Celebrities are, above all, masters of branding. Whether a movie star, TV icon, or somewhere in between, the ones worth remembering are the ones who cultivate a consistent image, a persona we can instantly associate with them. Tom Cruise is always intense and exuberant (and running). Julia Roberts has the girl-next-door vibe and that thing where she fights back tears through a pained smile. Leonardo DiCaprio is either giving us epic, expletive laden rants or raising his glass for a toast.
Just because we know a celebrity’s persona inside and out does not mean we know the celebrity. While there are certainly instances of those who are every bit the sweetheart they play onscreen, they are dwarfed by the number of celebrities who the complete opposite. That’s not to say anyone on this list is a bad person, but rather that their interactions with fans and peers over the years have reportedly left much to be desired.
Here Are 10 Huge Stars From The ‘90s Who Are Jerks (And 10 Who Are Sweethearts).
20 Jerk - Steven Seagal
In the 1990s, Steven Seagal was one of Hollywood’s premiere action stars, churning out cheap but entertaining fare like Out for Justice (1991), Under Siege (1992) and On Deadly Ground (1994). The further we get from Seagal’s heyday, however, the more we seem to learn about his thoroughly jerkish behavior behind the scenes. He reportedly beat up John Leguizamo on the set of Executive Decision (1996), pushing the comedian against a brick wall and knocking the wind out of him for making a snide remark.
As if that weren’t enough, several actresses have accused Seagal of harassment, with Jenny McCarthy claiming that he told her to take off her dress during an audition for Under Siege 2: Dark Territory (1995), despite the fact that there were no scenes of that nature in the film. Similar claims have been made by Portia de Rossi, Regina Simons, and Julianna Margulies, with the latter revealing that Seagal brought a gun to one of their “private auditions.”
Though his films continue to provide trashy action fun, it’s pretty clear that hanging out with Seagal in real life is no picnic.
19 Sweetheart - Alicia Silverstone
From starring in the video for Aerosmith’s “Cryin’” (1993) to zeitgeist-defining roles in The Crush (1994) and Clueless (1995), Alicia Silverstone was, for a short time, as ubiquitous as pagers. And like pagers, she failed to translate her stardom to the new millennium-- we’re going to assume the abyssal Batman & Robin (1997) played a large role in ensuring that. Silverstone has acted sporadically since, but her movie career has largely taken a backseat to her career as an activist
Silverstone currently runs a website titled The Kind Life, where she engages with fans about topics as varied as motherhood, healthy dieting, and the importance of being environment-friendly.
She is also an avid supporter of animal rights, writing about her love for dogs, in particular, in her companion book The Kind Diet. When asked why she feels so compelled to support these organizations, Silverstone explained, "The only thing that makes any sense about being a celebrity to me is this — being able to make a difference.” Sounds like a sweetheart to us.
18 Jerk - Val Kilmer
From one Batman star to another. Val Kilmer is legendary for his unpleasant attitude onset, to the extent that most everyone he’s worked with has a few dubious things to say. Batman Forever (1995) director Joel Schumacher once called him “childish and impossible.” John Frankenheimer, who directed the actor in The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996), said point blank: “I don’t like Val Kilmer, I don’t like his work ethic, and I don’t want to be associated with him ever again.”
Then there was the alleged incident between Kilmer and actress Caitlin O’Heaney during pre-production of The Doors (1991).
Speaking with Buzzfeed last year, O’Heaney says that the actor unexpectedly hit her in the face and knocked her to the ground during an audition. “Kilmer picked me up and shaked me, throwing me down to the floor,” she recounted, “[director Oliver] Stone just stood there the whole time laughing.” O’Heaney added that she was paid $24,500 afterwards to keep quiet. Yikes. Not the best move, Kilmer.
17 Sweetheart - Jeff Goldblum
We can’t imagine anyone is surprised with this one. Jeff Goldblum is a national treasure of quirks and pauses, and the same eccentricity he put forth in ‘90s blockbusters like Jurassic Park (1993) and Independence Day (1996) is the same one he treats his fans to in real life. Accounts of meeting Goldblum range from the causally charming to the utterly delightful, like one in which the actor caught a couple looking his way at a restaurant, walked over to them, and asked if they would like to take a photo with him.
Other stories paint Goldblum as surprisingly down to earth, whether sitting in the stands at baseball game or waiting to use the treadmill at a local gym.
In each instance, the actor has been quick to embrace the fandom and showed his appreciation by co-signing the countless memes and internet jokes that have used his likeness. He even suggests that you hang some of those memes above your fireplace.
