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15 Passion Projects Of Hollywood Actors That No One Wanted To See

It’s obvious that celebrities have many of the perks of fame and fortune. For this, some actors believe that every idea springing from their brow is infallible. Everything they create would be enthusiastically received by the public, even ideas that should have been strangled before being allowed to take form. It shows up in actors who believe they direct as well as they act.

However, in fact, cinematic history has still littered with the corpses of such endeavors. Those efforts make people can only be amazed and leave the eternal question: “What the hell were they thinking?” With that in mind, take a look at 15 biggest mistakes made by famous actors when trying to go behind the camera.

#1 “Battlefield Earth” – John Travolta’s Scientology Movie Became One Of The Most Infamous Follies In Hollywood History

Source: Warner Bros.

After the succeed of “Saturday Night Fever” and “Grease,” John Travolta rose to fame in the 1970s. As one of the faces of Scientology, Travolta was funded for his passion project- an adaptation of “Battlefield Earth”, a science fiction book by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. And in 2000, the movie was released. The film received terrible reactions from both spectators and critics. Roger Ebert gave it a half-star, writing, “It’s not merely bad; it’s unpleasant in a hostile way,” while Time called it “the worst movie in living memory.” Indeed, it had few redemptive qualities. was openly mocked, including the script, the acting, the special effects, and the cinematography.

On a $73 million budget, the film made just under $30 million worldwide. It won the Razzie for “Worst Movie of the Decade.” J.D. Shapiro, who wrote the sci-fi catastrophe, took the Razzie and then apologized profusely. And Travolta kept working but his star power started to fade. He never recovered his fame like after “Pulp Fiction.” In fact, his name will forever be linked with one of the greatest film disasters of all time. However, when asked if he regretted doing the movie, Travolta replied: “No way, are you kidding? Why would I ever regret that? I had the power to do whatever I wanted, and I chose to do a book that I thought was worthy of making into a movie. It’s a beautiful film. It’s a good movie.”

#2 “After Earth” – Will Smith Produced A Star Vehicle For His Son, And Sank Multiple Reputations In The Process

Source:  Sony Pictures Releasing

“After Earth” is a science-fiction story that takes place in the year 1000 AE after humans vanished from the Earth due to pollution and climate change. However, a father and his son crash land on Earth. In a world that has turned hostile, the adolescent must save his injured father.

Smith created the movie as a star vehicle for his 14-year-old son, Jaden. The actor convinced M. Night Shyamalan to direct his post-apocalyptic vision. Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith’s brother-in-law, Caleeb Pinkett, also became producers on the high-budget vanity project. The $130 million Smith family affair, debuted on the big screen in 2013 but was immediately met with severe criticism. “The problem is that the film is chockfull of clichés and stymied by production design and CG effects that look as if the worst of the Star Wars series was being devoutly copied,” wrote a critic from GO London. Two years later, Smith called his experience with After Earth “the most painful failure” of his career, adding, “That was a valuable lesson for me.”

#3 “Swept Away” – Madonna Hired Her Husband To Direct This Remake Of An Italian Classic

Source:  Screen Gems

Madonna is one of the most successful pop stars in music history. She wanted to adapt the beloved romantic comedy “Swept Away” by Lina Wertmüller with her own husband. But the film didn’t succeed.

There are two big problems with 2002’s “Swept Away”. Firstly, director Guy Ritchie is director of feverish British crime comedies “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” and “Snatch”. But he is not suitable for “Swept Away”, which need a rom-com director. Secondly, Madonna is not a versatile actor. She was pretty good in a Evita because she could overact in the role of Eva Perón. However, Amber Leighton is not Eva Perón, and Madonna was unable to conceal herself under the famed first lady of Argentina’s musical theater.

