Deliver a career-best performance in Raging Bull? Everyone raves, everyone loves you. Sign on for The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle? You can never escape from the evidence of what you did.
Inevitably, the better your highs, the more noticeable and therefore the more remarked upon your lows. Halle Berry would perhaps have been more easily forgiven for Catwoman (like Jennifer Garner was forgiven for Elektra), had she not just delivered such a sensational performance in Monster’s Ball. It may not be fair (no-one gets to buy a DVD or hold an awards ceremony showcasing my flaws and failings) but it is what it is and here it is – six of the worst, or greatest if you prefer, falls from grace in the history of film-making.
1. Jon Voight – From Midnight Cowboy & Deliverance to Anaconda
The Highs: Midnight Cowboy and Deliverance – it is well known that Midnight Cowboy stands distinguished as the only X-rated film to the land the Best Picture Oscar and certainly Dustin Hoffman’s performance as Ratso garnered plenty of attention, especially considering the phenomenal contrast it represented to his equally accomplished work in The Graduate, but we’re looking at Jon Voight here and although these two roles were a few years apart, they together represent the high water mark of his long and varied career.
As Joe, Voight brings plausibility and even innocence to a tricky gigolo role. In Deliverance, Voight holds his own against Burt Reynolds, who may not seem like much in the way of competition in an acting face-off, but who was at the time very much at the height of his Hollywood powers. Deliverance is of course justly notorious for its “squeal piggy” sequence and the unfortunate experiences of poor old Ned Beatty in relation thereto, but it remains a genuinely great film and Voight brings real heft and conviction to his role.
The Low: Then there is Anaconda. Voight is, of course, a Paraguayan snake-hunter. He snarls, he mugs, he sneers, he even manages to wink after being partially digested and considerably constricted. It is a performance of almost hysterical proportions, a “did that really happen?” viewing experience. So bad it’s good, but utterly devoid of anything even vaguely resembling the subtlety, presence and conviction of his highs.
Where is he now? Voight continues to be incredibly eclectic in his choices. Wonderful in Zoolander, weird (in a good way) in U-Turn, excellent in Ali, boring and pointless in Transformers. It has, sadly, been a decade and more since his last worthwhile big screen outing.