Five Once-Promising Actors and the Franchises That Ruined Them

Run, Kristen Stewart! Run!

by James Brady Ryan

Promising acting careers can be derailed by many things — sex scandals, drug habits, bad hair — but the most insidious cause is choosing the wrong franchise. What looks like a dream gig, with the kind of job security few actors can hope for, can quickly go south if the movies aren't good. As the fourth Twilight film tears up the box office and the reputations of several SAG members, we're taking a look at five actors whose futures were maligned by franchises.

1. Kristen Stewart

"Ms. Stewart is good enough to help you overlook just what a stock character the smart-alecky, sensitive-underneath-it-all Sarah really is." — A. O. Scott, reviewing Panic Room

The inspiration for this list, Kristen Stewart was given a blessing and a curse that few others (maybe the Harry Potter kids) could understand. The lumbering, unstoppable behemoth that is The Twilight Saga may have made her famous, ubiquitous, and so rich she could do that Scrooge McDuck pool-full-of-gold thing, but it has also permanently connected her to one Bella Swan. And that's too bad, really. Because whatever you think of Stewart now — I, for one, like her — back then, she was talented and attracted to some interesting work, like David Fincher's thriller Panic Room and Into the Wild. She was tough and shy, smart but too cool to make a big thing out of it.

In a different universe, Kristen Stewart a) is the undisputed fantasy of every indie guy in the land and b) would laugh at the idea of getting a C-section, on-screen, via a guy's mouth. But for at least the foreseeable future, Stewart is quite literally stuck in the Twilight zone, where no role she takes (see the upcoming Snow White and the Huntsman) will be seen on its own. Things will be "so much like her role in Twilight!" or "so different from her role in Twilight!" but they will never just be. If Stewart does manage to pull herself away from the gravity of this franchise, it will be a pretty damn impressive trick.

2. Ewan McGregor

"Mr. McGregor underplays Renton to dry perfection without letting viewers lose sight of the character's appeal." Janet Maslin, reviewing Trainspotting

It seems silly to have to argue for Ewan McGregor's talent. He became more or less the king of the indie world with movies like Trainspotting, Velvet Goldmine, and The Pillow Book, charming legions of teenage girls (and gay boys). He had talent to spare, a Scottish accent, and a willingness to be totally naked on screen. So it was exciting when McGregor landed a plum role in what seemed like a sure-fire hit. And this was the surest of the sure: there was no doubt that the three Star Wars prequels would be a massive phenomenon, and getting to play a character as iconic as Obi-Wan Kenobi was a slam dunk for any actor.

But oh, how blissfully ignorant we were back then. McGregor's career may not have been the only casualty of the Star Wars prequels (weep for Jar Jar Binks's stage career), but it is probably the saddest. What should have been a reward for years of good work in small films — and his chance to become a bona fide Hollywood star — was instead a debacle, and once the lightsabers were put away, McGregor returned to the land of the indies. Maybe that's better for everyone.

3. Halle Berry

"Billy Bob Thornton and Halle Berry star as Hank and Leticia, in two performances that are so powerful because they observe the specific natures of these two characters, and avoid the pitfalls of racial cliches." — Roger Ebert, reviewing Monster's Ball

Halle Berry was once considered something of a unicorn in Hollywood: an African-American actress who seemed ready to stay on the A-list for a long time, command the box office, and have her choice of roles. And while her Academy Award-winning turn in Monster's Ball came out slightly later than the first X-Men installment, she had done enough good work in projects like Bulworth and Introducing Dorothy Dandridge that her extremely wooden performance as Storm was seen as a fluke. But then it just kept happening in the film's sequels, no matter how much critics and fanboys alike prayed for any sign of life. How could a woman who had allowed herself to be so raw and explosive and flat-out ugly in other films turn into little more than eye candy in a terrible wig? And while Berry's remained a likable figure, it's sad to think of her Academy Award sharing a shelf with her Razzie Award for Catwoman.

Commentarium (64 Comments)

Nov 18 11 - 1:11am

Ruining? Isn't that a bit harsh?

