Some roles are more of a stretch for actors than others. That’s no secret. But sometimes, we’re asked to buy that actors could slip into jobs that they’re blatantly not suited for. Sometimes, this is played on for comedy effect – such as Arnie in Kindergarten Cop – but often a film can hinge on whether you believe the actor in question could tackle the job that their character undertakes. And that’s where things don’t always go to plan.
For the purposes of this run down, we’ve (mostly) left out the ones where this is done deliberately, and instead focused on some of the roles where the audience is asked to suspend disbelief just a little too much…
MICHELLE PFEIFFERWaitress, Frankie and Johnny
The whole concept of Frankie and Johnny worked a treat, we’d imagine, on the stage. There, Kathy Bates took the role of a waitress that customers looked past as if she wasn’t there. Translated to the movies, and some fool decided that Michelle Pfeiffer – an excellent actress, granted – would make the perfect waitress. She isn’t, and at no point in Frankie and Johnny – which isn’t a bad little movie – do you buy the fact that she works as a waitress. She simply doesn’t fit, and it hurts the film as a result.
DENISE RICHARDSNuclear physicist, The World Is Not Enough
The poster child for matching acting ‘talent’ to a job you simply would never buy them in if you had your eyes cut out, your ears removed, and half of your brain donated to medical students. Whatever idiot decided that Denise Richards should play a nuclear physicist, and for her to have to play it straight, is surely nowhere near the movie business anymore. She’s beyond wholly unconvincing, and it’s understandable that she’s been voted the worst Bond girl of all time. Her name doesn’t help. Dr Christmas Jones? We all know that it was done to give Brosnan a quite terrible gag at the end of a film – the worst last line of a film in recent times? – but we just thought the Bond series was a bit better than that.
STEVEN SEAGALCook, Under Siege
Granted, this is a bit tongue in cheek, and you suspect that the makers were leg pulling a bit here. But would you go round to Seagal’s house to be served a gourmet supper? Nope. Would you go round expecting to have the living shit beaten out of you? Now that’s more like it…
CHRIS TUCKERCop, Rush Hour trilogy
To be fair, mismatched and unusual cops are a mainstay of Hollywood action movies, and there are an abundance of potential choices here. But Chris Tucker? Being let in a room with other people? To solve crimes and stuff like that? There’s suspension of disbelief, and there’s the need to short circuit the logic compartment of your brain altogether…
BRAD PITTDeath, Meet Joe Black
There have been some great grim reapers on the big screen, but Brad Pitt? A fine actor, but someone’s having a laugh. I distinctly recall in the trailer not even being able to here him deliver the revelation that he was Death in an audible manner, and wondered for some time where he fitted into the film.
Appreciating that the idea here is to underplay things slightly, I still learned by the end of the torturously long running time of Meet Joe Black that Brad Pitt was not, and never will be, the Grim Reaper.
HUGH GRANT Emergency room doctor, Extreme Measures
It’s late. You’ve just an accident. You need to get treatment fairly quickly. You stumble into a New York Emergency Room. You look around for George Clooney. For Hugh Laurie. Heck, for anyone who vaguely looks like they might heal you. And Hugh Grant walks around the corner. Bluntly, we’d take our chances on the streets…
HUGH GRANT80s singer, Music & Lyrics
To be fair, we quite like Music & Lyrics, a perfectly entertaining rom-com that nudges fun at 80s music. And, for the most part, Hugh Grant convinces as the washed up singer living off his past superstardom. Sadly, it all goes to pot when he opens his mouth and starts to sing. He’s not dreadful, you just never buy the fact that anyone would buy one of his records.
We should also point out that we like Hugh Grant, and his performance in About A Boy is great. And he’s good in this too. He’s just no singer.
TOM HANKS Wall Street tycoon, The Bonfire Of The Vanities
Tom Hanks has successfully played against type in his career – just look at The Road To Perdition – but did anyone really buy him as a bad-ass, cut-throat Wall Street tycoon? Absolutely not, and it’s one of an abundance of problems with Brian De Palma’s movie adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s novel. A notorious failure on its release, the film’s story has been brilliantly charted in the book The Devil’s Candy, which is well worth seeking out. Hanks, fortunately, has gone on to much better things.
NICOLAS CAGEArchaeologist, National Treasure series
There’s not much doubt that we’re fans of Nicolas Cage at Den Of Geek. But heck, if there was a site of historical importance that we needed to send someone to in order to patiently excavate it, there’s no way his name would be anywhere near the list. Witness him in the National Treasure films: mysteries that have remained unsolved for centuries he has but two minutes to decipher, and he blusters from location to location with all the tenderness of a big Wellington boot being slammed into the groin area.