16 Jerk - Wesley Snipes
Wesley Snipes had one heck of a run in the ‘90s, starring in New Jack City (1991), White Men Can’t Jump (1992), Passenger 57 (1993), and Blade (1998) among countless others. He was one of the most reliable leading men in the business, able to be comedic and commanding all at once. But then, the behind the scenes stories started coming in. Turns out, Snipes had become quite the prima donna by the time he shot Blade: Trinity in 2004, to the extent that he refused to utter a word to director David S. Goyer.
One of the film’s co-stars, Patton Oswalt, recounted Snipes’ outlandish behavior to The A.V. Club, saying that Snipes would only communicate via post-it notes that were signed “Blade”, would refuse to come out of his trailer until he was properly stoned, and, at one point, tried to literally strangle Goyer onset. That’s not even mentioning Snipes’ 2010 prison stint for tax evasion. Combine the two and you get an actor who’s thoroughly over the hill when it comes to being a fan favorite.
15 Sweetheart - Steve Buscemi
Instantly recognizable for his bulging eyes, Steve Buscemi burst onto the scene with a standout performance in Reservoir Dogs (1992), before going on a tear that included comedies like Billy Madison (1995) and The Wedding Singer (1998) and action blockbusters like Desperado (1995) and Con Air (1997). What you might not expect, however, seeing as Buscemi usually plays weasels onscreen, is that the New York native is a legitimate hero in real life.
A firefighter before he turned to acting in the 1980s, Buscemi rejoined his old outfit as a volunteer after the 9/11 attacks.
He spent days working twelve hour shifts, digging through the rubble of the collapsed buildings in search of missing civilians and firefighters. To further solidify his image as a selfless do-gooder, Buscemi reportedly turned away requests to have his picture taken, as he didn’t want his volunteer work to overshadow the work at hand. It wasn’t until a decade later that the story got out.
14 Jerk - Meg Ryan
Before Julia Roberts or Jennifer Lawrence, Meg Ryan owned the mantle of “America’s Sweetheart.” Her bubbly demeanor and comedic chops resulted in a seemingly endless string of hits, with Sleepless in Seattle (1993), French Kiss (1995), and You’ve Got Mail (1998) being some of the most notable. She even held her own in dramatic fare like The Doors (1991) and Courage Under Fire (1996). Unfortunately, the 2000s marked the end of Ryan’s reign, both as a box office star and as the nation’s aforementioned sweetheart.
While shooting the film Proof of Life in 2000, Ryan was caught cheating on her husband Dennis Quaid with her co-star Russell Crowe.
The scandal broke up their marriage and Ryan has struggled to gain her footing onscreen ever since. In the few instances where she has popped up, like 2008’s remake of The Women, reports persisted that she tried to use her stardom as a means of getting special treatment, and that she didn’t get along with the rest of the cast and crew.
13 Sweetheart - Luke Perry
Luke Perry will always be remembered as the cool and collected Dylan McKay on the seminal TV series Beverly Hills, 90210. And while he was never able to parlays his stardom into a movie career, Perry is still considered by many to be a ‘90s staple. A mantle, it turns out, he’s more than happy to embrace. There are several stories online about Perry being a welcome sight at events, where he regularly jokes and takes photos with admirers of the show. “Every weekend should be “Meet Luke Perry” weekend!,” wrote one particularly excited fan after meeting him.
Perry’s 90210 associates seem to share in the praise. “We’re [still] really close friends,” says Jennie Garth, “I love him so much!” Jesy McKinney, who played Perry in the TV biopic The Unauthorized Beverly Hills, 90210 Story in 2015, spoke on the actor’s disarming presence. “Luke is very down to earth. He’s a well spoken guy, but he doesn’t say a lot, and what he does say he really means.” All things considered, it’s nice to a nice guy like Perry back in the spotlight, playing Archie Andrews’ father on Riverdale.
12 Jerk - Macaulay Culkin
Macaulay Culkin found success at an earlier age than most, starring in the comedy classics Home Alone (1990) and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992) at the ages of and ten and twelve, respectively.
As he matured into his teen years, however, and later into adulthood, Culkin developed a reputation for being arrogant in interviews and mean to his fans.
One fan recalls being on the set of the 2004 film Saved!, where he and several others were clamoring to get Culkin’s autograph. He claims that instead of acknowledging them, the actor pretended to walk around on his cell phone and responded only when one of the female fans said he was sexy. Culkin also had ties to illegal substances.
Still, Culkin was spotted looking healthier and happier at the start of the new year, so perhaps nicer things are on the horizon.
11 Sweetheart - Danielle Fishel
If you grew up in the ‘90s, you remember Topanga Lawrence. The foil and eventual love interest for the titular character in Boy Meets World, she was a fan favorite that springboarded actress Danielle Fishel into overnight stardom. Since the show’s finale, Fishel has stayed incredibly busy; earning a degree in psychology and hosting the satirical news show The Dish.
