If you were a rich and famous Hollywood star, then you’d take great delight in visiting your local multiplex to fawn over your beautiful face and unbelievable acting talent, right? Who on earth wouldn’t want to lap up the endless praise and millions of dollars that come from starring in the latest cinematic blockbuster? Well, it seems not all of Hollywood’s best and brightest share our enthusiasm, because below are the actors who – for various reasons – point-blank refuse to watch their own films.
The fact that he has won two Oscars and been nominated for four more hasn’t been enough to convince Hollywood royalty Tom Hanks that watching himself is anything other than “a horrible mistake.” “You never learn what to do,” the Saving Private Ryan and Castaway star once said. “You only sort of learn what not to do, [and] the thing about looking at the old movies is that they don’t change.”
In 2021, he spoke on the Bills Simmons podcast about his personal career highlights. Disregarding the movie’s glowing reception, he said he adored making League of their Own simply because it allowed him to play baseball all summer long. He also cited Castaway and Cloud Atlas as his favourites because they were filmed in beautiful, scenic locations.
Meryl Streep currently holds the record for the most Academy Award nods, having racked up an incredible 21 nominations alongside three wins, but the celebrated actress prefers not to dwell on the past. The star of Out of Africa, Death Becomes Her and The Devil Wears Prada revealed that she has never seen any of her films more than once, saying “I don’t do that, I just look ahead.”
In the same spirit, Streep has long avoided reprising any of her roles for sequels. She appeared in Mamma Mia 2 for a brief cameo only, and she turned down an offer for a sequel of The Devil Wears Prada. Behind the scenes, she has since commented, The Devil Wears Prada was not much fun for her. ““I was in my trailer,” she recalled. “I could hear them all rocking and laughing. I was so depressed! I said, ‘Well, it’s the price you pay for being boss!’ That’s the last time I ever attempted a Method thing!”
He may have starred in some of the best films of the past few decades, but Johnny Depp is not a fan of watching even one of the 45 entries in his impressive filmography. Depp believes that what happens to a film after its shoot has ended is “none of my business,” and also told a US talk show host “I don’t like watching myself.”
In fact, despite being a teen heartthrob in the late 80s, Depp has often avoided depending on his own image too much. As Guardian journalist Hadley Freeman put it, “Depp was supposed to be a teen idol, but he complicated the narrative by choosing John Waters’ Cry-Baby for his big movie lead debut, kitschily satirising his image as a heart-throb, and spiking any producers’ attempts to pigeonhole him as just another pinup.”
She may have won an Academy Award for her mesmerising performance in the 2005 Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line, but Reese Witherspoon does not enjoy watching herself up on the big screen. “I don’t know who feels good looking at themselves,” the Legally Blonde star has been quoted as saying, continuing: “why would you want to watch yourself being stupid and pretending to be somebody else?”
Born Laura Jeanne Reese Witherspoon, she rose to fame in 1991’s The Man in the Moon. While the actress today might avoid her past work, many were enthralled by her debut performance in this coming-age film, with critic Roger Ebert writing, “Her first kiss is one of the most perfect little scenes I’ve ever seen in a movie.”
Witherspoon’s Walk the Line co-star Phoenix is also no fan of seeing his own face, saying “I don’t ever really want to see myself as the camera sees me. There’s a part of you that’s curious for a second [but] I have to constantly tell myself ‘No.’ Because I know it’s not going to be of any value to me, and it stands a greater chance of having a negative effect on future work.”
Joaquin Phoenix has long shunned the limelight, preferring to disassociate himself from celebrity culture in general. Despite becoming a recipient of an Academy Award for 2019’s Joker, in 2012 he described the Oscars as “bulls***”. He has also refused the limelight in a more literal sense: he doesn’t perform on stage these days, saying the runs are too long.
We have to give credit to Nicole Kidman, who has at least attempted to watch herself on the big screen, but the star has admitted to “squirming” in her seat during the premiere of her 2008 film Australia. It was only the second of her films that Kidman had watched, but the experience was so negative that she left the premiere to get “straight on a plane.”
She was not at all happy with her role as English noblewoman Lady Sarah Ashley, who travels to Darwin, Australia to find out if her husband is having an affair. “I can’t look at this movie and be proud of what I’ve done,” Kidman told one radio station in Sydney. “It’s just impossible for me to connect to it emotionally.”
He’s often battling it out with Robert De Niro for the title of ‘greatest living actor’, but being highly regarded isn’t enough to convince Al Pacino to rewatch any of his old films. “I’ve seen it, I know what it is,” The Godfather star once said. “If it’s good, I feel lucky. If it’s not, it’s something you try to forget.”
