When Low Brow Goes High Art: Unlikely Projects With Mainstream Actors

In a bid for credibility/better roles or personal artistic fulfillment, mainstream action and comedy stars have occasionally been tempted to change gears and try their hand with projects that have (in theory) a more high-minded purpose. There are several to choose from, but I wanted to spotlight a handful of the standouts in my opinion.


Some of the most notable include:


An Enemy of the People (1978) – Steve McQueen has a crack at Ibsen: 

An Enemy of the People (1978) Official Trailer - Steve McQueen, Bibi Andersson Movie HD



The Razor’s Edge (1984) – Pre-Jarmusch/Coppola, Murray co-wrote and starred in this Somerset Maugham adaptation
which the studio were obliged to produce in exchange for his participation in Ghostbusters:

Continental Divide Official Trailer #1 - Allen Garfield Movie (1981) HD



Continental Divide (1981) – John Belushi’s ‘sophisticated’ romantic comedy career swerve:  

The Razor's Edge (1984) - Trailer



We’ve also seen such luminaries as Burt Lancaster (Visconti), Bogarde (Losey, Visconti, Fassbinder, Resnais etc), Robert Mitchum (Laughton’s Night of the Hunter), Michael Caine (Sorrentino’s Youth), Richard Harris (Antonioni’s Red Desert), Anthony Quinn (Fellini) etc. take roles in less than high brow projects. And then there was even the loathsome British comedian Jim Davidson, who amazingly popped up in art-house bore Peter Greenaway’s A Zed & Two Noughts.

The closest Arnold Schwarzenegger has ever gotten close to this was his spoof Hamlet in The Last Action Hero (1993):

Last Action Hero - Schwarzenegger Hamlet Scene (1440p)



But seriously, ‘The Austrian Oak’ would probably cite 2015’s Maggie and 2017’s Aftermath as his strongest attempts at ‘serious’ acting.

Maggie Official Trailer #1 (2015) - Arnold Schwarzenegger, Abigail Breslin Movie HD

Aftermath (2017 Movie) - Official Trailer - Arnold Schwarzenegger



And Arnold’s rival Sylvester Stallone?  How about James Mangold’s Cop Land (1997) was his most serious effort:

Cop Land (1997) Official Trailer 1 - Sylvester Stallone Movie

Have we ever seen such an out of shape Italian Stallion?



Sound off with your picks for the most startling and unexpected portrayals.

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Stephen Arnell

Culture Comment Content Provider. Portrait courtesy of artist Darren Coffield. 'Non satis me tempo'