Through it all, she remains someone that fans can comfortably approach.
“It’s an exhilarating feeling to meet someone you grew up admiring so much,” one fan wrote after interviewing Fishel, “ and to learn that they are just as kind and smart as they appeared on TV, if not more.” More recently, Fishel has moved behind the camera, applying her talents to the spinoff of the show that made her famous, and bringing her career full circle. “One of the greatest gifts Girl Meets World gave me,” Fishel says, “[was] I was able to direct and it kind of showed me that this is like the next path I wanna take.”
10 Jerk - Sarah Michelle Gellar
While her starring role in Buffy the Vampire Slayer made her a household name, Sarah Michelle Gellar grew increasingly tired of the series as it neared completion.
She made her disdain for several of Joss Whedon’s overarching narratives evident behind the scenes and announced that she was leaving the show after season seven without telling any of the cast and crew.
It was a decision that caused a major riff between her and co-star Alyson Hannigan.
To further hinder her persona as the once beloved Buffy, Gellar has developed a reputation for being a controlling wife to husband and I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) co-star Freddie Prinze, Jr. Rumors have persisted that Gellar systematically got rid of Prinze’s childhood friends after their wedding in 2002. One of these alleged friends claimed that the actress called him to inform that his friendship with Prinze was officially over. None of these claims do much to debunk the high-maintenance title she earned during Buffy’s production: the ‘Dutchess.’
9 Sweetheart - Robin Williams
Robin Williams’ legendary run of hits in the ‘90s-- Aladdin, Mrs. Doubtfire, Jumanji, Good Will Hunting-- is matched only his reputation as being one of Hollywood’s consummate nice guys.
The childlike enthusiasm was no act for the Oscar winner and he made sure that those less fortunate than him always had a smile on their face.
There are dozens of lists detailing the good deeds that Williams performed before his untimely death, from visiting terminally ill fans and entertaining the troops in Iraq to raising millions of dollars for charity.
Williams also put a smile on the face of some of his famous buddies. He repeatedly called Steven Spielberg during production of the bleak Schindler’s List (1993) to get him to smile and after his longtime friend Christopher Reeve became a quadriplegic in 1995, proved that laughter was indeed the best medicine. “For the first time since the accident,” Reeve later said, “I laughed. My old friend had helped me know that somehow I was going to be okay.”
8 Jerk - Shannen Doherty
Perhaps the most notoriously difficult person on this list, Shannen Doherty became an overnight sensation with her starring role on Beverly Hills, 90210. Seemingly in record time, the fame went to Doherty’s head, as co-star Jason Priestley recalls the actress complaining about not having a limo or a private jet to travel around in.
She clashed so strongly with the other actresses on the show that her character was written out completely after the fourth season.
Doherty bounced back with Charmed in the late ‘90s, but again, her penchant for diva behavior put a strain on the producers as well as co-star Alyssa Milano. Milano later admitted that there were “definitely some rough days” while Doherty was on the show. Her character was eventually killed off in the third season finale, and she was replaced by Rose McGowan.
The actress has since made peace with Milano, with the latter telling Page Six that they chat on a semi-regular basis: “Shannen and I talk a lot on Twitter via direct messenger... she was very appreciative that I reached out, which was very sweet.”
7 Sweetheart - John Stamos
John Stamos was, and will forever be, Uncle Jesse, but over the years he’s also proven himself to a natural in the business of being a nice guy. The internet is littered with articles about Stamos’ good deeds, from giving money to a homeless person to helping a random fan propose to his wife on video. In every instance, he puts forth the same easygoing charm that made him such a fan favorite on Full House-- a legacy he’s been more than happy to uphold with cameos on the Netflix spinoff Fuller House.
Stamos is such an upstanding dude that he’s even willing to admit when he’s wrong.
In 2015, the actor was pulled over and given a DUI by the Beverly Hills police department. Instead of getting upset or trying to sweep the encounter under the rug, however, he thanked them on Twitter: “Thanks to everyone for their love & support. I'm home & well. Very appreciative of the BHPD & Cedars for their care.”
6 Jerk - Tommy Lee Jones
Let’s be clear: Tommy Lee Jones is a terrific actor. Especially during the ‘90s, when he snagged juicy roles in JFK (1991), Natural Born Killers (1994), Men in Black (1997), and The Fugitive (1993), which won him an Academy Award. The man oozes talent. According to some fans, however, he can also come off ornery, curt, and sometimes, a bit unpleasant.
Jones is notorious for being indifferent to meeting fans, often times ignoring them or refusing to sign autographs outright.
The same goes for press tours, where he’s been known to snap at interviewers or throw their questions back at them. Then, of course, there’s the whole Batman Forever incident. Jones reportedly despised working with Jim Carrey on the 1995 superhero flick, telling Carrey point blank that he “hated” him and that he couldn’t sanction his “buffoonery.” Yeesh. At least Carrey was a good sport about it, and they got through their scenes without any further problems.
