Smart Actors, Dumb Movies: 10 Questionable Career Choices

A 2011 Oscar winner, another nominee, an acclaimed director, and the writer/star of one of TV’s most delightfully subversive comedies couldn’t convince audiences to see Your Highness, which opened last weekend to odious reviews and bad box office. What went wrong? Well, it is certainly possible that the target audience for a stoner parody of sword-and-sorcery movies was a little too narrow to justify a $50 million budget. Or it could just be the execution; “Like members of some post-Dadaist collective,” Time’s Richard Corliss notes, “the filmmakers have dedicated themselves to memorializing every first, wrong impulse that popped into their heads, while ruthlessly excising any vestige of wit or narrative niceties as being too linear, dude.” Whatever the reason, it certainly seems like yet another strange choice for Natalie Portman, whose first release after her Oscar nomination was a dopey, formulaic “friends with benefits” sex comedy. (As for James Franco, we’ve given up on guessing his motives for doing anything.)

Putting together a filmography is always a crap shoot for actors; the process of assembling a major studio production involves so many variables, from studio interference to directorial whims to budgetary concerns to a million other little things that sometimes you just can’t know what the final product will be. But in some cases, you just can’t imagine what a seemingly intelligent, acclaimed actor saw on the page, and how he ever imagined it could be a good movie — and we’re not talking about early on, when a hungry actor takes any role available. We’re talking post-fame, sometimes post-Oscar. After the jump, we’ll take a look at some of our favorite actors, and some of their most absolutely inexplicable choices.

Jamie Foxx in Stealth

Foxx won a well-deserved Best Actor trophy in spring of 2005 for his brilliant portrayal of Ray Charles in Ray. Unfortunately for Foxx, he already had his next movie in the can — the late-summer Top Gun rip-off Stealth, where he played second fiddle to Josh Lucas (remember when he was gonna be the next big thing?) and Jessica Biel’s bikini. Directed by Rob Cohen, the Rhodes scholar behind XXX and the original The Fast and the Furious, Stealth is so dumb that, at one point, Foxx objects to their captain (Sam Shepard, slumming badly) that he doesn’t like the idea of adding another member to their team, because there’s three of them, and three is a lucky number. It’s also a prime number, he explains. He then proceeds to helpfully define, for his captain and his trained co-pilots, what a prime number is. “I guess they didn’t get to primes at Annapolis,” Roger Ebert noted. Since Stealth is major Hollywood movie and Foxx is a black guy, he dies early on — making him far luckier than audiences who had to sit through the whole thing.