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Whatever Happened to…?: Vol. 5 – Josh Lucas
January 8, 2014Posted by on
Though not a household name whatsoever, Josh Lucas came surprisingly close to becoming one in the early 2000s. Starring or co-starring in a string of critical and commercial hits like American Psycho (2000), A Beautiful Mind (2001), and Sweet Home Alabama (2002, and one of the highest grossing Romantic Comedies of all time if I’m not mistaken), Lucas was well on his way to becoming an A-List actor. With good looks and a charisma not terribly far off from that of Bradley Cooper or Ryan Reynolds, Lucas had the potential to become a bankable leading man in Hollywood, but never entirely reached that plateau. So, whatever happened to this guy?
Josh Lucas’ first high profile role was in the 1993 Frank Marshall survival film Alive, an Ethan Hawke-starrer that recounted the horrifying tragedy of a Uruguayan rugby team whose plane had crashed in the Andes. The role didn’t lead to much immediately for Lucas, but in 2000 he appeared in the critically acclaimed Laura Linney-starrer You Can Count on Me as well as the aforementioned American Psycho, which Christian Bale and future Lucas co-star Reese Witherspoon headlined. These high-profile roles in low-profile films, however, eventually lead to Lucas earning meatier leading man parts in much bigger Hollywood film productions.
Unfortunately, none of these projects had any real lasting power. Lucas’ most high profile role to this point in time was as the villainous Talbot in Ang Lee’s disastrous 2003 film adaptation of Marvel Comics’ The Hulk character, titled simply Hulk. The film, more an art house experiment than a true blockbuster summer movie, was not exactly a flop per se, but was considered widely disappointing by audiences, who panned nearly every aspect of the film. Marvel would reboot the Hulk film property a half-decade later to a better reception overall. It is hardly Lucas’ fault that Hulk was a borderline flop, however. He just happened to be in the wrong movie at the wrong time.
Just two short years after Hulk, Lucas was headlining a movie once again, this time in Rob Cohen’s even more disastrous Stealth, which co-starred Jessica Biel and Jamie Foxx. With Foxx hot off of his Oscar win for Ray and Cohen coming off both the Fast and the Furious and the xXx film franchises, Stealth was expected to do gangbusters at the box office. The late-summer release bombed in theaters however, becoming one of the biggest box office busts of all time at that point in history (it has since been easily surpassed by the likes of John Carter, Battleship, and The Lone Ranger).
Subsequent film projects for Lucas included Glory Road – the umpteenth white person/black person race-relations feel good sports dramedy. The film drew mediocre reviews and was controversial for its portrayal of legendary basketball coach Adolph Rupp but did solid box office, grossing just over 40 million dollars. Glory Road was released direct-to-video in many markets, however, because its subject matter (college basketball) was not deemed commercial enough for foreign theatrical release. Additionally, compared to other films in this sports movie subgenre such as Remember the Titans or even We Are Marshall, Glory Road is an almost completely forgotten movie.
It was Lucas’ next role, in the mega-budgeted The Poseidon Adventure remake simply titled Poseidon, which sank his career for good. Directed by Wolfgang Petersen, who had delivered on entertaining summer fare in the past with works like Air Force One and The Perfect Storm, Poseidon was a 160 million dollar would-be blockbuster released in May of 2006. The high-profile release also starred Kurt Russell and Richard Dreyfuss (who I’m sure all the kids were clamoring for) and featured cameos from awful people like Fergie. Though Poseidon was praised for its use of special effects (it was also nominated for an Oscar in this category), the film was an enormous flop, grossing just 60 million dollars domestically. Wolfgang Peterson hasn’t directed a film since.
High-profile work for Josh Lucas disappeared almost immediately after Poseidon flopped. He starred in several indie productions, including the non-Nicolas Cage film Stolen, the minor hit and Matthew McConaughey vehicle The Lincoln Lawyer, Clint Eastwood’s Oscar bait biopic J. Edgar (another outright flop), the Nicolas Cage film Stolen (yes, Lucas was in two movies called Stolen), and the critically reviled drama film Big Sur, a film that grossed a staggering 35 thousand dollars. Lucas was eventually given his own TV show however, where he starred in an episodic version of John Grisham’s The Firm, which had been adapted into a mega-successful Tom Cruise film in 1993. The television version lasted just one season before being unceremoniously axed by NBC. One critic referred to it as “tedious, but not terrible” which sounds about right.
Josh Lucas never made it big in Hollywood, and starring in a string of box office disappointments pretty much killed his budding high-profile movie career. He has three recent movies in the hopper, none of which looks to be released wide theatrically (one of them is even generically titled Space Warriors, which sounds like a SyFy original movie). Though I don’t imagine Lucas will ever have the sort of career he hoped would after being cast in high-profile films 10 years ago, he probably never imagined he’d star in a failed television version of a Tom Cruise vehicle ever. Lucas isn’t a terrible actor, but he isn’t terribly gifted in that department either. More charismatic actors like Bradley Cooper, Ryan Reynolds, Ryan Gosling, Patrick Wilson, and even Josh Duhamel have kind of usurped his career in the ensuing years. Though he didn’t hit it big, he’s at least still a working actor, which is worth something.