5 Sweetheart - Drew Barrymore
Drew Barrymore has had one of the best career turnarounds in recent memory. After breaking out as a child star in the ‘80s, and falling into substance addiction, Barrymore bounced back with a scene-stealing role in Scream (1996), and parlayed the exposure into hits like Ever After (1998), The Wedding Singer (1998) and Never Been Kissed (1999). Since then, the actress has been in the business of positivity, creating a line of beauty products and spending a great deal of her time offscreen working with various charities.
In 2008, she donated $1 million to the World Food Programme to help feed children in Africa.
Barrymore’s co-stars continue to sing her praise. “Drew is so easy going. She’s open and warm,” says Miss You Already (2015) co-star Toni Collette, “I know Drew has been many things in her life... but she gives her all. She’s altruistic and always thinks of other people first.” Adam Sandler has also called Barrymore a “sweetheart” and said “she’s like family” to him.
4 Jerk - Dustin Diamond
Screech from Saved By the Bell was a ‘90s icon, an embodiment of all things nerdy and funny. Unfortunately, the actor playing Screech, Dustin Diamond, was anything but. Diamond seemingly did everything in his power to ruin his family-friendly image, bragging about making love with over two thousand women and releasing an adult tape in 2006 titled Screeched - Saved By the Smell (ugh). He tried to backtrack a few years later by claiming that the man on the tape was a “stunt double”, but the damage to his reputation had already been done.
To further embolden his sleazy reputation, Diamond published a 2009 memoir, Behind The Bell, that made salacious claims about Saved By the Bell, including the suggestion that several of the cast members were in real relationships with each other, as well as some of the show’s producers. He once again tried to excuse himself by saying that the book’s ghostwriter had blown things out of proportion, but you can only cry wolf so many times before people stop caring.
3 Sweetheart - Tom Hanks
Is anyone surprised by this? Tom Hanks, the successor to James Stewart for everything that is wholesome and American, is, to be expected, a genuinely classy fellow. There are many accounts of Hanks surprising fans and taking photos with them, but it’s the extracurricular way that the Oscar winner goes about kindness that’s truly moving. In 2011, he bumped into an elderly couple at a gas station, who told them that the film they just saw him in, Larry Crowne, wasn’t very good. Hanks promptly apologized and gave them a $25 refund for their troubles.
More recently, Hanks has taken to his Twitter feed to share photographs of all the lost gloves he comes across in New York City.
It’s tough to say what inspired this random and ongoing quest, but there’s no denying the extreme care that he puts into making sure the gloves are returned to their rightful owners. Oh, and if that weren’t enough, him and his son Truman Hanks once spent an entire day helping the Girl Scouts in their neighborhood sell cookies.
2 Jerk - Gwyneth Paltrow
Is there a more polarizing actress in Hollywood than Gwyneth Paltrow? Talented as she may be, with a list of strong performances and an Oscar to her name, Paltrow still gets under people’s skin because of the bafflingly pretentious things she has to say. Whether discussing her dietary habits (“I’d rather smoke than eat cheese from a tin”), her inability to be anything but successful (“I am who I am. I can’t pretend to be somebody who makes $25,000 a year”), or, whatever this should be filed under (“When I pass a flowering zucchini plant in a garden, my heart skips a beat”), Paltrow can always be counted on to show a stunning lack of self-awareness.
To further compound the case against her, the actress has been quick to dismiss the hatred she gets as people who are envious of her success.
“Women in general get a lot of pushback,” she told Harper’s Bazaar, “especially if you're successful and attractive... I'm not saying I'm attractive. I mean when you're considered attractive." At the risk of damning with faint praise, at least she comes off pleasant enough in the Iron Man films.
1 Sweetheart - Keanu Reeves
Who doesn’t love Keanu? The ageless wonder manages to bring out the fanboy in all of us, whether you prefer him as a surfer, a savior, or the guy from Speed (1994). Reeves projects a genuine decency whenever he’s onscreen, but if the seemingly infinite well of fan stories about him are true, than his movies are doing him a disservice.
He once drove a woman fifty miles out his way because her car broke down.
He once gave $20,000 to a set builder on The Matrix (1999) because his family was in need. When there were fears that the special effects crew would have to be cut on The Matrix Reloaded (2003), he gave up some of his salary so that they could stay on. The most recent example of Reeves being the consummate gentleman, and one that went viral, was when he gave up his seat to a woman who was standing on the subway. Class. Act. Seriously, this guy is like John Wick when it comes to random acts of kindness-- always dead on.
Which one surprised you most? Let us know in the comments!
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