Hollywood is great at re-invigorating and re-launching movie franchises. Batman, Superman, Planet of the Apes, Star Trek, Mission: Impossible, Transformers, X-Men, Spider-Man number among the success stories in the 2000s, with new Star Wars episodes on the horizon for 2015 and beyond. But Hollywood moguls are lousy at guaranteeing hits for established movie stars, even ones with significant track records such as Johnny Depp and Tom Cruise.
Angelina Jolie would have been a 2014 question mark, too, after her on-screen hiatus. But a star turn as the wicked witch in Maleficent this summer re-cast her spell as a box office babe. Maleficent has generated $443 million worldwide. Here are six Hollywood names who could use a little Jolie magic:
- Johnny Depp: Always idiosyncratic, Depp could probably care less about hits or misses. But Transcendence tanked on its opening weekend in April, as Box Office Mojo reported. The $100 million production has earned only $79 million worldwide. Coming on the silver heels of Tonto (2013), Depp’s star power has imploded.
What Depp needs to do: He probably can wait it out. He has already filmed the crime thriller London Fields, the fantasy Into the Woods (he plays the Wolf) and the action comedy Mortdecai. He is currently shooting the crime drama Black Mass, before moving on to another turn as the Mad Hatter in Through the Looking Glass and has Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales coming in 2016.
- Tom Cruise: Hollywood’s teflon superstar is likely as shocked as anyone that the sci-fi film Edge of Tomorrow lost its edge. Reviews were strong, fans were intrigued but the $178 million production has hit only $243 million so far in worldwide box office.
What Cruise needs to do: Like Depp, he just needs to wait. Cruise is in pre-production on Mission: Impossible 5 and will follow with Van Helsing, Top Gun 2 and Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (although fans of Reacher novels still think he was miscast).
- Adam Sandler: When Blended stumbled through its opening weekend, Box Office Mojo cited the box office as “a terrible start for an Adam Sandler movie.” The $40 million family comedy has made only $52 million.
What Sandler needs to do: Retire. Of course, that is not happening. Sandler will spend the summer in Toronto working on Chris Columbus’ video game movie Pixels. He has already shot bothThe Cobbler, a top-secret comedy fantasy, and Jason Reitman’s Men, Women & Children, a comedy about sexual frustration. Sandler’s forthcoming flicks are at least a change of pace from his usual crude fare.
- Charlize Theron: Arrrgh! I thought Seth MacFarlane’s A Million Ways to Die in the West was a slam-dunk, like Ted. But the $40 million western satire shot itself in the foot with comedy lapses, bland-to-bad reviews and $65 million in worldwide box office. Theron is actually great as a sharpshooter who falls for MacFarlane’s sheep farmer, but that could not save the movie.
What Theron needs to do: Keep looking fabulous (no problem) and keep polishing her craft as a superb, if underrated actress. She just wrapped the mystery thriller Dark Places and the dystopian action picture Mad Max: Fury Road. Then she works with director-boyfriend Sean Penn on The Last Face.
- Will Smith: Putting aside his twisted cameo as The Devil in Winter’s Tale, After Earth remains Smith’s most recent star vehicle. Enough said about his box office trough.
What he needs to do: Smith is doing it. He has already shot Focus, a promising comedy, and returns to his off-kilter superhero character in Hancock 2. More future projects include The American Can, set in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and there are rumours he will sign on for Bad Boys 3.
- Matt Damon: Moving on from his most popular character, Jason Bourne, Damon has yet to find another mega-hit franchise. While still praised for good work, including in George Clooney’s The Monuments Men, Damon does need a hit. The Monuments Men scored just $155 million worldwide and Damon’s sci-fi turn in Elysium (2013) fell far short of expectations with $286 million.
What Damon needs to do: Don’t buy another zoo; instead, find another complex anti-hero as interesting as Bourne (hopefully those rumours about him returning for Bourne 5 are true!). While easier said than done, Damon’s on-screen charisma remains untarnished.