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Flashback Five – Highly Memorable Bad Days for Actors


When you or I has a bad day, it’s a bad day; when actors and actresses have a bad day, it’s usually around microphones and cameras that capture every twitch of their tantrums. Instances of stars behaving badly — or, rather, stars behaving like people, which they’re not supposed to do — have become so ubiquitous and so well-documented that we here at Flashback Five thought we’d recall a few of our favorite examples.

1. Joaquin Phoenix
Utterly dazed, Phoenix didn’t acquit himself well in a recent chat-show appearance with David Letterman. Rumor has it that his demeanor was part of an elaborate joke, but there’s been so much concern about his shambling, stumbling appearance — to such a degree that it’s overshadowed his new film, Two Lovers — that this may be the first fake flameout that turns into a real one.

2. Sean Young
It’s one thing to think you’re right for a part; it’s another thing to publicly lobby for it; and it’s another thing entirely to show up on The Joan Rivers Show in a homemade Catwoman suit in pursuit of a role in Tim Burton’s sequel to Batman. Young’s certainly no stranger to excess — she recently heckled Julian Schnabel at the DGA Awards Dinner — but the image of her dressed as a cat on Rivers’s show is, perhaps, what will define her forever in people’s mind.

3. Orson Welles
You’re Orson Welles. You made Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons . You starred in The Third Man . Your work is legendary. So why are you recording a voice-over for a frozen-pea commercial? This oft-mocked clip of Welles feuding with his producer over the spot’s copy is both depressing and exhilarating — because even though it’s just peas, you can tell Welles cares.

4. Martin Lawrence
We’ve all felt a little tired, a little run-down, a little overwhelmed. And we’ve all been found screaming at pedestrians in traffic while carrying a handgun, haven’t we? Perhaps not. In 1996, Martin Lawrence did, kicking off a lengthy period of legal troubles that included sexual-harassment allegations. Lawrence seems to be on the straight and narrow now, but for a while he was a font of poor public behavior.

5. Crispin Glover
What is it about David Letterman? Between Joaquin Phoenix and those infamous Andy Kaufman segments, he’s dealt with all kinds of fakes, flakes, and frauds. When Crispin Glover came to visit, in 1982, you could tell there was no joke being played. Wired and wild, Glover twitched through his interview session before exclaiming “I’m strong! I can kick!” and launching his foot at Letterman’s head. Letterman went right to commercial, and after the break, Glover was no longer the show’s guest.

Honorable Mentions:

1. Barbara Hershey changed her name to Barbara Seagull from 1972 to 1974 as an act of penance after a seagull died during the filming of Last Summer . When are hippies not entertaining?

2. Marlon Brando became notorious for having other people accept his Oscars, showing up on set grotesquely out of shape, and performing pantless. There’s no one thing you can point to; he was always on the edge of eruption.

3. Anne Heche gained notoriety for her since-recanted belief in space aliens: In 2000, she was also found dazed and incoherent in Fresno and asking locals about heading to heaven on a spaceship.

4. Tom Cruise is currently trying to regain lost ground after his couch-leaping, interviewer-baiting spate of bad press. His self-mocking appearance in Tropic Thunder seems to have helped.

5. Christian Bale‘s recent dressing down of the director of photography for Terminator: Salvation has inspired dance remixes. It remains to be seen just how bad the fallout will be.

Can you name any other great moments in career-denting awkwardness that we missed?

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