We all like to imagine that the lives of actors are easy. You show up on set, say a few lines, pout a bit for the camera. Maybe they do some cool stunt or overly choreographed fight, kiss the romantic lead and then they’re out of there with plenty of time to catch an early happy hour. We never imagine the behind the scenes drama, the hard work, the preparation and the heartbreak of a poorly received piece role and the toll it takes.
If you think the latest version of The Mummy made you feel bad, imagine being Tom Cruise. Having your name and reputation dragged through the mud multiple times a day, by every industry magazine and website on the planet. Barely anybody saw The Mummy but everyone who did hated it. That kind of thing has to weigh on you. It might be enough to make Tom wanna quit this whole acting gig for good.
Of course, he probably won’t. But what if I told you some people do? Some actors are so fed up with the behind the stress of making terrible films they just peace out on their whole career forever because of it. And meanwhile, some actors take after Jerry Seinfeld: They deliver something so good they decide to leave the audience wanting more. The truth is rage quitting because a role or series of roles stinks is really common, but so is going out on a high note. We’re here to count down the 9 times actors rage quit on a role and the 6 times they left after a great one.
16. Mother! – Jennifer Lawrence – Good Role
To be fair, J-Law hasn’t officially announced that she was going to quit acting forever. What she actually said as that she was going to ‘take a break’ from actin for at least the next two years. This is a very similar to Gene Hackman and Alec Baldwin who backed away from acting by announcing they didn’t have anything lined up and didn’t plan on lining anything up. To be fair to Jennifer, she has carried a lot of franchises on her back and probably turned down a Mystique spin off film here and there.
She’s also been the target of privacy leaks and a ton of tabloid fodder about the drama behind all of her relationships.
In an interview on Today, she revealed quite a bit about her thought process leading in to this break. “I was angry and resentful because I thought that I deserved the right to do what I love and do my job and then still have privacy. And then after a few years you’re like but that’s not the way it is… “It’s important to just keep a separation and know that the people who are screaming outside a premier, they’re screaming because of a job and a character…I don’t put any stock in it.”
She said this after the release of the divisive film Mother! but before the release of the highly anticipated Red Sparrow. It is hard to know if this is just a marketing gimmick or if Lawrence is taking a breather for real. Only time will tell.
15. The Emoji Movie – Jordan Peele – Bad Role
Jordan Peele is a national treasure. First, because of his years as a writer, actor, director, and co-creator of the legendary Key & Peele television show. Second, because he wrote and directed the breakout horror hit of 2017 that perfectly captured the zeitgeist of our troubled times: Get Out.
But before that, Peele was an actor fresh off his TV show and looking for a gig. That is when the producers of the Emoji Movie offered him a role in the film. They wanted him to play the poop emoji. Confused and kind of shocked, Peele wasn’t sure if they were serious or if he should take it. He took a night to think about it and the next day found out they had given the role to Sir Patrick Stewart of Baby Genius’s fame. This experience soured him on the very concept of acting and its when he decided to laser focus his skills on writing and directing resulting in Get Out. Proof that sometimes the roles you don’t play an come to define you as much as the ones you do.
14. Many Movies – George Clooney – Bad Role(s)
George Clooney seems to always be in the news so, you might not have noticed he hasn’t had a hit movie in a long time. But Clooney noticed and he decided to comment on it on an interview with The Sunday Times in November of 2017:
“I acted for a long time and, you know, I’m 56. I’m not the guy that gets the girl anymore… Acting used to be how I paid the rent, but I sold a tequila company for a billion dollars. I don’t need money.”
So somewhere between being too old to be a leading man and ‘not needing the money’, Clooney decided he was going to ‘peace out on the biz’ altogether.
Time will tell whether or not he’s going to use his tequila fortune to start a Tomorrowland esq underground utopia for fellow geniuses or just buy a few islands and enjoy his golden years with his journalist wife and twin boys.
13. All Of His Movies – Alec Baldwin – Soft Quit
Just like anyone who has deactivated their Facebook for a month and then come back will tell you, “It’s still quitting even if it doesn’t last.” It isn’t the amount of time that matters, it’s the principle of the thing. In 2009, Alec Baldwin announced that his entire film career was a failure. As he said at the time:
“The goal of movie-making is to star in a film where your performance drives the film, and the film is either a soaring critical or commercial success, and I never had that.”
In the case of Mr. Baldwin it wasn’t just one role that made him rage quit: it was all of them. He was actively avoiding his own work and stewing over the waste of his youth. So he made it clear that in 2012 –after the end of 30 Rock –he would ‘quit acting for good.’ True to his word, he did. For a while. Kind of. You might have noticed that it is 2018 and Alec Baldwin is still acting. His portrayal of Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live is a headlining grabbing part of the zeitgeist. But to be fair he really did walk away from movies… for a while. Three years in total. We as a people are all the more blessed to have him back, after all who else could have been The Boss Baby?
