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The "Fetch" Effect: 8 Actors that Hollywood Has Tried, and Failed, to Make Happen

By Dustin Rowles | Lists | September 30, 2011 |

By Dustin Rowles | Lists | September 30, 2011 |

Taylor Llamautner, the pug-nosed Robot created in a petri dish of muscle, hairless wolf, and retardation, is the latest actor Hollywood attempted cram down our gullets against the wishes of our gag reflex, but as we saw in its $10 million opening over the weekend, Lionsgate clearly thought they could build off of the success of Twilight, spend $1 million on a terrible script, and turn Lautner into the next Tom Cruise. What they failed to consider, however, is that Taylor Lautner is a terrible, terrible actor, and even teenage girls draw the line somewhere.

But it’s not the first time that Hollywood attempted to make someone a star against the wishes of audiences. And it won’t be the last. Here are eight other recent actors that Hollywood has attempted, and failed, to make stars.

Alex Pettyfer: I literally have no idea where this guy came from, though I’m certainly not broken up by the fact that, so far, he’s failed as a lead actor. He was a model who was handpicked for the title role in Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker. And despite the fact that it was based upon a popular graphic novel series (with nine installments) and a supporting cast that included Ewan McGregor, the film was poorly reviewed and made less than $1 million. Still, someone must have thought they saw something in Pettyfer because two years later, Hollywood attempted to build a franchise around him, I Am Number Four, which was also based on a graphic novel. That, too, bombed, making only $55 million (certainly not franchise money). A couple of months later, Pettyfer appeared again in Beastly (based on a supernatural romance novel) and, though it was predicted to be one of the 50 biggest films of 2010, it only mustered a meager $27 million. And thus ended Pettyfer’s quest to be the “next big action star.” However, he does have a supporting role in October’s In Time and Soderbergh did put him in his male stripper movie. If anyone can turn him into a star, it’s Soderbergh. Right? Look what he did for porn star Sasha Grey. After the Girlfriend Experience, Grey went on to the great heights of … “Entourage” and an Eminem video.


Josh Hartnett: When Channing Tatum arrived on the scene, I wondered why there was a need to replace Joshn Hartnett on the Hollywood food chain, until I realized that Josh Hartnett, despite several efforts, never became the huge star that Pearl Harbor portended he’d become. He’s like Charming Potato, without any of the goddamn charm. After Pearl Harbor (and the ensemble, Black Hawk Down), Hartnett was never able to carry a film: 40 Days and 40 Nights ($37 million), Hollywood Homicide ($30 million), Wicker Park ($13 million), Lucky Number Slevin ($22 million) and, the nail in the coffin, The Black Dahlia ($22 million). His last movie, Bunruku was unreleased and the one before that, August, made only $12,000. Worse still, I think he sucked out all of Harrison Ford’s mojo in Hollywood Homicide.


Danny McBride: After The Foot Fist Way, which only critics and Hollywood execs saw, McBride came out of nowhere and stole a few scenes in Pineapple Express and Tropic Thunder. Hollywood was sure it had a huge comedic talent on their hands, but it didn’t quite turn out that way. Even though they essentially paired him with his All the Real Girls director, David Gordon-Green, McBride never amounted to anything more than a one-trick Kenny Powers: Land of the Lost was a massive failure; Your Highness only made $21 million, even with Natalie Portman and James Franco in it, and his latest, the lead villain in 30 MInutes of Less only mustered $37 million. He’s still got “Eastbound and Down,” but I doubt that McBride will ever make it to the end of the red carpet that Hollywood laid out for him. Turns out, we have Seth Rogen, we have Jonah Hill, and we have Will Ferrell. We didn’t need a blend of all three.


Michael Cera: Remember when we loved Michael Cera in “Arrested Development” so much that we followed him to Superbad? And then remember how, after the success of Superbad, Cera was cast in everything? And then remember how nobody watched any of those films? Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist ($31 million), Year One ($43 million), Youth in Revolt ($15 million), and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World ($31 million). It’s not that these films just failed, they failed because of Cera. I still believe the reason that Scott Pilgrim wasn’t a massive hit was because nobody wanted to see a Michael Cera movie. Hollywood tried to will it, but audiences refused buy. What’s Cera got going on now? A couple of low-budget flicks due out in 2012 and 2013. I’m guessing audiences will ignore them, too. A swing and a miss, a career with all the potential of a Red Sox/Braves World Series in 2011.


Dane Cook: In 2006, Dane Cook was riding a wave of massive popularity, apparently built around a stand-up routine that involved mispronouncing the word sandwich. The guy could sell out huge venues, and douchebags would line up around the block to see him go on and on and on about his experience standing in the line at Rite-Aid. Hollywood naturally thought they had something, believing they could translate his stand-up success to the screen. They could not: Employee of the Month ($28 million), Good Luck Chuck, ($35 million) and My Best Friend’s Girl ($19 million) were all dead on arrival, and even though his dramatic turn in Mr. Brooks ($28 million) was well received, few bothered to see it in theaters. He has a couple of low-budget indies in the works, but Hollywood studios have given up on him. The latest news has him eyeing a sitcom on network television.


Topher Grace: I don’t quite know what went wrong with Topher Grace after he left “That 70’s Show.” He’s likable and winsome, but he doesn’t really have that feature film presence, even though his cameo in Ocean’s 12 suggested that he might become one of those stars someday. It didn’t happen. Win a Date with Tad Hamilton! ($17 million) bombed, In Good Company ($45) performed only modestly, and he was a huge part of the problem in Spider-Man 3. Between 2004 and 2010, he was only in 2 movies released widely; in 2010, he played second-fiddle in a disappointing Predator remake (commercially speaking) before a movie he’d made in 2007, Take Me Home Tonight, was finally released in 2011. It made $6 million. I think Hollywood finally saw the writing on the wall, scrawled in the blood of the botched virgin sacrifice it attempted to make Grace a star.


Dan Fogler: Fogler was a award-winning Broadway star that Hollywood thought it could turn into the next funny fat guy. I have no idea why Hollywood decided to believe in this guy. He didn’t even have a base, a small scene-stealing role familiar to the masses. In 2006 - 2007, Hollywood just started throwing him in movies, slapping him against the wall to see if he’d stick: School for Scoundrels ($17 million), Balls of Fury ($32 million), and Good Luck Chuck ($35 million). Two other Fogler movies, Fanboys ($688,000) and Take Me Home Tonight ($6 million) were also made during that period and not released until a few years later, and by that time, Hollywood had already given up trying to make Fogler happen.


Clive Owen: I understand that this is an odd choice, and that many of you are thinking, “But Clive Owen already is a star.” But is he really? How many successful movies has he made? In my opinion, Clive Owen is a guy that Hollywood has been trying to make happen since The Bourne Identity. In fact, they’re still trying. But mainstream audiences aren’t biting. Sure, he was in Sin City and Inside Man, but was he the draw for either one of those films? “Clive Owen” films don’t do well. Look at the evidence: Closer (even with the ensemble, it only made $33 million), Derailed ($36 million), Children of Men ($35 million), Shoot ‘Em Up ($12 million), The International ($25 million), Duplicity ($40 million), The Boys are Back ($800,000), Trust ($112,000) and the Statham film, Killer Elite ($10 million, so far). Owen has been asked to carry a movie several times, and he’s failed each and every time. Audiences loves to see him in suits, they just don’t want to see him in movies. And Hollywood hasn’t quite caught on yet.


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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.