But his past accomplishments are hard for the rest of the world to ignore. Al Pacino owns the rare Triple Crown of Acting: he has won an Academy Award, two Tony Awards and two Primetime Emmy Awards. Appearing in 50 feature films over his five-decade career, he both starred in and directed Salomé (2013) and Chinese Coffee (2001).
If we were even half as talented and gorgeous as she is then we swear we’d watch our output over and over again, but Julianne Moore doesn’t agree, once revealing that she hasn’t seen any of her own films. “I can’t sit there for a premiere or anything,” Moore has revealed. “I like being in the movie more than I like watching them. That’s my big thrill, rather than seeing the finished product.”
In a 2013 interview with The Guardian, Moore at first refused to say which of her movies she most disliked – but then changed her mind. “Next is pretty bad,” the Hollywood star volunteered, referring to the 2007 sci-fi action thriller. “It’s about nothing. It’s about two hours long! I think I’m an FBI agent in it,” she joked.
Famous for his extreme method acting behind the scenes, Suicide Squad star Jared Leto takes his roles very seriously. And he has found that he performs better when he doesn’t dwell over past accomplishments or failures – meaning that he has never watched a single scene from some of his best-loved works, including Dallas Buyers Club.
“I don’t watch myself at all,” Leto has stated. “I don’t look at—I never saw [Dallas Buyers Club] … I saw still images from Dallas Buyers Club, but I’ve never seen a scene or a playback, I don’t look at playback on set.” He went on to say, “I found for me, I needed to stop that to be free. And I had a lot less anxiety when I didn’t do it.”
Not only does The Social Network star Jesse Eisenberg not like to watch his own performances, he also never reads reviews of any film in which he has starred. “I like thinking that you’re working in this bubble and I can experience these personal emotions without thinking that it’s going to be scrutinised by a lot of people,” Eisenberg has been quoted as saying.
In the case of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, he took this attitude a step further. Prior to appearing in this critically panned movie, Eisenberg – who has never watched it – had never before seen a superhero film at all. “There were references to things I’d never heard of, I was shocked.,” he commented. “Because I’d never seen a superhero movie, because I live in a bubble or whatever, and so I thought it was just going to be people flying around for a hundred pages.”
The creators of The Social Network forced Andrew Garfield – who took the role of Eduardo Saverin – to watch the finished product. But apart from this Academy Award-winning biographical drama, Andrew Garfield avoids watching his onscreen personas at all costs, for fear it will ruin his acting in the next movie.
In the same year, he starred in the romance Never Let Me Go, and he noted at that movie’s launch party: “I haven’t actually seen the movie. I try not to.” He also explained his anxiety about becoming too self-conscious in front of the camera. “I don’t want to be aware of what I’m doing. As soon as I am, I’m less open,” he added.
Angelina Jolie doesn’t like to revisit her movies because she feels it ruins the movie-making process for her. Speaking on Smallzy’s Celebrity Small Talk, she noted: “No, there’s quite a few films of mine I’ve actually never seen, cause I like the process,” she said. “I usually see it, and I get frustrated cause I thought it was going to be something else. So I’m a terrible critic,” she added.
However, she made an exception for the 2021 superhero movie Eternals, in which she played the warrior Thena, brought to life on-screen with a lot of mystical CGI weaponry. “I really just like the making of. But I enjoyed watching this one, I’ve seen it,” she commented. The multi-talented Jolie trained in swordfighting, spear-throwing and ballet for this unusual role.
Helena Bonham Carter
Another actor who loves the process more than the completed work is Helena Bonham Carter, who claims that she acts so that “other people can watch it if they want to watch it.” Much like Meryl Streep, Bonham Carter has chosen not to return to any of her characters for sequels, with the exception of the Harry Potter franchise.
“It’s not like I am going to do exactly the same part next year, so what’s the point?” she’s further noted about dwelling on past movies. Another unusual detail about Bonham Carter among Hollywood stars is that she is her own stylist. “I’ve had a stylist once or twice, but it doesn’t really work out because basically, I don’t like being told what to wear,” she has said. “I don’t like being told what to do, so there’s no point. A lot of people suggest that I should.”
One early experience has put Adam Driver off watching himself onscreen ever since. After starring as the love interest in the pilot episode of the TV show Girls, he was horrified at his performance and how it felt to relive it. As he has recalled, “I saw the pilot of Girls with [director Lena Dunham] on her laptop. I was like, ‘This is f***ing terrible.’”
