Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Biggest Paycheck Hounds in Hollwood

Coming soon, Cuba Gooding Jr. will appear in a new teenage comedy called Harold. This drew hilarious scorn from The Playlist where Spencer rightfully excoriated both the film and the notion of Cuba walking around as an Oscar winner and still taking the role of a janitor in this likely piece of inanity. All this reminded me of a debate that has been raging between me and fellow blogger Kozy about which actors are the biggest paycheck hounds in Hollywood. We're talking about people who are always up for the cash, even though they're considered serious. We've made a list hoping to finally quell the debate once and for all.

At one point, the actor must have been critically renowned. It greatly helps if they continued to be lauded as the real deal. If they're knighted, all the better. If they're already rich and should have no excuse, then there's that, too. The "paycheck" movie can come in many forms. Could be a supporting role in a silly blockbuster. Could be a lead role in an obvious dud. Could be signing to a movie that absolutely everyone could have known as going to be horrendous right from the getgo. Note that any roles "pre-acclaim" are irrelevant. So George Clooney's appearance in Return of the Killer Tomatoes! doesn't count. People like Bruce Willis, John Travolta, and the Wilson brothers don't count because they've never been lauded as actors. Projects that were designed to have merit, but just turned out bad will be forgiven except in cases where the horrendous script made failure an obvious foregone conclusion.

We'll use the following criteria.
Respectability Scale: Just how high-brow is this dude? Where does he fall on the spectrum that runs from Lawrence Olivier to Pauly Shore?
Questionable Cameos Rating: What role did the dude take that was clearly just to line his pockets? Something he could spend one day's work on, no matter how lousy the movie was?
Obvious Bad Project Quotient: Some movies are just clearly going to be horrendous and of no artistic merit. Things Daniel Day Lewis wouldn't be caught dead doing. How often have we seen this actor show up for movies that should never have been made?
Most egregious paycheck role: There are paycheck roles and paycheck roles. How indefensibly deep did this actor sink for some coin?

We'll take this in order as best I could estimate. I'm not feeling that certain. I suppose it depends on which criteria you prefer.
Honorable Mentions:
Ben Affleck (Gigli, The Paycheck, Reindeer Games, The Third Wheel)
Max Von Sydow (Judge Dredd, Druids, Rush Hour 3)
Nicholas Cage (The Wicker Man, Ghost Rider, Sonny, Next, National Treasure 1&2)
Morgan Freeman (Evan Almighty, Hard Rain, Chain Reaction, Edison, Dreamcatcher, The Big Bounce, The Contract)
Harvey Keitel (Little Nicky, Monkey Trouble, Beeper, Be Cool, Sister Act, National Treasures 1&2, The Pick-Up Artist)
Robert De Niro (Rocky & Bullwinkle, Showtime, Meet the Fockers, Mistress, Hide and Seek, Godsend)

Sir Anthony Hopkins
Respectability Scale: 9 If we only look at post-1991 movies, it's hard to argue that Hopkins isn't bonafide. Coming off of one of the most most celebrated performances in film history as Hannibal Lecter, he had hit the big time. Not a 10 because he's not ridiculously wealthy, just stinking rich.
Questionable Cameos Rating: 4 Mission: Impossible II, Red Dragon, How the Grinch Stole Christmas (narrator)
Obvious Bad Project Quotient: 5 Freejack, Instinct, The Edge, Bad Company, Hannibal, The Mask of Zorro, Meet Joe Black
Most Egregious Paycheck Role: 3 Bad Company takes the cake here, and compared to what's coming up, it's not very egregious at all.

Cuba Gooding Jr.

Respectability Scale: 2 Cuba was thought to be a major up-and-comer after Boyz N The Hood, and won a surprise Oscar as Best Supporting Actor for Jerry Maguire. He followed that fame up with... Well, you'll see
Questionable Cameos Rating: n/a Seems like only the truly name guys get this distinction.
Obvious Bad Project Quotient: 9.5 Hold your nose... Rat Race, Boat Trip, Norbit, Chill Factor, Dirty, Daddy Day Camp, In the Shadows, Hanes commercials
Most Egregious Paycheck Role: 8 Boat Trip features Cuba pretending to be gay so he can go on an all-female cruise. Or something as inane as that. Also, Horatio Sanz is his costar. Need we say more? Yes, we do. Daddy Day Camp tops it. When you're starring in the sequel to Eddie Murphy's biggest sellout job ever, you've lost your last ounce of credibility.

Samuel L. Jackson
Respectability Scale: 7 Did you know that Samuel L. Jackson movies have grossed more than any actor in history? It's true. It doesn't hurt that he showed up briefly in some Star Wars flicks as well as Jurassic Park. But anyway, post Pulp Fiction, he's been a huge star that can basically choose his own projects, showing his versatility in more artistic choices such as The Red Violin.
Questionable Cameos Rating: 2 Kiss of Death, Star Wars (several)
Obvious Bad Project Quotient: 7 xXx, xXx: State of the Union, Snakes on a Plane, The Man, Formula 51, Deep Blue Sea, Shaft, S.W.A.T., Jumper, The Caveman's Valentine
Most Egregious Paycheck Role: 4 None of these are that bad. He's more on the Hopkins level. But he did give us this:

Jon Voight
Respectability Scale: 4 Is Voight really a revered movie star? He won Best Actor once and has been nominated for three more Oscars. Plus, considering how old he is, one has to think he's made a ton of dough. But he only gets a 4 here.
Questionable Cameos Rating: 6 The Prince and the Surfer, Zoolander
Obvious Bad Project Quotient: 10 Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2, The Karate Dog, Bratz, Anaconda, Most Wanted, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, National Treasure 1&2
Most Egregious Paycheck Role: 10 Do we go with Baby Geniuses 2 or a film called The Karate Dog? The Karate Dog also stars Simon Rex, Pat Morita, and the voice of Chevy Chase. Baby Geniuses 2 stars Scott Baio and is the IMDb's 20th worst film of all time. You decide, they're both 10s. My big question is whether Voight knew the movie was titled "The Karate Dog" or if he even read the script at all. Angelina, I can't blame you for not returning the guy's calls.

