without appearing in a middling movie. Since co-starring in Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction" (1994) and "Jackie Brown" (1997), and, yes, the three most recent "Star Wars" films (discuss whether that's a good thing), Jackson has primarily been about quantity over quality. He's punched out almost 30 films since 2000, and has six in the pipeline, according to IMDB.com. And no, this hasn't been a good thing. Recent career lowlight: "Snakes on a Plane."

Al Pacino

Between 1972 and 1975, Pacino had one of the greatest runs ever for a film actor: The first two "Godfather" films, "Dog Day Afternoon" and "Serpico." He's had plenty of highlights since ("Scarface," "Glengarry Glen Ross," his Oscar-winning turn in "Scent of a Woman"), which makes his past decade so puzzling, with tiresome, crazed overacting in so-so fare such as "The Devil's Advocate," "Any Given Sunday," "S1mon3" and "Two for the Money." Recent career lowlight: "Gigli."

Halle Berry


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