On Rotten Tomatoes, “Swept Away” received a mere 5% from critics. Nearly all critics focused their contempt on Madonna’s acting abilities. Ritchie, who co-wrote the screenplay, also faced a good deal of backlash. Even Madonna’s rabid fan base didn’t see the movie. Despite having a $10 million budget, the domestic box office only brought in less than $600,000. Nearly winning all of the Golden Raspberry Awards was “Swept Away.” It won for worst film of the year, worst remake of the year, worst actress of the year (Madonna), worst director of the year (Ritchie), and worst screen couple of the year (Adriano Giannini and Madonna). The failed romantic adventure is the last time Madonna headlined a film.

#4 “Mortdecai” – Johnny Depp Got Someone To Pay $60 Million To Turn A Cult Book Series Into A (Failed) Franchise

Source:  Lionsgate

Johnny Depp is one of the highest-grossing movie actors of all time. Therefore, he can make a passion project whenever he feels like it.

While filming “Pirates of the Caribbean,” Depp became interest in adapting “Mordecai” for the big screen. He was introduced to the “Mortdecai” comedic thriller-novel series by his co-star Jack Davenport, and Depp envisioned it as a full-length film. Lionsgate funded $60 million to produce the 2015 film.

The film received negative reviews from critics and has a mere 12% on Rotten Tomatoes. Only $47 million was made at the box office. The caper comedy received almost universal criticism for its strange tone and poor humor.

#5 “Rules Don’t Apply” – 80-Year-Old Warren Beatty Cast Himself As A Mid-50s Howard Hughes

Source:  20th Century Fox

The ’70s icon, Warren Beatty put $25 million to make the movie about Howard Hughes he had long wanted to create. Beatty wrote, directed, and played as Hughes in 1950s Hollywood.

Beatty was in his 80s while Hughes was in his 50s. However, the major issue with “Rules Don’t Apply” was not the age gap. The plot made an effort to balance romance, humor, satire, and Hollywood nostalgia. Unfortunately, when everything was combined, it didn’t work. Beatty’s passion project did not excite early test audiences, especially those under the age of 40. However, Beatty told the studio to disregard the general test audience’s opinion, dump more money into marketing, and open up against tough competition on Thanksgiving weekend. Finally, “Rules Don’t Apply” failed miserably at the movie office, grossing less than $4 million globally.

#6 “Dolittle” – Robert Downey Jr. Remade A Notorious Financial Catastrophe, And The Result Was Another Notorious Financial Catastrophe

Source: Universal Pictures

Robert Downey Jr. becomes one of the richest actors in Hollywood. With such fame and fortune, Downey decided to pursue his dream project, the family comedy-adventure “Dolittle.”

It is a remake of the film “Doctor Dolittle” (1967) about a veterinarian who can talk with animals. The actor served as an executive producer, with his wife Susan as a producer. Unfortunately, the movie was awful at the film’s first cut. And they attempted to save the movie: the producers repeatedly reshot the scenes in an effort to make the screenplay funny, they hired more writers like Seth Rogen,…

However, nothing worked. In 2020, “Dolittle” debuted on the big screen, and costed Universal $100 million. The movie received many bad review because of the lack of humor, the stale, confusing plot, and the subpar special effects. Germain Lussier from Gizmodo wrote, “Just when I thought Dolittle couldn’t get any less funny or idiotic, Robert Downey Jr. sticks his arms up a dragon’s a**hole. And I do mean that literally.”

#7 “Live by Night” – Ben Affleck Leveraged His Batman Role To Get A Big-Budget Gangster Epic Made

Source:  Warner Bros. Pictures

Ben Affleck is not only hot star actor but also a director. He proved his ability with his movies like “Gone Baby Gone,” “The Town,” and the best picture winner “Argo.” But with “Live by Night”, he didn’t gain success.

Affleck signed on to act, write, direct, and produce “Live by Night”, a movie based on Dennis Lehane’s 2012 book of the same name. The studio thought the movie had all the elements of an Oscar contender and set it to its main release date of December 25. But Affleck’s story was criticized by critics as a dull film. Critic Damond Fudge wrote, “Affleck continues to showcase his talents as a director. The film is slick and stylish, with some great individual shots and scenes… Unfortunately, his skill behind the camera can’t fix the averageness of the plot.” Finally, the film lost about $75 million.

