10 Actors Who Got Sent To Movie Jail

Mel Gibson almost played Odin in Thor

Every time a celebrity goes to jail, the public gets excited. Whether one of these elite human beings has demonstrated their human qualities by drinking and driving, hiring a prostitute, or punching out a photographer, their entertainment value reaches a whole new level. But while the public’s reaction toward an actor who has behaved notoriously, on or off set, is fairly straightforward, something that is not so frequently remarked upon is the industry’s reaction to such indiscretions.

Hollywood is a marketplace, and celebrities are commodities. While the public’s reaction to celebrity antics (which is usually enhanced by the media) is principally based on a morality scale, the industry’s reaction is based on a financial scale. If the public finds said antics or the financial performance of a given actor's past films unfavorable, they won’t be as inclined to go to that celebrity’s next movie. Furthermore, celebrity antics can result in extended production times, toxic environments for the celeb’s fellow cast and crew, or they can frustrate the producers. For all of these reasons, many actors have been sentenced to various periods of time in movie jail.

Here are 10 Actors Who Got Sent To Movie Jail.

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Katherine Heigl as Izzie on Grey's Anatomy
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10 Katherine Heigl

Katherine Heigl as Izzie on Grey's Anatomy

Former fashion model Katherine Heigl rose to prominence in the entertainment industry through a variety of film and television roles, including Dr. Izzie Stevens on Grey’s Anatomy, a role for which she earned an Emmy in 2007.

By 2010, her five year run on the show ended after she publicly criticized the show’s writing and eventually parted ways with the show and its creator, Shonda Rhimes. Her additional public criticism of her breakout role on the big screen, Knocked Up, didn’t do much to endear her to the film industry, and before long, she was doing commercials for cold medication and kitty litter. Though Heigl has continued to find television and film work -- including a starring role on the TV series State of Affairs (which lasted one season), a few forgettable dramedies, and an uninspired animated film -- it appears as though she’s still serving a cinematic sentence for talking smack about her most well-performing projects.

9 Christian Slater

Christian Slater interview

Slater had acted in a variety of films and tv series throughout the '80s until, at the age of 19, people took serious note of him after his performance in the dark comedy Heathers. Following that, he appeared in a variety of eclectic roles, some of which landed him in nigh-iconic waters (such as Pump Up The Volume and True Romance).

Unfortunately, Slater made a series of off-screen missteps which accompanied his on-screen success. But it wasn’t until the late '90s that his real life drama eclipsed that of his work. Reports of drug and alcoholic binges, domestic violence, and tussling with the cops initially landed him in jail and rehab; afterwards, his screen appearances principally consisted of supporting roles in a few decent films and lead roles in a few not-so-decent films. His off-screen antics made a comeback in 2005, when he was arrested for sexual assault. Following that, there was another string of duds with the occasional charmingly quirky film sprinkled in. Over the past 10 years, his career has gradually been finding its way onto a solid track, especially given his increased work on well-regarded television shows (most notably in the titular role of Mr. Robot).

8 Elizabeth Banks

Elizabeth Banks in Love and Mercy

The next entry is one that hasn’t harmed her own career as a result of off screen shenanigans. Her sentence was the result of a career that began with several box office flops. In the world of Hollywood, guilt by association is a norm; if an actor’s movies don’t open (perform well at the box office), then the actor becomes a jinx in the eyes of producers and distributors.

After having a lead role in the bomb Ordinary Sinner (2001), Banks performed well in a variety of supporting roles. In 2003, she took on another lead role in The Trade, which was not well received. After another handful of supporting roles, she took the lead in The Sisters (2005), which performed reasonably well. 

She's done much better as of late, starring in a litany of successful projects, from  Role Models to Lego Movie. She's even set to play the villainous Rita Repulsa in the upcoming Power Rangers movie, so it's safe to say she's escaped from movie jail. For now.

7 F. Murray Abraham

F. Murray Abraham

The very distinct-looking Abraham worked in a variety of roles before landing the highly coveted role of Salieri in Milos Forman’s Amadeus (1984), for which Abraham won the Oscar for Best Actor. Following this, Abraham became a bit too selective in his film choices. This evidently caused waves in Hollywood and resulted in his inability to land anything better than a couple of decent supporting roles.

Over the next 30 years or so, he has had a few decent turns (in supporting bits), but it seems as though he either played Salieri too well and became typecast, or, as he has maintained in interviews, he's been punished for playing the snob who thought he was better than everyone else because he took home an Oscar.

6 Nicolas Cage

Once regarded as a pretty boy with a quirky style, Cage’s run on the A-List lasted a good 20 years, and his resume includes such charmers as Raising Arizona, Wild at Heart, and Face/Off, as well as weightier fare like Leaving Las Vegas and Adaptation (the former for which he earned an Oscar and the latter for which he earned an Academy Award Nomination).

Shortly after 2002’s Oscar nod, Cage’s prolific oeuvre centered on cartoonish adventures and doomsday scenarios, with few deviations. In many of his recent films, he has come across as a caricature of himself (which actually worked quite well in his over-the-top performance in Kick-Ass). Furthermore, while Forbes Magazine named him as one of the highest paid actors in 2009 [he earned $40 million that year], he soon after ran into trouble with the IRS, had several of his homes foreclosed on, and entered into legal battles with his financial adviser. Since his financial troubles seem to persist, Cage still fills in the blanks between his occasional gems by serving time in D Block of movie jail, making brainless films to help pad his expenses.

