Sometimes an artist must struggle for years to get their vision up there on the silver screen, whether they be a director, actor, screenwriter or producer (sometimes all of these), he or she must toil on lesser projects for most of their career until finally, one day, they have the commercial clout and box office success that allows them to initiate their dream project. Often, they may find themselves biting off more than they can chew but their love and downright faith in the artistic integrity and box office potential of the most treasured and personal work of their life allows them to overcome overwhelming odds and bring in something to be admired and reverred for generations.
Other times, things don't quite work out as planned...
2. John Travolta - Battlefield Earth
Considering that John Travolta struggled for years to bring a movie version of his favourite novel to the screen, it's nothing short of amazing he let it get so bad. It was his pet project, his dream and only made possible when producer Elie Samaha picked it up. Samaha specialised in making movies that stars wanted to make; movies that had trouble finding funding despite the fact that a major name was not only already attached but was the person motivating its production in the first place. Most studios considered the project risky, mainly because it would require expensive special effects, the book's narrative was stuck in the 1950s and some were concerned that, as it was penned by L. Ron Hubbard, its (indirect) connections to Scientology would prove controversial and they were right because, despite the Church of Scientology pointing out that the story had nothing to do with Scientology (and, as far as I can tell, it doesn't), the press jumped on the idea anyway. Many big-name directors (including Quentin Tarantino) turned it down and the job went to Roger Christian who had been an assistant to George Lucas and who, for some reason, shot the entire film using Dutch Tilts so that not a single shot is framed horizontally. Not only does the camerawork give you a headache but the plot makes no sense. None whatsoever. However, as this is a list regarding performers and not the productions they appear in, let's take a moment to study Oscar nominated Travolta's subtle and dignified performance;
OK John. So you spend 15 years trying to get your dream project off the ground and, after pulling off Pulp Fiction you do this? What were you thinking? He's so, so, so bad, you spend ever minute of the film he's not on the screen waiting for him to make another appearance. You just can't believe how hammy he is. Why is he annunciating ev-ery sin-gle syll-a-ble? And what's with his hand? He does that camp hand gesture throughout the whole goddamn movie! What does he think this is? Bad Victorian melodrama? It's like he had some perverse impulse to destroy the very project that was dear to him. You know when a star has a very public nervous breakdown? Its like that; horrible to watch but, like a car crash, something within you forces you to keep your eyes firmly glued to the screen. In his defence, though... nah, I got nothing. Travolta was so involved in the production that he's no one to blame but himself.
This isn't just camp, this isn't just Hammy with a capital "H", this is beyond the pale. In fact, it's soooo beyond the pale it was never in the pale in the first place. Take a look at this, where he not only goes over-the-top, he actually adds the letter "H" to words the letter "H" has no business to be;
"Hattention! Theeesse eeeez TERL!!! Yhour Ch-heif of se-cur-herrre!-teee! Hexteriminate hall mhan-hanimals hat w-hil! Hand happy hunting!"
Being able to speak like that is an accomplishment in itself. I know of only one other man who has acheived it and that's Cartmen from South Park. Now, I'll be going into the production of Battlefield Earth in more depth at a later date so we won't dwell too much on what's wrong with it (it'd be quicker to go into what's right with it). but suffice it to say that no one involved in the film really had the power to say to Travolta, "tone it down a bit, mate". Maybe they were worried they'd have their on-set catering rights revoked because presumably, Travolta would respond like this;