Just because you did something doesn’t mean you have to be proud of it. Here are 13 stars (and one director) who refused to promote their own movies.
1. Marlon Brando, The Freshman (1990)
Writer-director Andrew Bergman managed to reel Marlon Brando in for his comedy about a film student (Matthew Broderick) who gets involved with a mysterious wheeler-dealer by offering Brando the chance to lampoon one of his most iconic performances, that of Vito Corleone in The Godfather. But after the picture wrapped, Brando sought out a reporter for the Toronto Globe And Mail to reveal that the “unpleasant experience” of working on such a “horrible” movie had inspired him to announce his retirement: “I wish I hadn’t finished with a stinker,” he said. It turned out that Brando was fighting with the studio about unpaid overtime, and this was his idea of a negotiating ploy. He later issued private and public apologies, but after getting a taste of how mercurial he could be, nobody was in any hurry to book him on Arsenio Hall, even if Hall was offering. Which he wasn’t.
2. Paris Hilton, National Lampoon’s Pledge This! (2006)
Paris Hilton got famous by having sex on camera and then not shutting up, so it seems uncharacteristic that, for what was supposed to be her first starring film role, she would refuse to do nude scenes or publicity. But that was the case with National Lampoon’s Pledge This!, a by-all-accounts horrible movie in which she plays a stuck-up, shallow sorority sister. Production delays—which supposedly included adding extra nude scenes with other actresses—meant that the movie wasn’t Hilton’s first (that honor went to House Of Wax, in which she was violently murdered) after all. And when the time came to promote it, Hilton claimed that she had wanted to do something a little classier, and that the producers made Pledge This all about the T&A. So Hilton skipped the première and was sued by the production company for refusing to reasonably publicize the movie. They asked for her entire fee—$1 million—but the case ended up settling for an undisclosed amount.
3. Bill Cosby, Leonard Part 6 (1987)
When the reality of Leonard Part 6 dawned on Bill Cosby—the reality that he had conceived, produced, and starred in a monumentally unfunny spy spoof—the comedian did not simply hide out and wait for his poor career choice to blow over. Instead, when it came time to promote Leonard, Cosby took to the talk-show circuit like he was supposed to, at which point he implored audiences to steer clear of this stinker. Cosby’s preemptive, highly public mea culpa could not have gone down well in the executive offices of Leonard’s studio, Columbia, which had already suffered one huge bomb earlier that year in the form of Ishtar. But in 1987, Cosby was at the height of his stardom, and he clearly felt that he had a reputation to protect. Audiences heeded Cosby’s warnings and steered clear of the film, which was a wise move. About the only fun that came out of the dull, incoherent, advertisement-laden Leonard Part 6 was watching the nation’s movie critics find creative ways to tear the it to shreds.
4-6. Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz, and Jim Sheridan, Dream House (2011)
Jim Sheridan had six Oscar nominations under his belt—most notably for having helmed My Left Foot and In The Name Of The Father—when he signed on to direct the 2011 film Dream House, a project which most decidedly did not go on to earn Academy Award acknowledgement. Sheridan and James G. Robinson, head of Morgan Creek Productions, warred throughout the course of the production, disagreeing about the script and, ultimately, the final cut of the film, from which Sheridan actively attempted to have his name removed. Stars Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz weren’t significantly happier with the resulting film, steadfastly refusing to have anything to do with promoting Dream House, but things worked out all right for the couple in the end, who married a few months before the film landed in—and subsequently abruptly departed from—theaters.
7. David Hyde Pierce, Hellboy (2004)
Although actor Doug Jones physically played the aquatic oddity Abe Sapien in the Hellboy movies, his voice in the first film was overdubbed by David Hyde Pierce. The decision infuriated director Guillermo Del Toro and, as it turned out, Hyde Pierce as well. As Jones tells it in his 2011 Random Roles with The A.V. Club, after Hyde Pierce listened to Jones’ voice acting as Abe Sapien, he asked, “What am I doing here?” Out of respect for Jones, he asked that his name be removed from the credits, and refused to do any promotion for the film. He also declined further chances to voice the fishy superhero, which allowed Jones to take over the role.
