Yesterday morning I met with the famous LexG at Mel’s Drive-In, and he gave me an idea for a riff — established actors afflicted every so often with bad movie streaks. They’ll step into a pile of dogshit and won’t be able to get the smell off their shoes for three, four or five years (or longer), and a can’t-win thing settles in. Before they know it they’re stuck in in the mud, mediocre film to mediocre film, no end in sight.

And then, if they’re lucky…deliverance. A good part in a good film comes along, and their karma changes. Maybe not from black to white, but things will begin to look up.

Movie stars are not immune. Clint Eastwood had a bad run from ’86 to ’90 — Heartbreak Ridge, The Dead Pool, Pink Cadillac, The Rookie, White Hunter Black Heart. It almost seemed as if Clint was starting to be a little bit over. And then he made Unforgiven and everything turned around.

How many bad streaks has Bruce Willis gone through? Three, four? He couldn’t catch a solid part in a truly exceptional film for six years after his break-out role in Die Hard (’88). I realize that Look Who’s Talking I & II, In Country, Die Hard 2, The Bonfire of the Vanities, Mortal Thoughts, Hudson Hawk, Billy Bathgate, The Last Boy Scout and Striking Distance weren’t 100% wretched, but the air was definitely hissing out of the balloon. Willis saved himself, of course, with his Butch role in Pulp Fiction. At least two more hard-luck streaks followed that I don’t have the energy or time to cover.

You know who’s never suffered from a bad run? Tom Cruise. He’s made an off film now and then but never in streaks or groups. He’s always rebounded after a setback.

If bad streaks go on for too long the actor/actress in question starts to be thought of as cursed. Poor Dennis Quaid went through a 15 year bad streak (’84 to ’99) that was punctuated only by strong character turns in Wyatt Earp and Postcards From The Edge. He finally broke the streak, in my view, with his performance as Jack Rooney in Any Given Sunday followed by a respectable turn as a crooked attorney in Traffic.

With the exception of her break-out role in Almost Famous, it could be argued that Kate Hudson‘s entire career has, in a manner of speaking, been a bad streak. She’s been in many profitable films or hits even, but almost everything she’s made since Almost Famous has been shit. (The arguable exception is The Killer Inside Me.)

A bad-luck streak is the worst thing that can happen to anyone. It’s like God has decided to mess with you for a while — a month, a year. Just for the pleasure of it. There’s a line in Glengarry Glen Ross in which Shelley Levine says, “I pray in your life you will never find it runs in streaks…streaks!”

Tony Gilroy has a line in Michael Clayton about how some guys go through life wondering why shit keeps raining down on them, the implication being that it’s mostly their fault. (Which it usually is.) But sometimes life will just decide to fuck you. You don’t know how it’s happened exactly or what you’ve done to deserve it, but it won’t stop, and after a while you start to bend over like an old tree that’s been hit with hurricane winds for several days straight.