Nine One-Time Screen Pairings That Would Be Unheard of Today

Once equals: Maxwell Caulfield and Michelle Pfeiffer in Grease 2

You know how it is in show business: Fortunes can change seemingly overnight. One star rises while another one falls. And so on. This list was inspired by an earlier List of 9 where I wrote about 1986's The Money Pit and then realized that, in those days, Tom Hanks and Shelley Long could receive equal billing in a motion picture. How times change. To wit:

  1. Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze, POINT BREAK (1991). Boy, that Patrick Swayze was once a huge star. Ghost! Dirty Dancing! What happened? The same thing that might have happened to Keanu Reeves before The Matrix saved his career - and which still might happen now that the Wachowskis have soiled their own Matrix legacy. Still, I doubt Reeves will sink to Swayze's level of obscurity.
  2. Michelle Pfeiffer and Maxwell Caulfield, GREASE 2 (1982). One of filmdom's legendary bombs, Grease 2 starred the two unknowns as watered-down versions of the then-still-hot John Travolta and Olivia Newton John. (I bet if the producers had waited two more years, they could have had their original stars for a steal.) Pfeiffer's later success needs no elaboration; Caulfield, alas, remained a non-entity. You know you're in trouble when Dynasty is the most notable thing you've ever done.
  3. Justine Bateman and Liam Neeson, SATISFACTION (1988). A classic example of All About Eve-style Hollywood irony, this trite comedy about a girl band was meant as a vehicle for Justine Bateman from Family Ties. She fizzled on the big screen, but Neeson - as well as a young supporting actress named Julia Roberts - did not.
  4. Don Johnson and Susan Sarandon, SWEET HEARTS DANCE (1988). At the time, Johnson was still riding high on both his Miami Vice success and his marriage to Melanie Griffith (whose career has likewise cooled). This low-wattage jerk never sold many movie tickets and wound up back where he belonged: on TV, doing lame cop shows (Nash Bridges, anyone?). Yet Sarandon endures.
  5. Harrison Ford and Anne Heche, SIX DAYS SEVEN NIGHTS (1998). Wait! you say. Isn't it a little soon to call Anne Heche's career as a leading lady over? Answer: No.
  6. Tom Cruise and Demi Moore, A FEW GOOD MEN (1992). Tom Cruise always likes to overshadow his leading ladies, which was easy with the likes of Mia Sara and Kelly McGillis; less easy with actual good actresses such as Renee Zellweger and Nicole Kidman. But Demi Moore? Inarguably, she was once a top star. Marriage and children (and, let's face it, poor acting in bad movies) stalled her career, and when she tried to make her comeback in 2003 with Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, nobody cared.
  7. Scott Baio and Jodie Foster, BUGSY MALONE (1976). This is a little unfair, as both were child actors then, and typically one has no idea where child actors are going to wind up after puberty. But considering that both Baio and Foster kept acting into adulthood, it's not hard to note the gap in quality between Zapped! and The Silence of the Lambs.
  8. William Baldwin and Sharon Stone, SLIVER (1993). Sliver was the kind of movie that can ruin careers. Stone's own floundered as a result, but she seems to be treading water with films that at least get a theatrical release. But alas, poor Billy: despite early promise in Backdraft, he quickly belly-flopped into the straight-to-video swamp.
  9. Winona Ryder and Ben Stiller, REALITY BITES (1993). Who could have predicted? At the time, Ryder and Ethan Hawke were huge; Stiller, who directed, had a small following and played the straight man. Today, Stiller is one of Hollywood's hottest comedians. Hawke does the odd low-budget drama. Janeane Garofalo became a name, briefly, before settling back into standup comedy and political rants. Steve Zahn is in everything, though his career never skyrocketed. But Winona! Surely it's not just the shoplifting fiasco that scuttled her acting career. Could it also be... lack of talent?