Even in Hollywood, you have to deliver results if you want to remain employed. Every year stars fall off the A-list — ask circa 2009 Nicolas Cage about that — and find themselves in a shame spiral of B-movies, supporting roles, and eventually television (sorry, Robin Williams, who will be appearing in the CBS sitcom The Crazy Ones, and as the dad, no less). Who is about to fall off the top of the perch?
1. Tom Cruise
The success of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol less than two years ago gave his stock a bump, but apparently it was the stunts that were the star of that movie. In the three consecutive flops he’s made since — Rock of Ages, Jack Reacher and the aptly-named Oblivion — audiences didn’t even show up on opening weekend out of curiosity. Before Protocol, don’t forget, no one showed up for Knight and Day, Valkyrie or Lions for Lambs, either. Cruise is 51 years old, his boyish charm is finally gone, and he isn’t an action hero anymore. Audiences see him as their weird dad. He should give up on trying to rule the multiplex and start nosing around for more interesting roles like the one he had in Magnolia. Not that he’s fond of Paul Thomas Anderson anymore after Anderson made fun of scientology in The Master.
Next up: Fighting aliens next summer in All You Need Is Kill. Sure.
2. Ryan Reynolds
It feels a bit early to be throwing in the towel on this career, and yet — what did Reynolds ever do to be labeled a star in the first place? Reynolds is only 36 years old, and it was just over a year ago that he had a hit with Safe House. The problem is that people went to that film to watch Denzel Washington school Reynolds in the art of ruling a movie. Before that, Reynolds failed in The Change-Up and made a bad thing worse with his mugging in The Green Lantern. Audiences just don’t seem to like him. Mega bad-buzz clouds his new fantasy/buddy/cop comedy R.I.P.D., which was first postponed by the studio and is now suffering the fate of Reynolds’ character in Buried, being deep-sixed while it still has a pulse.
Next up: a psychological thriller called The Voices, in which Reynolds plays a factory worker guided by the voice of his good dog and evil cat. Whatever, dude.
3. Vince Vaughn
It seems like a long time since the studios, after being amazed by his comic vibe in Swingers, anointed him their new dramatic leading man, putting him in Jurassic Park: The Lost World and the remake of Psycho before he returned to comedy and made his mark in a series of hits beginning with Old School. Now it’s been seven years since the last movie of his that made any money, The Break-Up, and with each new effort his fast-talking used-car-salesman patter becomes increasingly frantic, desperate for a laugh. The flop sweat is all over him in The Internship, one of the year’s most unpleasant films. Unlike his bud Owen Wilson, Vaughn doesn’t have top directors like Woody Allen, Paul Thomas Anderson and Wes Anderson calling him up with offers. So it looks like he’ll keep doing his shtick in increasingly regrettable flicks until he winds up back where he started — in Vegas, baby, this time doing the midnight show at The Venetian.
Next up: fall’s comedy Delivery Man, about a sperm donor who finds out he has hundreds of kids, looks like a splendid opportunity for Vaughn to be unfunny again.
4. Sacha Baron Cohen
Okay, maybe Cohen is more a one-hit wonder than an actual star, but he was the hottest comic going after Borat in 2006, one of the most profitable movies of the decade and an Oscar nominee to boot. Billed as the next Peter Sellers, Cohen promised to shape-shift into a thousand different hilarious characters, and he was impressive in Talladega Nights and Sweeney Todd. Now, though, after his tasteless gay spoof Bruno flopped and last summer’s tasteless political satire The Dictator did even worse, Cohen is starting to seem like a guy who simply does the same filthy jokes while wearing different funny beards and clothes. Versatility has started to look a lot like sameness.
Next up: According to imdb.com, Cohen’s dance card is blank except for a supporting role in December’s Anchorman 2.
5. Ben Stiller
Who would have expected little Ben to be one of the biggest comedy stars for a solid decade? Stiller was never that funny, but being willing to completely humiliate himself in film after film made him rich until even the Fockers series ran dry. Stiller got to be such a big deal that he could pretty much dictate his projects — and that’s a problem. The projects that attract him tend to be massively expensive comedies. Tropic Thunder and the second Night at the Museum film did only okay, considering their huge costs, and last year’s The Watch, which Stiller micromanaged into oblivion, is one of the biggest comedy duds ever. The similarly overblown Tower Heist also lost money.
Next up: A comedy that, if it flops, might be the last big-ticket comedy Stiller ever stars in: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, a special-effects extravaganza he directed himself with a budget of over $100 million. Will kids keep turning up to see Stiller as he approaches granddad age? Ask Robin Williams.