Keanu Reeves’ remarkable assassin film, John Wick, put up a respectable $14 million over the weekend, which was not only better than tracking predicted, it was Reeves’ best opening since 2008, although Wick is only the fifth film he’s made in six years. It’s not for lack of trying: As Keanu himself noted in a couple of interviews last week, he simply hasn’t been getting offers to make movies from the studios.
It’s interesting to me because — aside from 47 Ronin, which was plagued by a lot of issues outside of Reeves’ control — he doesn’t make bombs. Even his middling box-office performers, like Constantine or The Lake House, earn back their money and then some.
Reeves is a guy that — questionable acting skills aside — the public loves, and that the public wants to see succeed, and who we are willing to support if he makes a movie that appeals to a broad enough audience. After all, nobody has ever said, “I’m not going to see that because it’s a ‘Keanu Reeves movie.’” Typically, it’s everything else about the movie aside from Reeves that’s a turn off.
Keanu Reeves is a survivor, and more than anything, that’s what the public values. It’s why we catapulted Robert Downey, Jr. to fame again. It’s why we still go see Tom Cruise movies. It’s why Ben Affleck could go from Gigli to Batman. It’s why we forgave so many Sandra Bullock movies and still showed up to see The Proposal and The Blindside. It’s even why as many people as they did turned out to see Eddie Murphy in Tower Heist.
We love our movie stars, and while we may let them slide into oblivion for a few years, we are always willing to give them another chance, and when the right project comes around, we have no problem making them movie stars again. After all, movie stars are never more likable than after a huge helping of humble pie.
Here’s ten former box-office champions we’d love to see reclaim their positions atop the box office.
Mike Myers — Myers essentially double-tapped his career with The Cat in the Hat and Love Guru back in the aughts, and aside from a little-seen documentary he made this year, he’s essentially gone on an extended hiatus. But when he’s ready to come back, we’ll almost surely be ready to accept him again. We’re not that excited about another Austin Powers film, but we are primed and ready to see another great, original comedy from the SNL veteran.
Winona Ryder — Never stop making movies, Winona. The press can write their “Winona Ryder comeback” stories every other year, but someday, that will be permanently true beyond supporting roles in movies like Black Swan and Star Trek. You just keep doing you, Winona, and the rest of the world will eventually catch up. We are still watching your former boyfriend Johnny Depp slowly slide out of the A-list, but we would give anything to see you back there. Maybe in Keanu Reeves movie?
Robert DeNiro — He’s had a few decent supporting roles (Silver Linings Playbook, Limitless), but DeNiro hasn’t been the same since he subverted his persona in Analyze This and the Focker movies. But you put this guy in a Michael Mann or a Martin Scorsese film again, you give him an Oscar-worthy role, and if you let him be DeNiro instead of a DeNiro self-parody, and we will flock in droves to see that movie.
Will Smith — You may not have noticed it, because his kids are so often front and center, but Smith hasn’t had a resounding success since I Am Legend way back in 2007. Hancock was great, but underperformed while MIB 3 and After Earth were crap. Will Smith is due, and all he needs is a big action script with a lot of heart and a few “Hell Naws” and we will be happy to throw another $100 million at him on a 4th of July opening weekend.
Matt Damon — You may not have noticed, but with the exception of True Grit, Matt Damon hasn’t had a $100 million film since the last Bourne flick. One wonders if the Matt Damon pipeline has dried up a little, because the biggest thing to happen to his career since 2010 was the HBO film, Behind the Candelabra. Maybe that’s why he’s getting back into bed with Jason Bourne. It’s also why we’ll be happy to repay Damon for returning to the character with another $500 million worldwide hit.
Julia Roberts — Roberts has been in that part of her career that affects way too many women between the ages of 40 and 50: Hollywood thinks they’re too old to play romantic leads, and they’re not yet old enough to take the Meryl Streep roles. But Roberts will get there. After averaging one live-action movie a year for the last decade, we’re anxious to see her go from roles like Shelby in Steel Magnolias to Truvy in Steel Magnolias.
Jim Carrey — It’s not going to be Dumb and Dumber To, but Hollywood will find the role that resurrects a career that’s been on the decline for the last decade. He just needs to let go of the past and move into the future. Jim Carrey gave SNL its best ratings since March 8th this weekend, which shows that the public still wants to see Jim Carrey succeed. We just don’t want to see shitty movies, which is mostly what Carrey has been making since Eternal Sunshine. It may be a while, but a dark black comedy is going to come along in a year or three, and Carrey is finally going to get that Oscar nomination he’s been longing for his entire career.
Nic Cage — When Cage did Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans in 2009 and reminded us of what he’s truly capable, I thought we were about to see a turnaround. Unfortunately, Cage is still mired in Cage-itis: The inability to see the long-term consequences of a short-term paycheck role. But Nic Cage is amazing, and along with Keanu, is probably the most meme’d actor on the Internet. We love these guys. We just want them to make movies we can get behind. Left Behind did not fit into that category. Cage needs to figure out how to get back into a Coen Brothers film. When that happens, he will light up the box office again.
Kristen Stewart — I know Stewart is a strange one to put on the list, especially since we are only two years removed from the Twilight franchise, but Stewart has already moved on to tiny independent films (whether by choice or lack of options, we don’t know) and she’s promising to take some time off (whether by choice of lack of options, we don’t know). What we do know, however, is that her recent indie output and her give-no-fucks attitude of late has won her the respect of a lot of people, like myself, who loathed the Twilight franchise. It may be a few years into the future, the public is going to be really excited to see Stewart when she pulls a Natalie Portman and successfully turns the corner into adult dramas (or better yet, an HBO or AMC series).