10 Actors Who Didn't Understand Their Own Movie

You're not the only one who didn't fully get what was happening in Inception...

The Happening Mark Wahlberg
20th Century Fox

Actors and actresses work hard to create characters and bring them to life on the silver screen. In most cases, those performers connect with their characters, the plot, and the storyline to deliver a remarkable and entertaining final product, but every once in awhile, a movie will come along and baffle the actors.

If you were watching a movie that didn't make much sense to you, you can rest assured; there are actors on screen who had no idea what's going on. Ben Affleck famously asked why NASA wasn't training its astronauts to drill in Armageddon and was told to "shut the f**k up" by Michael Bay.

This isn't to say the actors gave poor performances or were criticized for their roles. There just happen to be some examples of well-known performances the actors themselves truly didn't understand, and in rare cases, they even spoke about this issue with the press.

Granted, it doesn't happen every day, but these actors were given a script, performed their part, and didn't know what the hell was going on during filming. When they sat down to watch the movie, they were just as lost as everyone else, and there are some who played iconic roles, but never understood or liked their character.

10. Sean Penn - The Tree Of Life

The Happening Mark Wahlberg
Fox Searchlight Pictures

The Tree of Life was an epic drama film from 2011, which was directed by Terrence Mallick, and starred Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain, and many more. The film deals with the origins and meaning of life via a middle-aged man's childhood memories from growing up in Texas in the '50s.

Sounds simple enough, right? Well, for Sean Penn, who played Jack O'Brien, the man whose memories the film follows, he had no idea what was going on. Penn spoke out about the film while he was promoting it, and his comments don't exactly reflect positively on the film:

"The screenplay is the most magnificent one that I've ever read, but I couldn't find that same emotion on screen. A clearer and more conventional narrative would have helped the film without, in my opinion, lessening its beauty and its impact. Frankly, I'm still trying to figure out what I'm doing there and what I was supposed to add in that context! What's more, Terry himself never managed to explain it to me clearly."

If the director never managed to fully explain the character to the principal actor, that's a bit of a problem. Still, Penn went on to say, "Nevertheless, it's a film that I recommend provided one goes in without preconceptions."


Jonathan is a graphic artist, illustrator, writer, and game designer. Jonathan retired from the U.S. Army in 2017 and enjoys researching and writing about history, science, theology, and many other subjects. He writes for ScreenRant, CBR, NerdBastards, Listverse, Ranker, WhatCulture, and many other sites online. You can check out his latest on Twitter: @TalkingBull or on his blog: jonathanhkantor.com