Fame is a funny thing. Actors and actresses blow up with one hit movies, and we instantly forget that they’ve been slogging through forgettable roles and background parts for years in order to “make it overnight.”
Perhaps the quintessential example is Bryan Cranston. Everybody knows him as meth-slinging psycho teacher Walter White in Breaking Bad. However, that casting couldn’t have happened without his one-off guest role in The X-Files, his role as Jerry’s dentist in Seinfeld, his role as Hal in Malcolm in the Middle, his voice work in Macross Plus and Power Rangers... or his Preparation H commercial.
Most actors are lucky enough not to have hocking hemorrhoid cream on their resume, but even the biggest actors in the world have some skeletons on their acting reel.
Take the actors of Marvel’s The Avengers franchise, for example-- you would be hard-pressed to find a man, woman, or child who doesn’t recognize Chris Evans as Captain America or Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury.
You would, however, be hard-pressed to find someone who remembers Chris Evans as Ryan from the movie Cellular, and he’d quite like to keep it that way. Likewise, Robert Downey Jr. probably hopes that people have forgotten about the time he wore a bra on his head as Ian in Weird Science. Unfortunately for them, the internet is forever.
Here are the 15 Humiliating Roles That The Avengers Wish You Would Forget.
15 Jeremy Renner - National Lampoon’s Senior Trip
Ah, National Lampoon. It was once a mark of quality-- the banner under which classics such as Animal House and the Vacation series were produced. Nowadays, National Lampoon’s output seems to have regressed to direct-to-video garbage like Dorm Daze and Beta House, with occasionally higher-quality outliers like National Lampoon’s Van Wilder.
Jeremy Renner’s screen debut was in one such pile of drek called Senior Trip. It was advertised on posters as National Lampoon’s Senior Trip.
Holding a coveted 0% on Rotten Tomatoes, the movie covers the adventures of Mark “Dags” D’Agastino as he and his goofy never-do-well friends are invited to Washington, DC to visit the President after writing a letter about why America’s education system is broken.
For obvious reasons, Jeremy Renner has never talked of it since.
14 Samuel L Jackson - The Spirit
Samuel L. Jackson is no stranger to taking B-movie roles over the years, and his IMDb is so lengthy you may sprain your finger scrolling through it. Sprinkled among the classic, hit, good-enough and so-bad-they’re-good movies are some real stinkers.
However, few are as embarrassing and terrible as The Spirit. Imagine Sin City on bath salts and you’ll get some idea of the unimaginably crass and incomprehensible final product directed by the once-sane comics legend Frank Miller.
Though it might be tempting to lay the blame solely on the director, Samuel L. Jackson bears a lot of responsibility for the tonal fruitcake the movie became. He had a hand in the decision for The Octopus to change costumes literally every time he’s on screen-- this included wearing an actual SS uniform.
It was also his decision and his alone to chew the scenery like a beaver on drugs. No wonder he’s been mum about the critically-ravaged comic book adaptation.
13 Mark Ruffalo - Mirror, Mirror 2: Raven Dance
Mirror, Mirror 2: Raven Dance is surprisingly unrelated to the 2012 Julia Roberts movie Mirror Mirror. Instead, it was the sequel to the one with the comma-- Mirror, Mirror-- a 1990 teen horror movie about a Goth girl who uses the demonic power of an antique mirror to reap vengeance against her school tormentors. The Goth girl is played by, and this is not a joke, an actress legally named Rainbow Harvest.
Mirror, Mirror 2: Raven Dance had the titular demon-possessed dark mirror showing up in a church orphanage to tempt a new tormented teen.
Mark Ruffalo plays Christian, the ever-suave bad boy who may or may not have a connection with the evil mirror. To his credit, he does his best in every scene that he’s given, but he’s still in the sequel to a horror movie that was just pretty okay to begin with.
12 Anthony Mackie - The Man
Anthony Mackie has had a relatively critically and commercially successful career, barring a game but ill-advised turn as Tupac Shakur in Notorious. He quietly put in solid, riveting performances in films like The Hurt Locker and Million Dollar Baby before starring as Sam Wilson, aka Falcon, in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Unfortunately, he shares his cast mate Samuel L. Jackson’s misfortune at being cast in The Man, a cold oatmeal bath of a movie that stars rehashed jokes and looks of embarrassment.
First of all, Anthony Mackie’s character is named Booty. There is no universe where that is a good idea. Secondly, he’s almost immediately killed as soon as he’s introduced as an informant of Samuel L. Jackson’s character.