12. Welcome to Mooseport – Gene Hackman – Bad Role
If Superman couldn’t keep Gene Hackman down, what chance would Hollywood have? Well, it turns out pretty good. In fact you could say it was inevitable. As an actor ages, they lose touch with what’s cool, what’s good, and basically what is going on. They can be forgiven for making choices that aren’t exactly their best and the kind of offers they get tend to dry up. This situation explains Gene Hackman exactly. In 2004, Ray Romano filmed his first movie and Gene Hackman filmed his last: Welcome To Mooseport. It was a political comedy with all the edge of a plastic butter knife.
He wasn’t very well received, the film itself wasn’t very well received. And maybe that it was just enough for the veteran actor.
11. Game Of Thrones – Jack Gleeson – Good Role
When you’re young, you don’t really know who you are or what you want. A lot of people grow up wanting to be actors and some people grow up actually being actors. For those who don’t achieve that dream, it probably seems impossible to imagine that someone who was born into it could possibly walk away from it. But perspective looks both ways, doesn’t it.
And being young while having an iconic villain charaters under your belt might make you look at the world different. For Jack Gleeson, the idea that he would turn acting into his day job where he was expected to hustle for work, show up every day to act and do press for the rest of his life just seemed uninspiring. He already accomplished a lot and it wasn’t fun anymore. Why not try something new?
10. The Phanton Menace – Jake Lloyd – Bad Role
It seems like turning to the dark side might have some unexpected downsides. First there was David Prowse, the British body builder who played Darth Vader in the original trilogy but never got his face or voice on screen, and was eventually banned from participating in any officially sanctioned Star Wars events. Now there is Jake Lloyd. The adorable little kid who warmed all of our hearts with his portrayal as Anakin Skywalker in the Phantom Menace.
Lloyd was a bright up and coming young star in 1997, as he had already made Jingle All The Way and been featured on multiple episodes of ER. His role as the young Darth Vader seemed like it was just the break he needed to establish himself as a working actor. However the role ended up turning him off acting for good.
Being a child meant that he was unprepared for the inevitable backlash that came from the film.
As he said years later: “Other children were really mean to me… they would make the sound of the lightsaber every time they saw me. It was totally mad.”
9. Revenge of the Sith – Hayden Christensen – Bad Role
Again the legacy of the dark side creeps in to the real world. Much like Jake Lloyd, Hayden Christensen, was an up and coming young actor in Hollywood. The opportunity to play a teenage Darth Vader seemed to be a dream come true. But the execution was more of a nightmare. Where as Jake Lloyd only had to deal with kids on the playground, Christensen was old enough to take the full brunt of critics who were unimpressed with the prequels as a whole.
He was also a bit shy about having his whole future handed to him, as he said in an interview with the L.A Times:
“I felt like I had this great thing in Star Wars that provided all these opportunities and gave me a career, but it all kind of felt a little too handed to me. I didn’t want to go through life feeling like I was just riding a wave.’
8. The 13th Warrior – Omar Sharif – Bad Role
Omar Sharif was a much lauded, classical actor with a CV that stretched decades and included classic films like Lawrence Of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago. In 1999, he took a chance on an action film called The 13th Warrior, starring Antonio Banderas, that was about vikings and sultans waging war against the undead. His role was basically a cardboard, visual reference to the work he was famous for in Arabia and the film itself was a critical and commercial flop.
It was a humiliating experience and it caused Sharif to walk away from acting for over five years.
7. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Peter Ostrum – Good Role
The original film version of Charlie And The Chocolate Factory is a classic. It delivered a star making, meme inspiring, performance from Gene Wilder and introduced the world to a young actor named Peter Ostrum. The film was Peter’s first and until this point he had dreams of being an actor. However, by the time it had wrapped he declined a three film contract with the studio. Years later he would talk of his experience, saying: “everybody thinks that acting is such a glamorous profession, but it’s a difficult profession.”
6. The Razor’s Edge – Bill Murray – Bad Role
No one has ever accused Bill Murray of just phoning in a performance, even though he himself has talked of sleep walking through his most famous roles. The Razor’s Edge was a passion project for Murray. In fact, he only took on Ghostbusters because he was promised it would help him get his crazy, existential, pipe dream about a man trying to find himself made. Murray wrote, starred in, and produced the film himself. It was a total disaster.
The movie never made back its budget and critics were confused and disillusioned by its uneven tone and pacing.
