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Roles Actors Apologized For

If there's one thing you can depend on, it's that people make mistakes. The first step to fixing those mistakes is apologizing. This is a tough step for many, made even tougher when the mistake in question is public. Consider the position of actors: Everything they do is public by the very nature of their profession, and addressing mistakes can chip away at a carefully crafted image. It takes something truly important (though "important" has many definitions in Hollywood) to get an actor to apologize — especially when it comes to the projects they work on. No one wants to badmouth their own movies, and time can heal many wounds: Today's flop could be tomorrow's cult classic. For an actor to apologize for a role, something momentous needs to have gone wrong.

How does the mistake of taking the role happen in the first place? Sometimes, actors are forced into the role. Other times, they fail to understand the role in question. Every now and then, it's a simple matter of bad direction, writing, or editing. Regardless, the role is taken, and in these cases, goes over so badly that the actor ends up apologizing. These are the roles actors apologized for, from the obnoxiously outdated to the horrifically ill-conceived.

Emma Stone is sorry about Aloha

Cameron Crowe's 2015 romcom Aloha bombed at the box office, got rotten reviews, and would have been forgotten entirely if not for one thing: Some bad old-fashioned whitewashing. This led to both Crowe apologizing for the casting and Emma Stone apologizing for taking the whitewashed role in question.

Stone plays Allison Ng, an Air Force captain who is one-quarter Native Hawaiian and one-quarter Chinese. While the character is based on a "real-life, red headed local," this casting is still suspect in a world in which "not looking like" one's heritage is a complex thing, multi-racial actresses have difficulty finding work, and Hollywood already has an ugly history of whitewashing Asian roles.

Crowe offered an apology via his blog.  Stone later expressed regret for taking the role, stating that she'd come to learn about the "insane history of whitewashing in Hollywood," though she did echo Crowe's defense that the character is based on a real person.

Stone's second and more direct apology was considerably more succinct. During the opening monologue of the 2019 Golden Globe Awards, host Sandra Oh joked that Crazy Rich Asians was "the first studio film with an Asian-American lead since Ghost in the Shell and Aloha." Over mass laughter, Stone yelled "I'm sorry!" from the crowd.

George Clooney keeps apologizing for Batman & Robin

Batman & Robin is often considered to be the Caped Crusader's worst hour — or, to be more exact, his worst two hours and five minutes. The puns, the camp, and the Bat Nipples are cultural touchstones for all the wrong reasons. Few bore the brunt of this more than George Clooney, who has spent years apologizing for his part in the fiasco.

During the Tomorrowland panel at 2014's New York Comic Con, some of the panelists teased Clooney about Batman. Clooney joked that his portrayal got him "disinvited to Comic Con" and how he almost apologized to Adam West backstage that day. He added that he was "sorry about the nipples on the suit," then joked, "Freeze, Freeze! I apologize for that one," for good measure.

Several months later, the Tomorrowland cast was interviewed on The Graham Norton Show. Norton acknowledged Clooney's apology, to which Clooney responded, "I always apologize for Batman & Robin." He admitted that he thought he killed the franchise until Christopher Nolan brought it back. "I thought at the time that this was going to be a very good career move," he said, with a pause. "Um, it wasn't."

Scarlett Johansson had to keep apologizing for Rub & Tug

Scarlett Johansson managed a special feat during her time in and out of Rub & Tug: She caused a problem, apologized, somehow caused an even bigger problem, and had to apologize for mishandling her apology.

Johansson was cast in Rub & Tug in 2018, a movie that purports to tell the story of Dante "Tex" Gill, who ran a series of massage parlors in Pittsburgh that were a front for sex work. The controversy originated from the fact that Gill was a trans man. In a world where trans actors don't exactly have a flood of options, casting Johansson in one of the few roles tailor-made for a trans actor caused immediate outrage.

Johansson's first response was flippant: "Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman's reps for comment." Critics fired back, making it clear that they weren't fans of those casting choices either. Johansson publicly acknowledged this and pulled out of the role.

Months later, Johansson spoke more: "You know, as an actor I should be allowed to play any person, or any tree, or any animal because that is my job and the requirements of my job." This signaled to a lot of people that she hadn't quite internalized the lesson. Months later, she expressed remorse for the situation. "In hindsight, I mishandled that situation. I was not sensitive, my initial reaction to it."

Mahershala Ali called Don Shirley's family to apologize for Green Book

Mahershala Ali's performance as Don Shirley in Green Book won him critical acclaim and plenty of awards. The movie as a whole, however, is often criticized as a "white savior" narrative. The Shirley family — who were never contacted, let alone consulted about the depiction — expressed particular issues with the movie, which led to a personal apology from Ali.