Not only is his role minuscule and disposed of without fanfare, but it makes anyone looking through his filmography pause in disbelief at the fact that his character is named Booty.
11 James Spader - Supernova
Supernova seemed to have everything going for it: a sci-fi horror movie with concept work by H.R. Giger, James Spader starring and action pro Walter Hill directing.
Throw in class-A actors like Angela Bassett and Robert Forster, and it seemed like a sure-fire hit, even with a hectic pre-production that saw a few directors and leads quit.
Then came the process of actually making it. Breakneck rewrites, budget cuts, two other directors, and studio bungles led to it being force fed into theaters two years after its intended release date with an Alan Smithee-style pseudonym in the “Directed By” credit.
It bombed horribly, and pretty much murdered the career of James Spader, who only recovered on TV with stints on The Practice, Boston Legal, and The Blacklist.
10 Paul Bettany - Priest
Paul Bettany seems to alternate reliably between doing lovingly crafted Oscar-worthy films and B-grade schlock that pays the bills. For every Gangster No. 1 and A Beautiful Mind, there’s a Legion and The Da Vinci Code. He rounded out his unofficial trio of terrible movies with religious themes with Priest in 2011.
What makes it so embarrassing is that Priest must have seemed like a reasonably sure bet, or at least a potential cult hit, as it was based on a Korean comic about a centuries-raging war between vampires and humans, back when that thing was the rage.
It even boasted a top-notch cast including Karl Urban, Brad Dourif, Maggie Q, and Christopher Plummer. Sadly, the first warning sign should have been when the movie was edited down to a skeletal 87 minutes, almost too short to be a feature-length film. It was a critical and commercial flop, barely recouping its budget.
9 Chris Evans - Cellular
Cellular stars Kim Basinger as a high-school biology teacher who is held hostage in her home by dirty LAPD cops who need to recover evidence of their misdeeds.
She manages to hotwire a broken phone in her attic and reach a random cell number belonging to frat boy Ryan, played by Chris Evans, who decides to help the desperate woman on the line.
What follows can only be described as “Stupid Hitchcock”: it is a suspense/thriller movie revolving around one object or rule that generates suspense. However, that object and rule are very stupid-- Ryan cannot let his phone run out of battery, because then he would lose all contact with Kim Basinger and she has no way of reaching him again if he does.
This leads to Ryan robbing a phone store at gunpoint for a charger, avoiding a tunnel because he would lose reception, etc. It’s goofy fun, but it’s an incredibly silly role for Chris Evans, though he tries his best to lend gravitas and suspense.
8 Don Cheadle - The Meteor Man
There were a number of movies in the 1990s that tried to address the violent realities of living in inner cities in America and the complex relationship between drugs, gangs, and the ordinary citizens caught in the crossfire. Unfortunately, The Meteor Man was one of them, and somehow Don Cheadle got roped into it.
The story concerns a mild-mannered schoolteacher whose neighborhood is controlled and subjugated by a nefarious gang known as The Golden Lords. When he gains superpowers from a rogue meteor, he uses them to take on The Golden Lords, make peace between the cops, Bloods, and Crips.
The movie is heavy-handed and obvious in every way, and that extends to the costumes of The Golden Lords-- they look like a Dennis Rodman tribute cult, with every member (even the children) sporting close-shaved blonde hair.
As henchman Goldilocks, Don Cheadle is forced to power through this crime against fashion and a thankless role in a flop of a movie.
7 Idris Elba - Space Precinct
Some may know Idris Elba from his role as Stringer Bell on The Wire, while others first saw him as the titular tortured detective John Luther in the BBC series.
He guarded the rainbow bridge to Asgard in Thor, he sacrificed himself to nuke interplanetary monsters in Pacific Rim... and he delivered pizza in Space Precinct-- space pizza.
What makes this role especially humiliating is not just that he wears a costume that looks like it was made for a never-filmed Evel Knievel In Space movie, nor is it that he plays a pizza delivery guy in a low-budget British/American sci-fi series that only lasted one season.
It's not even that he got stiffed on the tip by the criminal who ordered the space pizza from him. No, it’s especially humiliating because they dubbed over Idris Elba’s voice with a voice that can only be what British people think that dumb Americans sound like.
6 Scarlett Johansson - North
It takes a special kind of terrible for a movie to viscerally offend its viewers so much that a review of the movie becomes famous for its vitriol. Pretty much every critic hated North at the time, and it earned six Golden Rasberry Award nominations, including Worst Picture and Worst Director for Rob Reiner.
However, what will live on is the late Roger Ebert’s seething, disbelieving reaction to the film: “I hated this movie... Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it.... Hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it."
