‘No one had a good time’: Judi Dench, Matt Damon, and more actors who hated their own movies

Susannah Goldsbrough
·13-min read
Wrong turns: (l-r) Taylor Swift in Cats, Kate Winslet in Titanic, Robert Pattinson in Twilight
Wrong turns: (l-r) Taylor Swift in Cats, Kate Winslet in Titanic, Robert Pattinson in Twilight

Everybody knows the drudgery of a bad day in the office. But, thankfully, for us non-famous normal people, that usually ends - or at least it used to - with the commute or a trip to the pub. If you're a Hollywood star, however, taking on a bad project will live, in full, shimmering technicolour, on record forever. Worse, there will be strangers who are paid money to critique your efforts. 

Some stars have managed to avoid – or disobey – media training enough to tell the world what they really thought of that turkey they made: and here are some of the best.

The entire cast of Cats – Cats (2019)
Judi Dench as Old Deuteronomy in Cats - AP
Judi Dench as Old Deuteronomy in Cats - AP

Tom Hooper's star-studded, big-budget, all-time disaster of an Andrew Lloyd Webber adaptation was universally panned by critics (this newspaper argued that “the only realistic way to fix Cats would be to spay it”) and derided by viewers.

Cue the majority of its A-list cast quietly distancing themselves from the film. Rebel Wilson mocked it in her Baftas speech, saying she was recycling her partially black dress from “a funeral I just went to for the feature film Cats.” Taylor Swift called it a “weird-ass movie” and James Corden and Judi Dench have both said they’ve heard it's terrible, while claiming not to have seen it. Dench was especially disparaging about her costume, which she said made her look “like a battered, mangy old cat… The cloak I was made to wear! Like five foxes f______ on my back.”

Emilia Clarke – Terminator Genisys (2015)
Emilia Clarke
Emilia Clarke

After this overblown attempt to reboot Arnold Schwarzenegger’s killbot franchise failed to break even in 2015, plans for a sequel and a TV spin-off were put on ice. Even if a sequel had been made, Clarke probably wouldn't have been saying “I'll be back.” In an interview with Vanity Fair, she admitted she was “relieved” the franchise fizzled out.

A troubled production had taken its toll on the film's director, Alan Taylor, who had previously worked with Clarke on Game of Thrones.  According to the actress, Taylor got “eaten and chewed up on Terminator. He was not the director I remembered. He didn’t have a good time. No one had a good time.” 

Channing Tatum – GI Joe: Rise of the Cobra (2009)
Channing Tatum
Channing Tatum

The film adaptation of the popular US comic series went the distance at the global box office, earning $302 million, but no amount of money could convinced Tatum that he hadn’t made a mistake by starring in it. 

Tatum claims he only took the role after being prodded into it by Paramount, with whom he had signed a three-film contract earlier in his career. “I f------ hate that movie,” he said in a radio interview, adding that “the script wasn’t any good”.

Ryan Reynolds – Green Lantern (2011)
Ryan Reynolds
Ryan Reynolds

Ryan Reynolds dealt admirably with starring in what is roundly considered the worst superhero film ever made: by making it a running gag in another superhero film, Deadpool, several years later. He tried to get out of it by saying that it was his character, Wade, who was the source of most of the scorn: “Look, I’ve never seen the full final version of Green Lantern. I saw a very late stage rough cut of the film.”

George Clooney – Batman and Robin (1997)
George Clooney
George Clooney

Even now, 23 years later, George Clooney makes a point of “always apologising for Batman and Robin”, which he thought was so terrible it had killed off the franchise (until it was revived by Christopher Nolan a few years later). The saddest part? He genuinely thought it was a good idea: “I thought at the time that this was going to be a very good career move. Um, it wasn’t.”

Halle Berry – Catwoman (2004)
Halle Berry
Halle Berry

The DC Universe fared even worse for Halle Berry, who, three years after collecting her Best Actress Oscar, picked up a Razzie for her efforts in the ill-fated Catwoman. She gamely turned up to the worst films award ceremony, though, and thanks Warner Bros “for casting me in this piece-of-s---, god-awful movie”.

Maxwell Caulfield and Michelle Pfeiffer – Grease II (1982)
Maxwell Caulfield and Michelle Pfeiffer
Maxwell Caulfield and Michelle Pfeiffer

The millions of fans who were hopelessly devoted to Grease weren't the only ones left disappointed by its lacklustre sequel. Main stars Maxwell Caulfield and Michelle Pfeiffer were also distinctly underwhelmed – to put it lightly. While Pfeiffer triumphed in Catwoman (a role that Halle Berry, in turn, despised), she was no Olivia Newton-John: “I hated that film with a vengeance and could not believe how bad it was,” she said in 2007. 

