Amanda Peet: Box-Office Poison?

"Box office poison" is a harsh label, but one that is rarely debatable since box office numbers pretty much verify what we all already know: Hiring Actor X to star in your movie, in any capacity, is pretty much like shooting yourself – or at least your production – in the head. Of course, these poisonous actors occasionally find themselves in a commercially successful movie, but, more often than not, this probably comes as much a surprise to them as ticket-buyers.

Some of those on this unfortunate list came to it later in their career, like Kurt Russell; others began there like Dennis Quaid and Hilary Swank. Others, like Jeff Bridges, enjoy the prestigious honor of being so detrimental to a production that the resulting conflagration can actually end up causing serious artistic damage to the industry like when 1980’s Heaven’s Gate, which he co-starred in, killed the idea of the Hollywood-funded auteur for almost fifteen years.

Lucky for Amanda Peet, she’s not as poisonous to movies as Bridges, though she does enjoy the rare distinction of being one of the few actors that, despite working regularly enough for five careers, can kill productions both at the theatrical and television levels. Remember Jack and Jill, which caved despite a huge marketing flurry, and, of course, last season’s catastrophic failure, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, which, despite having Aaron Sorkin as a writer-producer and Matthew Perry and Bradley Whitford as stars, managed to die a slow, gasping death? Not that this had anything to do with Peet, though. Um, right.

Anyways, if you’re looking for a few examples of Peet’s qualifications as box office poison, aside from her role in the soon-to-bomb John Cusack-co-starring Martian Child -- which opens this weekend and will probably be on DVD by the time you read this -- here’s a hefty list to ponder. You might be surprised to realize just how toxic she really is.

Igby Goes Down (2002)

This modern twist on Catcher in the Rye is one of the smartest “teen” comedies to be released in the past decade, as darkly subversive as it is hilarious. Peet plays a drugged-up artist who almost dies on a toilet. Sort of like what this movie did at the box office.

Syriana (2005)

George Clooney (albeit a fat version), Matt Damon, and the guy who won an Oscar for writing Traffic? Even with its political subject matter, this movie should’ve done a lot better at the box office than just making back its budget. Probably would’ve, too, if a certain someone wasn’t cast in it.

Fast Track (2006)

This was Zach Braff’s second live-action movie after Garden State and co-starred Jason Bateman hot off of Arrested Development, but this comedy never had a chance…after producers cast Amanda Peet, that is.

She’s The One(1996)

This was Edward Burns’ follow-up to his highly successful indie debut, Brothers McMullen. It’s also the last time anybody in Hollywood took him seriously as a director. Could Peet’s part in the movie have something to do with it?

Identity (2003)

Director James Mangold’s only bomb. Guess who starred in it?

Body Shots (1999)

This movie didn’t even make $1 million. Somebody must’ve really pissed Peet off to make her use her poisonous powers to such a mega-degree. My money is on that douche bag, Jerry O’Connell (whom, to be fair, I only hate because the lucky SOB married Rebecca Romijn).

Changing Lanes (2002)

Critics used to hate Ben Affleck, but Changing Lanes, co-starring Samuel L. Jackson, surprised them all. Not surprising: Peet’s participation guaranteed this thriller never did better than recoup its budget.

One Fine Day (1996)

Michelle Pfeiffer (one of the biggest actresses in America) and George Clooney (in only his second big-screen role since ER debuted) starred in this screwball comedy Cary Grant might have made. Add Peet to the mix and a sure-fire hit fizzled.

The Whole Ten Yards (2004)

The Whole Nine Yards made more than three times its budget, while this sequel barely made one-third of its budget back. This might have something to do with the fact Peet went topless in the original. Then again, she’s topless in Igby Goes Down, too. Yep, The Whole Nine Yards was a fluke.