10 Actors Who Paid Terrible Prices For Movie Roles –


To us mere mortals being an actor often seems like the ideal profession. Playing pretend all day, being on the receiving end of global admiration and getting paid a princely sum for their efforts to boot – what could be better?

But being an actor isn’t always glitz and glamour and sometimes the price they pay for playing certain characters is far bigger than any hugely inflated wage packet could compensate for.

From career-killingly bad movies to method acting-induced madness and tragic accidents, these actors take the saying ‘suffering for your art’ to a whole new level.

10. Elizabeth Berkley Was Effectively Blacklisted For Showgirls

United Artists

Making the transition from child star to serious actor is never easy and Elizabeth Berkley is living proof. After leaving sitcom Saved by the Bell in which she played brainbox Jessie Spano for four years, she nabbed her first big film role as dancer Nomi Malone in Paul Verhoeven’s universally derided stripper drama Showgirls.

Now known as one the worst films ever made and infamous for a laughably bad pool-based sex scene with Berkley and co-star Kyle MacLachlan that saw her performance compared to a dolphin having a seizure, Showgirls wasn’t quite the breakthrough Berkley had hoped for.

It went on to receive a record-breaking 13 nominations at the 1996 Razzie Awards and won seven including Worst Actress and Worst New Star for Berkley who was also dropped by her agent after the film’s release. Berkley’s film career was over before it had even really begun and it’s mostly been bad TV movies and bit parts for the actress since.

9. Brandon Lee Was Accidentally Killed While Filming The Crow


Brandon Lee, the son of martial arts legend Bruce Lee, was himself a talented actor and martial artist and looked set to follow in his father’s footsteps with a successful career in the film industry. But what should’ve been a breakthrough role that flying kicked him into stardom instead cut his life and career short at the tragically young age of 28.

While filming a scene for Alex Proyas’ big screen adaptation of James O’Barr’s graphic novel The Crow in which his character is gunned down by a thug, Lee was accidentally shot for real when a fragment of a dummy bullet the prop department failed to remove from a prop gun was fired at him with practically the same force as a live bullet and struck him in the abdomen.

Although he was rushed to hospital the mortally wounded Lee died the following day after six hours of surgery. With the help of CGI and a stunt double, Proyas was able to complete the few remaining scenes his star still had left to shoot and when the finished film was released Lee was posthumously praised for his performance.

The Crow today is a poignant taster of what could’ve been for Lee – an actor who truly paid the most terrible price for his art.

8. George Clooney Suffered A Serious Injury Shooting Syriana

Warner Bros.

In 2004 George Clooney took on the role of CIA operative Bob Barnes in Stephen Gaghan’s geopolitical thriller Syriana and suffered a serious injury during the filming of a scene in which his character is strapped to a chair and beaten and tortured.

When the chair toppled over, Clooney hit his head and damaged his dura – a membrane that the protects the brain and spinal cord. As a result the star experienced debilitating headaches so painful that he self-medicated with alcohol and even contemplated suicide at one point.

The injury forced Clooney to pull out of the big screen adaptation of 60s TV show The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (which very well might have been a better film with his participation) and though surgery eventually alleviated much of the problem, Clooney still experiences those painful headaches today.

Clooney did, however, go on to win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Syriana. Every cloud, eh?

7. Martin Sheen Had A Breakdown And A Heart-Attack Making Apocalypse Now

United Artists

Part of the reason why Martin Sheen’s character Captain Benjamin L. Willard’s drunken breakdown during the opening scenes of Francis Ford Coppola’s Vietnam War epic Apocalypse Now is so brilliantly believable is because Sheen was genuinely drunk and going through a breakdown himself.

Already teetering on the edge by the time he arrived on set, Sheen’s battles with alcoholism and fragile mental state were exacerbated by the tumultuous production – which today goes down as one of the most troubled in cinema history – and by the time it came to shooting that scene he barely needed to employ his acting skills to portray the troubled Willard at all.

Towards the end of the production, Sheen would also suffer a near-fatal heart attack that further spurred on his mental breakdown and even after filming wrapped he couldn’t quite shake his character. He sank into a deep depression, briefly separated from his wife and was drinking heavily which culminated in a kerfuffle with the police that got him arrested.

It proved a turning point for Sheen, however, and he was soon on the road to recovery and sobriety so it all worked out well in the end, heart attack and breakdown notwithstanding.

6. Jackie Chan Needed Brain Surgery After A Stunt Went Wrong In Armour Of God

Media Asia

The legend that is Jackie Chan has sustained so many injuries over his 60-year career that it’d probably be easier to list the movies that he wasn’t injured during the filming of … if indeed there are any.

His extensive inventory of injuries includes breaking his jaw, ankle, breastbone, knee, two fingers and his nose three times. He’s also dislocated his pelvis, shoulder and cheekbone and damaged his spine falling from a 50-foot clock tower.

But the closest brush Chan had with death came when shooting 1986’s Armour of God with a relatively simple stunt involving him leaping from a wall to a tree. He slipped and fell to the ground below hitting his head on a rock which forced a piece of skull into his brain.

