1980s Icon Says Marvel Ruined Their Career

There's an icon from the 1980s who says that a Marvel movie completely ruined a career that was on the path to superstardom.

By Doug Norrie | Published

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In the current Hollywood ecosystem, one of the high-water marks you can reach is appearing or starring in a Marvel movie. It’s one of the bigger studios out there and has a billion-dollar ecosystem that’s pumping out a seemingly limitless number of movies and series with even more to come. It’s why anybody who’s anybody seems to be jumping on board if there’s a role that’s waiting. But that hasn’t always been the case and someone like Lea Thompson would know. In fact, she’s said that starring in a Marvel movie didn’t help her career at all. She thinks that starring in a Marvel movie actually ruined her career.

While speaking with Genevieve Hassan on the Celebrity Catch Up Podcast, Lea Thompson reflected on a number of different inflection points throughout her career. One of those was starring in Howard the Duck all the way back in 1986. Though the actress had been riding high on another blockbuster from that same year, this Marvel movie didn’t have the same effect. Apparently, Lea Thompson thinks that, in a lot of ways, the film ended up submarining her career. While that might be a bit of an overstatement considering she’s still acting, it’s hard not to look at Howard the Duck as a massive misstep for everyone involved from Marvel. Check out part of what Lea Thompson had to say on the podcast. 

“It was devastating. In the course of a year I was in the biggest hit and the biggest bomb, so that probably destroyed my film career. Even though I did some good films after that, it was really difficult…”

The hit that Lea Thompson is referring to is Back to the Future with Michael J. Fox which kicked off one of the best trilogies ever made. And considering her starring role, it’s easy to see why she would see these two movies in stark juxtaposition.

Howard the Duck was based on the Marvel character of the same name and came out at a time when superhero movies weren’t exactly the rage. In fact, they were relatively non-existent. The movie was weird at best, terrible at worst about the titular duck (an alien) being transported to Earth for a fish-out-of-water “adventure”. There he meets Beverly Switzler (Lea Thompson) and embarks on a completely ludicrous story. It was a massive bomb, earning back just $38 million on its $37 million budget and hitting 14% on Rotten Tomatoes. The whole Marvel movie was so off-putting with a major point of contention around just how fake Howard the Duck looked during the film. And remember, this was the 80s.

Though Lea Thompson wasn’t involved later, Howard the Duck did end up making a couple of appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe on a more “official” level with the first coming in Guardians of the Galaxy when we see him hanging out at the end in what’s left of the Collector’s museum.

As for Lea Thompson and her “ruined” career? Well, the actress is still alive and well, most recently appearing in Star Trek: Picard and The Goldbergs. While she might not have reached the heights she thought would have happened after Back to the Future, it’s hard to say it’s gone completely off the rails. Next up she’ll be appearing in Ten Tricks and Queens. Oh, and she has a part in a Marvel-related project, the podcast for Squirrel Girl.