If you believe their publicists, A-listers are a squeaky-clean bunch. On-screen it’s a whole different story…
Seth Rogen and James Franco in ‘Pineapple Express’
The starsSelf-mocking comedy buddies Seth Rogen and James Franco.
The substanceThe ‘dopest dope’ in Christendom, steeped in the scent of God’s vagina (apparently).
The sceneOn the run from murderous kingpin Gary Cole, dealer Franco and his client Rogen need some quick cash to split town, but all they have is a huge bag of extra-strength marijuana. Luckily they stumble across a gang of underage kids with pocketfuls of cash. And being the gentlemen they are, these two space cadets have no choice but to share the love…
Are we sold?Absolutely – it certainly looks like these boys have done their research.
Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy in ‘The Heat’
The starsEstablished megastar Sandra Bullock and comedy up-and-comer Melissa McCarthy.
The substanceGood old-fashioned booze.
The sceneThere’s no shortage of classic drinking scenes in the movies, from Jimmy Stewart and his giant rabbit, to Nicolas Cage and his suicidal tendencies. But one of our current favourites has to be this explosion of sisterly sozzledness from lovable cop comedy ‘The Heat’. Strait-laced Bullock and madcap McCarthy go through all the textbook stages of drunkenness: sadness, deep chats, flirting, sticking sellotape on your nose, forcing others to dance and accidental self-harm.
Are we sold?100 percent proof. If you walked into your local dive of a Friday night and saw these two dancing on the table, you wouldn’t bat an eyelid.
Will Ferrell in ‘Old School’
The starThe beaming face of modern American comedy, Mr William Ferrell.
The substanceA dart filled with powerful goat tranquiliser, right into the jugular vein.
The sceneIn this goonish middle-aged fratboy (fratman?) romp, Ferrell plays Frank (formerly ‘The Tank’), whose hellraising persona has been shelved in favour of a nice quiet family life. But somehow Frank can’t help getting himself into trouble, as in this scene where – at a ten-year-old’s birthday party – he accidentally shoots himself in the neck with an ultra-powerful tranquiliser gun, much to the delight of Seann William Scott’s redneck wrangler.
Are we sold?It’s more comical than convincing. But as Ferrell staggers slack-jawed through a crowd of kids, crushing all those in his path like a thunderous human Godzilla, you might ask if he must have misspent at least some of his youth.
Ryan Gosling in ‘Half Nelson’
The starThinking woman’s beefcake-du-jour Ryan Gosling, in his breakthrough dramatic role.
The substanceCrack (freebased), interspersed with ‘regular’ cocaine (snorted).
The sceneIn this powerful portrait of a functioning addict, Gosling plays a struggling teacher who just happens to have a little coke habit on the side. As a result, his date with fellow educator Monique Gabriela Curnen turns into more of a lip-chewing monologue on everything from politics to pupils, accompanied by Billy Bragg on the stereo.
Are we sold?Definitely. The Gos doesn’t get too deep into the downside of drugs, so there’s no call for the big hand-wringing, Oscar-baiting performance these stories usually demand. Instead, we’re presented with something more believable and down-to-earth.
Frank Sinatra ‘The Man with the Golden Arm’
The starBaby-faced crooner and teen-scream icon Frank Sinatra in his boldest screen performance.
The substanceH. Smack. Skag. Junk. Horse. Golden brown, texture like sun…
The sceneSinatra plays a jazz drummer and card shark with the coolest name in movie history, Frankie ‘Dealer’ Machine. Fresh out of chokey and looking to stay clean, Frankie gets an audition for a hot new gig. But a series of knockbacks soon has him back riding the brown horse. Can good-hearted local gal Kim Novak get him back on the straight and narrow?
Are we sold?Not entirely. Sinatra was a solid actor, if only occasionally a great one, and his take on smack addiction is a little too steeped in ‘I need my fix, man!’ clichés. Still, the wonderful photography and unforgettable score make for a classic movie.
Ethan Hawke in ‘Training Day’
The starGoatee-bearded writer, actor and one-man Generation X, Ethan Hawke.
The substancePCP, once America’s ‘biggest drug threat’, now barely a footnote.
