February 19, 2009 / 1:40 AM / 10 years ago

Warning! Oscar can be bad for your career

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hollywood stars should be careful what they wish for when they hit the campaign circuit in hopes of snagging an Oscar.

Large Oscar statues stand in a tent as preparations continue for the 81st Academy Awards in Hollywood, California February 18, 2009. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

It’s a stretch to talk about an Oscar curse, but past winners such as Nicole Kidman, Renee Zellweger, Halle Berry, Adrien Brody, Hilary Swank and Cuba Gooding, Jr. have not cleaned up at the box office in years.

Put it another way: If your name is not called out at the 81st annual Academy Awards on Sunday, maybe you can breathe a sigh of relief.

Kidman won an Oscar for 2002’s “The Hours,” but has never headlined a big hit. The actress starred in last year’s big Oscar hopeful “Australia,” which failed to dig up any commercial or awards gold.

“Considering how many bombs she’s done, it’s pretty surprising that she’s still out there chugging away,” said John Wilson, who honors the year’s worst movies during the annual Razzie Awards, which will be given out on Saturday.

Kidman, Zellweger and Swank “look pretty in their dress on Oscar night, but the public doesn’t care for them,” he said.

Since winning her Oscar for a supporting role in 2003’s “Cold Mountain,” Zellweger’s career went cold with such films as “Cinderella Man” and “Leatherheads.” She was last in theaters with the romantic comedy “New in Town,” which opened to just $6.7 million last month.

“I keep trying to remind myself when was she good?” said Us Weekly film critic Thelma Adams.


Since making her second trip to the podium, for 2004’s “Million Dollar Baby,” Swank has appeared in just four movies. The best performer was 2007’s “P.S. I Love You” with $54 million in domestic earnings.

Berry, the Oscar winner for 2001’s “Monster’s Ball,” added a Razzie three years later for “Catwoman” and gallantly showed up to accept. She has not been seen in theaters since her Oscar hopeful “Things We Lost in the Fire” was quickly doused in 2007.

Brody won an Oscar for 2002’s “The Pianist,” but reverted to small movies after 2004’s “The Village” and 2005’s “King Kong.” He was recently in theaters with “Cadillac Records,” which earned just $8.2 million last fall.

Gooding is widely regarded as the poster child for squandering Oscar opportunities. Since yelling “Show me the money!” to Oscar-winning effect in 1996’s “Jerry Maguire,” the busy actor has filled his resume with such not-quite classics as “Boat Trip,” “Norbit” and “Daddy Day Camp.”

“He had shown so much promise in ‘Jerry Maguire’ and he went from supporting player to star, and sometimes that jump is difficult,” said Adams.

The problem for many newly minted Oscar nominees and winners, said Wilson, is that their handlers are inundated with lucrative offers for dubious projects.

“If you’re not known the industry also doesn’t know what you’re capable of, and they may throw stuff at you that’s out of your league, over your head or beneath your talents,” he said.

The top contender at this year’s Razzies is the Mike Myers comedy “The Love Guru,” which co-stars Ben Kingsley. In 1983, Kingsley won an Oscar for “Gandhi.” Now, he is Razzie-nominated for playing a flatulent, cross-eyed Indian mystic.

As for last year’s lead acting Oscar winners, Daniel Day-Lewis and Marion Cotillard were missing in action in 2008. From the 2007 class, Forest Whitaker and Helen Mirren have also kept a relatively low profile. Mirren, 63, made her biggest splash in supermarket tabloids after her trim bikini’d figure was snapped by paparazzi.

On the other side of the coin, Nicolas Cage is arguably Oscar’s accidental over-achiever. Since his award for 1995’s “Leaving Las Vegas,” Cage has appeared in two dozen films. Sales were all over the map, and Sean Penn once sniped that Cage “was no longer an actor,” but his 2007 film “National Treasure: Book of Secrets” was the biggest of his career.

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