HARRISON FORDComputer security specialist, Firewall
This may be a bit disingenuous to Harrison Ford, but sitting through the admittedly quite turgid Firewall, we never really got the impression that he knew where the on button of a computer was, yet alone was an expert in computer security. He struck us more as the kind of man who’d ring up his kids to find out why his e-mail wasn’t working rather than the fella you’d rely on to keep virtual nasties at bay. See also: Sandra Bullock in The Net. as computer hacker
MICHAEL J FOXDoctor, Doc Hollywood
Another case of a Doctor who, if you walked in and saw, you’d be tempted to walk right back out again. The problem is that, in Doc Hollywood, Michael J Fox still looks like he’s barely out of school, yet alone having sat through many years of medical tuition. The film itself isn’t too bad, and Fox is perfectly fine in it. But he never comes across as man to call in a medical emergency, sadly…
WHITNEY HOUSTONOscar-winning actress, The Bodyguard
Surely, surely, Whitney was in on the joke here? On a generous day, you’d suggest she’s tolerable in her sole movie hit. But there’s little chance that anything about her performance in the film would attract the Academy’s attention. As such, the screening I was in, people just laughed at the point where she got her gong.
KEVIN COSTNERA bodyguard, The Bodyguard
A bodyguard is supposed to be anonymous, to be the guardian angel who prevents threats, jumps in when there’s a problem, and – this is in the job description – doesn’t have a fecking stupid haircut. I like Kevin Costner, but there’s rarely a moment in the film where I’m ever convinced that he’s the man to call when you need a bit of protection. I’d rather call in Clint Eastwood from In The Line Of Fire…
HAYDEN CHRISTIANSONDarth Vader, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith
Sorry, couldn’t resist…
DOLPH LUNGDRENJournalist, Cover Up
It doesn’t help that we see Dolph Lungdren, and we instantly think Ivan Drago. But taking a beefcake action star and putting a pair of glasses on them doesn’t mean you’re on the verge of the best bit of casting genius since Scorsese thought De Niro might be worth a bet in Mean Streets. Instead, at no point through the film do you think it’s anything other than Ivan Drago. In glasses.
KEANU REEVES FBI Special Agent, Point Break
Say what you like about Keanu Reeves, but he keeps coming up with films that are worth a watch. That said, suspension of belief is often very much on the agenda. Is he an Englishman in Bram Stoker’s Dracula? No, he’s Keanu Reeves with a shitty accent. Likewise, is an FBI Special Agent? No. He’s plainly not. He’s not a bad action star though, to be fair.
Update: corrected mistake – originally read Speed, not Point Break as I meant to write. I am a fool. Point Break is a grand movie, though.
SEAN BEANFootballer, When Saturday Comes
You can’t blame him for trying, but Sean Bean as a professional soccer player? Heck, we’ve got a real soft spot for When Saturday Comes, but it doesn’t take a footballing genius to work out that Bean is at best slightly above the level of a good park player. Hence, lots of quick cuts, close up shots and no zooming in on members of the crowd who would be mouthing something along the lines of “you’re shit, and you know you are”.
CHARLTON HESTONPainter, The Agony and the Ecstacy
Asking the late, great Charlton Heston to play a painter was always going to be a bit of a stretch, to be fair. Asking him to play Michaelangelo? That takes things to a whole new love. Terrific though the man’s acting could be, there’s no way we came close to buying him as a man who could knock together anything other than a painting by numbers picture, sadly. As the last man in the world? Ideal. As one of the finest artists the world has ever produced? Er, sorry Chuck…
JESSICA ALBAScientist, Fantastic Four
We’re going to come to the world of glossy scientists in a forthcoming piece at Den Of Geek, but let’s get something straight about Jessica Alba in the Fantastic Four films. She was not cast because there was any danger that she would convince someone she was a scientist. There were a couple of reasons that she was cast, and it would be wholly inappropriate to discuss them here.
BRUCE WILLISPsychoanalyst, The Color Of Night
Bill Capa, in The Color Of Night, is a psychoanalyst working in New York. Problem is, he sure looks like John McClane. And given that this was made before Willis got his acting chops together in the likes of The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, there’s not a frame of the film where you buy that’s what he does for a living. Still, they try and throw you off the scent by bunging in plenty of sex, which is rarely a bad tactic to try.
Got any further suggestions? Pop them in the comments!