Scarlett Johansson plays the daughter of one of the many families that child prodigy North tries to become a part of after feeling underappreciated by his biological parents. Luckily, her part is small, and the rest of the movie so much worse, that she can rest assured her role will be forgotten.
5 Chris Hemsworth - Home and Away
Before he was Thor or George Kirk in Star Trek, Chris Hemsworth had a role on the Australian soap opera Home and Away, set in the fictional town of Summer Bay in New South Wales.
As Kim Hyde, he had to endure a number of embarrassingly insane soap opera plot lines, including multiple paternity mysteries, dating friends’ widows, drug overdoses, and near-death from a wedding explosion.
What’s interesting is that even Chris Hemsworth seems to be humiliated by playing Kim Hyde despite giving a decent performance in the role and agreeing to cameo in a 2014 episode.
Quoted in a cast bio from the time he was on the show, he explained that the role was consistent work and allowed him to learn in the industry. This is pretty much an extremely diplomatic way of saying, “I get to have a steady gig and make contacts, okay?”
4 Cobie Smulders - Safe Haven
Safe Haven, adapted from the Nicholas Sparks novel of the same name, follows basically the same formula as the rest of his novels: young boy meets young girl, one of them is hesitant, a bigger trauma stands in the way of them getting together, but they eventually live happily ever after in North Carolina.
Safe Haven adds a weird Sixth-Sense style twist to the typical formula, which makes the movie version of it even more crazy. Cobie Smulders plays the spirit of the dead wife of the love interest of Julianne Hough’s character, which Julianne Hough somehow does not realize until the very end of the movie.
Add in a weird subplot involving Hough’s alcoholic, murderous ex-husband, and you get a movie that seems to have been written through Mad Libs. Maybe it's so bad that it’s good, but it's definitely so schmaltzy and weird that it’s embarrassing.
3 Aaron Taylor-Johnson - Shanghai Knights
Aaron Taylor-Johnson isn’t a household name, but he is a household face, having starred in hits like Godzilla, Kick Ass, Kick Ass 2, and The Avengers: Age of Ultron.
However, nobody would recognize him in Shanghai Knights were it not for his IMDb page. In the sequel to Shanghai Noon, he plays a young street urchin named Charlie who helpfully provides plot points as needed to advance the story after initially stealing Owen Wilson and Jackie Chan’s personal effects.
He continues to intrude on the plot throughout the movie. Already precocious and annoying, his character is revealed as a young Charlie Chaplin in a final insult to historical accuracy.
The movie ends with his character stowing in the heroes’ buggy while wearing a fake mustache for no reason, because that’s all anyone remembers about Charlie Chaplin. Needless to say, playing an annoying kid sidekick who ends his movie sporting a Hitler ‘stache is reason enough for anyone to want to bury this role.
2 Elizabeth Olsen - How The West Was Fun
How The West Was Fun has Elizabeth Olsen retroactively billed third behind her older sisters Mary-Kate and Ashley-- probably because she’s had success to match them in her own career lately as Wanda Maximoff in the The Avengers movies.
She’s been in blockbusters like Godzilla and smaller-budget but critically-lauded movies like Wind River and Ingrid Goes West.
Still, it must be hard when your sisters are arguably the two most famous child stars in the history of television, as she was forced to grow up in their shadow and live up to their legacy.
It must be even harder when you finally get a role in one of their movies, and that role is simply “Girl in Car." No name, no plot relevance, just a token bit part in a TV movie about the Olsen twins trying to stop the evil son of their dead mother’s godmother (yes, this is real) from secretly selling off the godmother’s dude ranch.
1 Clark Gregg - AI: Artificial Intelligence
Stern authority figures are Clark Gregg’s bread and butter, from his role as Agent Phil Coulson in The Avengers to his role as Agent Mike Capser on The West Wing to his tour-de-force performance as Phil Coulson in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
It’s when he strays outside of this wheelhouse that you get magic-- for example, his performance of “Toxic” on lip-sync battle-- or cringe-- such as his turn as “Supernerd” in AI: Artificial Intelligence.
First of all, nobody wants the role “Supernerd” on their IMDb; it’s worse than “Girl in Car” and “Pizza Delivery Guy” combined, though still not worse than “Booty” somehow.
It becomes even more damging when you’re in a movie already filled with miscalculated design and plot choices that had the misfortune of coming out too close to 9/11 to edit out some of the more painful imagery.
Can you think of any other roles that the cast of The Avengers are embarrassed of now? Let us know in the comments!