Sir Sean Connery
Respectability Scale: 7 Connery has been in almost 90 pictures, many of them greatly revered. He's been nominated for only one Oscar, which he won for The Untouchables. But above all that the dude is remarkably rich. He could buy six Dennis Hoppers and have some dough left over for some Jon Voights, too.
Questionable Cameos Rating: 5 Robin Hood: Prince of Theives, Highlander II: The Quickening (Was this a cameo? I've thankfully never seen it)
Obvious Bad Project Quotient: 7 The Avengers, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Medecine Man, First Knight, Entrapment
Most Egregious Paycheck Role: 5 While I'm sure it seemed like a good idea at the time, The Avengers proved to be one of the worst films ever made. I'm guessing he got a chance to read the script, right? And why do people keep turning up as bad guys in this section?

Dennis Hopper
Respectability Scale: 5 Hopper was nominated for his role as Shooter in Hoosiers, but beyond that he hasn't really ever garnered wide critical acclaim. Still, as a man who's appeared in such legendary pictures as Apocalypse Now, Cool Hand Luke, Rebel Without a Cause, and Easy Rider, he possesses street cred like few other actors.
Questionable Cameos Rating: 2 The Crow: Wicked Prayer (I feel like we're missing a bunch here? True Romance doesn't count)
Obvious Bad Project Quotient: 9 Unspeakable, Super Mario Bros., Meet the Deedles, L.A.P.D.: To Protect and to Serve, Hoboken Hollow, The Keeper, The Pick-up Artist, Out of Season, man are there a billion here - I am going to have to give up now.
Most Egregious Paycheck Role: 8 It doesn't get much worse than Super Mario Bros. Still this is only an eight:

Peter O'Toole
Respectability Scale: 10 O'Toole made a splash with his first role as the lead in Lawrence of Arabia in 1962. He's been a major star ever since, being nominated for Best Actor a total of eight time (the most ever). He won an honorary, lifetime achievement Oscar in 2003. He's also a revered alcoholic, but never knighted.
Questionable Cameos Rating: n/a It's n/a as far as I know...
Obvious Bad Project Quotient: 7 King Ralph, Club Paradise, Phantoms, Supergirl, High Spirits, Rock My World, Caligula
Most Egregious Paycheck Role: 7 While Rock My World, Phantoms, and High Spirits are all bad enough, Supergirl takes this cake, no?

Christopher Walken
Respectability Scale: 6 That Walken has always been drawn to the odd goofy project is perhaps forgivable. He's had some classic SNL appearances over the years, and not above doing something just for the hell of it. But ever since The Deer Hunter, he's been considered a respectable actor.
Questionable Cameos Rating: 9 Gigli, America's Sweethearts, Envy, Joe Dirt, Trance
Obvious Bad Project Quotient: 10 The Country Bears, Kangaroo Jack, Balls of Fury, The Stepford Wives, The Prophecy II, The Prophecy 3: The Ascent, Wayne's World 2, Mousehunt, Excess Baggage, Man of the Year, Nick of Time, Blast from the Past
Most Egregious Paycheck Role: 9 Kangaroo Jack or Country Bears? You decide:

Sir Michael Caine
Respectability Scale: 9 It's hard to top Caine in this regard. He's been noiminated for Oscars six times, winning twice. He's knighted. He's been acting since the late 1950s and certainly has more wealth than he knows what to do with. And critics adore him.
Questionable Cameos Rating: 7 Austin Powers 3, Get Carter, Batman Twice Over
Obvious Bad Project Quotient: 8 Bewitched, Miss Congeniality, Jaws: The Revenge, On Deadly Ground (yes, with Steven Segal)
Most Egregious Paycheck Role: 50 That's right. I gave him a 50. How on earth does any remotely respectable actor show up in Jaws: The Revenge? Roy Scheider, not exactly a man rolling in dough, opted out after the seriously far-fectched Jaws II. Jaws 3-D would be reviled as one of the worst movies in history if it weren't so vastly surpassed by Jaws: The Revenge. A lot of the films in this analysis are loaded with assumptions that the actor knew he was participating in a piece of junk. But truly, there could be some who were doing favors for friends, or were misled by agents or whatever. Caine, on the other hand, cleared up any mystery surrounding his choice about his appearance in the movie when he said, "I have never seen it, but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific."


Kozy said...

Great quote from Caine!

PMaz said...

Oh, come now. Faulting Voight for appearing in National Treasure 1&2?!? Both were Blockbusters and, admittedly, I kind of enjoyed them. But that could be because of the kid factor. LOL on "On Deadly Ground". That movie is putrid, and feel free to use that in a OWR.

Reed said...

Maybe the National Treasures weren't horrible, but you can't tell me that Voight, Keitel, and Cage were in it to make an artistic statement of any kind.

I don't really ever expect to see On Deadly Ground. The fact that I've endured his other three OBPQs was torture enough.