Nov 20 11 - 1:39am

MTE.. this article is stupid specially for someone as young as kristen Stewart .
"Things will be "so much like her role in Twilight!" or "so different from her role in the
saga Twilight!" if its different how can this be negative Of course there will be such comparisons until she lands a role totally different from bella Swan and plays it well . Imo she can do this

Nov 18 11 - 1:40am

Kristen Stewart has a very highly-anticipated adaptation of Jack Kerouac's On the Road coming out soon. She's not gonna be ruined by Twilight. She may have to spend a few more years headlining tentpoles, but after that she's set for a nice long career of interesting independent films.

The others are actually all pretty much true, though. This is one of the more perceptive lists you guys have put out. It's oddly tragic too (and almost Mephistophelian, really) how these actors end up derailing their career due to one (or more) big unprecedented failure.

Nov 18 11 - 3:44am

I don't think "ruined" so much as "permanently associated with." But that's a less punchy title. All of these actors still have careers, after all.

Nov 18 11 - 3:47am

I agree. Stewart is not only the person from that group, the "actors" in twilight, who is not only actually talented, but has actually made a damned good atempt at breaking away from whatever shit pigeonhole she gets placed in because of twilight, and actually taking on and doing good/challenging roles and movies.

Nov 18 11 - 7:51am

Her best role in my opinion was in SPEAK. She wasnt playing an annoying person... or someone you just wanted to slap... =[

Nov 18 11 - 12:02pm

If Kristen Stewart is ruined by anything, it'll be her wooden acting. Or her general annoyingness.

Nov 18 11 - 4:48pm

She has one setting...and it's awkward. It's not acting if that's how you are in real life.

Nov 19 11 - 3:29am

@Lindsay Exactly. I sometimes think that audiences mistake her ungainly, unsophisticated style for anything other than what it is. Just like Blake Lively performs exactly as she interviews (and therefore is, I guess?), Kristen Stewart is totally one-note in every single performance.

Nov 21 11 - 4:27pm

@Lindsay & JO, couldn't agree with you more.
If anything it is Kristen Stewart that ruined Twilight, which is otherwise a pretty good story. She is the most dull and monotone actor to hit the screen in years. Shame really.. Twilight could have been a pretty good series. Its too bad todays "pop culture" can't tell the difference between gold and garbage.

Nov 18 11 - 2:52am

I like Kristen Stewart too :)

Nov 18 11 - 3:09am

Why did you make me remember Spider-Man 3? WHY?!

Nov 18 11 - 3:38am
Bein All They Can Be

If 'LOL' wasn't such a dumb thing to say I'd use that term right now: This is America in 2010's and your attacking these "actors" for selling out? Are you kidding? That's like attack someone for being successful (in a success/failure dichotomy). I'm sorry, I'm not being clear: let's go back to the premise: How many original films do you see out there? We are in a time devoid of any vision: where everyone is either (lets be honest) a whore or a kiss-ass and people just live to work. Because our current culture is basically dead, entertainment is purely derivative, so now flash ahead. Your attacking 'business actors' for making 'financially successful franchises' which makes little sense because even if the greatest film opened in theaters tomorrow, no one would know. To have a great film, you need a great audience, and Americans have lost the scent long ago.

Nov 18 11 - 2:50pm
Burn Hollywood Burn

Well said and unfortunately very true.

Nov 24 11 - 11:12am

I don't think the point of the list was to say these actors sold out so much as just chose bad franchises to be associated with (with the exception of Lord of the Rings) and how that's effected how people see them. Also, I'd have to disagree with your second point. There are some really wonderful films that have been made in recent years. Maybe you're just not looking in the right places?

Nov 18 11 - 3:52am

I agree but see it somewhat differently on Halle Berry and X-Men. Good actress,and this is both my normal movie critic side and inner x-men nerd coming out, but storm could have/should have been handled and portrayed better as a character. Not to be a purist fan which I rarely,rarely if ever am, but her portrayal was not the character. Storm is more or less one bad ass chick who while good,is not to be fucked with. Ideally,and not to be an ageist, a young(er) Pam Grier would have fit the part perfectly. That's just the first example that came to mind. Feel free to chime in with your suggestions.

LOTR "ruining" Elijah Wood? Gotta call b.s on that one. I've been a fan of his for a long time,I even think he's often underrated,LOTR if anything,enhanced his work.

