In the movie business, taking a risk can be a great thing. Nothing destroys an actor’s career like becoming boring, and when a performer only does precisely what’s expected of them year after year, it’s only a matter of time before the writing is on the wall. Staleness sets in, and that’s game over.
Well, one method that can destroy a career even quicker is to pick a truly regrettable project. Play your cards wrong and everything you worked for can come crashing down over the course of one feature film. Perhaps you’ve picked a character you’ve doomed yourself to be associated with for life.
Sometimes blame for the critical or commercial failure of a movie will end up dumped at your feet. Or it can be the cherry on top of a sundae of bad decisions.
These actors didn't manage to torpedo their careers entirely, but they came awfully close to the brink before pulling things back, sometimes in unlikely fashion.
At least they won’t be left asking themselves “where did it all go wrong?” - we can pinpoint precisely where.
10. Star Wars: The Phantom Menace - Natalie Portman
Natalie Portman as Mathilda in Leon is one of the great child performances. She’s affecting and precocious without ever being annoying - truly a tricky balancing act - and the world was expecting big things.
When the role of Padmé Amidala was offered to her, it was a totally different task from the more thoughtful parts she had taken thus far, but the new Star Wars isn’t something you turn down.
Well, maybe she should have done. It’s unfair to blame Portman for this, but she was not good, especially in The Phantom Menace. She looked awestruck, which she probably was, and her delivery was on the wooden side, which can be put down primarily to the often terrible dialogue she was tasked with reciting.
To suspect that her career would be damaged would be overstating the case, perhaps, but from her timid turn in the 1999 prequel there was no indication that she would go on to become an Oscar winning, commanding screen presence.
Portman was smart to take some time out of the spotlight to complete her education following The Phantom Menace, and returned an entirely different, far better actor.