Eight hours of brain surgery later, Chan was on the road to recovery but still has a hole in his head today which is stuffed with a plastic plug to – in his words – keep his brains from falling out.

Considering that Chan does the vast majority of his own stunts, these injuries kind of come with the territory but how he’s still alive is beyond belief.

5. Vic Morrow Lost His Life In A Horrific Accident Filming Twilight Zone: The Movie

Warner Bros.

If you thought Brandon Lee’s death sounded like a case of gross negligence, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Back in 1982 in what’s probably the most infamous on-set death in the history of film actor Vic Morrow was killed in a horrific accident while filming the sci-fi anthology Twilight Zone: The Movie.

Directed by John Landis, Morrow’s segment featured a scene set during the Vietnam War in which his character saves two children (played by illegally hired child actors Renee Chen and Mica Dinh Lee) from a village under attack by American troops. While filming an explosion caused a stunt helicopter to spiral out of control and crash into the trio, decapitating Morrow and killing his two young co-stars instantly too.

A lengthy trial ensued and although Landis and several crew members were eventually acquitted of involuntary manslaughter the families of Morrow, Chen and Lee sued and settled out of court. Predictably, the amount was undisclosed but whatever the sum it was a small price to pay considering Morrow and his co-stars paid with their lives.

4. Roberto Benigni Ended His Career With The Embarrassingly Bad Take On Pinocchio

Miramax Films

You may recall Roberto Benigni as the Italian actor-director behind the 1997 tragicomedy Life is Beautiful who memorably clambered over chairs and audience members at the 71st Academy Awards to accept the Oscar for Best Foreign Film, one of three awards the film won that night.

After his Oscar success life was indeed looking beautiful for Benigni but that was short-lived when his next major acting and directorial effect – an Italian live-action adaptation of Pinocchio – flopped about as hard as a film can earning a shameful 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Although it fared better in its native Italy, the rest of the world wasn’t quite so taken with Benigni’s take on Pinocchio with critics concurring it was a truly awful movie. Unless watching a grown man creepily prance around in pyjamas in a terribly made two-hour long vanity project is your idea of entertainment, that is.

As both director and star, Benigni couldn’t really blame anybody but himself and ever since Pinocchio work has been remarkably thin on the ground for the formerly celebrated star.

3. Adrien Brody Took Method Acting A Little Too Far For The Pianist

Focus Features

There’s method acting and then there’s immersing yourself so much in your character that you actually put your health and sanity at risk like Adrien Brody did for his role in the 2002 biographical drama The Pianist as Polish-Jewish pianist Władysław Szpilman who survived the Nazi-occupied Warsaw ghetto.

To truly capture Szpilman’s despair and loneliness Brody cut himself off from his real life giving up his phone, car and apartment and even ending his relationship with his then girlfriend. The already thin actor also shed 30 pounds in six weeks to mimic the emaciated physique of Władysław Szpilman who lived off what little food he could scavenge from the husk of the bombarded city.

Throwing himself into his character so wholeheartedly left Brody both mentally and physically exhausted and sank him into a deep depression that took a year to recover from. His commitment didn’t go unrecognised, however, and Brody went on to win the Academy Award for Best Actor for his haunting performance.

2. The Conqueror Gave John Wayne Cancer


Widely regarded as one of the worst movies in cinema history, Howard Hughes 1956 film The Conqueror saw John Wayne take on the role of 13th century Mongol emperor Genghis Khan.

Yes, you heard that right. John Wayne – an actor of Irish and Scottish descent born in one of the USA’s most Caucasian states (Iowa) known for playing all-American cowboys – as Genghis Khan. As you’d imagine Wayne wearing make-up to suggest stereotypically epicanthic eyes topped off with Fu Manchu-style facial hair didn’t fool anybody.

But the result of Wayne’s yellowface antics wasn’t the end of his career – racism was a lot more acceptable in Hollywood back then – or Mongolia declaring war against him but a cancer diagnosis. You see, The Conqueror was filmed downwind from a nuclear testing site and over the next few decades 91 members of its cast and crew would be diagnosed with cancer including Wayne who lost a lung to cancer in 1964 and died of stomach cancer in 1979.

Wayne’s six-pack-a-day smoking habit probably didn’t help and though he didn’t die until a good few years later, it’s fair to say that The Conqueror’s toxic shooting location was a major contributing factor in finishing off The Duke.

1. God Tried To Kill Jim Caviezel While Filming The Passion Of The Christ

Newmarket Films

Making misinformed career choices and suffering on-set injuries are all very unfortunate but you know you done goofed when you incite the wrath of God himself which is exactly what actor Jim Caviezel did while playing his son, our lord and saviour Jesus Christ, in Mel Gibson’s controversial biblical epic The Passion of the Christ.

It seems the big man upstairs wasn’t too taken with the film because during the shooting of the Sermon on the Mount scene Caviezel was smote down by a bolt of lightning. As his horrified castmates looked on, it seemed as though smoke and fire were coming out of Caviezel’s ears who in his own words was “lit up like a Christmas tree”. Which is befitting since he was playing Jesus who basically invented Christmas.

Of course, it could’ve simply been the misfortunate result of filming on a hilltop during a storm but you have to wonder.



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