But while Pfeiffer struggled to return to Hollywood’s fold after the flop – Scarface director Brian De Palma initially refused to let her audition for her next film – Caulfield bore the brunt of Grease II’s reputation: “I learnt a pretty harsh lesson early on. After Grease 2, the films I’d been promised never materialised.

“Michelle was smart. Right afterwards she did Scarface with Al Pacino. That showed that she had range, that she was versatile. Me? Well, I was stuck for a while with a reputation as a bubblegum actor.” 

Robert Pattinson – The (entire) Twilight Saga (2008-2012)
Robert Pattinson
Robert Pattinson

While Pattinson won the attention of teenage Harry Potter fans after playing the doomed Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, it was landing the main part in the blockbusting Twilight Saga films that made him a Hollywood star.

As tragic vampire Edward, Pattinson gained some considerable body shimmer for the role, several million dollars, and a girlfriend in co-star Kristen Stewart (they later split after she had an affair with Snow White and the Huntsman director Rupert Sanders), but he never became a Twi-hard in the process.

“When I read it, it seems like a book that wasn’t supposed to be published,” he said of the series, which would go on to inspire other great works, such as EL James“s Fifty Shades of Grey, and will return in August this year.

Christopher Plummer – The Sound of Music (1965)
Christopher Plummer
Christopher Plummer

The Sound of Music is an internationally beloved feel-good film, but Christopher Plummer was not a fan from the off. In 2011 he told The Hollywood Reporter that the movie gave him his most challenging role: “I think the part in The Sound of Music was the toughest. Because it was so awful and sentimental and gooey. You had to work terribly hard to try and infuse some miniscule bit of humor into it.” He is known to call it The Sound of Mucus. 

Matt Damon – The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
Matt Damon
Matt Damon

The Bourne Ultimatum went on to win three Oscars and give Matt Damon his biggest earner at the time, but that doesn’t mean he liked the third film in the action trilogy. Damon, who, let’s not forget, wrote the Oscar-winning script for Good Will Hunting while he was still a student, took umbrage with scriptwriter Tony Gilroy.

“I don’t blame Tony for taking a boatload of money and handing in what he handed in,” Damon told GQ. “It’s just that it was unreadable. This is a career-ender. I mean, I could put this thing up on eBay and it would be game over for that dude. It’s really embarrassing. He was having a go, basically, and he took his money and left.”

Ben Affleck – Daredevil (2003)
Ben Affleck
Ben Affleck

Ben Affleck also won an Oscar for co-writing the script of Good Will Hunting, which was easy to forget during 2003, when he was best known for getting prematurely engaged to Jennifer Lopez and appearing in the video for her hit song Jenny From the Block. He also starred in the catastrophically bad Daredevil. 

Affleck disliked the superhero film so much that it spurred him on to star as Batman in Zack Snyder’s marginally better Batman vs Superman. In 2016, he admitted that his motivation for taking the role was “I wanted for once to get one of these movies and do it right – to do a good version. I hate Daredevil so much.”

Sylvester Stallone – Escape Plan 2: Hades (2018)
Sylvester Stallone
Sylvester Stallone

Perhaps he should have feared the potential nominative determinism of Escape Plan 2’s title, but Stallone certainly seems to have been put through hell for the middle film of this prison action thriller.

“Escape Plan 2 WAS TRULY THE MOST HORRIBLY PRODUCED FILM I have ever had the misfortune to be in,” Stallone wrote on his Instagram account, as a means to promote Escape Plan 3: The Extractors, which was (apparently) a comparative breeze to make. 

Kate Winslet – Titanic (1997)
Kate Winslet
Kate Winslet

James Cameron’s juggernaut romance, Titanic, made “Kate from Reading” a star, and a rich one to boot. But the film’s success resulted in overkill for Winslet, who claimed that the film’s soundtrack made her feel seasick.

“I feel like throwing up when I hear it. No, actually, I do feel like throwing up,” she told MTV in 2012. “I wish I could say, ‘Oh listen, everybody! It’s the Celine Dion song!’ But I don’t. I just have to sit there, you know, kind of straight-faced with a massive internal eye-roll.”

Daniel Radcliffe – Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)
Daniel Radcliffe
Daniel Radcliffe

Signing on for eight films when you’re barely over eight years old is one of the more risky strategies for adolescence. So it’s hardly surprising that Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe found the sixth film, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, a little difficult to reminisce about: “I’m just not very good in it,” he said during an interview. “I hate it. My acting is very one-note, and I can see I got complacent, and what I was trying to do just didn’t come across.”

After the Potter series concluded in 2011, Radcliffe went on to make his name in an eclectic range of stage and screen roles, in everything from the Tony Award-winning Cripple of Inishmaan to the Gielgud Theatre’s Equus.

