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Feb 1, 2011

Fletch's Favored Five: Stars in need of a heel turn

When the bloom is off the rose, when we've seen the hero save the damsel in distress time and time again, it becomes time to try something new.

Often, stars turn to villainous roles because that's all they have left in them - Val Kilmer, for a number of reasons, just isn't the same viable leading man (or even sidekick) that he was as few as ten years ago. Thus, he becomes the evil Dieter Von Cunth in MacGruber. Tom Cruise was Hollywood's #1 "face" for more than a decade, but when the prime roles started drying up, he turned to more nefarious work and found a heaping of critical acclaim that wasn't always there in the past (Collateral, Tropic Thunder, Lions for Lambs). Harrison Ford was tremendous in the underloved What Lies Beneath...Robert DeNiro scared us all to death in The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle Cape Fear and The Untouchables, and has embraced his heel turns, evident in such fare as Machete.

You get the point. Most times, a change of pace is needed simply because we (and possibly them as well) have grown tired of seeing them play the same kinds of roles. Other times, a change comes about due to events in the star's real life (Robert Downey, Jr. was perfect for a bad guy run after all his zany misadventures; if only U.S. Marshalls had been a better overall vehicle). But mostly, it's due to a combination of the first reason thrown together with age. They get wrinkled and/or fat, and suddenly, the studios no longer want them to play the leads (not surprisingly).

So, who is due for a juicy villain role, and who do we think would excel given the opportunity? The ground rules I tried to limit myself to was this:

* A-lister, or close enough to it. People that aren't quite on the radar yet make their dough playing villains often. For a prime example, see Jeremy Renner in S.W.A.T. or Adam Scott in Torque (on second thought, perhaps you don't want to see those after all).

* Said star hasn't played a villain previously, or at least not since getting famous. George Clooney (our resident example for the next few points) might have played the bad guy in Return of the Killer Tomatoes (which I doubt he did), but it wouldn't count anyway since no one knew who he was at the time. (See above ground rule.)

* Assholes don't count; only villains do. Intolerable Cruelty, Burn After Reading...George was no villain. Imperfect yes, but that's it. We get into kind of a gray area with anithero roles like in From Dusk Till Dawn, but no one can convince me that that's a proper heel turn, either.

* I haven't seen every movie ever made and can only do so much research. If Clooney was the tabbed by his pal Robert Rodriguez to cameo as a villain in Spy Kids, well, you'll just have to excuse me not not knowing that. Besides, I'm talking HIGH profile villains here - think Collateral or Cage/Travolta in Face/Off. Just correct me if I'm wrong.

Honorable mentions:

* Brad Pitt - I so wanted to put him not only on the list, but at the top. However, even I couldn't b.s. myself out of knowing that between Early Grayce and Tyler Durden, he's played a villain in one form or another. He's also played antiheroes a number of times.

* Jennifer Aniston - Just do something different, Jen. Why not a bitchy role in the Miranda Priestley vein?

* Adam Sandler - he can certainly look scary (Zohan), and he loves to do accents. Marry the two and don't smirk at the end for the kiddies.

* Orlando Bloom - He's in need of a career resurgence - why not give it a shot?

The Favored Five

5. George Clooney

Hey, whaddaya know - it's like we've been here before! Anyway, most recently, we saw Clooney turn off his million-watt smile for a quiet role as a hit man in The American. We know the guy can act, and we know the guy can overact when he wants to (Intolerable Cruelty again). I'd love to see him throw on an accent and really turn the screws on someone.

4. Natalie Portman

So typecast as the virginal goody-two-shoes is Ms. Portman that she took a role in which that was the major arc for her character. Better yet, I think she could actually pull it off quite nicely, either by playing up her girlie charms and then stabbing the hero in the back or by playing it straight with the intensity she showed at the end of Black Swan.

3. Hugh Jackman

Not too dissimilar from my number one choice, Jackman is in dire need of some edge. Sure, he brings some of it to the role of Wolverine, but never has there been a cuddlier vermin than there is inhabited by Mr. Song and Dance. He can snarl and flare his nostrils all he wants, but we know the pearly whites that lie beneath.

2. Keanu Reeves

Came close in The Gift - he was definitely an asshole and a character that nobody liked, but a) it wasn't seen by hardly anyone, b) it wasn't that type of movie, and c) if it were, he wasn't the main baddie. That said, if you've seen it - along with pieces of The Devil's Advocate - you know that Reeves more than has the chops to pull it off. And, for a number of reasons, don't you dare mention The Day the Earth Stood Still...

