For every Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger or Daniel Craig, there are a dozen would-be action stars who tried to get their movie careers off the ground, but couldn’t quite manage it. Here are 15 actors who thought they could punch, shoot and leap into stardom, but reality had other plans.
1) Shaquile O’Neal, Steel
Shaquille O’Neal was very good at basketball. Acting? Not so much. In his attempt to transform himself into a movie star of any sort, he gave the action genre a try as the titular superhero of Steel in 1997. The performance was so dire he stopped try to play anyone other than himself until a bit part in Grown-Ups 2 in 2013.
2) Chris Klein, Rollerball
Remember when America tried to make Chris Klein happen? He seems like an affable guy, but his turn as the dopey Oz in the American Pie movies didn’t really convey his ability to anchor an action movie, especially one as ill-conceived as the 2002 Rollerball remake.
3) Pamela Anderson, Barb Wire
Playboy Playmate turned popular TV star Pamela Anderson thought movie star was the next rung in her ladder when she accepted the title role of Barb Wire, based on the racy comic heroine. Suffice it to say, it was not nearly as warmly received as her sex tape with Tommy Lee.
4) Shia LaBeouf, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Although the Transformers films are certainly action movies, and they’ve been wildly successful, you couldn’t appropriately call Shia LaBeouf (“The Beef”) an action movie star in them. He was there mainly as an audience surrogate while Michael Bay blew crap up. But Steven Spielberg thought he had enough potential that he cast Shia as Indiana Jones’ son Mutt in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Not that anybody would have looked good trying to swing on jungle vines like a monkey, but Shia somehow made it even worse.
5) Brian Bosworth, Stone Cold
As a former NFL linebacker, Brian Bosworth is one of many pro athletes who hoped to make it big in Hollywood with the 1991 film Stone Cold. Given that maybe three of the people reading this even remember this movie ever existed, I think you can guess how that went.
6) Jay Leno, Collision Course
Any time you read a list of the lousiest action films ever made, Collision Course is going to come up, and deservedly so. Collision Course was an action-comedy that paired Jay Leno with The Karate Kid’s Pat Morita, in the vein of every mismatched buddy-cop movie ever. It wasn’t funny, it wasn’t action-packed, and it wasn’t even finished until years after the shoot, where it limped straight to home video. As you might have noticed, Leno didn’t quit his day job,
7) Alex Pettyfer
In researching this article, I found many people stating that Alex Pettyfer was a failed action movie star. He was in I Am Number Four, Beastly, and something called Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker, all of which bombed. Given the fact that I had no idea Pettyfer existed until yesterday, I’m going to say, his bid to be an action star was not a success.
8) Kristen Kreuk, Legend of Chun Li
Despite the immense popularity of the Street Fighter videogame franchise, it seems Legend Films made this movie under duress. They gave it practically no budget, which prevented any big actors from appearing in it. This allowed former Smallville star Kreuk her big break, while also immediately ending her movie career, because neither she nor the movie were at all good.
9) Sam Worthington
Sam Worthington is the star of Avatar, which is not only an action flick from the king of action flicks, James Cameron, but is the highest grossing movie of all time. He starred in the terrible but popular Clash of the Titans remake and the terrible but somewhat profitable Teminator: Salvation reboot. How can he be considered a failure? Well, because since then he’s basically disappeared. Despite his insane, unwarranted successes, no one is hiring him anymore. I don’t know exactly why directors have stopped casting him, but I assume it has something to do with him have the acting ability of a rotted log.
10) Vanilla Ice, Cool as Ice
Vanilla Ice was once not only popular, but a popular rapper. So popular, in fact, he was allowed to star in an action movie. This was a huge mistake for everyone involved.
11) Taylor Kitsch
I hate that Taylor Kitsch is on this list, because anyone who’s seen him on Friday Night Lights knows he’s a genuinely good actor. And while Battleship was exactly as dumb as a movie based on a board game would be expected to be, John Carter was actually quite good, but bombed because of the world’s crappiest marketing campaign. But two major box office duds in row cut Kitsch’s action movie career short. Happily, he seems to be bouncing back with a variety dramatic roles, including one in the upcoming second season of True Detective.
12) Justin Long, Live Free or Die Hard
I have no idea how the nerdy Justin Long, of Apple commercial fame, managed to co-star in a Die Hard movie alongside Bruce Willis. I can’t imagine anyone, even a Hollywood executive, being so whacked out on cocaine that they honestly believed Long was the new face of the franchise. It’s like some terrible prank memo got way out of hand and the studio didn’t notice they’d accidentally hired Long until half the movie was already shot. At any rate, they wised up and Willis got a new, brawnier sidekick in A Good Day to Die Hard. I imagine Justin Long is also completely okay with this.
13) Alicia Silverstone, Batman & Robin
I won’t pretend that casting the star of Clueless as Batgirl is the biggest of Batman & Robin’s sins, but man, she made Chris O’Donnell look like Joseph Gordon-Levitt in comparison. Suffice it to say, after that she stuck to projects that didn’t force her to run around in a leather bodysuit with sculpted ass cheeks.
14) Hulk Hogan, No Holds Barred
After fighting Rocky in Rocky III, wrestling superstar Hulk Hogan had a taste for Hollywood. With help from the WWE, he managed to get a starring vehicle as — wait for it — a wrestler in No Holds Barred. It was not a good movie, but it was one more suited to Hogan’s acting talents than his later action-comedies Mr. Nanny and Suburban Commando, which were mere blips on his immediate downward spiral into cinematic irrelevancy.
15) Taylor Lautner, Abduction
The shirt-challenged werewolf of the Twilight saga parlayed the franchise’s immense popularity into his bid to become an action movie star. In the frenzy of Twilight mania, Lautner was hired to lead a variety of action flicks, including Max Steel and Stretch Armstrong, both based on action figures. Then people saw him star in Abduction, and realized out that Lautner was a less talented (although less bland) Sam Worthington. Everything Lautner was attached to was quietly placed on the backburner.
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