8. Jim Carrey, Kick-Ass 2 (2013)
By publicly declaring—via Twitter—that he would not be promoting the upcoming Kick-Ass 2, actor/increasingly volatile crackpot Jim Carrey probably did more to raise awareness for the sequel than he could’ve with a dozen interviews. His tweet: “I did Kick-Ass a month before Sandy Hook and now in all good conscience I cannot support that level of violence. My apologies to others involved with the film. I am not ashamed of it but recent events have caused a change in my heart.” So he’s simultaneously broadcasting that a) Kick-Ass 2 is very violent and b) Jim Carrey doesn’t really like it. Two positives, perhaps?
9. Sean Connery, Bond 50: The Complete 22 Film Collection (2012)
For the 50th anniversary of the James Bond movie franchise, the producers celebrated (and greased the wheels for the release of the latest Bond adventure, Skyfall) with a massive brick of a Blu-ray/DVD release. But while previous Bonds such as Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan sat for new interviews and helped promote the set, the movies’ first and pre-eminent Bond, Sean Connery, declined to interrupt his retirement, and wasn’t shy about sharing his reasons: He was still pissed off at the owners of the franchise for having underpaid him all those decades ago. The week that Moore drove across Great Britain in an Aston Martin to publicize the release, Connery preferred to make headlines by showing up at the U.S. Open to cheer his fellow Scot, Andy Murray, on to victory.
10. Phoebe Cates, Paradise (1982)
Three months before her best-remembered role, as the self-assured Valley Girl Linda in Fast Times At Ridgemont High, Phoebe Cates made her film debut in Paradise, a Blue Lagoon rip-off in which she and Willie Ames make love in a desert oasis in between run-ins with slavers who want to turn Cates into harem fodder. Cates, who was 17 when the film was shot, managed to bargain down the amount of nudity that the script called for, and was horrified when the producers expanded the sex scenes with additional footage shot with body doubles. She refused to even talk about the film publicly, though she did perform its theme song on TV, after it became an international hit.
11. Edward Norton, The Incredible Hulk (2008)
With 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, Edward Norton became the second actor to play Bruce Banner in a Hulk movie in the space of five years. For that, he can thank Eric Bana and Ang Lee, whose 2003 movie was considered a disappointment, and the Marvel film executives who were determined to have an actor firmly established in the role before making the superhero team-up epic they were working toward, The Avengers. For the fact that Mark Ruffalo played Bruce Banner in The Avengers, and will presumably continue to play him for as long as there’s breath in his body, Norton can mainly thank himself. The actor, who has a reputation for not playing well with others, reportedly clashed with producers and writers over the direction of the movie he did make, insisting that it be more “character-driven,” then refused to promote it, presumably on the theory that the trauma of being denied the sight of his smiling face on TV talk shows would bring his employers to their senses. Fans of superhero comic-book movies can settle for being thankful that the third time’s the charm.
12. Leonardo DiCaprio, Titanic In 3D (2012)
James Cameron’s Avatar shares much of the credit, if that’s the word, for the recent craze for releasing and re-releasing 3-D versions of movies that weren’t made in that format, so it’s only fair that Cameron’s biggest hit, Titanic, should get its chance to double-dip and collect some of that sweet, sweet 3-D nostalgia money. But would the film’s leading man, who had most recently been seen encased in bulldog makeup in Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar, come out to bang the drum for the movie that made him a star? Just to save anyone the trouble of asking, “a source close to” Leonardo DiCaprio released a special 15th-anniversary public statement: “Leo is not one for looking back… He doesn’t relish having to go back and promote that movie all over again, especially as it probably doesn’t need it.”
13. Vince Vaughn, Four Christmases (2008)
The holiday comedy Four Christmases generated advance buzz in gossip columns and blogs based on reports that its stars, Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn, didn’t get along. Before the film opened, a “friend” of Witherspoon’s was quoted in OK! magazine, saying that the star was “not looking forward” to the hard work of a press tour with Vaughn at her side: “Promoting a movie involves long hours, and she’ll have to spend a lot of time with someone who gets under her skin.” In the end, Witherspoon needn’t have worried. The actress, who is, as her anonymous friend pointed out, nothing if not “professional,” flogged the hell out of the movie, driving it past uniformly bad reviews to a very solid box-office take over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, but Vaughn skipped the première and kept a low media profile while the film was in theaters. Maybe he won a coin toss.