#8 “Freddy Got Fingered” – Tom Green Directed An Infamous Gonzo ComedySource:  20th Century Fox

Tom Green was a big deal for the late 1990s. He had his own MTV show, “The Tom Green Show”, and even made his way into cinema with supporting roles in “Road Trip” and “Charlie’s Angels”. The Canadian actor wrote and directed the bizarre black comedy “Freddy Got Fingered” which based on his own life. He wanted “Freddy Got Fingered” was a weird movie; it’s supposed to feel surreal and different.

But the film did not make money. It got lambasted by critics and won five Razzies, including worst picture. Green also “won” the Razzie for worst actor. “Freddy Got Fingered” may have ended Green’s hot streak and Hollywood career.

#9 “Beyond the Sea” – Kevin Spacey Was Too Old To Play Bobby Darin, But As Director, Writer, And Producer, He Cast Himself Anyway

Source: Lionsgate Films

Oscar-winning movie star Kevin Spacey wrote, directed, and starred in “Beyond the Sea”. It’s about Bobby Darin, the famous singer-songwriter with the 1950s hits like “Splish Splash,” “Mack the Knife,” and “Beyond the Sea.” Spacey also wanted to sing on the soundtrack.

And in 2004, “Beyond the Sea” is released to mixed reviews. While some critics praise the biography of Darin, others don’t buy Spacey’s performance. Critic Mick LaSalle was especially harsh in his review:””Beyond the Sea” is jaw-droppingly awful, a misbegotten and ill-conceived vanity project, in which Spacey – as writer, director, and star – takes an amazing showbiz story and kills it dead. The casting of Spacey, the movie’s reason for being, is also its central flaw. He’s wrong for the role in every possible way. In a black toupee, he looks nothing like Darin and more like a middle-aged woman. It’s a project that didn’t call for a green light but rather an intervention.”

Finally, “Beyond the Sea” failed miserably and made about 8.5 million dollars globally. It becomes the only film directed by Spacey.

#10 “The Razor’s Edge” – ‘The Razor’s Edge’ – Bill Murray Only Did ‘Ghostbusters’ So He Could Stretch His Dramatic Muscles With This Failed Literary Adaptation

Source: Columbia Pictures

Bill Murray is regarded as one of the funniest comedic film performers of all time. In the early 1980s, Murray was well-known for his work on “Saturday Night Live” and the blockbuster comedies “Caddyshack” and “Stripes”. Director John Byrum gave Murray a copy of “The Razor’s Edge”, a 1944 book by W. Somerset Maugham about a PTSD-afflicted American World War I aviator. Murray loved the novel and wanted to play the pilot. Then he and Byrum wrote the script together.

With financial from Columbia Pictures, “The Razor’s Edge ” was released in 1984 and received mixed reviews. The movie lost millions and became the only screenplay Murray ever wrote that got made into a feature film.

#11 “The Postman” – After Becoming An Oscar Winner, Kevin Costner Became King Of The Bloated, Big-Budget Epic Flop

Source:  Warner Bros.

In the early 1990s, Kevin Costner was one of the biggest movie stars in Hollywood. After the failure of “Waterworld”, Costner turned to direct “The Postman.” It’s an adaptation of David Brin’s 1985 book of the same name, about the post-apocalyptic action-adventure. “When I find a great story, I want to make it into a movie,” said Costner. “This is definitely a great story. What I like about certain films are their situations – how they play out. [Good movies] also have vivid characters and lively dialogue. And I think the types of scripts I seek out have those elements in them.”

Unfortunately for Costner, audiences did not appreciate the movie. raved about the nearly three-hour film, which has an 8% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Costner’s career kept going, but it never got back to the golden days of the 1990s. Prior to 2003’s “Open Range,” Costner did not direct another movie.

