Eight Victims of the Spielberg Curse

When an actor scores a role in a Steven Spielberg movie it’s an automatic step up for their career. Actresses, however, could take a one-way road to obscurity. Whether an actress is in a break-out role, a rising star or an established A-Lister there’s a very real chance that acting for Spielberg could be the end of their career. It’s an unusual phenomenon but here’s eight women who support the theory.

Laura Dern

laura dern

Before Spielberg: During the late 1980s casting agents were tripping over themselves to snap up Laura Dern who had established herself in high energy leading roles for David Lynch in Wild at Heart and Blue Velvet. Everything was lining up for Dern who just needed a blockbuster to break into the mainstream. Jurassic Park was the  perfect way to do this.

And Then… Groundbreaking special effects bringing dinosaurs to life with an ensemble cast and the master of summer smash hit at the helm. Every actor involved became a star. Except Dern, whose career arc promptly plummeted. Although David Lynch wrung a great performance out of her for Inland Empire and even after intense campaigning the Academy forget to include her in their nominations. Since then she’s done small roles, voice acting and TV movies, and only scored a cameo in the Jurassic Park sequels.

Frances O’Connor

frances o'connor

Before Spielberg: Frances O’Connor had done her time in the indie cinema circles with the small budget Kiss or Kill and Mansfield Park before picking up the role of Brendan Fraser’s love interest in Bedazzled. The next rung up the ladder was the chance to show her depth in a dramatic role as a mother of a sick child coming to terms with an artificial replacement. Spielberg’s A.I.: Artificial Intelligence was the way to respectability.

And Then…As quickly as she appeared on the scene she vanished. A couple of forgettable film titles over the next three years gave way to bit=parts on television shows and mini-series’.

Catherine Zeta-Jones

catherine zeta jones

Before Spielberg: Some people just seem born for the big screen. After getting into the business with a couple of small roles she scored back to back lead billing alongside Antonio Banderas in The Legend of Zorro and Sean Connery in Entrapment. Following that she starred in cult favorite High Fidelity, the rom-com smash hit American Sweethearts and the gritty, highly acclaimed drama Traffic. Having proven her range she nabbed an Oscar for Chicago and worked with the Coen’s in Intolerable Cruelty. So why not star alongside Tom Hanks in The Terminal.

And Then…The critically panned Ocean’s 12 and Legend of Zorro and a bunch of movies nobody saw. Did her casting agent lose her phone number? At least she’s got a role in RED 2 for next year.

Miranda Richardson

miranda richardson

Before Spielberg: Richardson was on her way to an illustrious film career. She’d been a fan favorite as Queen Elizabeth in Black Adder II and had napped her first film role working with none other than Steven Spielberg in Empire of the Sun.

And Then…Well, she’s always been around but she’s certainly not gotten the big juicy roles. With smatterings of movies like Southland Tales and Fred Claus on her resume this is not likely to change. At the end of the day an otherwise talented performer is going to be best remembered for Rita Skeeter in the Harry Potter movies.

Lorraine Gary

lorraine gary

Before Spielberg: Lorraine Gary was a hard working actress for the best part of a decade before stepping on to the silver screen. She featured in several television shows every year and worked tirelessly to make a name for herself. When Hollywood beckoned she took up the opportunity on a risky little venture called Jaws. You may have heard of it.

And Then…but you may not have heard of Gary. She picked up sparse and unimpressive film roles for the next few years with the only highlight being Jaws 2. Having Jaws: The Revenge she packed it in entirely.


Karen Allen  –  Kate Capshaw  –  Alison Doody

indiana jones women

Everyone who was in the Indiana Jones trilogy (what fourth movie?) would go on to be big. Harrison Ford, John Rhys-Davis…even River Phoenix is better remembered then the film’s leading ladies. Each actress was relatively new to the film industry and this should’ve been their ticket to the big time. Everyone remembers the characters: smart, resourceful Marion…seductive and deceitful Elsa…and Willie. Yet for some reason none of them have had a post-Spielberg career worth mentioning. Why couldn’t Spielberg have spared them this fate?!