Is it better to burn out or fade away?

bullyA while back I watched Bully for the second time, a 2001 film by Larry Clark starring Brad Renfro and Nick Stahl. Now whilst the film itself received mixed reviews, it gave me pause for thought concerning the two lead actors.

Like their respective characters in Bully, in real life both had a self destructive streak. I say had, Nick Stahl is just about still going but looks a sorry state of a human. Last decent piece of work he did was play Yellow Bastard in Sin City. All that talent… wasted.

Both Renfro and Stahl fell victim to the lure of drugs. In Renfro’s case, fatally. This got me thinking of other actors we’ve seen go the same way (mostly drugs but some, perhaps more tragically, from natural causes) and whether the frequency is increasing in recent years.

People say if only a lot. ‘If only we’d read the signs. If only we’d seen this coming.’ Sometimes there’s nothing you can do, the more you try to save them, the more they slip away.

Still… it’s a damn shame. Some had raw talent which promised to become something great, and some were doing the best work of their careers. Here are a few to consider.

some_like_it_mm_lemmon_on-the-setMarilyn Monroe, 36 (barbiturate overdose) 1962
In 1999 she was ranked as the sixth-greatest female star of all time by the American Film Institute. Her death remains – to this day – a source of speculation, marked down as ‘probable suicide’. Whatever the case, before we lost her she gave us some memorable performances, particularly Sugar in Some Like It Hot.

John Belushi, 33 (cocaine and heroin overdose) 1982
Always a wildcard, some say an overdose at the Chateau Marmont in LA was the way he’d have wanted to go. For me, I’ll remember him most fondly for Animal House and Blues Brothers. A sad loss to the world of comedy.

River Phoenix, 23 (multiple drugs overdose) 1993
If his brother Joaquin’s career is anything to go by, River could’ve been a real talent. Sadly another to succumb to drugs barely into his 20s.river_phoenix-web He did, however, leave us with memorable performances including Stand By Me, Running On Empty and My Own Private Idaho.

Jack Lemmon, 76 (colon cancer) 2001
Part of an elite group of actors to have won both a Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor Oscar (the others are De Niro, Hackman, Nicholson, Spacey and Washington) with a career that spanned more than 50 years – one of Hollywood’s true legends.

Brad Renfro, 25 (heroin overdose) 2008
Spotted aged 11 and cast as the lead in The Client, it’s safe to say Renfro slotted rather well into the burnout category. He had bags of talent and got 21 films under his belt – including Sleepers, Apt Pupil and Bully – before departing this world in blaze of class As.

Heath Ledger, 28 (prescription drugs, accidental overdose) 2008
Went out soon after his greatest performance as The Joker; one which won him a posthumous Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.Heath-Ledger-candy-the-movie-1017516_800_450 However the performance that first turned people on to his talent was Brokeback Mountain. One of the biggest losses to acting in recent years.

Paul Newman, 83 (lung cancer) 2008
One of the greats of the golden age of Hollywood with the most famous blue eyes in movie history. Received an Oscar for his part in Scorsese’s The Colour of Money and had a vast and successful career that spanned decades. His last screen appearance was an impressive one as a conflicted mob boss in Road to Perdition in 2002.

Brittany Murphy, 32 (pneumonia and prescription drugs overdose) 2009
Broke out in 1995 with Clueless, then put in a good performance in Girl, Interrupted before making people really sit up and take notice in 8 Mile and Sin City. Yet another death chalked down as ‘a bit of an accident’… so sad.

John-HughesJohn Hughes, 59 (cardiac arrest) 2009
This man pretty much invented coming-of-age teen movies and hugely influenced this kind of storytelling for years to come. Indeed, Judd Apatow has been quoted saying his movies are ‘basically John Hughes films with four-letter words’. My favourite has and always will be… The Breakfast Club. John Hughes, we won’t forget about you.

Patrick Swayze, 57 (pancreatic cancer) 2009
A fighter, a lover, a dancer – Swayze has been them all. He got his foot in the door with The Outsiders, yet it was Dirty Dancing that cemented his place in the hearts of women everywhere. From Road House to Point Break, his wild genius will be remembered and cherished.

David Carradine, 72 (accidental asphyxiation) 2009
Received critical praise for his work in the 1970s on Bound For Glory and the Circle of Iron then became largely anonymous for the next few decades, until being brilliantly revived by Tarantino for Kill Bill. Then, just when you think he might be having a career surge late in life, he goes out in a fit of sexual glory.Michael-Clarke-Duncan-dies

Michael Clarke Duncan, 54 (cardiac arrest) 2012
Big man, big talent. His career began in the ’90s as a bodyguard for celebs like Will Smith and Jamie Foxx. An acting high point saw him pick up a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for The Green Mile. All in all, he was a fearsome screen presence.

Phillip Seymour-Hoffman, 46 (multiple drugs overdose) 2014
Another vastly talented individual who had his demons and his work will take on new meaning following his death. The great skill he had as an actor was almost disappearing into the parts he played – often deeply flawed individuals, yet he made you care about them.

