As Charlie Sheen’s spectacular meltdown demolishes previous records for stars-gone-wild, there have already been many casualties: his CBS television show, his professional reputation, and his relationships with certain friends and family, to say nothing of the widespread concerns for his own health and well-being. But with every bizarre utterance and disoriented interview, Sheen is also wounding the long-term legacy of some very solid, borderline classic films. Try watching Wall Street now, after O.D.-ing on a 72 hour media binge of Tiger Blood Charlie. The movie hasn’t changed, technically, but our perceptions sure have. Ditto for Platoon, the Oscar-winning Vietnam movie that temporarily lifted Sheen onto the A-List in 1986. Heck, even Lucas is tainted (though that high school football comedy was already slightly skewed to me, thanks to costars Corey Haim and Winona Ryder).
The sad truth is that bad or outlandish personal behavior not only handicaps an actor’s ability to play different characters in the future, it can also warp our affections for what was once thought to be decent work. Take Mel Gibson and What Women Want, for instance. That romantic-comedy doesn’t have the same madcap zing after hearing his hateful phone messages, does it? The Buddy Holly Story was a sweet rock ‘n’ roll movie of its time, but now, it’s simply a museum relic to recall who Gary Busey used to be. And don’t get me started on how Nordberg’s Bronco chase ruined The Naked Gun for me.
There is one thread of Wall Street that still feels true — Bud Fox’s complicated relationship with his union-leading pop, played by Martin Sheen. In the end, Fox sees the error of his ways and pays the price for his wrongs, but only after the stress caused by his transgressions puts his father in the hospital. I can’t watch their blow-up scene in the elevator or their conciliation scene in the hospital and not feel something… hopeful. But then just like that, I have the image of this drilled back into my brain.
Have you had a favorite movie ruined by the shenanigans of one of its stars?