Why James Spader doesn't get many movie offers anymore

Ever since James Spader graced the silver screen as the gorgeous but slimy rich boy Steff in 1986's Pretty in Pink, we've been hooked. And he continued to absolutely steal the show with devastating performances in 1989's Sex, Lies, and Videotape and 1996's Crash. Spader has since enjoyed enormous success on television, but his most dedicated fans undoubtedly miss him at their local cineplex.

Here's why our favorite pretty-boy oddball doesn't get many movie offers anymore.

He's transitioned completely to TV

Since Spader burst on the scene in the 1980s, things have changed. Perhaps Spader finds it more challenging to do a series than one film role. By now, Spader has seen his fair share of TV success with starring roles on The Practice and Boston Legal (performances for which he won Emmy awards) plus The Office and The Blacklist. Of The Blacklist, he told The Guardian, "I wanted to find something which was going to mix irreverence with drama and a character who would continue to surprise me. On a series where you do 22 episodes, that's such an important thing."

He's never seemed interested in superstar status

With a few odd exceptions, Spader's filmography consists of movies that were either destined for the arthouse (Dream Lover, Crash, Secretary) or featured him in a supporting role, and as a result, he's never been seen as a truly bankable actor—or even necessarily a leading man. While he's definitely led films, he's tended to pick projects that land outside the mainstream, which is great for building an acclaimed, eclectic portfolio, but doesn't make you the first guy casting directors think of when they're bringing their next blockbuster to life. His most commercially successful release, 2015's Avengers: Age of Ultron, doesn't even feature Spader's face onscreen—he played the voice of Ultron, the sentient A.I. bent on destroying the human race.

He's picky about roles

All you have to do is a take a look at Spader's filmography to know that he's not interested in pursuing parts that have mainstream or financial appeal. He started his career as a young actor with teen-idol looks, but he chose projects for the character, and that pickiness that may have prevented him from doing a lot of potentially successful movies. After being pigeonholed in Pretty in Pink, he managed to break form with Sex, Lies, and Videotape and Crash. Of those pretty boy parts back in the 1980s, Spader said, "I didn't really look like a character actor, yet those were the roles I loved to play" and added that he "had to play bad guys."

He took time off for family

When his first two children were born in 1989 and 1992, Spader took a break to spend time with them. The late '90s and early aughts reflect this—there were a series of flops until his comeback in 2002's Secretary. "He was never the most driven guy in the world," Andrew Goldman writes at Rolling Stone. "He took every summer off when his sons were small, and when he undertook a role, it was inevitably 'because I'm out of money and I need to pay my bills.'" This could be seen as a lack of ambition, or hustle, for major movie roles.

He hasn't been the best at managing his career

Spader's enjoyed such envious longevity that it might be easy to assume he's always had a plan for his career, but by his own admission, he could have done a lot better in that regard. "There are some actors who are very good at developing things," he told The Guardian in 2016. "Who have… 'things in the pipeline.' I am abysmal at that kind of thing, loathe it and am a terrible planner. Unless I'm showing up on the set and acting I prefer to have nothing to do with the actual business of being an actor."

That careless streak extends to finances, too—and has potentially led to Spader taking work as part of projects that he might not have accepted otherwise. "I am not very responsible economically," he admitted. "I have a history working on films for years and years, and by the time I was starting the next film I was starting from zero again."

He's notoriously private

Unlike some of his Brat Pack comrades, Spader never really weathered a sex scandal or was a "celebrity" in the tabloid-selling, gossipy sense of the world. "My personal life is not for public consumption," he has stated in several interviews when questioned about it. Instead, it seems that Spader would rather pursue the darker side of his personality in the parts that he chooses. "I look for that with my friends, my family, we're very eccentric … and I think probably I have looked for those characters to have as my friends as well in the work that I do," he told Stephen Colbert.

He didn't set out to be an actor

Hollywood avenues opened up for Spader pretty quickly in his career, but as he tells it, he only ever viewed acting as a "hobby" until it suddenly started paying his bills. Unlike countless peers who dreamed of superstardom, Spader insists he fell into the business almost by accident. "I had this hobby, acting, alongside this string of part-time jobs. But mostly, I had this sort of fantasy that I was going to join the New York Police Department or get together with this guy who likes trucks or get a crew together and knock off Tiffany's," he told the Boston Globe. "Then something happens, and all of a sudden you start to get paid for your hobby. Suddenly you're not a messenger anymore, or mopping floors or shoveling [manure] or driving a truck or whatever the hell it is, and you're getting paid for your hobby. I just became an actor."

He's got that 'difficult' reputation

Known for playing roles that are a bit off the wall, Spader himself has a reputation of being a bit strange. (That may be a nicer word for "difficult.") For one thing, he doesn't like to watch people eat. His Boston Legal co-star William Shatner recalls, "Our craft service table was located near the stage entrance, so he had to avoid walking by and watching people licking their fingers or spreading butter on a bagel." On The Blacklist, Spader insisted that Red would spend days hiding out in a synagogue for days, which required major rewrites and reworking the shooting schedule.

But it's because he has integrity

Though to outsiders it might seem like "diva" behavior, for Spader, his demanding behavior on set is about the performance and the quality of the work. He tells Goldman at Rolling Stone: in the end, "I have to perform it." Though it might not be the most convenient behavior for a director with a tight production schedule, tales of Spader's dedication to his craft are legion. Take this tidbit from Maggie Gyllenhaal on the making of Secretary:

Not long after, he began his ritual of sending a production assistant to fetch her, though their dressing rooms were in the same trailer and shared a flimsy wall. "Literally, he could have called to me and I would have heard him," Gyllenhaal says. "But I left my room and walked 2 feet to his, knocked on his door, and he invited me in and offered me a chocolate. That became a sort of S&M-type ritual between us."