Shirley's nephew Edwin said watching Green Book was "rather jarring," and took exception to how his uncle was portrayed. Green Book's Don Shirley is shown as estranged from the black community and out of contact with his family. Edwin noted that Shirley marched in Selma with Martin Luther King Jr., was close friends with many other black musicians, and was absolutely in contact with his family. Edwin called Shirley's depiction in Green Book "very hurtful" and "100% wrong."

Shirley's brother Maurice went further, calling Green Book "a symphony of lies." He noted that in 1962, "[Shirley] had three living brothers with whom he was always in contact," and that the two of them had monthly phone calls until Don's death. Maurice's wife Patricia also noted that Shirley's relationship with Tony was "employer-employee."

In response, Ali called both Maurice and Edwin Shirley. "I was not aware that there were close relatives with whom I could have consulted," Ali disclosed in a call Edwin described as "very, very respectful." 

Jason Alexander is sorry about Rocky and Bullwinkle

Jason Alexander is best known as George Costanza, but that role shows off only a sliver of his true talent. Alexander can sing, dance, and boasts a tremendous career upon the stage as well as the screen. Yet even he couldn't get past the problems caused by the indefatigable "moose and squirrel."

2000's The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle has a star-studded cast, high-profile cameos, and a budget of $76 million. None of this mattered — in fact, it only made things worse. Rocky and Bullwinkle earned middling reviews and only $35 million worldwide, cementing it as a box office bomb of the highest order.

Alexander, who portrays the fiendish Boris Badenov alongside Rene Russo's Natasha Fatale, keenly felt the sting of this film's failure. During an appearance on The Howard Stern Show, Alexander admitted that he only did the role for the money and apologized for his part in it.

Tim Roth regrets doing the FIFA movie

FIFA, the international governing body of association football (AKA soccer), are as well known for the sport as they are for corruption. One of their many attempts to smooth this over was the 2015 film United Passions.

United Passions goes beyond puff piece and directly into hagiography. As FIFA put up 90 percent of the budget, this isn't a shock. No one could have predicted how terrible the film's timing would be, however: Just before release, 14 FIFA officials were arrested on corruption charges.

Tim Roth plays Sepp Blatter, then President of FIFA. Just days before the movie's opening, the real Blatter resigned from his position, and has since been banned from FIFA operations for six years. In the movie, however, he's a peerless leader, distinguished by his impeccable ethics.

Shortly before the movie was released, Roth was interviewed by German newspaper Die Welt. He expressed remorse over his part in it, admitting that he had not even watched the finished product. "I didn't question the director, I didn't question the script," he said. "This is a role that will have my father turning in his grave."

William Shatner sort of apologizes for Star Trek V

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier is widely considered to be the worst Star Trek movie. As both the director and the star, William Shatner takes the brunt of the blame.

In 2016, Shatner finally apologized ... to an extent. He noted that The Final Frontier was a multi-million dollar movie, and that he "did not get the help [he] needed in allocating [the] budget, so when it came to shooting the ending — needing a good villain and lots of computer graphics — [the studio] had run out of money." So it wasn't just bad directing, apparently — Paramount is to blame!

Shatner also added that the ending wasn't what he planned. "I had to use footage that I had already shot — and spit on it a lot. I wanted to give [the audience] earth-breaking granite monsters spewing rocks and fire. Instead, I had a few pebbles in my hand that I threw at the camera."

Shia LaBeouf "dropped the ball" in Indiana Jones

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a contentious movie. Mutt Williams, Indy's sidekick and son, is one major factor in fans' mixed feelings. As it turns out, Shia LaBeouf, his actor, has some misgivings of his own.

While promoting 2010's Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps at Cannes, LaBeouf went off on Crystal Skull. "You get to monkey-swinging and things like that and you can blame it on the writer and you can blame it on [Steven Spielberg]," he said. "But the actor's job is to make it come alive and make it work, and I couldn't do it. So that's my fault. Simple." LaBeouf said that he and Harrison Ford talked it over and were both unsatisfied. Though he holds Spielberg in the highest regard, he stated that the director still bears some of the blame: "He's done so much great work that there's no need for him to feel vulnerable about one film. But when you drop the ball you drop the ball."

Ford later called LaBeouf an "idiot" for lambasting the film. When it comes to a controversial film, there are no winners.

Hank Azaria stopped voicing Apu as an apology

Hank Azaria voiced Apu on The Simpsons from 1990 to 2020. The role has been subject to criticism for years, finally coming to a head in Hari Kondabolu's 2017 documentary, The Problem With Apu. After spending a fair amount of time thinking about it, Azaria has stated that he regrets the part, and has decided to stop voicing Apu.

