The movie stars who went straight to video

Mark Lankester
Yahoo UK Movies Features

It’s not just faded 80s action stars clogging up the bargain bin of your local garage. Inexplicably, A-list actors occasionally find themselves going straight-to-DVD.

Take Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. Self-proclaimed ‘franchise Viagra’, he’s revitalised the ‘G.I. Joe’ and ‘Fast and Furious’ series’ and is now Hollywood’s biggest action star. Yet his latest movie ‘Empire State’ skipped cinemas completely.

It happens more often than you’d think, to stars with a huge fanbase, massive commercial appeal and even Oscars on the mantelpiece. But how?

Let’s have a look in that bargain bin…

[Arnold Schwarzenegger: the weird early years]

Empire State (2013)
The pitch:  Two childhood friends plan an armored car heist and one New York cop doesn’t like it.
The star power: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson - arguably the biggest action star around and owner of the most democratic elbow in sports. Liam Hemsworth - the hunk of the ‘Hunger Games’ and younger brother to Thor himself.
The route to video: Producers didn’t seem to know their audience, and ended up without one. Maybe the Rock fans and the Hemsworth-ites cancelled each other out? Action just shouldn’t be pretty, right?

The Son Of No One (2011)
The pitch:
A rookie cop is assigned to work the neighborhood he grew up in.
The star power: A pre ‘Magic Mike’ but equally lady-luring Channing Tatum, Katie Holmes, Ray Liotta and in-the-running-for greatest actor of our time Al Pacino.
The route to video: A disastrous screening at the Sundance Film Festival, walkouts and all, sealed ‘The Son Of No One’s’ fate. Apparently just one person clapped. Awkward.

Havoc (2005)
The pitch:
  Two rich girls go exploring LA’s Latino underground, which turns out to be a bad idea.
The star power: Anne Hathaway fresh off teeny ‘Princes Diaries’ success, Joseph Gordon-Levitt being slick and ‘Terminator’s’ Michael Biehn… remember him?
The route to video: Hathaway’s break for adult acting (including a nude scene and drug taking) made for an uncomfortable, and un-buyable, watch. Plus, the rich girl “slumming it” theme? Been there, seen that.

Freelancers (2012)
The pitch:
The son of a killed NYPD officer joins the force, teaming up with his dad’s former partner.
The star power: Rapper-turned-actor 50 Cent, Oscar winner Forest Whitaker and double Oscar winner/full time movie legend Robert De Niro.
The route to video: Obviously a star vehicle for 50 Cent, there’s no doubt method-acting masters De Niro and Whitaker were hardly stimulated by the source material. They looked bored.

[The movie publicity stunts that went horribly wrong]

The Experiment (2010)
The pitch:
Remake of 2001 German thriller. Volunteers enter a ‘prison situation’ for a psychology experiment – it goes wrong.
The star power: ‘The Pianist’ Oscar winner Adrien Brody, still in cinemas taking on Robert Rodriguez’s ‘Predators’, ‘Taken’ star Maggie Grace and Forest Whitaker, again.
The route to video: ‘The Experiment’ took Oliver Hirschbiegel’s bleak original and watered it down to bland. Plus Brody’s tough-man act was literally unbelievable – as in no one believed it.

The Cold Light Of Day (2012)
The pitch:
A Wall Street trader comes up against rouge CIA agents when his family are kidnapped as ransom for a mysterious briefcase.
The star power: A pre-‘Man Of Steel’ Henry Cavill, just finished filming ‘Immortals’, everyone’s favourite alien-hater Sigourney Weaver and the grumpiest man in movies (bar Harrison Ford), Bruce Willis.
The route to video: Willis has been propping up his ‘Die Hard’ fame with DTV stints for a decade, but with a title as anodyne as ‘The Cold Light Of Day’, was the whole movie an experiment in phoning-it-in?

Tiptoes (2003)
The pitch:
After falling pregnant with her perfect man’s baby, a woman discovers her lover’s “darkest secret” – his family are dwarfs.
The star power: Matthew McConaughey before to his rom-com disaster days, Kate Beckinsale fresh out of ‘Underworld’, Patricia Arquette and the great Gary Oldman… playing a dwarf.
The route to video: Producers pulled theatrical release plans after the appallingly insensitive movie caused mass walk-outs at Sundance. Those that stayed probably spend the remaining time screaming “What were you thinking?!” at the screen. So, so bad.