Nov 18 11 - 4:31am

A young Pam Grier would fit every part perfectly.

Nov 18 11 - 10:57am
Point of Order

Or a young Angela Bassett

Nov 18 11 - 2:52pm

Ooh yeah. Angela Bassett,good choice. Or Vivica A.Fox. Mmm.Yes.

Nov 18 11 - 4:10am

Anybody see Oxford Murders? Stupid movie, but Elijah looks great in it. :D

Nov 18 11 - 4:36am

Halle Berry's agent must be the worst agent in Hollywood. The woman must be talented, but she's been in one shitty project after the other. I can't think of another actor's reputation that fell so far so fast.

Disagree about McGregor though. I think, if anything, he's still more associated with Moulin Rouge than Obi-Wan, and neither role has prevented him from doing great work recently. Which is just an elaborate set-up for me to say oh my god how great was he in I Love You, Phillip Morris? So fucking great.

Nov 18 11 - 5:09am

I guess everytime I've seen any movie with K-Stew (and I've never soon Twilight) I think she's atrocious. So much looking at her feet and weird huffy noises. Gah.

Nov 19 11 - 7:02pm

K-Stew? Please spay or neuter yourself.

Nov 18 11 - 5:54am

I think Elijah Wood is pretty good in the American remake of "Wilfred," and I certainly didn't think of him as a hobbit in the role

Nov 18 11 - 7:53am

There was a film i watched as a child. I dont recall the name, or much of the plot. just bits from it, and every time i see him, i think of that movie. He has kept the same face all his life..

Nov 18 11 - 12:47pm

probably North...terrible movie, but he's good in it

Nov 18 11 - 1:13pm

Or perhaps "Forever Young" with Mel Gibson.

Nov 18 11 - 5:39pm

"Radio Flyer" or "The Good Son".

Nov 20 11 - 12:14am

Flipper? That's what I always think of, if not LOTR. But I agree that he has been able to successfully do other things since then that are completely different, like Wilfred.

Nov 18 11 - 6:03am

Kristen is a bad actress. Sorry, but it's true. She's so stale.

Nov 18 11 - 9:41am

Yes, she is wooden and awful. Not just in Twilight, but in everything. Pattinson is pretty bad too.

Exhibit A:

Nov 18 11 - 3:51pm
Kelly Moreau

Totally agree: she's got the emotional range of a cold piece of toast.

Nov 19 11 - 3:20am

If Academy Awards were assigned based on staring at your feet and going "Uh.. heh.. uh...." a lot, then she's a shoe in!!

Nov 19 11 - 9:48am

Yes Robert Pattinson is terrible too. I tried to watch him in Remember Me. It was like torture.

Nov 21 11 - 11:49am

Robert Pattinson will always be Cedric Diggory to me.

Nov 23 11 - 5:26pm

Ditto. RIP. Cedic Digory.

Nov 18 11 - 10:26am

If this is "ruined" then sign me up!

Nov 18 11 - 12:39pm

Ewan McGregor will be fine. Most people over 18 don't even know he was in those Star Wars things.

Nov 18 11 - 12:51pm

Gotta agree with previous posters... Stewart will be ruined by her crappy acting, not the franchise. The cardboard cutout of Bella at my movie theater has roughly the same charisma.

Nov 18 11 - 1:27pm

So, in conclusion: no vampires, no action films, no comic books, and no Tolkien adaptations. Thanks--totally clear now. :)

Nov 18 11 - 5:25pm

Yea except for K Stew, I 100% disagree with this article / list.

Nov 20 11 - 1:27am

kristen Stewart is still very respected in the industry and keeps getting good offers. If this is " ruined" i want to be ruined too

Nov 18 11 - 5:27pm

Ha! This is the worst list ever. The majority of these actors here are all working actors. Elijah? Kirsten? They are constantly working. Elijah Wood? Come on.