Murray took the criticism personally and having been already sick of the frat house comedies he was making, he decided to walk away from acting. He moved to Paris. He read philosophy. The role didn’t end his career permanently but it helped him realign with what he wanted to do in films.
5. Aliens – Carrie Henn – Good Role
James Cameron released one of the best sequels of all time in 1987 with his film Aliens. The movie was a significant factor in making Bill Paxton cool, creating the strong female hero archetype, and re-inventing what a sequel is and could be. It also introduced the world to a young Carrie Henn. Even thought it was the first movie the actress had ever been in, she received top billing alongside Sigourney Weaver.
The movie was a bigger hit than anyone could have anticipated and also received plenty of critical praise. It seemed like Henn was set up to jump start her career. However, that wasn’t quite what she had in mind. Carrie has never explained why she walked away from acting other than saying she was never approached for Alien 3 and never had much interest in it. She is currently a school teacher in Atwater, California and puts in appearances at various sci fi conventions around the country.
4. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen – Sean Connery – Bad Role
Sean Connery passed on an unnamed role in The Matrix and then again on the role of Gandalf in Lord Of The Rings. His reasoning for passing on these roles at the time was that he “didn’t understand” the scripts. He eventually came to regret the fact that both franchises went on to make hundreds of millions of dollars. So, when the script for a little film called League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen came across his desk and he couldn’t make hide nor hair of it, he pounced! Connery was no fool and he wasn’t going to pass up a new fangled franchise for the third time.
Well, third time isn’t always the charm, as LXG was a critical and financial disaster.
A regular laughing stock of the film industry. Fed up with the nonsense that Hollywood was churning out, Connery quit. This was fifteen years ago. Connery has never come back. Michael Caine has said that Connery told him he was uninspired by the roles available to old men and he simply wouldn’t bother. It’s sad to know that Blowfeld, The Nazi’s, The Immortals, and The Rock couldn’t bring Sean Connery down, but The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen could devastate him forever.
3. Phantom Thread – Daniel Day Lewis – Good Role
Noted cobbler Daniel Day Lewis has also been known to turn in his fair share of award studded performances over the years. Whether it is SAG, BAFTA, The Golden Globes, or The Academy Awards, Lewis has been well compensated for his acting skills. An devoted method actor who is renown for his extreme dedication to getting into and staying in character, Lewis announced before the premiere of his latest film, Phantom Thread, that it would indeed be his last.
He said he can’t quite explain it but the story of Phantom Thread made him sad and he plans to never actually see it.
He doesn’t consider the films he is making to be vital or very good and he doesn’t care if the audience disagrees stating:
‘Not wanting to see the film is connected to the decision I’ve made to stop working as an actor. But it’s not why the sadness came to stay. That happened during the telling of the story, and I don’t really know why… I dread to use the overused word ‘artist,’ but there’s something of the responsibility of the artist that hung over me. I need to believe in the value of what I’m doing. The work can seem vital. Irresistible, even. And if an audience believes it, that should be good enough for me. But, lately, it isn’t.’
2. Annie – Cameron Diaz – Bad Role
Unlike most of the stars on this list, Cameron Diaz didn’t announce her break from Hollywood ahead of time. Instead, Diaz talked openly about her glaring absence after a few years when she sat down at a GOOP conference:
“I just went, ‘I can’t really say who I am to myself,’ which is a hard thing to face up to, I felt the need to make myself whole.”
Perhaps it was the critically panned movies like Sex Tape or Annie that helped usher the one time leading lady who demanded 15 million dollars a movie out of the industry.
Perhaps it was the fact that she made 15 million dollars a movie and never had to work again. Whatever the reason, Diaz has been busy “finding herself” for over four years now and her IMDB shows no projects on the horizon.
1. Chappelle’s Show – David Chappelle – Good Role
When it was on air, Chappelle’s Show might very well have been greatest sketch comedy show of our generation. At the time, Saturday Night Live was on life support, MAD TV had already peaked and In Living Color was a long distant memory. Nothing spoke to the zeitgeist quite as boldly and hilariously as Chappelle’s Show. Which might explain why Dave decided to suddenly and abruptly end it all in the middle of filming and fly to Africa. He also walked away from ever acting again.
It has been over 12 years since Dave stormed out of the filming of his show and in that time he hasn’t made a movie or a scripted TV series even once. All he has done is one episode of SNL which was basically just a way to plug his long awaited return to stand up on Netflix. The funny thing about Dave, and the reason he warrants the number one slot, is that unlike the actors who rage quit after terrible roles: Dave rage quit in the middle of an awesome, career defining role. Showing that he is indeed always a maverick.
Which of these surprised you most? Let us know in the comments!
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