1. Will Smith

There was some talk not long ago of Smith playing Cain in a film titled, creatively, The Legend of Cain, in which he would take down Abel, but there's no record of the film on his IMDb page, and the last bit of chatter about it was in July of last year. And yet, is there a more golden boy (man) in all of Hollywood right now? True, he hasn't been in much lately, but when he has, he hits big, and is this generation's equivalent of Tom Cruise if ever there was one. It's time to go sinister, Fresh Prince. Just ask Family Guy:

17 people have chosen wisely: on "Fletch's Favored Five: Stars in need of a heel turn"

Sebastian Gutierrez said...

Jackman can do grit when he wants. THE PRESTIGE was an awesome example of this. He just needs to stop doing the grit in bad films.

And you bring up a good point. Does Will Smith have anything on the horizon, or is all his time just spent making ill advised resurrections of 80s classics for his kids? If so, I will say this about him. BEST! DAD! EVER!

Nick said...

Just wanna mention... Keanu played a serial killer in "The Watcher."

CMrok93 said...

Will Smith needs to come back in general, but the best heel turn of all-time really is Tom Cruise in Collateral. To the popular mainstream audience, he's always been kind of a dick, so to see him play that character, and so well, may I add, just let's me know that he can pull it all off. Great List! I just about agree with any of these, and Orlando Bloom could go for a villain role as a sexual predator. Why? Cause he just reminds me of that creepy, sheisty kid you knew in high school.

Nick said...

So of course... you'd believe me when I say "I've seen it." :P

Sebastian Gutierrez said...

I don't know. I just have a slight issue with star parents creating projects just for their kids. A. Spoiling much? B. It takes away potentially lucrative roles from unknown child actors, like me. WHO SAID THAT?

M. Hufstader said...

Dude. Yes. I think Will Smith is amazing, and it would be the shit to see him come back as as villain. He's charming, charismatic...he could really pull off that bad guy who kills with a smile. As for Clooney, I would say Dusk For Dawn was something of a villainous role, but at the same time, yes, I would love him to play a villain again. But a real villain. Not the thief/prisoner escapee/killer who is so fucking likable that we're rooting for him more than we're rooting for anyone else in the movie. Overall, great list, and really creative idea!

Fitz said...

Jackman was do to play a villain in the Birmingham film directed by Lee Daniels. That project ended up by the wayside though.

Fletch said...

Yea, Clooney needs to be a real villain like you say. In Dusk, he might've been a killer, but he was still the hero, and of course, had a big ol' heart in the end. He's good at playing the rogue, but I want to see the smarm of his Intolerable Cruelty character channeled into a total bad guy. Or just take his American assassin and flip the script on him so that he's outright evil. Could be interesting.

Fletch said...

Why am I not surprised you've got the down-low on the news, Fitz? ;)

CastorTroy said...

Nice list Fletch. Agree with most of your picks although Will Smith can do no wrong IMO. He simply needs to make movies a little more often. I would definitely love to see Russell Crowe play a baddie.

Aiden R. said...

Michael Cera (came close with Scott Pilgrim) and Patrick Wilson (came close with A-Team). Those two could use something different and Wilson would be great evil.

Fletch said...

Patrick Wilson in Hard Candy! Haha. I think that kinda counts...

Does Michael Cera's alternate personality in Youth in Revolt count for
anything? I haven't seen that one, so I'm not sure...

Fletch said...

Thanks, Castor.

Is that a typo - Russ Crowe? Now, I haven't seen all of these flicks, but what
about: 3:10 to Yuma, Body of Lies, Virtuosity, Romper Stomper?

Fletch said...

LOL at the Orlando Bloom bit. I could totally see him with a wispy pedo 'stache
going after some kids.

I guess Smith has avoided them in general 'cause he likes to keep up his nice
guy image, but sooner or later, he's gonna have to mix it up and at least play a
character that's a bit of a dick.

Cruise can certainly do it. None are as villainous as his Collateral turn, but
add it to Magnolia and the others I mentioned and he's building up a decent
resume of not-so-nice guys.

Fletch said...

I thought of The Prestig, and it is a bit dark, but nowhere near as dark as he
could go. I want something Joker-ish out of him - Ledger OR Nicholson

Not sure how ill-advised that Karate Kid thing was...made a boatload of money,
spawned a franchise for his son, got him some producing juice. Sounds like a
win on all fronts. He might've just thought he was overexposed, or he might've
just wanted to spend more time with his kids while they're still young.

Fletch said...

That thing has 13,000 votes on IMDb...I don't think I've ever heard of it...does
not equate. Looks like it's awful, though.