The sceneOut on his first ride-around, rookie cop Hawke finds himself under the protection of edgy old-timer Denzel Washington. When his new partner offers him a hit of weed, Hawke smokes without realising he’s been spiked with a far more powerful tranquilising agent. It’s not long before Washington reveals his true personality and starts taking bribes, capping fools and winning Oscars left and right.
Are we sold?Not entirely. Hawke does little more than narrow his eyes and sigh a lot, and it’s up to the film itself to recreate the narcotic experience through the use of fluttery edits and a washed-out colour palette.
Jeremy Irons in ‘Dead Ringers’
The starJeremy Irons and his twin brother Jeremy Irons.
The substanceBucketloads of unspecified prescription pills.
The sceneAs David Cronenberg’s eerie tale of unstable identical-twin gynaecologists draws towards its devastating close, we find the personality boundaries between brothers Elliot and Beverly (both Irons) cracking in the face of romantic disappointment and encroaching insanity. When they begin to eagerly self-medicate with a cocktail of sedatives and anti-depressants – not to mention creating new surgical tools for operating on ‘mutant women’ – it’s only a matter of time before these psychological Siamese twins face the final severance.
Are we sold?It’s a breathtaking pair of performances, made possible by very early computer technology. Irons’s descent into drug dependency is heartbreaking and horrific.
Jason Schwartzman and Brittany Murphy in ‘Spun’
The starsUndisputed leader of the nerd-herd Jason Schwartzman and doomed Southern belle Brittany Murphy.
The substanceThanks to ‘Breaking Bad’ we all know about the dangerous world of methamphetamine.
The sceneIn Jonas Akerlund’s overcooked crime-n-crystals comedy-drama, Schwartzman and Murphy play a pair of addicts stumbling through their lives looking for the next good fix. This scene is an attempt to recreate the real meth experience for those who’ve never tried it, and we imagine it comes pretty close: it’s noisy, dizzying, restless, pointless and ultimately pretty depressing.
Are we sold?To be fair, yes: Schwartzman and Murphy are both convincingly scuzzy and troublesome. The film may be something of a chore, but so would spending two hours with a couple of real-life meth-heads.
Johnny Depp in ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’
The starBright young hope turned ’60s burnout impersonator Johnny Depp.
The substance‘Two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half-full of cocaine, and a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers... Also, a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of beer, a pint of raw ether, and two dozen amyls.’ Go, Johnny, go!
The sceneTearing through the Nevada desert with the top down, Johnny and his portly attorney Benicio del Toro are besieged by flocks of giant lysergic bats. And the movie pretty much continues in this vein for the next 118 minutes, as Johnny hallucinates, hollers, howls, freaks out, freaks back in again, and generally makes a show of himself.
Are we sold?Absolutely – but more on Depp’s note-perfect imitation of author and hellraiser Hunter S Thompson than of a man on a serious shitload of drugs.
Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper in ‘Easy Rider’
The starsCounterculture heroes Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, plus actresses Karen Black and Toni Basil (of ‘Hey Mickey!’ fame).
The substanceWhat are you, square? LSD, man.
The sceneAfter a day at the New Orleans Mardi Gras, motorcycle troubadours Fonda and Hopper – plus respective old ladies – retreat to a nearby cemetery to neck a few tabs. Karen Black freaks out, Toni Basil gets her kit off (there’s always one!), Hopper giggles like a child and Fonda berates a statue, while the camerawork goes lens-flare crazy and everything starts to spin.
Are we sold?The story goes that all four protagonists dropped acid for real, then Hopper edited their epic trip down into five minutes of screen time. The result is by no means an advert for drug use: it’s ominous and nightmarish, if not entirely convincing by modern standards.
By Tom Huddleston|
In ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’, Hollywood superstar Leonardo DiCaprio – accompanied by his snaggletoothed sidekick Jonah Hill – proves he’s got funny bones with perhaps the most bizarre, extended and outrageous scene of drug-fuelled mayhem in mainstream movie history. Which got us thinking… which other major stars have experimented with narcotics on the big screen (we say nothing about their private lives, of course). For your amusement, we present ten of the very highest…