Throughout the teen film craze of the 1990’s, a number of
actors began to take hold of Hollywood with hopes of achieving a long and
fruitful career. I’m not going to name
names, but there were a select few who you just knew wouldn’t make it past the
year 2000. Looking back now, I’m
surprised to see some of the casualties.
More than any film, Scream made most of its teenage stars
household names. Neve Campbell, Rose
McGowan, Skeet Ulrich and Jamie Kennedy.
For better or worse, these were the faces that grazed hundreds of movie
posters from the mid to the late 90’s.
Some careers fizzled, while others matured in a different
direction. One actor, however, simply
disappeared. And that actor is the
undeniable show-stealer of Scream, Matthew Lillard.
I first noticed Lillard as Kathleen Turner’s horror film
loving son in the great Serial Mom.
While Turner was the undisputed star of the film, Lillard had his fair
share of scenes to shine.
The following year, Hackers was released. Much like Scream, Hackers was a film
that introduced a number of Hollywood fresh faces that would become mainstays
in the industry. But it wasn’t until
Lillard’s next film that he would become recognized for his talent.
I still remember the first time I watched Scream. The climax of the film was one that totally
caught me off guard. Sure, having Skeet
Ulrich reveal himself as the villain was somewhat predictable; after all, he
acted insane throughout pretty much the entire film. But having Lillard as his accomplice… now that was a stroke of
genius. In Scream, Lillard found the
perfect combination of insanity and goofiness while being all-around
terrifying. At the end of the film, I
remember thinking Lillard was going to have a long and very interesting career. Post-Scream, that’s exactly how things
While his co-stars went on to more mainstream pictures,
Lillard jumped into the indie scene with SLC Punk! It was a simple, yet effectively told, story about a couple of
punks (in the figurative and literal sense of the word) who try to survive
their mundane existence in Salt Lake City, Utah. To this day, it stands as Lillard’s best performance; one that
finally broke him out of the teen movie mold that Scream unintentionally
I was interested in seeing what he would do next. Surprisingly, Lillard followed the great SLC Punk! with… She’s All That?
Okay, nothing wrong with that.
It wasn’t a starring role (in the end, it was essentially a glorified
cameo), but it was shocking to see him take a step down in the progress of his
In 1999, Lillard co-starred in Wing Commander, a film made
famous for the sole fact that the Star Wars – Episode 1: The Phantom Menace
teaser was attached to every print.
Unsurprisingly, Wing Commander came and went without as much as a
hiccup at the box-office.
The next few years, Lillard took to some supporting roles in
the form of Summer Catch and Thir13en Ghosts, until landing the
frighteningly perfect role of Shaggy in Scooby-Doo and Scooby-Doo 2:
Monsters Unleashed. While the films
were successful moneymakers and entertaining films geared towards children, I
couldn’t help but feel as if Lillard was wasting his talent.
I began writing What Ever Happened To… for the sole purpose
of shining the spotlight on actors who have been forgotten. Each and every one that I’ve mentioned
thus far has the ability and the talent to appear on the silver screen once
again. With that said, I feel Lillard is the only actor I’ve talked about who can effortlessly blend
into any genre. Some actors excel at
drama, others at comedy and horror.
Lillard is a true chameleon, which makes his current status so heartbreaking. Much like he did with SLC Punk!, he needs
to break through the mold that has been created around him. He needs to force moviegoers, whether they
like it or not, and make them realize that he has the talent and the right to
At the end of the day, who am I to tell an actor how to go
about dealing with the creative intellect it takes to make smart career
choices? More than anything, Lillard is
in dire need of a strong indie film to cater to his unique acting skills.
We’ve seen what he can do.
All we can do is hope that, one day, he’ll remember.