Good actors make their share of bad movies


Two years after completing production, the Eddie Murphy comedy The Adventures of Pluto Nash finally arrived in theaters. The Castle Rock film, in which Murphy plays a nightclub owner on the moon battling the Mafia for control of his establishment, has had a troubled production that included re-shoots; it reportedly cost about $100 million. Critics weren't invited to see the movie before it opened - usually an indication of trouble.

Along with his huge hits, Murphy has had some bona fide stinkers over the years. In the 1998 comedy Holy Man, Murphy played a TV evangelist named G. The $60 million film eked out a bit more than $12 million at the box office. And back in 1984, before Beverly Hills Cop made him a superstar, he appeared with Dudley Moore in an ill-fated war comedy called Best Defense. It was directed by Willard Huyck, best known for the legendary flop Howard the Duck (1986).

But if Pluto turns out to be a dog, Murphy has some distinguished company among Hollywood's elite:

John Travolta is one of the all-time masters of box-office disasters. The romantic comedy Lucky Numbers (2000) received dreadful reviews and brought in unlucky numbers at the box office, grossing only about $10 million.

Not long after Lucky Numbers tanked, Scientologist Travolta's pet project, Battlefield Earth (2000), based on Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard's best-selling sci-fi thriller, was released to even worse reviews. Budgeted at $73 million, it took in $21.5 million after two months in release.

Three years earlier, Travolta, Dustin Hoffman and director Costa-Gavras bombed out in the thriller Mad City, which took in just $11 million. But the ultimate Travolta disaster was the 1978 romance Moment by Moment, a classically trashy movie in which he plays a young stud named Strip who romances an older woman (Lily Tomlin).

Kevin Costner could do no wrong at the box office in the late '80s and early '90s, but he's had more ups and downs in his career than a Magic Mountain roller coaster ever since.

Though he won an Oscar for directing the 1990 hit, Dances With Wolves, the academy and audiences felt differently about his second directorial effort, the 1997 adventure The Postman. The three-hour dog, with a hefty $80 million budget, was released by Warner Bros. at Christmas but quickly tanked, making just $17.6 million after two months in release.

And last year, Costner's violent thriller, 3,000 Miles to Graceland, took a critical drubbing and was a commercial disaster: The $62 million film snared only $15.7 million at the box office.

Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman: The Academy Award-winning pair starred in one of the most infamous bombs of the 1980s - the 1987 comedy Ishtar, in which the two play hapless nightclub singers. Even the name Ishtar has become synonymous with box-office disasters.

Beatty also co-starred with Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn, Garry Shandling and Andie MacDowell in Town and Country (2001), a romantic comedy that was years in the making and remaking. With a swollen budget of $90 million, the film quickly disappeared from theaters after taking in only $6.7 million in its first month in release.

Woody Allen's films haven't exactly been big at the box office in recent years, but Picking Up the Pieces (2000), a black comedy he made for director Alfonso Arau, went straight to Cinemax. The comedy, which finds Allen playing a kosher butcher with an unfaithful wife, also starred Sharon Stone and David Schwimmer.

Whoopi Goldberg probably doesn't mention Theodore Rex (1995) on her resume. This $33 million misfire finds the Oscar-winner playing a tough female cop who is teamed up with a talking dinosaur partner. The film went straight to video and TNT cable.

Of course, stars from Hollywood's golden age have numerous films in the turkey hall of fame.

Clark Gable tried to forget his stodgy 1937 historical drama Parnell, in which he was sorely miscast as the famed Irish freedom fighter.

Laurence Olivier was considered one of the greatest actors of all time. But you wouldn't know that from his performance in the 1981 film Inchon, in which he sported some ghastly makeup to play Gen. Douglas MacArthur. Jacqueline Bisset, Ben Gazzara and Toshiro Mifune also starred in this $46 million flick which was five years in the making and funded by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon. Quickly pulled from theaters because of poor box office, Inchon swept the first-annual Golden Raspberry Awards for the worst film of the year.

John Wayne made one of his greatest films, the John Ford western The Searchers, in 1956. And that same year saw the release of one of his worst: The Conqueror. Who can forget the image of Duke sporting a Fu Manchu mustache and slanted eyes to play the role of Mongolian chief Genghis Khan.

Susan King writes for the Los Angeles Times, a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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