Azaria first addressed the controversy on a 2018 episode of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Azaria expressed regret for his role: "The idea that it's brought pain and suffering in any way, that it's used to marginalize people, it's upsetting, genuinely." He indicated that he was open to a casting change and a character readjustment, noting that he was "perfectly happy to step aside or help transition it into something new." In early 2020, Azaria stopped voicing the role entirely. Matt Groening has stated that Apu will remain part of the show, though in what form, no one yet knows.

Carol Burnett apologized to airline passengers after watching her worst performance

Carol Burnett is a comedy icon, but that doesn't mean she's never had an off day. Consider Burnett's role in Billy Wilder's 1974 movie, The Front Page. She knew during filming that her performance was dreadful, an opinion shared by many reviewers. In a story she loves telling, this led her to give a personal apology to a captive audience.

Some time after making the movie, Burnett and her husband Joe Hamilton were on a flight. Fans recognized her with excitement. The flight attendant then announced that the in-flight movie was The Front Page, which caused Burnett to sink into her seat.

As the credits rolled, a silence gripped the plane, so Burnett decided to face the music. She went up to the flight attendant — itself an act of a bygone era — and asked to use the speaker. Burnett introduced herself and said, "I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to each and every one of you for my performance in that movie." The passengers erupted into laughter and applause.

Paul Newman bought ads apologizing for a movie

Paul Newman's first movie role was in The Silver Chalice, a 1954 historical epic that is, in fact, anything but epic. The movie was critically reviled upon release for being boring, vulgar, and incompetently made. It was also a thoroughly unpleasant experience for Newman, who called The Silver Chalice "the worst film to be made in the entirety of the 1950s."

Fast forward to 1963. Paul Newman had become one of the hottest acts in Hollywood, internationally recognized for movies like Cat On A Hot Tin Roof and The Hustler. A Los Angeles TV station announced an upcoming broadcast of The Silver Chalice. Newman was horrified. He responded by buying $1200 worth of ads in two local papers, most often cited as the LA Times and Variety. The ads were outlined in black like a funeral announcement, and read, "Paul Newman apologizes every night this week — Channel 9."

The ads backfired. Newman piqued everyone's curiosity, and the broadcast got great ratings. Newman later called his ads "a classic example of the arrogance of the affluent."

Jim Carrey was too upset about real world violence to promote Kick-Ass 2

Jim Carrey plays Colonel Stars and Stripes, a reformed mafioso, in Kick-Ass 2. A month after Carrey finished filming, the Sandy Hook school shooting happened. On June 23rd, 2013, Carrey tweeted that "in all good conscience I cannot support that level of violence," and wouldn't be promoting the film. He relayed his "apologies to others involve [sic] with the film. I am not ashamed of it but recent events have caused a change in my heart."

Kick-Ass creator Mark Millar responded by respecting Carrey's beliefs, but saying he was "baffled by this sudden announcement as nothing seen in this picture wasn't in the screenplay 18 months ago." He also noted that Colonel Stars and Stripes deliberately avoids using guns, and that violence is guaranteed in a movie literally called Kick-Ass. Miller later stated that Carrey did the movie a favor by getting it in the news.

A year later, Millar and Kick-Ass co-creator John Romita, Jr. changed their tune. They both expressed disgust that Carrey would, in their eyes, abandon the people who worked on the project. They also said he was "not a smart enough guy" to square playing an anti-gun character with his real life support of gun control. 

Several actresses apologized for working with Woody Allen

Woody Allen was first accused of sexually abusing his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow in 1992. In 2014, Farrow repeated the allegations in an open letter, and again in 2017. In response, women who had once worked with Allen publicly apologized for doing so.

Two days later after sidestepping the question at the 2018 Golden Globes, Greta Gerwig clarified her position in no uncertain terms: "If I had known then what I know now, I would not have acted in the film. I have not worked for him again, and I will not work for him again." She acknowledged Farrow's statements, and expressed remorse that she "had increased another woman's pain."

Rebecca Hall, who had won acclaim for her role in Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona, was mid-production on A Rainy Day in New York when Farrow's 2017 statement dropped. After filming wrapped, she said she was "profoundly sorry" for making Farrow "feel silenced and dismissed," and pledged to donate her salary from the movie to the Time's Up legal defense fund.

Mira Sorvino starred in Allen's Mighty Aphrodite, which netted her an Oscar and a Golden Globe. Her connection to both Farrow and the Me Too movement is personal — Ronan Farrow named her as one of Harvey Weinstein's victims in his explosive 2017 New Yorker article. Sorvino wrote an open letter in January of 2018 to Dylan Farrow, in which Sorvino apologizes and pledges never to work with Allen again.