5 John Travolta

John Travolta in Old Dogs

After rising up through the ranks to achieve stardom through a couple of De Palma films, Saturday Night Fever, and the TV series Welcome Back Cotter, Travolta attempted to tread water by revisiting the character of Tony Mareno in the Fever sequel Staying Alive and acting alongside his Grease co-star Olivia Newton-John in Two of a Kind, but it didn’t work. The magic spell had dissipated, and Travolta would spend the next 10 years making flops in movie jail until Quentin Tarantino hired him to play a drug addicted assassin in Pulp Fiction.

Tarantino’s make-over helped him stay afloat, playing variations on his new image as a hard-edged character actor, but over the next 10 years, this wave gradually ebbed. Now, in between the spectre of his status as a member of the Church of Scientology and a few odd moments like his introduction of singer Idina Menzel (calling her Adele Dazeem) prior to her performance at the 2014 Academy Awards, Travolta only seems to leave his jail of lousy movies for the rare decent outing.

4 Robert Downey Jr.

Captain America: Civil War - Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark

In the wake of his mega successful reign in the Marvel empire, it might be difficult for some people to recall that Downey was once in movie jail. After taking on both gritty roles (like Julian in Less Than Zero [1987]) and pretty boy parts  (like Ian in Weird Science [1985]) in a supporting capacity in smaller films, as well as the lead in bigger films (like Chaplin in 1992), Downey’s success hit a five year snag between 1996 and 2001, when a series of drug-related incidents landed him in rehab, county jail, and state prison.

Upon his release from proper jail, he received critical praise for his recurring role in Ally McBeal (he was nominated for an Emmy and won a Golden Globe), but due to continuing problems, he was eventually dismissed from the show. After that, filmmakers had a tough time insuring him for their projects, and he mostly worked on a cross section of independent films until Iron Man and Tropic Thunder brought him back to the land of big budget blockbusters. He's now one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood.

3 Mickey Rourke

The Wrestler (Mickey Rourke)

After beginning his career as a boxer, Rourke transitioned into acting. As an attractive actor with powerful dramatic chops, Rourke was frequently cast in romantic thrillers such as Body Heat and 9 ½ Weeks and in crime dramas like The Pope of Greenwich Village and Year of the Dragon. By the early '90s, directors were complaining about his erratic behavior, and he was allegedly turning down high-profile acting jobs left and right.

This behavior (and his decision to return to boxing) resulted in his self-imposed sentence in movie jail. Unfortunately, he was also disfigured in the ring — an injury that was exacerbated by botched plastic surgery. For the next 10 years or so, Rourke’s reputation wavered as his work output of various crime thrillers danced around his celebrity, with headlines of drunken behavior and spousal abuse abound. When Darren Aronofsky gave Rourke a shot at playing a character similar to himself in The Wrestler, Aronofsky allegedly claimed that he couldn’t insure Rourke, so he offered Rourke a chance to work for free. Rourke was given an Oscar nod, and it appears as though he has some degree of redemption, though he has gone quiet once again in recent years.

2 Lindsay Lohan

Lindsay Lohan in Machete

Lohan is the quintessential example of a good girl gone bad. A product of the Walt Disney studio machine, she once starred in family friendly fare like the remakes of The Parent Trap and Freaky Friday. When she hit her 20s in the mid-2000s, the reports began of a series of car accidents and hospitalizations, which coincided with various other reports involving selfish and irresponsible behavior. DUIs and rehabilitation followed. Then another wave of DUIs and rehabilitation, with a sprinkling of proper jail time.

At this time, there were various false starts to a number of projects she had signed on to perform in. Several of her projects were put on hold, she withdrew from others, and she was replaced in The Edge of Love (2007) when director John Maybury reportedly said she was uninsurable. Lousy projects, bad performances, and continuing personal issues continue to keep Lohan in movie jail, from which she may never escape.

1 Mel Gibson

Mel Gibson

After starring in the Mad Max films and then achieving blockbuster success with the Lethal Weapon action series, Gibson approached Godlike Hollywood status with his Academy Award-winning sophomore directing project, Braveheart. In the early 90s, he had courted controversy with slurs against the gay community, which were published in an interview he had done with a Spanish newspaper. Shortly after this, he came out about his alcohol problem, but it wasn’t until he attacked the Jews that things got really bad for him.

In the wake of his Academy Award nominated film The Passion of the Christ, Gibson received much criticism for the film’s alleged anti-semitic message and for his father’s status as a Holocaust denier. This may have fueled his anger during the fateful traffic stop in 2006, wherein he drunkenly raved to a traffic cop about Jewish people being the cause of all war. Needless to say, Hollywood did not take this lightly, and Gibson basically did not work again for about five years, when he began doing small dramas and thrillers. Even during this time, however, Gibson’s personal life overshadowed his screen work, as he and his wife of 26 years ended their marriage, and Gibson had a brief but unstable relationship with Russian pianist Oksana Grigorieva. Whether his time in movie jail will effectively end with a potential Passion of the Christ sequel remains to be seen.


Which of these actors do you want to see escape from movie jail (assuming they're still there)? Sound off in the comments.

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