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The Times
  • Get Reel: When good actors appear in bad movies

  • People who have seen "Movie 43" have probably asked themselves two questions: "What was I thinking?" and "What were those actors thinking?"

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  • People who have seen "Movie 43" have probably asked themselves two questions: "What was I thinking?" and "What were those actors thinking?"
    Unfortunately, the moviegoers who saw the film probably don't have a good excuse beyond "I wasn't thinking." Or "I'm incapable of thinking." Or "My friend dragged me to it. I wanted to see 'Lincoln.'" Or "I got suckered in by the trailer." Or "I knew it was going to be appalling, but I like appalling movies."
    As for the actors, they have better excuses. Money usually tops the list, but the cast reportedly worked for bargain-basement prices. Well, bargain-basement prices for them. So, if money weren't the principal factor, then what was? Did they actually think it was going to be a good movie? Actors aren't always the best judge of material, good and bad. Look at all the great movie roles that have been turned down over the years by actors, or all the actors who had no idea the movie they were making was destined to become a classic.
    One can assume, or at least hope, that some of the actors who agreed to appear in "Movie 43" knew the film was garbage but, for some reason, didn't care. Perhaps they thought it would be a hoot to show their wackier side. Perhaps it gave them a chance to work with their spouse. The film includes real-life couples Liev Schreiber and Naomi Watts as well as Anna Faris and Chris Pratt. Perhaps it gave the actors a chance to work, period. Some spend a lot of down time in between projects. In other cases, the actors are simply looking to launch their careers and would appear opposite a test pattern.
    Perhaps the actors owed the film's producers a favor. Or perhaps these producers had photographs of the stars in a compromising position with a yak. Perhaps the actors now regret their decision to appear in the film. "Darn it, I knew that yak was trouble."
    For the uninitiated, "Movie 43" consists of a series of vignettes where most of the alleged humor comes from pushing the envelope of good taste far beyond the outer limits. Want to see menstrual blood smeared on a wall? Then this is the film for you. And who doesn't want to watch Halle Berry stir guacamole dip with her breast?
    As feeble as "Movie 43" is, it's not even remotely the worst film of recent vintage. That dishonor goes to 2011's "Bucky Larson: Born to be a Star." I have to admit I chuckled during the scene in "Movie 43" where Kate Winslet goes on a blind date with Hugh Jackman and is repulsed to discover that he has a certain male body part dangling from his neck. The scene is disgusting but at least a modicum of imagination went into its execution. I also have to admit a certain weakness for gross-out humor when it's handled properly.
    Page 2 of 3 - In case you're curious, other "Movie 43" cast members include Dennis Quaid, Greg Kinnear, Uma Thurman, Richard Gere, Emma Stone, Chloe Grace Moretz, Elizabeth Banks (who also directs a vignette), Kate Bosworth, Kristen Bell, Gerard Butler and Terrence Howard.
    While "Movie 43" may have the numbers, there's at least one film that is infinitely more despicable and features a significantly more distinguished cast. That would be 1979's "Caligula." A $15 million porno disguised as a biopic - it was co-produced by Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione - the film stars Malcolm McDowell, John Gielgud, Peter O'Toole and Helen Mirren. One can wager a shilling or two that these thespians cashed their checks quickly.
    The award for the worst movie featuring not one, not two but three Best Actor/Actress Academy Award winners goes to 2004's "Meet the Fockers." The cast includes Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand. Right behind this one in the swill category is 1995's "Grumpier Old Men" with two Best Actor/Actress Oscar winners (Jack Lemmon and Sophia Loren), one Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner (Walter Matthau) and two Oscar nominees (Ann-Margret and Burgess Meredith).   
