There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. This principle extends to most aspects of life, including the film industry. Here are 15 actors whose careers took a blow from an abundance of movie and media overexposure.
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Call Seth Rogen a victim of his own success. After the one-two punch of Superbad and Knocked Up in 2007, Rogen’s star rose. Unfortunately, the actor/writer may have spread himself a bit too thin as he was featured in no less than six movies the following year, four projects in 2009, and five projects in 2011. Of these films, only 50/50 and The Pineapple Express can be considered breakout vehicles (setting aside his voice over work, of course). Things slowed down for the actor last year with The Guilt Trip standing as his only major release. It yielded disappointing box office results, perhaps due to Rogen’s previous onscreen over saturation.
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Lindsay Lohan, on the other hand, is a victim of media over saturation. The once beloved child star is constant fodder for tabloids and has created a nightmarish professional reputation. As a consequence, Lohan has not headlined a theatrical release since 2007’s I Know Who Killed Me. Her proposed “comeback” movie, The Canyons, has also been compromised thanks in part to a New York Times piece by Stephen Roderick entitled “Here Is What Happens When You Cast Lindsay Lohan In Your Movie.” As the actress faces jail time yet again, one can anticipate that her continued media coverage will further dim her career prospects.
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In 2004, Sherlock Holmes star Jude Law outstayed his welcome with audiences by appearing in six films. Of these, only one, The Aviator, was a major financial success. Keep in mind, Law only appeared in that film in a supporting capacity. This perhaps prompted the actor to take two years off from working before re-emerging in 2006.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt clearly likes to work. He appeared in four major releases last year. While three of them—Looper, Lincoln, and The Dark Knight Rises—went on to box office success, the action vehicle Premium Rush became an epic bomb. This showed signs that audiences were likely burnt out on the young actor’s prolific output.
2011 was not Nicolas Cage’s year. The Academy Award winning actor had already been experienced diminished box office returns after his big-budget vehicle The Sorcer’s Apprentice failed to perform in 2010. Though the edgy superhero film Kick-A$$ showed Cage still had some signs or life left in him, 2011 would mostly negate it-- Cage saw four major releases which failed to perform in theaters. This may have contributed to the direct-to-digital distribution of Trespass, a fifth Cage film that was quietly aborted away from theaters by Hollywood despite co-starring Nicole Kidman.
Will Ferrell’s “arrogant jerk” persona earned him unexpected success in 2004 with Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. The type would be such a hit for the actor he would reprise variations of it at least five times over the course of 2005 to 2007. Then in 2008 it seemed audiences had experienced their fill—Semi Pro, a comedy intended to give 1970s basketball an Anchorman-style makeover, bombed. Since then Ferrell has mostly retired the persona, save for the upcoming Anchorman 2 which will likely be a successful return to franchise that made his career.
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Ben Stiller came down with Jude Law syndrome in 2004, appearing in a total of six movies. Thankfully for the comedian, the majority of the lot were mainstream successes with one exception. Envy paired Stiller with fellow comic sensation Jack Black and should have ensured decent box office. Instead the film clocked in well below its budget due to a case of star fatigue among audiences and critics who panned the film across the board. Stiller wisely took time off in 2005 (with the exception of voice acting) and has successfully managed to keep his brand of comedy un-diluted since then.
Oscar winning French Connection star Gene Hackman appeared in five major films released in 2001, four of which counted as leading roles in major theatrical films. Only one film in the bunch, The Royal Tenenbaums, emerged as a major financial and critical success. Hackman’s littering of theaters with mediocre films would set a precedent for the rest of his career, tarnishing his reputation as one of Hollywood’s elite performers before his retirement in 2004.
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While SCTV star Eugene Levy had been a supporting player in a myriad of comedies before his appearance as Jim’s Dad in American Pie in 1999, it was that film made him a major, top billed comedy star. Unfortunately it was also what motivated him to reprise the nerdy character type in theatrical releases, direct-to-video films, and television shows over thirty times since American Pie's release. While we can’t directly link Levy’s over saturation to the box office failure of American Reunion last year, it surely didn’t help matters.
Robert Pattinson’s career has been made by the Twilight franchise and one could also suggest it has been unmade by it. While the Twilight films all went on to break box office records, the actor’s other films—Remember Me, Water For Elephants, Cosmopolis, etc.-- have all failed to attract substantial audiences. This in all likeliness may be due to the over saturation the media has given to the actor thanks to his rocky relationship with co-star Kristen Stewart. For a similar (albeit less prolific) case, see also co-star Taylor Laughtner’s diminished box office returns.
From 2002 to 2003, Colin Farrell appeared in a total of eight films, six of which were major theatrical releases. While the majority of these films emerged as box-office hits, the over exposure can be directly linked to the string of flops experienced by the actor from 2004 onward (including The New World, Alexander, and Miami Vice).
Cuba Gooding Jr
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Cuba Gooding Jr.’s Oscar win in 1996 for Jerry Maguire yielded the actor his pick of Hollywood's best projects. What better response to have than saying yes to everything you’re offered? The actor has appeared in over forty films since then. This prolific period didn’t really kick off until 2007 when he appeared in an impressive total of five films. His batting average has continued since then, hurtling his career into the C-list and greatly detracting from the occasional big screen efforts like Red Tails.
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Josh Hartnett made a big splash onscreen in 1998 with Halloween H20 and The Faculty, a pair of horror films that announced a teen actor to watch. Yet it was 2001 that was truly the year of Hartnett—the actor appeared in five theatrical films, though only one of them—Pearl Harbor—emerged as a breakout financial success. Following Hartnett’s year of overexposure, the actor’s star began to fade slightly and substantial box office success eluded him. He’s been working predominately in indie films ever since.
Following the success of Avatar in 2009, Sam Worthington became one of Hollywood’s hottest commodities. This in spite of the fact that he has basically played the character of Jake Sulley six times in the three years that have passed since Avatar's release. You can find heavy shades of the everyman type in everything from the Clash of the Titans franchise to Man On A Ledge. While Clash was an unmitigated success, Worthington’s other films have failed to set the world on fire in a way that could remotely compare to Avatar. The Australian actor is not yet suffering from Robert Pattinson syndrome but the shadow of overexposure given to James Cameron’s film and Worthington’s iconic character is certainly cast.
Following his Academy Award win for Good Will Hunting in 1997, Ben Affleck has clocked in roughly three movies a year every year. While that may not seem especially huge in comparison to some numbers on this list, it was combined with sustained tabloid coverage and caused Affleck’s acting career fold on itself like a dying star (see bombs like Surviving Christmas) by 2004. Thankfully, the actor took a page from the book of Clint Eastwood and opted to once again head behind the camera. He's recently resurfaced full-force by directing hits like Gone Baby Gone, The Town, and, most recently, Argo. In the process Affleck has revived his status as a leading man and, on the whole, has managed to stay out of tabloids.