Bob Hoskins, 71 (pneumonia) 2014
Funny story: Hoskins was originally asked to play Al Capone in The Untouchables, then last minute De Palma replaced him with De Niro and wrote Hoskins a cheque for £20,000 to say sorry, prompting Hoskins to ask if there were any other films the director would like him not to appear in.

And the award goes to… Michael!

the-dark-knight-rises-michael-caineBit narcissistic to trumpet one’s own name in a blog isn’t it? Well tough, I’m doing it anyway. Reason being, there’s so many brilliant Michaels in the world that it’s high time someone gathered them together and sung their praises.

Obviously the below is only a snippet of the great work Team Michael has accomplished, but it’s a strong list. From drama to comedy, superheroes to period pieces these guys have got all your entertainment needs covered.

In terms of a favourite, I’m torn between the mighty Fassbender, whose career shows no signs of letting up and hasn’t produced anything particularly close to a turkey yet, and the legend of cinema that is Michael Caine – a man who’s only one of two actors to be nominated for an Academy Award in every decade from the ’60s to the present day (the other being Jack Nicholson).

So… if your name is Michael and you’re starting out in the acting profession you’re not only in good company, but have reason to be upbeat that your career too, may follow a similar path.

Or maybe you’ll just crash and burn like Michael J. Fox. After all, it’s only a name.

Michael Keaton
Beetlejuice, Batman, Jackie Brown


Michael Douglas

Wall Street, Falling Down, Traffic, Behind The Candelabra


Michael Shannon

Revolutionary Road, Take Shelter, Man of Steel


Michael Fassbender

Fish Tank, Inglourious Basterds, Shame, 12 Years A Slave


Michael Sheen

Frost/Nixon, The Damned United, Masters of Sex


Mickey Rourke

Rumblefish, The Wrestler, Sin City


Michael Clarke Duncan

The Green Mile, Sin City


Michael Caine

The Italian Job, Get Carter, Children of Men, Harry Brown, The Dark Knight Rises

Sin City 2: So who’s the dame?

jessica alba

Imagine the scenario. It’s been seven years since the first Sin City and the wheels are finally in motion for the follow up, however Rodriguez’s patience is wearing thin. Word is that cameras started rolling a few days ago, yet there are still parts to be cast. Myself – like many fans – were probably wondering why it’s taken seven years.

I suppose Miller’s failure with The Spirit meant he had to ‘take a break’ for a few years, at least until a studio were willing to back him again. I’m not sure I entirely buy that as sole reason for delay. Rodriguez directed the original and I’m sure he’ll be directing this one, particularly since his Barbarella remake stalled. Miller’s role has always been the script and – to a degree – the casting. So who knows why it’s taken this long. Best not dwell, let’s look at the story.

a dame to kill forA dame worth killing for
In terms of plot, the story takes place after the death of Hartigan but before some of the events of the first film. The story focuses on Dwight, who takes revenge on a woman who betrayed him, Ava Lord, the Dame.

At the same time, Nancy is trying to come to terms with the death of Hartigan (Bruce Willis), the man who saved her from Yellow Bastard in the first film.

In terms of script Miller has not been idle. He’s spent time ensuring there are no loose plot strands and that both films will mesh together effectively. With William Monahan, Oscar winning script-writer for The Departed, assisting on the final draft.

Last call for casting
Goldie (Jaime King) is on board and we’ve got a new deadly, little Miho (Jamie Chung). This is encouraging as Miho is meant to have a bigger part in A Dame to Kill For and Jamie Chung (Sucker Punch) is a bit of an up-and-coming actress.

jessica albaUsual suspects are all back: Marv (Mickey Rourke), skinny little Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba), Bob (Michael Madsen), Gail (Rosario Dawson), and of course Dwight (Clive Owen). Dwight’s character undergoes facial surgery in this storyline, so it’s possible there will be another actor playing Dwight pre-surgery.

Sadly, actors Michael Clarke Duncan and Brittany Murphy passed away in the seven years between these two films. Their characters, Manute and Shellie, will have to be replaced and have yet to be cast.

So who will play Ava Lord?
Rodriguez and Miller’s original choice Angelina Jolie – whom I’ve spoken about in the past – is out of the picture, tied up with Disney’s Maleficent. She’s clearly going to be brilliant in that, but it is a kid’s film. She was born to play the ultimate femme fatale.

As a fan of Angie I reserve the right to act like a toddler and stamp my foot and demand she quits and heads straight to Rodriguez’s studio in Texas. Sadly it’s not going to happen.

Sin City 2She smells like angels ought to smell
Actresses that have their names in the hat to play Ava Lord include Salma Hayek, Rose McGowan and Rachel Weisz. For me, the latter is the most interesting. She’s never really played a full-on, seductive temptress but I think she’d be outstanding. Salma Hayek would slip pretty effortlessly into the role – anyone that’s seen her snake dance in Dusk Till Dawn would agree.

However, I have a feeling the role will go to Rose McGowan. For me, she’s the biggest unknown in terms of whether she’ll excel as Ava Lord. Whoever it ends up being, I’m sure they’ll be a revelation. We just need to wait 11 months to find out!