Disliking actors

22 Mar

It’s safe to say that actors get more attention than any other position involved with making a movie. People like Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Julia Roberts, Tom Cruise and so on are mega-celebrities, household names and constantly in the public eye. Those of us who are more into film than the average movie-goer can rattle off the names of this director or that screenwriter, but most people tend to focus on the actors. The Descendants isn’t “the new Alexander Payne film.” It’s “the new George Clooney film.” This line of thinking often seeps back to critics and bloggers in a way. I can only speak for myself (though I see this in the writings of many people), but I know I certainly spend some time in my reviews talking about the actors. He was great, she was awesome, this guy did the best work of his career, etcetera. Even a brief cameo can be worth mentioning. But when was the last time I talked about, say, the sound mix of a movie? I don’t think I ever have, which seems unfair. The sound of a movie is always present, affecting me from beginning to end. And yet I’ll still be more inclined to mention the performance of an actor with 15 minutes of total screentime. I don’t have any real reason for this, other than the fact that it’s an established way of thinking that I rarely reflect over.

Since the actors is what many people care the most about when they see a film, they get a lot of passionate support. Everyone has their favorites, whether they’re Ryan Gosling, Robert De Niro, Catherine Deneuve, Tilda Swinton, Humphrey Bogart or what have you. The ones that make you want to see everything they’ve ever been in, or whose mention in the opening credits always puts a smile on your face.

"No no no no no no no!"

But then there’s the other side of the coin: the actors you hate. They keep popping up in movies you see, and you’re never impressed by them. You find them distracting, boring, annoying, overbearing. You wonder how they keep getting work and why people would pay to see them. Whether they’re leading stars or supporting players, you wish they would just retire. Some oft-mentioned targets for derision nowadays seem to be Megan Fox, Michael Cera and Shia LaBeouf. Others have more unusual dislikes. For instance, a real life friend of mine thinks Peter O’Toole is pretty much the worst thing in the world. To each their own.

I try to maintain a positive attitude as much as I can when it comes to film. That’s not to say that I won’t point out stuff I don’t like, but I do try to focus on the good things. This goes for acting too, especially since acting is a two-man job. A great performance is the result of a collaboration between the actor and the director. The director needs to convey just what it is they want from the actor. Some director-actor pairings just don’t function, because the people work in ways that don’t gel. Time constraints during shooting can mean that there’s just not enough time to get that one really great take. There can be many factors at play, and a lackluster performance can not always be blamed solely on the actor. Actors are among the many tools a director uses to craft a film. Is the hammer to blame when a nail bends? Some actors can shine in anything. Others need the right project and motivation. That doesn’t mean that the latter group is bad at what they do.

All I need from an actor to convince me that they have talent is one good performance. No matter how many hum-drum rom-coms Kate Hudson stars in, I’ll always have Almost Famous to remind me of how good she can be. Adam Sandler can be in as many unfunny films as he likes, because Punch-Drunk Love still tells me he has real chops. And while I went a long time thinking that Keira Knightley was pretty much useless, that changed once I got around to seeing Atonement. Another example: Keanu Reeves. Often described as wooden and life-less, but what if he had stuck to comedies a la Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, a film many seem to like him in? He’d be much more loved today, I reckon. On a side-note, I thought he was pretty good in Thumbsucker too.

Anna Faris. Not one of my favorites.

As such, there are few actors I find unbearable. Few, but they’re there. Two examples stand particularly tall – or low. One is Orlando Bloom, who is just boring as all hell. Boring in Lord of the Rings, boring in Pirates of the Caribbean, boring in Troy, boring boring boring. The other is Anna Faris, a particularly annoying example as she happens to be in my favorite film Lost in Translation. Her effort there isn’t terrible, but then it boils down to nothing but a caricature of Cameron Diaz (would it be unfair to label her entire career as that?) with maybe 5 minutes of total screen-time. She tends to stick to comedies, despite the fact that she’s never funny or charming. Even when she ventures out of that comfort zone to try out different stuff, the results aren’t pretty. Evidence A: her turn in quirky horror film May, where she plays a seductress with a tone so disconnected from the rest of the movie. Highly jarring, and a blight on what is otherwise a very fine film.

That said, I’d be happy to be proven wrong about both Bloom and Faris. If you know of any great performances they’ve turned in somewhere, please let me know.

What actor(s) do you dislike?


Posted by on 22 March, 2012 in Discussions


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16 responses to “Disliking actors

  1. Nostra

    22 March, 2012 at 14:10

    I have a couple of them as well, with Sam Worthington being a standout. Really don’t understand why he starred in spammy blockbusters…

    • Emil

      22 March, 2012 at 14:33

      I’ve only seen Worthington in Avatar myself. He certainly didn’t impress me much, but then that’s not a film that leaves much room for actors to show what they can do. I haven’t heard much good about his work elsewhere either, however.

