The Non-Sequel Actors

Next weekend sees the release of two high-profile sequels: The Equalizer 2 and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. The pair of part II’s have something rather interesting in common: they serve as the first sequels that their stars Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep have ever appeared in. Pretty surprising huh? Both have been mega-stars for decades and have never followed up on a character until now.

This got me thinking: what other major actors have never been in a sequel? And it’s not an easy list to cobble together.

Some actors are known for their cases of sequelitis. We know Samuel L. Jackson has appeared in a multitude of them, including Marvel Cinematic Universe pics and franchises ranging from Star Wars to xXx to Incredibles. He was John McClane’s sidekick in Die Hard with a Vengeance. And looking early in his filmography, 1990 saw him appearing in The Exorcist III and The Return of Superfly. There’s also Patriot Games from 1992 and Kill Bill: Vol. 2 from 2004. Son of Shaft will be out next year. Dude loves his m****f***ing sequels!

Sylvester Stallone has made a career of out of them. Creed II will mark his 15th sequel by my count. There’s the Rocky, Rambo, and Expendables series and there’s also Staying Alive (which he directed and had a cameo in), Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and the just released Escape Plan 2: Hades.

Eddie Murphy has returned in the following series: 48 Hrs., Beverly Hills Cop, The Nutty Professor, Dr. Dolittle, and Shrek. There could be a part II of Coming to America on the horizon.

Harrison Ford has the famous series like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and the Jack Ryan pictures. There’s also More American Graffiti, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, and last year’s Blade Runner 2049.

OK, back to thespians who don’t constantly appear in sequels. Leonardo DiCaprio? Well, who can forget one of his first roles as Josh in 1991’s Critters 3? 

Matthew McConaughey has a similar situation. Since he’s become known, no sequels (not even returning in Magic Mike XXL). Yet one of his first roles was in Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation. 

Unlike his 80s comedic counterparts Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, and Steve Martin (all in plenty of them), I couldn’t immediately think of any sequel that John Candy did. Yet he provided a voice-over in the 1990 Disney animated follow-up The Rescuers Down Under. 

With Marlon Brando, I guess it depends on how you look at it. He refused to come back for a flashback cameo in The Godfather Part II. Yet he did appear in 2006’s Superman Returns… with a caveat. That footage was culled completely from his work nearly three decades earlier in Superman and it happened two years after his death.

So here’s the deal… it is really tough to come up with performers in the modern age who haven’t appeared in at least one sequel. However, here’s five of them and feel free to list others in the comments!

Warren Beatty

He’s famously picky about his projects and he’s never played the same man twice. There were rumors that he wanted to do another Dick Tracy, but it never materialized.

Annette Bening

Beatty’s wife has had a long and distinguished career free of sequels. She was originally cast as Catwoman in 1992’s Batman Returns but dropped out due to pregnancy.

Russell Crowe

The Oscar winner has yet to return to a role, though I’d certainly sign up for The Nice Guys II. P.S. – I do not count Man of Steel as a sequel.

Jodie Foster

She declined to return as Clarice Starling in 2001’s Hannibal after an Oscar-winning turn in The Silence of the Lambs ten years earlier. That was her biggest chance at a sequel and there are none before or after.

Jake Gyllenhaal

His first role was as Billy Crystal’s son in City Slickers, but he was nowhere to be found for part II or any other sequel. However, that long streak ends next summer with Spider-Man: Far From Home.

And there you go! As I said, feel free to chime in with your own non-sequel actors…

River Phoenix: 20 Years Later

Today marks 20 years ago that an incredibly promising acting career was cut tragically short due to drug addiction.

At the age of 23, Oscar nominee River Phoenix collapsed outside the Viper Room in Los Angeles due to a heroin and cocaine overdose. In just an eight year period, Phoenix had earned the status of one of the finest actors of his generation. His first film role came alongside a young Ethan Hawke in Joe Dante’s 1985 cult sci-fi flick Explorers.

By the following year, River really broke out with roles in Rob Reiner’s terrific Stand by Me and alongside Harrison Ford in the well-reviewed The Mosquito Coast.

In 1988, Mr. Phoenix received a Supporting Actor nod for his impressive work in Sidney Lumet’s Running on Empty, which is a picture well worth seeking out.

In 1989, Phoenix’s biggest commercial success would come in the opening scenes of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where he played a young Indy quite believably.

In 1991, he would costar with Keanu Reeves in Gus Van Sant’s acclaimed My Own Private Idaho, where he won the National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actor. That same year he starred with Lili Taylor in the critical favorite Dogfight.

More commercial success would follow in 1992 with Sneakers, in which he played a supporting role alongside heavyweights Robert Redford, Ben Kingsley, and Sidney Poitier.

It’s hard to imagine, but River Phoenix would only be 43 years old if not for the fateful Halloween evening in 1993. There is little doubt that his career would have persisted onwards and upwards alonside contemporaries like Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, and Leonardo DiCaprio.

The family legacy has certainly continued. It was River’s younger brother who placed the 911 call while River fought for his life. Joaquin Phoenix and his brilliant work in Walk the Line, The Master, and his Oscar buzzworthy turn in the upcoming Her carries on the tradition of great acting that his big brother started.