Saturday 18 September 2010

TOP 5 - Saturday Night Live Stars

Will Ferrell's new movie The Other Guys is out in cinemas this weekend, and it got me thinking about the careers of other former Saturday Night Live stars. Keep reading to find out my TOP 5 former SNL stars who've managed to launch a successful film career.

More after the jump...

Easily the most successful SNL star of the last ten years (maybe you could say Tina Fey, but she's TV famous), Will Ferrell's come a long way since his cameo as Mustafa in the original Austin Powers. He left SNL behind in 2006 to concentrate solely on his movie career, and despite having a few flops to his name (last year's Land of The Lost being an obvious blunder), he's a bonafide Hollywood superstar thanks to Anchorman, Step Brothers, etc. He's always fun to watch, but personally I prefer it when he's not starring in another dumb sports comedy. If they can do it right, it welcome an Anchorman sequel.

One of the original stars of Saturday Night Live, Chevy Chase was also the first to turn his back on the show, leaving midway through the second season. When the show proved unexpectedly popular, Chase was stood front and centre and received a lot of the praise. You can't blame him for parlaying that into a film career. Chase was an absolute comedy megastar in the 1980's, starting the decade with Caddyshack and ending it with National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, not to mention Fletch, Three Amigos! and the other Vacation movies in between. I don't think there's a person alive who doesn't like Three Amigos!, and Christmas Vacation is a must watch holiday classic at my house. His career vanished in the 90's, largely due to a failed talkshow and some crappy film choices, but thanks to an appearance on NBC's Community he's managed a partial comeback. Personally I'm glad, I kind of missed him.

If you're talking about career longevity, Eddie Murphy wins hands down. The man's been a superstar for nearly 30 years, starting his tenure at SNL back in 1980. His film career started with 48 Hrs in 1982, followed by Trading Places in 1983 and then starring as (perhaps his defining role) Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop in 1984. Despite having his heyday back in the 80's, Murphy's still remained on the A-List with family friendly franchises such as The Nutty Professor, Doctor Dolittle and of course as Donkey in Shrek. Yeah, there might be some laughs around his more recent kid films, but I'd love to see foul mouthed Murphy again, especially if the much touted Beverly Hills Cop 4 goes ahead. If only he'd won that Oscar for Dreamgirls he might have re-assessed his career, but I suppose the paychecks are keeping him happy.

Perhaps it's a controversial choice to put Dan Aykroyd ahead of Eddie Murphy, but let me persuade you. He wrote Ghostbusters. Enough said. He was one of the original stars of SNL with Chevy Chase, but stuck with the show until 1979, leaving to pursue a film career as one of his more famous characters; Elwood from the Blues Brothers. Strangely, Dan Aykroyd is the only person on this list who took a character from Saturday Night Live and transported in to the big screen. In fact with 1993's Coneheads, Aykroyd did it twice. As well as writing and appearing in Ghostbusters and its sequel, Aykroyd earns his place in this list from being a great collaborator. There are dozens of ex-Saturday Night Live stars who never made it on the big screen, usually because they're just not leading man material. With co stars like Eddie Murphy, Bill Murray and John Belushi, Aykroyd found his place as the comedic back-up and relished it there, and very rarely steps out in a leading role. It's worth noting that apart from Will Ferrell, Dan Aykroyd has appeared on screen with every other person on this list, often numerous times.

The biggest choice, and perhaps the most obvious one. Bill Murray was always going to top this list. Appearing on SNL between 1977 and 1980 (he was drafted in to replace Chevy Chase and the pair have always had a slightly acrimonious relationship), the man with the perpetual hang-dog expression and weary world view has appeared in many great films over the last 30 years. Caddyshack, Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day, Kingpin; all great films with excellent turns by Murray. He also had a bit of a creative slump in the mid 90's, appearing in the forgettable The Man Who Knew Too Little and Larger Than Life; but then in 1998 he started his working association with Wes Anderson and took his career up to the next level. He's the mainstream comedy actor who earned himself some serious indie cred, which in turn lead to his role in Lost In Translation that bagged him an Oscar nom. It'd be hard to choose my favourite Bill Murray role, as there's some real gems dotted around his filmography. Do I go for Peter Venkman or Phil Connors? What about Herman Blume or Bob Harris? What about Bob from What About Bob?!

That's why he's my number one choice. He's always memorable, and has brought a lot of humour to some of the most sad-sack roles in cinema history. He managed to change gears in his career perfectly, and proved he act as well as provide laughs.

It's also Bill Murray's 60th birthday this Tuesday. Long may he reign.

Here's where I justify my choices. I've not included John Belushi because his career was just not long enough. He's definitely one of my also rans, but I couldn't find a place for him on this list. Same for Mike Myers and Dana Carvey. They may have appeared in the most successful SNL film (Wayne's World took $180 million worldwide), but when looking at their whole careers they just didn't make the cut. You may wonder why Adam Sandler didn't make it in too. Well, that's personal preference really. I like Happy Gilmore and didn't mind Funny People, but he's too inconsistent and has made some absolute dross. Yes, even compared to Eddie Murphy.

Disagree with my choices? Feel free to leave your TOP 5's or other feedback below.

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