The weekend box-office saw two major Hollywood stars — Tom Cruise and Adam Sandler — take a couple of major hits against their box-office prowess as holdovers Madagascar: Europe’s Most Wanted ($35 million) and Prometheus ($20 million) held off two challengers, Rock of Ages ($15 million) and That’s My Boy ($13 million). Both were terrible movies, although in the case of Rock of Ages, it was easily the Best Awful Movie of the Year. Some of the blame for the failure of those two movies has been attributed to their two stars, Tom Cruise and Adam Sandler, respectively. That, of course, is fair in the latter’s case: That’s My Boy was co-written and starred Sandler; it was an “Adam Sandler Movie.” That said, much of its failure can be attributed to the fact that it was an R-Rated movie and Sandler can no longer draw R-rated moviegoers. In the case of Rock of Ages, however, Tom Cruise was the selling point, but he wasn’t the film’s major lead, and it wasn’t a movie in Cruise’s wheelhouse (he is, after all, coming off the biggest blockbuster of his career in Ghost Protocol).
So what happened? Sometimes big box-office stars simply strike out, whether it’s because they stepped outside of their comfort zones, they took on a badly marketed film, or the film was just terrible to begin with. It happens. It rarely affects the long-term prospects of a box-office star unless the bombs come in strings (see Eddie Murphy). More often than not, however, they bounce back.
Don’t believe me? Well, let’s take a look at the 15 highest grossing actors of all time. I went through their filmographies and picked their biggest bombs. The criteria: The actor in question had to have played a lead role, the role must have taken place after the actor in question became a big star, and the movie had to have been given a wide release (i.e., indie flicks do not count).
Here’s what I came up with:
1. Tom Hanks — Bonfire of the Vanities
2. Eddie Murphy — The Adventures of Pluto Nash
3. Harrison Ford — Extraordinary Measures
4. Samuel Jackson — Resurrecting the Champ
5. Tom Cruise — Lions for Lambs
6. Robin Williams — Death to Smoochy
7. Jonny Depp — Nick of Time
8. Morgan Freeman — The Big Bounce
9. Cameron Diaz — The Box
10. Bruce Willis — The Whole Ten Yards
11. Will Smith — The Legend of Bagger Vance
12. Robert DeNiro — Night and the City
13. Julia Roberts — Mary Reilly
14. Matt Damon — All the Pretty Horses
15. Ben Stiller — Duplex
As you can see, in all cases except Eddie Murphy, the actor in question bounced back from their worst outings to continue being major movie stars with at least a few subsequent hits (Harrison Ford’s post-Extraordinary Measures career is still questionable, the $100 million gross of Cowboys and Aliens notwithstanding). I doubt that the performances of Rock of Ages will affect Tom Cruise’s ability to sell tickets to big-budget action films, nor will the performance of That’s My Boy affect Sandler’s ability to make $150 million on Grown Ups 2. Unfortunately.