It’s never enough to be “Live from New York...” on Saturday nights.
Every Saturday Night Live cast member yearns to be seen every night of the week in movie theaters worldwide. Even if all want to be the next $20 million-a-paycheck superstar, most fail and scurry back to TV… or fade into obscurity.
With so many former and current SNLers peddling new comedies this summer, The Bottom Line decided to rank those alums who have achieved the most--and continue to enjoy ongoing success--since leaving NBC’s Studio 8H for Hollywood.
1. Bill Murray (1977-1980)
Biggest Live-Action Hit: Ghostbusters ($238.6 million)
Biggest Flop: The Razor's Edge ($6.5 million)
Last Seen: The Lost City ($1.4 million)
Last Heard: Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties ($7.2 million)*
The Bottom Line: John Belushi’s dead, Dan Aykroyd’s happy to take the money and run, and Chevy Chase’s practically MIA. That leaves Murray as the only early SNLer to remain as cool, relevant and anti-authoritarian as he was in the 1970s. At the time, Chase was the most likeliest to succeed in Hollywood. But then the golf-mad Murray stole Caddyshack from Chase, inaugurating a winning streak that began with Stripes and ended with Groundhog Day. The mid-1990s were not kind to Murray. But despite the scorn he received for his dramatic turn in 1984’s The Razor's Edge, Murray decided to try his hand at tragicomic roles. Luckily, he found a willing patron in Rushmore director Wes Anderson. Now Murray excels—and commands great respect--when playing weary baby boomers. He wasn’t the first ex-SNLer to receive an Oscar nomination—for Lost in Translation--but he could be the first to win one.
*Opened June 16
2. Eddie Murphy (1980-1984)
Biggest Live-Action Hit: Beverly Hills Cop ($234.7 million)
Biggest Flop: The Adventures of Pluto Nash ($4.4 million)
Last Seen: The Haunted Mansion ($75.8 million)
Last Heard: Shrek 2 ($441.2 million)
Next: Dreamgirls (Dec. 21)
The Bottom Line: Bill Cosby once slammed Murphy for his Raw comic observations. But that was when Murphy was Richard Pryor without the social conscience. Now Murphy’s as tame as Cosby. When Axel Foley fans no longer laughed at his R-rated trips to Beverly Hills, Murphy washed out his foul mouth with soap and water. The family-friendly franchises Doctor Dolittle, The Nutty Professor and Shrek rejuvenated his career, but at the cost of his street cred. Predictability, the action-comedies I Spy, Metro and Showtime—all desperate attempts to recapture his 48 HRS. edginess—flopped. But Murphy should make a mint making an ass of himself as Donkey in Shrek 3 (May 18, 2007). And perhaps his rare foray into dramatic territory with the musical Dreamgirls (Dec. 21) will inspire him to purse greater challenges than donning a dress, which he does—again--in 2007’s Norbert.
3. Adam Sandler (1991-1995)
Biggest Live-Action Hit: Big Daddy ($163.4 million)
Biggest Flop: Little Nicky($39.4 million)
Last Seen: The Longest Yard ($158.1 million)
Last Heard: Eight Crazy Nights ($23.5 million)
Next: Click (June 23)
The Bottom Line: Refusing to grow up has paid off handsomely for Sandler, as he rarely deviates from playing lovable goofballs and losers made good. That familiarity’s bred content among those willing to witness his adolescent antics (or those of Rob Schneider and David Spade, whose films Sandler routinely produces). Click, with Sandler in possession of a time-altering remote control, certainly doesn’t buck that winning formula. Same goes for I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry (July 20, 2007), pairing Sandler with Kevin James as pals posing as a gay couple. “The Chanukah Song" chronicler only strikes out when he stops being funny. Punch-Drunk Love was a noble effort, but he mangled Spanglish. But those failures haven’t deterred Sandler from making the upcoming post-9/11 weepy Empty City. Twenty years ago we laughed when Bill Murray wanted us to take him seriously. Perhaps, in 20 years, we’ll take Sandler just seriously as we now take Murray.
4. Mike Myers (1989-1995)
Biggest Live-Action Hit: Austin Powers in Goldmember ($213.3 million)
Biggest Flop: So I Married An Axe Murderer ($11.5 million)
Last Seen: The Cat in the Hat ($101.1 million)
Last Heard: Shrek 2 ($441.2 million)
Next: Shrek 3 (May 18, 2007)
The Bottom Line: Myers looked like a one-trick pony after Wayne's World, and he seemed destined to follow fellow faux head-banger Dana Carvey to primetime TV. But then Myers posed the question, “Do I make you horny, baby, yeah, do I?” No, but the bumbling spy Austin Powers made us laugh. Then Myers gave life to the grumpy ogre Shrek, and he was back with a vengeance. Well, at least until The Cat in the Hat ruined everything by failing to meet expectations. Myers has not been seen—only heard—since. Perhaps he’ll emerge from his self-imposed exile with the sci-fi spoof How to Survive a Robot Uprising. Or the long-gestating Keith Moon bio. Or a fourth Austin Powers. Or maybe not.
5. Will Ferrell (1995-2002)
Biggest Hit: Elf ($173.3 million)
Biggest Flop: The Producers ($19.3 million)
Last Seen: Winter Passing ($107,492)
Last Heard: Curious George ($58.3 million)
Next: Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (Aug. 4)
The Bottom Line: Ferrell badly needed to distance himself from the lousy SNL spin-off movies he embarrassed himself in during his tenure on the show. Turning into a workaholic worked wonders, leading to ingenious lead roles, canny cameos and membership in the Frat Pack. Now he’s poised to become as popular as Adam Sandler. The NASCAR-fueled Talladega Nights looks set to be another Anchorman, and the promisingly surreal Stranger than Fiction (Nov. 10) could be his Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Then there are proposed sequels to Elf and Old School. But after lending his presence to five films in 2005, Ferrell must start settling for quality over quantity. If not, expect more Bewitcheds than Elfs from Ferrell, and that could undo all the hard work he’s done these past four years.