Jackie Chan in "The Big Brawl" (1980)
It seemed like it couldn’t miss: the king of Hong Kong martial arts action flicks making his American film debut with the director of “Enter the Dragon” at the helm.
But oh, how this movie did disappoint.
Chan had already shown the world some incredible stunts and fight scenes in movies like "The Drunken Master" [video link], but the creators of "The Big Brawl" decided to saddle Chan’s character with that most hated of kung fu movie clichés, the Reformed Street Fighter Who Promised His Dad/Uncle/Grandfather Not to Fight Any More. Top off this action-free first half with a goofy, carnival-like second half complete with professional wrestlers, pinstriped Mafioso, and roller skating, and you’ve got a wince-inducing waste of talent.
Chan took one more shot with a cameo in "Cannonball Run," then went back to Hong Kong to make a string of big-budget action epics, after which someone in Hollywood had the bright idea of compensating for his limited English abilities by pairing him [video link] with indefatigable motormouth Chris Tucker.
Nicole Kidman in "Days of Thunder" (1990)
To break into Hollywood after her riveting performance in the Australian thriller "Dead Calm" [video link], Nicole Kidman snagged a costarring role in a racing movie featuring Tom Cruise. Somehow, her movie career recovered rather quickly, although the recovery of her personal life from the fateful run-in with Tom Cruise took considerably longer.
Toshiro Mifune in "Grand Prix" (1966)
Let’s see, when an actor has established a rock-solid reputation as a high-energy thespian capable of exhibiting powerful emotions and ferocious intensity, what would be the best role to showcase those talents in Hollywood? The answer is obvious: playing a suit-wearing executive who does a lot of pensive posing while watching cars going round and round a racetrack.
(This early instance of the Racing Movie Curse — that it is nigh impossible to make a good movie about closed-circuit auto racing — is one that Nicole Kidman obviously had to learn herself.)
Two years later, however, Mifune would more than make up for "Grand Prix" by costarring with Lee Marvin in the excellent "Hell in the Pacific" [video link].
Simon Pegg in "Run Fatboy Run" (2007)
After he co-wrote and starred in the horror-comedy sleeper hit "Shaun of the Dead" and the not-as-funny (but still pretty good) "Hot Fuzz," Simon Pegg thought he was ready for Hollywood. Perhaps he was, but he had the misfortune of picking a film directed by David Schwimmer.
David Schwimmer? What were you thinking, Simon?
(Technically this wasn’t Simon’s first Hollywood role, but it was his first Hollywood role playing a character with a first and a last name, so I’m counting it as his first crack at Hollywood bigtimedom.)
But Simon will be playing Scotty in the upcoming "Star Trek" film, so all is forgiven.
Audrey Tautou in "The Da Vinci Code" (2006)
"Amelie" is the film that started the whole "kidnap a lawn gnome and take it on a world tour" prank. Despite that, it’s a wonderful film, due in large part to the subdued but irresistible charm of French actress Audrey Tautou.
However, someone clearly determined to sabotage her big break into Hollywood persuaded her to audition for the role of the annoying, charmless police cryptographer in "The Da Vinci Code."
Ms Tautou then returned to her home country to make films, such as "Priceless," in which she actually portrays appealing human beings.
Better luck next time, Audrey.