Tired of surveys that ask moviegoers, "Who are your favorite stars"? What about the stars whose very presence on-screen feels to you like fingernails on chalkboard? We asked a random sample of fans stuck in the two-hour line for Batman Returns on Hollywood Boulevard what actors they just can't stand. With stars like Mel Gibson or Michelle Pfeiffer, you'd have to search far and wide for someone who hates them--even indifference would be difficult to find. But the following eight performers came up quickly and repeatedly in our scientific survey to determine Hollywood's most unwanted stars.
1. JAMES WOODS
Maybe everyone just envies his terribly high IQ. But for a once Oscar-nominated actor, James Woods inspires an amazing amount of heated invective. "There's not a script on the face of the earth that man can hide behind!" said one Woods-hater bluntly. Someone else seconded that: "Woods is transparently a jerk, regardless of the character he's playing." Then there's this ultimate insult: "Woods is even disgusting on 'The Tonight Show.'" Woods's mother, agent and P.R. rep can claim that all this venom comes from people who mistake the actor for the psychos, creepazoids and other assorted assholes he so brilliantly portrays--and a couple of anti-Woodsters seem to confirm that view: "James Woods doesn't act in his movies: he actually is the pissed off little creep he plays," said one.
Another claimed, "When I watch a movie with James Woods in it, I think, thank God this is a fictional character. Then I realize James Woods is his characters." But several of the people we talked to about Woods think the problem is that he isn't enough like his characters: "Woods's basic problem is that he thinks he's a tough guy, but actually he's a pussy," said one person; added another, "James Woods always plays this guy in a sharkskin suit trying to be really tough. But get it straight, Woods--you're a wimp!" Asked to be a little more precise about what it was about Woods that drove him bananas, one non-Booster said, "There's this oozing, pustulating, rotting- from-the-inside-out hysteria to him." All Woods-bashers tended to agree with this person's succinct statement: "If Woods has been given the lead in a movie, then I know the movie is bad." And one moviegoer went further than the rest: "James Woods is the only co-star Dolly Parton could have that would keep me away from one of her movies."
2. MELANIE GRIFFITH
A few older people in the line fondly remembered Melanie Griffith's early screen appearance in The Drowning Pool. "She was a teenage vamp, promising a lot and looking like she'd be only too happy to deliver," one moviegoer recalled. "And I thought then that squeaky voice was charming--because I assumed that as she grew up, her voice would change." Growing up has turned out to be, perhaps, Griffith's worst offense.
First, because that voice didn't grow up with her. "I know there are men who are driven wild by that baby-talk voice of hers," said one young woman, "but the world would be a better place without those men." And secondly, because many people seem to feel Griffith has not exactly raised the standards of adult behavior, even for Hollywood adults. "I know it's wrong to hold an actor's private life against them, and okay, fine, she was a kid when she married Don Johnson. Who doesn't make mistakes when they're young? But she married him a second time! And she keeps making movies with him!"
Other viewers seemed to be irritated by Griffith's inimitable blend of the sweet and the sexy. "There's this cloying quality about her that never lets up," one person told us. "When she really starts bothering me, I take my popcorn and go out into the lobby for a while. But even there, you can still hear her voice." Another agreed: "You know Hollywood is male-dominated when someone with the single gimmick of a cotton-candy demeanor gets cast in leading roles. Didn't anyone who makes movies see Pacific Heights or Shining Through?" Yet another put it this way: "I can't be the only person who's noticed that this little-girl sexy act really doesn't work on a woman her age--I mean, when was Night Moves'? Twenty years ago?" Several Griffith detractors said that their main problem with this actress was that she keeps getting cast as women who may seem dumb, but are really very intelligent. "She was way too convincing as a know-nothing blue-collar secretary in the first half of Working Girl to be believable in the second half," said one person. "I believed her as a porno star/stripper in Body Double," said another, "but a spy in Nazi Germany? A Wall Street dealmaker? Frankly, I didn't believe she could even have bought a house with or without Matthew Modine's help in Pacific Heights."
3. DANNY AIELLO
Considering how many movies Danny Aiello has been in over the last two years, you might think that he's the most beloved character actor in town. Not so. "What's happened to Hollywood that people as obnoxious and unappealing as Danny Aiello keep working?" one person asked. "I didn't like him when he did supporting parts, but in leading roles he's intolerable." Another person said, "He makes me crazy. He's an Italian Fred Flintstone." Someone else remarked, "Danny Aiello always plays a serf-pitying asshole. He's got these eyes that are like the slots in parking meters."
Several people recalled noticing Aiello for the first time in Moonstruck. "He was okay there, because he didn't get Cher, which made sense, because a guy like him would never get Cher. But who ever thought we wanted to see him in another movie?" Another viewer, who'd seen Ruby, told us, "Halfway through the movie, I started wishing history had been different and that Oswald had shot Ruby, not because I wanted to see Oswald saved--I just wanted to see the movie saved from Aiello."
A moviegoer who remembered Aiello in The Purple Rose of Cairo said, "Remember, he played the slob Mia Farrow was married to. Mia could at least escape to the movies to get away from him, but when I go to the movies, there he is!" The number of Aiello roles is, in the view of at least one moviegoer, not matched by their diversity: "No matter what I see him in, it's like watching Rocky Marciano doing Richard III." One young movie fan couldn't at first place Aiello by name, but then said, "Oh yeah, he's the guy who reminds me of my big-face relatives who insist on kissing me on the lips."