Sean Penn, never the wallflower, has some opinions he’d like to share about his latest film, The Tree of Life. His thoughts may surprise you! (If you know absolutely nothing about Sean Penn, that is.) The actor told the French publication Le Figaro, “I didn’t at all find on the screen the emotion of the script, which is the most magnificent one that I’ve ever read. A clearer and more conventional narrative would have helped the film without, in my opinion, lessening its beauty and its impact. Frankly, I’m still trying to figure out what I’m doing there and what I was supposed to add in that context! What’s more, Terry himself never managed to explain it to me clearly.”
While Penn’s complaints may have resonated with the refund-refused moviegoers of Connecticut, most have seen it as rather bad form—particularly for a critically-acclaimed picture that is still in general release. On the other hand, he’s certainly not the first actor to publicly diss his own work; we’ve collected some of our favorites after the jump.
Bill Cosby, Leonard Part 6
Perhaps the most famous instance (in the modern era, anyway) of an actor castigating his own project came back in 1987. Bill Cosby was at the height of his Cosby Show fame when he took an idea for a spy spoof to Columbia Pictures, then under the ownership of his longtime corporate employer, Coca-Cola. Cos received story and producer credits for the resultant picture, Leonard Part 6, a flaccid comedy that suffered (probably in equal measures) under studio interference, the uncertain hand of director Paul Weiland, and Cosby’s own shaky premise. When Cosby got a look at the final product, he knew he had a bomb on his hands — but unlike most of the other actors on our list, he decided to get out in front of it, taking the rare (and financially disastrous) step advising fans in print and television interviews to stay away. They did. Critics, unfortunately, did not, roasting the movie as one of the year’s worst, though Cosby proved a good sport by showing up in person to collect the film’s three Golden Raspberry Awards (Worst Actor, Worst Picture, Worst Screenplay) — after he was promised that the statues would be made of 24 carat gold and Italian marble. In an attempt to make amends, Cos reteamed with his frequent collaborator Sidney Poitier for his next film, 1990’s Ghost Dad, and this time, he gave interviews announcing that fans could go see this one. So much for Cosby’s critical faculties; the maudlin, sappy Ghost Dad was even worse than the so-bad-it’s-good Leonard.