As a result, he avoids watching his old movies wherever possible – and when he is forced to, he doesn’t have a good time. “When I watched the [Force Awakens] premiere, I felt sick to my stomach,” Driver commented to GQ. “The people behind me, when the scroll started, were like ‘Oh my god. Oh my god. It’s happening.’ Immediately, I thought I was going to puke.”
Megan Fox doesn’t only avoid watching back her old movies – she actually considers whether her future roles will ruin a beloved franchise for her. “It’s hard because there are certain things that I’m a fan of, that I love them so much that I wouldn’t want to be in them,” she has explained. “For an instant a long time ago when they were casting a new character in The Hobbit movies, one of the elves, a part of me was like, ‘I have to do it.’
“And then a part of me was like, ‘No, it’ll ruin it for you forever to have to be on the inside of it, it kills the magic. So it’s hard, because obviously who doesn’t want to be in a Star Wars movie?” she pointed out. “But then, at the same time, it’s like, ‘I can’t love the movie anymore because I have to look at my stupid face and be upset about all the things I did wrong in it.’ So there’s that.”
Harrison Ford is yet another proponent of letting past movies lie. He is clearly one of his own biggest critics, picking apart even one of his most beloved works, Blade Runner. “I didn’t like the movie one way or the other, with or without,” he said in 1999. “In terms of how I related to the material, I found it very difficult.”
He hasn’t watched the Indiana Jones movies, and it seems that rewatching Star Wars doesn’t offer him much enjoyment either. “I did think the character itself was relatively thin,” he has said of Han Solo. “I would have liked to see some complication for the character; the only complication I didn’t get was to die at the end of the third one. I thought that would have given the whole film a bottom, but I couldn’t talk George into it.”
Rising star Constance Wu has likewise spoken about how difficult it is to watch yourself onscreen. She once vowed to never see herself act, and therefore has never seen the 2019 comedy Hustlers in which she plays a stripper named Destiny. Likewise, she will not watch any episodes of Fresh Off The Boat, the sitcom in which Wu stars as a tough-love mother.
She has described her role in Crazy Rich Asians as the turning point that taught her to avoid watching her own films. “It was watching that movie, after that experience, that I stopped watching anything,” she has said. “… Just because I thought, you know, I want to focus on the present and not be self-critical and think too much, dwell too much on the past.”
The High School Musical franchise made Zac Efron into one of the most recognisable faces of his generation. But since his movie debut in 2006, despite starring in countless hits including 17 Again, Charlie St. Cloud and The Greatest Showman, he is very reluctant to watch himself on-screen – and that includes the franchise that made him famous.
Although he’s expressed his love for the team behind High School Musical, he has also commented: ““I step back and look at myself and I still want to kick [my teenage self’s] ass sometimes,” he said in an interview with Men’s Fitness. “Like, f**k that guy. He’s done some kind of cool things with some cool people, he did that one thing [Neighbours] that was funny, but I mean he’s still just that f**king kid from High School Musical.”
Much like Zac Efron – who is one year older than her – Emma Stone cannot bear to watch the teen movies that made her famous. Most surprisingly, she has never been able to sit through the beloved comedy and coming-of-age movie Easy A, in which she famously stars as Olive. “I haven’t seen it. No, I’ve seen some scenes,” she said in the Variety’s “Actor on Actor” series. “But I went to a friends and family screening to see it, and I had to get up and walk out. Who wants to watch themselves for that long?”
“I was 20 and I put so much pressure on myself,” she has also said. “While we were shooting it, I was just going nuts and was like, ‘I don’t know, this whole thing could fall apart, I have no idea.’ Because I had to be there all day, every day. And if I wasn’t on screen, I was narrating, and it was just too much me… It was kind of like, I just felt like it had to be well-calibrated throughout, and it was the first time that I had ever had to rely on myself mostly to be able to carry all that.”
Even when all the stars align for Javier Bardem’s roles, no matter how beautiful the settings, he hates to revisit his old films. For instance, the romantic movie Eat Pray Love – which was lambasted by critics – saw Bardem travel to beautiful locations that he never wants to see onscreen. “I needed to give myself a cake,” he said of this movie. “That’s why I said, ‘Take me to Bali—light, flowers, sea, a beautiful lead actress, a love story.’ ”
“The fact that I like to make characters doesn’t mean that I like to watch my characters being made, my performance,” he elaborated. “I can’t even watch that f***ing nose, that f***ing voice, those ridiculous eyes. I can’t handle that. But when I’m doing it, I don’t see my nose or hear my voice; it’s like there’s something stronger, bigger than that. And I need to express it.”