  2. Pete

    22 March, 2012 at 14:24

    Nicholas Cage. Can’t stand him. So OTT. Such terrible hair. Still plays ‘cool’ characters despite being incredibly uncool. Chooses mindblowingly awful movies again and again. That said, I really enjoyed Adaptation and Bad Lieutenant.

    I think Faris is sweet. She’s pretty funny in the Scary Movies and Friends. Then again she seems to be sweet in real life too so I’m not sure how much she acts. Good call on Bloom. Bland, boring, blah.

    • Emil

      22 March, 2012 at 14:38

      We’re going to have to disagree on Mr. Cage. I love that guy. Adaptation, Bad Lieutenant, Leaving Las Vegas, The Weatherman, Vampire’s Kiss, Bringing Out the Dead… Very entertaining actor. Though admittedly, he has put in quite a few snooze-worthy turns as well. He’s one of those people who need the right project in order to shine.

  3. Movies - Noir

    22 March, 2012 at 17:00

    There are a bunch of actors I try to stay away from. This doesn’t mean I dislike them, but I know the quality of the movie most of the time won’t be worth watching. What I dislike the most is when actors are casted in roles suited for someone else, perhaps older, perhaps totally different. They get the good parts even though they don’t fit for the part. A lot of times Leonardo DiCaprio gets those parts. He’s a fine actor, in the right role. Problem is, he doesn’t fit in a lot of the big time movies he gets to play in.

    I’ve never really cared much for Brad Pitt’s acting. But I was delighted with his performance in Moneyball. Was it the character, was it the director or was it in fact Pitt who proved that he can act and not be annoying ? I guess a bit of all three. He’s not an actor I disliked, but didn’t care much for. For instance, he was totally miscast in Inglourious Basterds where an older actor should have had the part.

    I know a lot of people like Ellen Page and Carey Mulligan, but I have mixed feelings towards those two. I didn’t like Page in Juno or Hard Candy, but it was more the characters than her being a bad actress, because she isn’t. I liked Page in Super, she was pretty perfect for the part. In Inception, she didn’t really fit imho, but wasn’t totally bad either. Mulligan, well she was ok in Ad Education (not Oscar worthy though), annoyed me in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, was good in Shame, but didn’t care much for her character. However, in Never Let Me Go and Drive, I really liked her. So even though I don’t like an actor/actress, I can still enjoy them in the right circumstances.

    Two I really can’t stand are Renée Zellweeger and Julia Roberts. I try and stay away from their movies these days and since both have won Oscars, they don’t feature as much in the good movies :) Why I don’t like them ? I don’t really know, they just do.

    There are a lot of others, but I try and focus on the actors I like instead, and there are a lot more of them thankfully ;)

    Orlando Bloom – Boring ? Yes. Annoying ? Not really. Not a great actor, don’t really care about his career.
    Anna Faris – Hmm, she’s no favorite of mine, but she’s pretty much average. There are better and worse out there.
    Nicolas Cage – He’s proved what a good actor he can be, but far from a favorite and he tends to be in a lot of garbage. Still, he can be pretty entertaining so I don’t really mind him. He’s harmless ;)

    • Emil

      22 March, 2012 at 18:09

      Thanks for the long comment. :)

      That’s a good point about how you may not hate an actor as such, but rather know that you don’t tend to like the kind of movies they’re in. That’s kind of how I am with Adam Sandler. Yeah, he was great in Punch-Drunk Love, and while he himself isn’t a bad actor, everything he’s in these days looks pretty bad, so I don’t bother. Hopefully, when he tries for something outside his comfort zone again, I’ll hear about it anyway and might check it out.

      I kind of get what you’re saying about Brad Pitt in Inglourious Basterds. Certain parts would have worked better with an older actor, but then Aldo Rayne was meant to be waging guerilla warfare, and you can’t go too old for that type of stuff without stretching the suspension of disbelief. I’m fine with Pitt in the film, though. I like him.

      I’m a big fan of Ellen Page, and will watch her in pretty much in anything. Carey Mulligan is also intriguing and seems to be making interesting choices as to what movies she’ll be in. As for Zellweger and Roberts, well… Neither is a favorite of mine, but I don’t mind them too much. They have their moments.

      As I said, I tend to focus on the good things about film as well. Still, I figured a post like this would make for interesting discussion. :)

  4. Movies - Noir

    22 March, 2012 at 18:30

    First of all, sorry for the over-long comment, haha.

    I agree with you, I also rather talk about the good things in movies. But you can’t close your eyes and pretend you like everything ;) And we all feel differently, that’s the way it is.

    Adam Sandler is a good example you bring up. I also felt he was better than expected in Punch-Drunk Love. A great director and a good part shows you that pretty much anyone can surprise you when not in their comfort zone. But it doesn’t always work.

    I understand what you mean with Pitt in Basterds. He wasn’t bad, it just didn’t work for me. To me, I would’ve wanted an older actor in the role as I kept thinking of Lee Marvin in The Dirty Dozen or James Coburn in Cross of Iron. That’s why I’d rather have someone like, let’s say Nick Nolte for that part, without the overacting Pitt brought (which probably was the way Tarantino wanted him to play it).

