Sometimes the stars who dominate the big screen can’t see to hack it on the Great White Way. The stage demands a different acting style than the screen. On stage, you’re always live, and you don’t get to take another take, much less dozens of takes. Some actors thrive under this challenge, while others can’t seem to make it work. Check out these five silver-screen stars who flopped on Broadway and the West End.
1. Bruce Willis
In 2015, Bruce Willis joined Lauria Metcalf on Broadway in a stage adaptation of Stephan King’s Misery. Although Metcalf’s acting was brilliant as always, the action star failed to deliver. His portrayal of Paul Sheldon, an injured writer kept hostage by a psychotic fan, did not engage the audience. In films and even on TV, Willis has always known how to keep the energy rolling, but on stage, his acting was flat and passive.
2. A. Pacino
A method actor, Al Pacino has been impressing critics since the 1970s. His most famous role is his Academy Award-winning portrayal of Michael Corleone in the Godfather, but he’s starred in dozens of films in his 50+ year career. He’s one of the few actors who’s snagged an Academy Award, an Emmy, and a Tony, but his two-time Tony wins came in 1969 and 1977. The last time he took to the stage in 2015, he was far from his earlier successes.
In David Mamet’s the China Doll, Pacino couldn’t seem to remember his lines, and rumor has it that he used a teleprompter. Critics called his performance lurching, stammering, and hard to follow. Since then, Pacino has done a few films, and he’s ventured onto the stage in Pasadena, California, but he hasn’t been invited back to Broadway.
3. Julia Roberts
Known for her vivacity, Julia Roberts makes the world smile when she’s on the big screen, but unfortunately, she forgot to bring her shine to Broadway. When she starred in the 2006 play Three Days of Rain, she seemed stiff and self-conscious next to her co-stars Paul Rudd and Bradley Cooper. Although she can breathe life into even the most static film characters, she seemed barely acquainted with the character she played on stage.
4. Shia LaBeouf
Actor, filmmaker, and performance artist Shia LaBeouf has been winning awards since he got his start as a child actor on the Disney Channel. He’s no stranger to in-person performances. With his performance art collaborative, he did an installation piece that involved standing in a Los Angeles gallery crying for six days while wearing a paper bag that said “I’m not famous anymore.”
But on the other side of the continent, La Beouf hasn’t had as much luck. In fact, his Broadway flop was so spectacular that he never even made it onto the stage. Cast in Lyle Kressler’s play Orphans, LaBeouf couldn’t get along with the show’s star Alec Baldwin, an actor who transitions beautifully from little screen to big screen to stage and back again. LaBeouf left the show before opening night, and a year later, he made headlines for disrupting a performance of Cabaret.
5. Katie Holmes
Katie Holmes is known for being sweet and engaging, but on Broadway, that wasn’t the case. In 2012, she played the sister in Theresa Rebeck’s play about a man who comes home to visit his sister and ailing father. Although critics noted that she seemed a little more comfortable on stage than her last Broadway attempt in an Arthur Miller play four years earlier, her performance didn’t get much love. Critics called it a shrill, one-note performance.