#12 “Don Jon” – Director Joseph Gordon-Levitt Cast Himself As A Womanizing Smut Addict

Source: Relativity Media

Joseph Gordon-Levitt seemed to be the new leading man of the 2000s. The actor excelled in independent films like “The Dark Knight Rises”, “The 500 Days of Summer,” and “Inception”. In 2013, he funded his passion project, “Don Jon”- about a man who is so dependent on smut that he is unable to have a true connection with a woman. In the movie, Joseph Gordon-Levitt would not only play the lead part but also debut his directorial career. Gordon-Levitt talked about why he chose to tell the story of Don Jon: “At its core, [Don Jon is] a movie about how people treat each other like things more than people sometimes, and how the media can play into that. And I imagine that for me, it comes from having grown up working as an actor my whole life. Actors in our culture do sometimes get treated more like objects on a shelf than people.”

Overall, “Don Jon” received favorable reviews from critics. Many reviews noticed that Gordon-Levitt had a natural ability to tell a story and possessed a good ear for dialogue. But the film failed to meet studio expectations and only generated roughly $24 million in domestic sales.

#13 “Paradise Alley” – Sylvester Stallone Went Behind The Camera For A Period-Piece Vanity Project

Source: Universal Pictures

After the success of “Rocky”, Stallone wanted to bring “Paradise Alley,” another of his screenplays, to the big screen. The actor has the chance to make his directorial debut as well. It is the story of three brothers who live in the slums. In order to compete for the cash prize, the two of them teach their younger brother to be an underground wrestler.

Stallone’s wrestling film was largely criticized by critics. And the movie was able to earn almost $7 million at the box office. After that, he went on to direct four “Rocky” movies, “Rambo”, and “The Expendables”. It seems that the mixed reviews of Paradise Alley did not have any negative effect on Sly’s career.

#14 “Hudson Hawk” – Bruce Willis Wrote Himself An Ill-Fated Wacky Action-Comedy

Source: TriStar Pictures

The early 1990s was the pinnacle of Bruce Willis. He finished five successful seasons of “Moonlighting” and “Die Hard”(1988). To begin the ’90s, Willis put his reputation on the line with the wacky action-comedy “Hudson Hawk”. In the film, Willis took on the title role of the world-famous cat burglar who is released after an extended stint in prison.

When the movie debuted in 1991, it was immediately panned by critics. It turns out that balancing slapstick humor with action is really challenging. Though Hudson Hawk tried to be funny, the crowds weren’t laughing. The flat humor missed the mark and the dialogue often hedged on embarrassingly cringe. Despite Willis’s star power, American viewers shunned the film in droves.

The failure of the film didn’t ruin Willis’s career. He still owned the “Die Hard” series, and the rest of the 1990s were very good to him. However, “Hudson Hawk” was his last writing credit and probably the last time he got to make a “vanity project.”

#15 “Harlem Nights” – There’s A Reason This Is The Only Movie Eddie Murphy Ever Directed

Source:  Paramount Pictures

When he was just a teenager, Eddie Murphy rose to fame on “Saturday Night Live” in the 1980s. His stand-up specials “Delirious” and “Raw” are still recognized as the funniest in comedy history. At the end of the decade, Murphy made his passion project “Harlem Nights”. It was the first time he was behind the camera and worked with his stand-up childhood idols Richard Pryor and Redd Foxx.

“Harlem Nights” is a Prohibition-era comedy. tries to be a crime drama set in Harlem’s golden age. It’s a tough tone to handle for a first-time writer-director. When it debuted on screens, Murphy’s first film received harsh criticism, because it didn’t succeed as a “comedy-drama.”

Despite mixed reviews, “Harlem Nights” performed well at the box office. The film has gained great popularity over time. After this movie, Murphy never went back to his difficult experience working behind the camera. Murphy reflected on “Harlem Nights” in 2016 and said: “That movie was a blur. It was Richard [Pryor], Robin Harris – all comedians. I remember Richard and Redd Foxx laughing offstage during the whole movie. The funniest sh*t was off camera, we’re all just crying. Redd was a really funny dude, he would have the set screaming all the time. But afterwards it was like, “Whoa, that’s a lot of work.” I was really young when I did it. I had one foot in the club, and one foot on the set, a lot of sh*t going on. It’s amazing it came together.”