Matthew Goode – Leap Year (2010)
Matthew Goode
Matthew Goode

Goode took a pragmatic approach to the sappy rom-com Leap Year. He told The Telegraph: “I just know that there are a lot of people who will say it is the worst film of 2010”, but explained that the film’s appeal lay in its convenience as a job, rather than its artistry: “That was the main reason I took it, so that I could come home at the weekends.

“It wasn’t because of the script, trust me. I was told it was going to be like The Quiet Man with a Vaughan Williams soundtrack, but in the end it turned out to have pop music all over it. A bit like Chasing Liberty again. Do I feel I let myself down? No. Was it a bad job? Yes, it was. But, you know, I had a nice time and I got paid.”

Sylvester Stallone – Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot (1992)
Sylvester Stallone
Sylvester Stallone

Stallone and Estelle Getty took on this disaster of a buddy cop film in 1992 only after Arnold Schwarzenegger (who had seen the terrible script) pretended to be interested purely to lure in the Rocky star. Stallone has made a habit of taking it down in increasingly imaginative ways ever since, including, in 2010: “If you ever want someone to confess to murder, just make him or her sit through that film. They will confess to anything after 15 minutes.”

Jamie Lee Curtis – Virus (1999)
Jamie Lee Curtis
Jamie Lee Curtis

Nearly 20 years after its release, preposterous alien invasion movie Virus has achieved a cult status, but star Jamie Lee Curtis remains unconvinced. She told Wenn in 2010 that she regrets making the “piece of s--- movie”, deriding it as "an unbelievably bad movie, just bad from the bottom.

“There’s a scene where I’m running away from this alien and I actually hide under the stairs. This is something that can open walls of steel and I’m hiding under stairs!” 

Much like a virus, there appeared to be no cure for the film – Curtis just had to ride it out: “It was maybe the only time I’ve known something was just bad and there was nothing I could do about it.”

Marlon Brando – The Freshman (1990)
Marlon Brando
Marlon Brando

The Hollywood great had little to say about Frank Oz’s 1990 comedy, but what he did wasn’t good: he dismissed it as “lousy”. The Freshman, however, was far better received by critics, making it a unique offering: usually when an actor hates a film, the critics agree with them.

Katherine Heigl – Knocked Up (2007)
Katherine Heigl
Katherine Heigl

Judd Apatow’s goofy pregnancy comedy triumphed at the box office and among the critics, but Katherine Heigl found the film’s sexism difficult to swallow. Heigl, who maintained that working on Apatow’s set was the “best filming experience of her career”, nonetheless told Vanity Fair that she found Knocked Up “a little sexist”.

She continued: “It paints the women as shrews, as humourless and uptight, and it paints the men as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys. I had a hard time with it, on some days. I’m playing such a bitch. Why is she being such a killjoy?”

Micky Rourke – Passion Play (2010)
Micky Rourke
Micky Rourke

For former boxer Micky Rourke, 2010’s dive-bombingly bad drama Passion Play was just the latest in a string of bad career choices. Rourke plays a former heroin-addict-cum-jazz trumpeter who falls in love with a woman who has real wings (Megan Fox); he called it “Terrible. Another terrible movie.”

But he added: “You know, in your career and [with] all the movies you make, you’re going to make dozens of terrible ones.” When he was told the film was getting a limited release, he quite understood, replying: “That’s because it’s not very good.”

Megan Fox – Transformers (2007)
Megan Fox
Megan Fox

Even more unfortunately for Fox, she was one of the most memorable parts of Michael Bay’s wildly successful Transformers film, even though she wasn’t a fan herself.

“I’m terrible in it,” she told Entertainment Weekly. “It’s my first real movie, and it’s not honest and not realistic. The movie wasn’t bad, I just wasn’t proud about what I did… But unless you’re a seasoned veteran, working with Michael Bay is not about an acting experience.” 

Nicole Kidman – Australia (2008)
Nicole Kidman
Nicole Kidman

Kidman is famed for not watching the films she appears in, but she did see Baz Luhrmann's big-budget blockbuster Australia, and she wasn’t happy. She told a Sydney radio station:“I can’t look at this movie and be proud of what I’ve done… It’s just impossible for me to connect to it emotionally.”

Colin Farrell – Miami Vice (2006)
Colin Farrell (r)
Colin Farrell (r)

Colin Farrell had little enthusiasm for the film adaptation of the classic Eighties police show. “Miami Vice? I didn’t like it so much,” he said. “I understood that we were trying to paint a relationship with Tubbs and Crockett that was so grounded and familiar that there was no need for them to incessantly talk to each other – or look at each other – over two-and-a-half hours.”