    Before "Movie 43" arrived, two other recent films wasted talented casts: "Parental Guidance" with Billy Crystal, Bette Midler and Marisa Tomei, and "Playing for Keeps," with Butler, Quaid, Thurman, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Judy Greer.
    Other horrendous films that have abused ensembles of note include 2007's "Wild Hogs" (John Travolta, Tim Allen, William H. Macy, Ray Liotta and Tomei), 1999's "Wild Wild West" (Kevin Kline, Will Smith, Kenneth Branagh and Salma Hayek), 2010's "Valentine's Day" (Jessica Alba, Kathy Bates, Jessica Biel, Bradley Cooper, Patrick Dempsey, Hector Elizondo, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Topher Grace, Anne Hathaway, Ashton Kutcher, Queen Latifah, Taylor Lautner, Shirley MacLaine, Emma Roberts, Julia Roberts and Taylor Swift) and 1994's "North" (Elijah Wood, Jason Alexander, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Bruce Willis, who narrated, Alan Arkin, Dan Aykroyd, Reba McIntire, Kathy Bates, Abe Vigoda, Graham Greene, Kelly McGillis, John Ritter and Scarlett Johansson).
    Other Oscar-winning actors of noble pedigree who have debased themselves in horrific movies include Marlon Brando ("The Island of Dr. Moreau"), Al Pacino ("Jack and Jill"), Laurence Olivier ("Clash of the Titans"), Jack Nicholson ("Man Trouble")," Ben Kingsley ("BloodRayne"), Hilary Swank ("The Reaping"), Tom Hanks ("The Bonfire of the Vanities"), Daniel Day-Lewis ("Nine"), Sean Penn ("Shanghai Surprise"), Michael Caine ("Jaws 4: The Revenge"), Nicolas Cage ("The Wicker Man" and countless more), George Clooney ("Batman & Robin"), Forest Whitaker ("Battlefield Earth"), Robin Williams ("Patch Adams" and countless more), Denzel Washington ("John  Q"), Susan Sarandon ("That's My Boy") and Charlize Theron ("Aeon Flux").
    In 2009, Sandra Bullock recorded a rare double, winning the Razzie for Worst Actress ("All About Steve") and the Oscar for Best Actress ("The Blind Side").
    For actors of talent who have appeared in the most deplorable movies in recent years, Ben Affleck and Eddie Murphy deserve consideration. Steve Martin in "The Pink Panther" and Richard Burton in "The Exorcist 2: The Heretic" also embarrass the acting profession.
    Page 3 of 3 - Heck, we could go on and on here. Note that back in the studio system days, actors and actresses had little choice in appearing in substandard films as they were under contract. Hollywood also churned out more movies back then. There is one way to avoid the shame of appearing in a terrible movie, however. A thespian could follow the lead of Bela Lugosi, who died before the completion of 1959's "Plan 9 From Outer Space," often listed as the worst film of all time. Trust me, "Bucky Larson" is much more heinous. You'll want to die after seeing that abomination.             
    So much in common
    It’s now time for TRIVIA.
    Last month’s tester: What actress, who was married to a famous actor, was considered for a movie role that went to another actress whose career was launched in the film? Clue: The actor's other wives would receive Oscar nominations. Name both actresses, the actor and the film.
    Answer: Jill Esmond, who was married to Laurence Olivier, was considered for the lead role in "A Bill of Divorcement." The part went to Katharine Hepburn. Subsequent Olivier wives who received Oscar nominations were Vivien Leigh and Joan Plowright.
    Rebecca Butler of Wayland, Mass., was the first and only reader to answer the question correctly. Congratulations!
    This month’s tester: What do "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," "Mary Poppins" and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" have in common? They share two attributes. Clue: "Johnny Belinda" can claim one of the two attributes. Its second attribute is numerically different.
    The first reader to answer the question correctly will receive products from Fruits & Passion.
    Trivia enthusiasts can call me at 508-626-4409 or email me at rtremblay@wickedlocal.com. Make sure you leave your name, address and phone number on my message machine or email so I can contact you if you answered the question correctly. The address is needed so winners can be mailed their prize. Callers should spell out their names slowly and clearly so their names will be spelled correctly in the column.
    Answers will be accepted until 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 12. Good luck!
     

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