    Like I said with Ellen Page and Carey Mulligan, in the right part I really like them. Problem is I find some of the characters they play annoying and that makes me a bit negative towards them before I get to see the film/character.

    • Emil

      22 March, 2012 at 21:52

      No need to apologize for writing long comments. Always nice to know that people have something to say about what you write. :)

      Yeah, knowing Tarantino, he probably had a clear vision of what Aldo Rayne should be like, and I’m thinking Pitt probably delivered just that.

  5. Alex Withrow

    22 March, 2012 at 19:03

    Usually, my distaste for certain actors stems from praise I feel they receive unjustly. I loved Russell Crowe based on his work in Romper Stomper, LA Confidential and The Insider, but ever since he won an Oscar for Gladiator (which he in no way deserved to win, given the competition), I’ve never really liked him.

    Similarly, Sandra Bullock, Roberto Benigni, Julia Roberts, have all won Oscars they did not deserve.

    And then there are actors I hate, simply because they are insanely famous despite having not one ounce of talent: Adam Sandler, Eddie Murphy, Elijah Wood, Tobey Maguire, Michael Cera, Will Farrell, Jack Black, and really most any actor in those Brat Pack comedy films.

    Obviously MANY people would disagree with me here, and obviously, there are a few notable exceptions to the actors I mentioned, as many of them have delivered at least one solid performance in the past, but by and large, I can’t stand any of them.

    EXCELLENT question for a post.

    • Emil

      22 March, 2012 at 22:01

      I tend not to think in terms of “deserving” when it comes to the Oscars and other awards. It’s one group of people voting for what they like best. They can like what they like, and that’s fine with me. I will say that I certainly wouldn’t have voted for Crowe in Gladiator myself. Very unremarkable performance.

      Likewise, I try not to let fame, status and overall opinion from others influence how I feel about a film, though it’s not always easy. I know I tend to give American Psycho a bit too hard a time since everyone else is so high on it, whereas I very much prefer The Rules of Attraction when it comes to Bret Easton Ellis adaptations. Likewise, I’m sure I hype up certain movies a bit extra just because few others share my degree of love for them. Actors, I have an easier time staying “objective” with, for some reason.

      I’d probably have to disagree with all of the actors you mentioned in your third paragraph. Maybe not Elijah Wood, but I’m really more indifferent towards him than anything.

      Thank you for the comment, Alex!

  6. Movies - Noir

    22 March, 2012 at 22:25

    Btw, I’d like to add something. I mainly like the old-school actors which means I have a hard time really accepting many of the younger actors. Some of them I like, but they just can’t match my favorites like James Stewart. Guys like Gene Hackman and Jack Lemmon, they just don’t come around any more. Those actors would make every single movie better. Todays actors can’t do that, even if I like them.

    But then again, that’s me talking :D

    • Emil

      22 March, 2012 at 22:49

      Always hard to judge an actor with a large body of work behind them against someone who’s still in the middle of their career. I think 50 years from now, the great actors of today will have firmly cemented their legacies like the old-school ones we think of nowadays.

  7. Movies - Noir

    22 March, 2012 at 23:21

    Mmm, some of them might do that of course. But personally I don’t think the biggest stars of today will be as well liked by myself.

    • Emil

      22 March, 2012 at 23:32

      Fair enough.

  8. Hannah M

    29 March, 2012 at 06:11

    Interesting post… especially since I went, “Oh, yeah, them,” to a lot of the actors you mentioned. Examples:

    Keira Knightley bothers me. I haven’t seen Atonement (although I MUST, as my beloved Benedict Cumberbatch is in it) but she always seems so very smug. I always kind of want to slap her characters.

    Adam Sandler also bothers me. I remember liking Punch-Drunk Love, yes, but I’ve detested him in everything else I’ve seen him in. I just watched Happy Gilmore for the first time not long ago and kept thinking, “This movie would be really funny if it was anyone else.”

    Orlando Bloom, on the other hand, I find just boring… but he *was* fantastic in that episode of Extras, which redeemed him a bit for me. (Fun story: A few year ago, when Bloommania was at its height among my friends, I wrote a romantic comedy spoof for National Novel Writing Month in which the male lead was loosely based on my unflattering perception of Orlando. He was a humorless, robotic character who never used contractions but was a famous actor and every girl swooned over him. In the end, the female lead ran off with his wisecracking sidekick. It wasn’t a very good story but it sure was fun to write.)

    • Emil

      29 March, 2012 at 08:30

      I have a feeling you’ll enjoy Atonement. It’s a fine film with some impressive performances, not just from Knightley. Good score too, as I recall.

      I’ve never seen Extras, but yeah, I recall hearing about Bloom doing something cool on there, now that you mention it. Kate Winslet too, but then she’s always great. Maybe I ought to check it out at some point.


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