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Artistic integrity is hard to come by in show businesses and all of our favorite performers, musicians and actors have taken a pay day now and then. However, here’s a list of 15 performers legendary for “selling out” to mixed results.
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You can accuse the entire line-up of KISS of being sellouts, but Gene Simmons takes the cake. Not only is willing to sell his image and license his band to the highest bidder, he’s willing to sell out his personal life for projects like Gene Simmons Family Jewels. The A&E reality series centered on his family life and lasted for seven seasons. Even more ironically, many episodes dealt with Simmons’ almost compulsive need to sell his name and image for the right price. Simply put, no list of sell-outs would be complete without The Demon.
Is it hearsay to accuse the Fab Four of selling out? Not really. It’s easy to see from their “British Invasion” of America that the boyish style and squeaky clean, fun loving image the group was all fabrication. The man behind it? Legendary producer George Martin, who took the band from being leather clad, rock n’ roll thugs and transformed them into mop-topped icons we remember today.
Francis Ford Coppola
It’s hard to believe Francis Ford Coppola resisted directing The Godfather initially on the grounds it would be selling out, but that was the case. After Coppola’s independent studio, American Zoetrope, began to sink following box office disaster, George Lucas himself convinced Coppola to stray from his intimate, art house ambitions and make the gangster film. Coppola reportedly hated the violent nature of the script and worried it was condoning criminal activity. Upon accepting the job, Coppola applied his arthouse ideals to the Mario Puzo’s novel and weaved the American masterpiece many still call the greatest film ever made.
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Eddie Murphy ruled the box office in the ’80s thanks to hits like 48 Hours, Beverly Hills Cop and Coming To America. Then the ’90s hit and with it Vampire In Brooklyn, Beverly Hills Cop III and about a zillion other terrible films followed. It’s understandable to sign onto a few clunkers, but Murphy generated a string that led all the way through the millennium (see Imagine That and Meet Dave for recent examples). In interviews he’s admitted to following the money, rather than his own instincts as a performer, throughout much of his career. Last year he recanted his sell-out ways an announced to Rolling Stone he was quitting family films in favor of the edgier material that made him a household name.
Robert De Niro
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Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, The Godfather Part II— the bulk of Robert De Niro’s resume presents some of the finest narratives ever put to film. Then sometime around the early 2000s, he began showing up in films like Rock & Bullwinkle, Analyze That and The Godsend. The Eddie Murphy theory could be put into play here, but, unlike Murphy, De Niro rarely owns up to fact his films diminish in quality. Nevertheless, it’s clear that Oscar-winner has been cashing more than a few checks in the span of the past decade.
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It’s easy to forget the original Star Wars was put together as an independent movie, complete with a haphazard, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants production akin to Lucas’ preceding film, American Graffiti. When Star Wars became unexpected, hit success of 1977 it changed movie-making forever. George helped produce and guide the sequels before taking back control of the franchise in 1999, when he returned to direct The Phantom Menace. The prequel trilogy that followed has long-been criticized for its dip in quality and many have accused Lucas of being out-of-touch with what made the preceding films work, instead opting to make a series of action-figure selling children’s films that didn’t connect with any audience. After selling off the rights to the franchise to Disney in a $4 Billion deal, Lucas seems to have agreed. He cited he wanted to “protect” the universe through Disney– perhaps even from himself– and announced he would be returning to the smaller films that he started out making.
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How does one of the most edgy and innovative voices in hip-hop become known for starring in family films like Are We There Yet? The former N.W.A. member began his downward spiral in the mid-1990s when he began doing promotional ads for companies like Sega. This should have been a sign when he began his career in edgy comedies and action films like Friday and Dangerous Ground, only to wind up in the Are We There Yet? series roughly a decade later. Thankfully, his recent single, “Everythang’s Corrupt” with Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello signifies a return to the angry, political Ice Cube that audiences embraced in the first place.
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One of Ice Cube’s associates, Snoop Dogg (recently re-named Snoop Lion) makes Cube look like the king of integrity by comparison. Snoop has lent his name, likeness and rhymes to virtually anything. Hot Pockets, Katy Perry, AOL– if you name it, Snoop has likely put his name on it with no end in sight. Truly, he is the Gene Simmons of hip-hop.
The 30 Rock actor is notorious for his acting chops, liberal politics and difficult personality. He’s also notorious for appearing in commercials to promote Hulu and Capital One. Of the latter case, Baldwin has used the proceeds to donate to the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and the Hamptons Film Festival, which almost gets him his formerly tough thespian street cred back.. Almost.
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Alex Cross creator James Patterson has been accused of being less of a novelist and more of a book factory. Many critics have lambasted Patterson for his “brand name” writing process, wherein he “co-authors” his latest books—sending an outline to a freelance writer and then rewriting their work after the fact—rather than writing his novels organically. As a byproduct, Patterson releases best sellers onto store shelves faster than McDonald’s makes hamburgers. However, this quantity over quality gets him equal amounts of flack from peers like Stephen King, who calls him “a terrible writer,” who just happens to be “very successful.”
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Iconic alternative comedian Janeane Garofalo was the voice of Gen-X counter culture but has admitted to taking a check now and again. Her biggest sellout instance? The extremely liberal actress, who was an outspoken advocate against the glorification of violence and military torture, joined the cast of conservative-friendly show 24 as the character of Janis Gold. Garofalo has since owned up to this compromise of integrity, though her stint on the show remains one her most successful acting gigs to date.
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Pop-star performance artist Lady Gaga has been roundly criticized for the rampant product placement in her videos. “Telephone” has especially been cited for promoting Miracle Whip, Virgin Mobile, Polaroid, and Hewlett-Packard in the span of its avant-garde, fashion-minded running time.
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Think Lady Gaga, only without the panache. Ke$ha’s “We Are Who We Are” promotes Tequila Revolucion, Plentyofish.com, Victoria’s Secret and the singer’s own brand of watches to good effect. However, Nokia recently pulled its promotional tie-in of the Lumia 920 in K’s new video “Die Young” following the video’s largely negative reception. What’s sadder than a sellout? One who can’t sellout successfully.
Iggy Pop, The Stooges frontman known to many as one of the great punk-rock icons, shed his shirtless, sweaty, squirming, bisexual, drug addled persona in favor of promoting insurance. Yes, in 2009 Iggy showed up in a commercial for Swiftcover, a UK-based insurance company. Ironically, the ad would be pulled not because of any sort of offensive content, but because Iggy’s appearance misled consumers into thinking the company covered musicians (it didn’t at the time). Banned by technicality is not punk rock.
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Even before critics were labeling her a sell-out for joining American Idol‘s panel of judges (for a reported $12 million!), J.Lo was attacked for her promotional tie-ins wth Fiat. She performed at the 2011 AMAs promoting the car and produced a music video for her song “Papi” that double as a commercial for the car. The partnership would end in disaster for the singer when Fiat’s ties to Middle Eastern terrorist groups were revealed by United Against Nuclear Iran, who wrote Lopez an open letter requesting she cut her ties with the company.