It used to be that Hollywood was the place to make the big bucks, but with a rapidly decentralizing movie culture, now countries all over the world are getting in on the act, for better or for worse.
Big American stars are going overseas to make movies in droves. Some of them are good, while others… others are just weird. Here are ten of the strangest foreign movies starring American celebrities we’ve ever seen.
Billy Zane – "Valley Of The Wolves"
Actor Billy Zane has always been a B-level Hollywood talent, despite his fine performances in flicks like "Dead Calm," but when the time came to make the most expensive Turkish movie ever made, he was at the top of the list. "Valley Of The Wolves" is a sprawling modern historical epic that made tons of cash in Turkey.
Zane plays an American soldier who leads his battalion on a number of atrocities, including butchering the guests at a Muslim wedding and taking the survivors to be tortured at Abu Ghraib. Sure, that didn’t happen in real life, but that didn’t stop the filmmakers from saying the movie was “mostly factual.”
Richard Gere – "Rhapsody In August"
The chance to work with a cinematic legend like Akira Kurosawa doesn’t come along often, so when the director approached Richard Gere to appear in his 1991 post-Hiroshima drama "Rhapsody In August," it was a no-brainer.
Unfortunately for Gere, who played an American-born relative of the film’s Japanese family, he didn’t speak a word of the language. Without enough time for intensive Japanese classes, Gere was forced to learn all of his dialogue phonetically. The end result is one of Kurosawa’s weakest films, but still an interesting curiosity.
Ernest Borgnine – "Super Fuzz"
Legendary actor Ernest Borgnine has taken a staggering variety of roles in his day, from his Oscar-winning role in "Marty" to his late-career voice role on "SpongeBob SquarePants."
But one of his most ludicrous films is Italian comedy "Super Fuzz," starring Terrence Hill as police officer Dave Speed who gets super powers from a nuclear explosion. The flick is one of the most airheadedly goofy movies ever made, with Borgnine showing up as Speed’s best friend to deliver comedy bits aboard a boat. Every scene he’s in he looks completely confused as to exactly what’s supposed to be happening.
Sam Neill – "Possession"
Many American actors turn to horror movies as a way to get a quick paycheck, as getting killed off early reduces the number of days you have to spend on set. But when Sam Neill signed up to play the lead in Andrzej Żuławski’s insane French horror flick "Possession," nobody had any idea what they were getting into.
The 1981 flick is about a spy whose wife leaves him, causing him to enter a journey into madness that gets weird enough that it left critics scratching their heads in puzzlement. It’s bloody, disgusting and almost impenetrable. The flick has since become a cult classic.
Coolio – "China Strike Force"
Rapper turned actor Coolio has been in a number of low-budget American movies, most notably "Leprechaun In The Hood," but his casting in Hong Kong action flick "China Strike Force" is the most ridiculous of his career.
The movie stars Chinese actors Aaron Kwok and Leehom Wang as police officers investigating a murder committed by two American crime lords. One is played by action mainstay Mark Dacascos and the other… is Coolio. His character’s name? “Coolio.” In the alternate universe of "China Strike Force," Coolio never became a rapper, but rather turned to martial arts, drug smuggling and killing cops.
William Shatner – "White Comanche"
Italy, for some reason, was completely obsessed with the American West in the 1960s, and directors there made some of the most iconic Westerns of all time. "White Comanche" isn’t one of them. For one thing, it was made in Spain, and for another it’s completely bananas.
William Shatner, "Star Trek’s" Captain Kirk, plays a double role as Johnny Moon and his twin brother Notah, a peyote-addled Comanche maniac. It all climaxes with a totally bizarre standoff between the two Shatners in the town of Rio Honcho for all the marbles.
Molly Ringwald – "King Lear"
In the 1980s, Molly Ringwald was one of the hottest stars of the Brat Pack, with John Hughes making her a worldwide celebrity. So why, exactly, would she choose to work with notoriously iconoclastic French avant garde director Jean-Luc Godard on his post-nuclear adaptation of William Shakespeare’s "King Lear?"
The flick, which takes place in a world where the Chernobyl disaster wiped out most of humanity, also stars Leos Carax and Burgess Meredith, with cameos by Woody Allen and Norman Mailer. It’s a ridiculous mess that perplexes all who lay eyes upon it.
Paul Rudd – "Gen-Y Cops"
Back to Hong Kong for another action movie that roped in Western stars for no real reason. 2000’s "Gen-Y Cops" is the sequel to 1999’s smash hit "Gen-X Cops," taking the first film’s heroes and tasking them with guarding a robotics convention in Hong Kong.
When an American-made battle robot goes on the rapage due to a conniving scientist, they must track it down while dealing with the FBI. The lead FBI agent is played by Paul Rudd, already well-established in his career by this point, and he treats the material with all the seriousness it deserves.
With absurd dyed-blond hair, Rudd sleepwalks through the entire movie, not bothering to deliver one line with anything resembling acting.
Anthony Quinn – "Lion Of The Desert"
Unlike many of the films on this list, Libyan historical drama "Lion Of The Desert" is actually a pretty good movie. How could it not be, with the legendary Anthony Quinn playing the lead role, Bedouin leader Omar Mukhtar, fighting off the Italian army in the run-up to World War II?
What makes this flick earn a spot on the list is how it was brought to life – Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi bankrolled the entire thing as a propaganda piece, at a cost of over $30 million. Unfortunately, he didn’t get his money back in the least, as "Lion Of The Desert" failed to even earn back a single million.
Next: Actors in Unrecognizable Roles
Lou Ferrigno – "Hercules"
One of the most famous American actors to find success overseas, "Incredible Hulk" star Lou Ferrigno appeared in a pair of hilarious Italian-made "Hercules" movies in the 1980s.
Written and directed by Luigi Cozzi, these low-budget masterpieces feature tons of stop-motion animation, ridiculous mythology and feats of derring-do, made all the more interesting by the fact that Ferrigno can’t act in Italian or English.
Oh, and he transforms into a giant gorilla at the end of the second one to fight a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Because Greek mythology was full of those.