Nov 18 11 - 7:05pm

Ewan McGregor? Are you kidding??? He has always chosen roles he wants to play and has purposefully steered clear of the big blockbusters except for Star Wars (which, who could resist??) and The Island (awful). He is a varied talent and plays every role exceptionally. I don't know what you consider ruined, but this amazing actor still receives an abundance of awards in the indie film community. He is a darling of indie movie fans. He is still making great movies, but he admits that he is more careful now after Star Wars. He chooses the roles of characters he really wants to play. He says he wish he hadn't done the trilogy because of the time commitment that prevented him from playing other roles he was interested in.

So yeah, he does not belong on this list!

Nov 18 11 - 9:57pm
hearts and darts

this is only slightly related, but god, casting Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane was the worst decision ever. And I like her alright as an actress. But is she Mary Jane? Hell no.

Nov 21 11 - 11:51am

They should have kicked it with Gwen Stacy. I pray for the remake to be good.

Nov 18 11 - 11:28pm

I thought that the actor most ruined by the Star Wars franchise was Hayden Christensen. He stole the show in the 2001 melodrama Life as a House, starring Kevin Kline and Kristen Scott Thomas- two Oscar favorites, and was nominated for a Golden Globe. Now I don't even think he works anymore. Ewan McGregor is still famous and successful- in spite of Star Wars

Nov 19 11 - 5:51am

But Hayden Christensen is terrible by his own right.

Nov 19 11 - 3:38pm

It's the Skywalker curse. He's gone the way of Mark Hamill.

Nov 19 11 - 5:28pm

Dude, Mark Hammill is still awesome. He's just found success in a different field of entertainment-- as an amazing voice actor.

Hayden Christensen just makes me cringe.

Nov 20 11 - 2:22am

Hayden Christensen is a horrible actor, but he is fiiiiine as hell. See: Channing Tatum.

Nov 20 11 - 3:13am

Clearly none of you have seen Shattered Glass, in which Hayden Christensen very nearly out-acts Peter Sarsgaard. And I love Peter Sarsgaard, so I was just as surprised as anyone else. Seriously, check it out immediately. Great movie all-around, but centered around Hayden Christensen and damn if he doesn't pull it off.

Nov 19 11 - 12:04am

What's really unusual is that ethnically all five of these people are Scottish.

Nov 19 11 - 11:18am

Halle Berry is ethnically Scottish?

Nov 24 11 - 2:50am

Actually, she's ethnically Irish. Americans are always getting the two mixed up.

Nov 19 11 - 8:26am

the only one I agree with is Kristin Stuart. How have the others been ruined?

Nov 20 11 - 1:30am

How is kristen Stewart ruined when her non twilight movie got critical acclaims and her acting fine and praised by critics. She is the only person in that franchise who will have a career once its over

Nov 19 11 - 10:50am

I don't think Ewan or Halle really belong on this list at all. I didn't even remember he was in Star Wars; I remember him or Big Fish and now, I Love You Phillip Morris (EXCELLENT movie if you haven't seen it).

Halle Berry has had her fair share of bad movies, but I certainly don't peg her as "that X-Men character" when I see her. That's a big stretch guys.

Nov 20 11 - 12:17am

Yeah, I think Catwoman scarred her more than X-Men.

Nov 19 11 - 1:54pm

So being in a commercially successful fantasy franchise suddenly ruins an actor's "promise"?

Nov 19 11 - 5:38pm

I notice that Orlando Bloom, who's been in at least a couple of big moneymaking franchises, isn't on this list. I guess no one's gonna pretend he was ever a good actor to begin with.

Nov 23 11 - 5:12am
Mr What?

Are you serious? These (except maybe for the first girl) are all hugely bankable stars. WTF is the author talking about? Ewan MacGregor ruined? Halle Berry?? Tobey Macguire? Do you have any idea how successful these actors have already been? I suspect this reviewer is one of those dejected writers who's grasping for something to make him/her sound unique.

Jan 22 12 - 9:41pm
el profe

Halle Berry sucks because she compared winning an Oscar to Rosa Parks sitting on a bus. Completely, totally, wildly inappropriate.

Jul 15 12 - 9:57am

Don't agree at all about Ewan McGregor. Just see his movie, he's a GREAT actor !
By th way I liked Star Wars, he played very good his character the Jedi knight.
Did you see Young Adam ? The Island ? Moulin rouge ? He can do every kind of character, he's so good !
Delete him from this list he's famous and good actor.