10 Former Teen Idols Scrambling For Credibility

As Robert Pattinson seeks credibility in Cosmopolis, we assess those who came before him.

by James Brady Ryan

Pity the teen idol. Sure, for a few years, their careers burn hot and bright; they cause stampedes at shopping malls, squander money on cars they only just learned how to drive, and date Disney princesses. (The real kind.) But once adulthood comes a-knocking, they face a difficult challenge: leave the kid stuff behind and become a "serious" actor, or end up on late-night TV arguing that bananas prove the existence of God.

This Friday, Robert Pattinson, of Twilight mega-fame, is trying to establish himself as a serious talent with a starring role in David Cronenberg's Cosmopolis. In honor of his attempt, we're examining ten actors who found themselves in the same predicament, and grading their efforts. We warn you: the results are often not as pretty as their unthreatening little faces used to be.

Taylor Lautner

While Pattinson generally tries to come off as too cool for Twilight, his lupine co-star has mostly accepted his low-brow appeal. His one swing at adult work was the action movie Abduction, which took the plot of The Face on the Milk Carton, switched the genders, and added in about ten thousand more kicks to the face. This is probably a good thing: Lautner has charm, and a giant fan base, but his acting skills remain less impressive than his abs. Abduction didn't do very well, though, so Lautner's path to respectability remains unclear. It's certainly hard to picture him in a David Cronenberg movie.

Grade: D+

James Van Der Beek

While Michelle Williams skillfully jumped from youth-oriented melodrama to prestige films, her Dawson's Creek costar had a rougher time. Maybe Varsity Blues could've been a serious drama about the damage parents can inflict on children when they dictate their dreams, but, you know... this. The Rules of Attraction, meanwhile, was bungled by the cast of bright young things trying so, so hard to be edgy, and Van Der Beek's Sean Bateman is one of the weaker links. On the other hand, Van Der Beek is currently killing it in the world of web comedy and knowing self-parody, so maybe someone will end up wanting his life after all.

Grade: C-

Taylor Kitsch

2012 was supposed to be Taylor Kitsch's year. Having established his dreaminess on Friday Night Lights, he jumped to starring roles in two potential blockbusters, John Carter and Battleship... both of which flopped massively. Luckily, Kitsch was smart enough to pair them with something a bit more high-brow — Oliver Stone's pot-infused romance/crime thriller Savages — which finally earned him some critical praise. (Mostly, Kitsch and his co-stars just had to look really, really good on screen, but, well, they killed it.) So we at least learned that the man has the good sense to diversify his roles and work with big-name directors when he gets the chance. If he stays away from CGI, he may be all right.

Grade: C

Zac Efron

Zac Efron started the public-maturation process from a tough spot; those High School Musical films just gleamed off his skin like Clearasil. But while he was mostly overshadowed in Richard Linklater's Me and Orson Welles, we give him credit for doing a film that so clearly wasn't aimed at his legion of adoring fans. (Unless Tiger Beat readers are really into The Magnificent Ambersons these days.) And while it would be unfair to judge him on material that hasn't come out yet, we don't think we can get away without at least mentioning The Paper Boy, an upcoming film in which Nicole Kidman pees on him. As far as ways to throw off your teen-star image... whatever works.

Grade: B-

Rob Lowe

Rob Lowe is not and will probably never be Marlon Brando. First of all, the man's been in a lot of made-for-TV movies. One of these movies is probably being shown on Lifetime right now. But somehow, decades after St. Elmo's Fire and that sex tape incident, Lowe's emerged as the kind of reliable actor whose name can at least make you check out a TV series, if not stick with it forever. (We're looking at you, Brothers and Sisters.) The West Wing, of course, has a lot to do with this: Aaron Sorkin's most successful series gave Lowe a chance to work against the "good-looking asshole" archetype he seemed destined for. He's still good-looking, but he seems like much less of an asshole than he used to.

Grade: B


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