The Jerk (1979)
Former gift shop worker and stand-up comedian Steve Martin graduates to the big screen. Gone are his plans to teach philosophy. This guy’s been pegged by director Carl Reiner as “the rock star comedian”.
Despite being universally panned on release, The New York Times recently called The Jerk “a sophisticated comedy”.
“I put my comedy act into a movie,” Steve says in retrospect. “When I look at it now, I think I yelled through the entire movie. But I like it.”
How Obnoxious? More of a calamitous idiot than wilfully mean-spirited.
Pennies From Heaven (1981)
Time to ditch the comedy and get serious (sorta) as Steve embraces his first ever dramatic role and shrugs on them dancing shoes.
“I loved doing Pennies From Heaven ,” the actor remembers. “You have to understand that I'd been doing comedy for 15 to 20 years, and suddenly along came the opportunity to do this beautiful film. It was so emotional to me. I loved it. I don't think it was a good career move, but I have no regrets about doing it.”
How Obnoxious? Not at all. In fact he might even be (dare we say it?) sweet...
The Man With Two Brains (1983)
Aka The Man With The Unpronounceable Nam e . Dr Michael Hfuhruhurrm (Martin) is a genius brain surgeon who marries a wretched gold-digger (Kathleen Turner) before falling in love with a disembodied brain.
Kathleen Turner sucks on Steve's finger a lot. “It was all very pleasant. But if we were doing that scene now, she'd have to wear a little finger condom,” jests Steve.
How Obnoxious? Yeah, pretty damned obnoxious; he proclaims his work “brilliant” and “unsurpassed”.
All Of Me (1984)
Ah, it’s a re-team with director Carl Reiner. Not only that, but this is the film set on which Steve met his future wife, Victoria Tennant (yeah, Laurence Olivier’s goddaughter). They got married shortly after shooting.
Here, Steve gets a chance to let loose with some of that physical comedy. His body becomes possessed by the spirit of Lily Tomlin’s eccentric Edwina Cutwater, and she wants to control it as much as he does. It’s kinda The Man With Two Souls .
How Obnoxious? He’s an attorney, need we go on?
Little Shop Of Horrors (1986)
Musical update of the Roger Corman original. Mr Martin clearly delights in playing dastardly dentist Orin Scrivello, who reaps sadistic pleasure from the pain that he inflicts on his patients.
Orin’s bullying also extends to his love life, as he beats innocent sap girlfriend Audrey to a pulp.
Small wonder he gets hacked up with an axe and fed to a giant Venus Flytrap.
How Obnoxious? So obnoxious he makes Simon Cowell look like a pussycat. Every bone in this guy’s body is mean to the core (and then some). Avoid.
Meant to be a shoo-in at the Oscars, this one. Steve wrote the script for Roxanne entirely on his lonesome. He admits it was “a struggle”.
Here, Stevie-boy wears a prosthetic nose and falls for the beautiful Daryl Hannah. She's seduced by his personality, but has her gaze fixed on another man. It’s been hailed as a “gentle, whimsical comedy”.
And that Oscar? “Comedians don't get Oscars,” the actor later noted. “So I gave up on that a long time ago.”
How Obnoxious? Probably one of the nicest characters Steve's ever played.
Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)
Playing the uptight straight man to John Candy’s messy, bedlam-ushering buffoon, Steve is on the receiving end of any number of calamities.
It’s a John Hughes classic, inventive in its road trip obstacles (how long can it really take one man to get from A to B?), and with a sweet/stirring finale that comes at you like a mean left hook.
How Obnoxious? More judgemental and single-minded than obnoxious. You can’t blame him for wanting to get away from Candy’s whirlwind of chaos.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)
A remake of ‘60s comedy Bedtime Story, Steve spars with Michael Caine as the duo play competing conmen who find the town’s just not big enough for the two of them.
More physical humour for Steve, and the requisite snooty wit from Michael. It’s a heady combination, and possibly one of Martin’s nuttiest performances as the silver fox tackles an entire little black book’s worth of undercover roles.
How Obnoxious? In a petulant child sort of way, he’s the epitome of obnoxious.
L.A. Story (1991)
“My life kind of looks like that,” Steve told Playboy when discussing L.A. Story . “Those houses and the restaurants are places I would find myself.”
An adored cult gem, L.A. Story is a movie reply to Woody Allen, Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese’s New York Stories .
Steve wrote it, poking fun at the city and again co-starring with wife Victoria. And yes, that's a young Sarah Jessica Parker.
How Obnoxious? Not a shred of loathsome behaviour here... mostly. Obnoxious Steve is fading fast.
Father Of The Bride (1991)
The fella’s getting soppy in his old age (oh alright, he's only fortysomething), remaking the classic ‘50s flick alongside Diane Keaton.
Steve adapts his sarcastic pastiche to fit the mould of world-weary father with surprising effectiveness. Scenes with on-screen daughter Kimberley Williams-Paisley are particularly endearing.
The sequel came out in 1995. It has babies.
How Obnoxious? Steve swaps snark for sap. Though still in a ruthless 'it’s my way or the highway’ sort of way.
How the tables have turned. After conning women out of their money in D irty Rotten Scoundrels , Steve finds himself the victim of a con when Goldie Hawn’s Gwen moves into his newly-built house and tells everybody that she’s his wife.
Yep, it’s Steve being the Straight Man again. Somehow it sort of works, mostly thanks to Hawn’s irrepressibly hilarious turn. In comparison, watch the hurricanes brewing behind Steve's eyes as things spiral out of control - like two little storms in two little teacups.
How Obnoxious? That dubious honour goes to Ms Hawn.
Leap Of Faith (1992)
Oh dear, it’s more conning. This time, Steve tackles the part of preacher Jonas Nightengale, whom he reportedly based on real life televangelist Benny Hinn. The role was originally intended for Michael Keaton.
What initially looks like the usual comedy routine turns into more of a dramedy as Jonas acquires a conscience, a heart, and quite possibly a renewal of his faith.
He also wears one hella cool shiny jacket.
How Obnoxious? Jonas has something of an epiphany, which surely cancels out any obnoxious behaviour?
Sgt. Bilko (1996)
Filmic update of the 1950s TV series The Phil Silvers Show . Steve plays the titular Bilko, who looks after the Motor Pool at the military base. There, he sets up a gambling facility for the soldiers, while also dabbling in other scams on-site.
Bilko was another part ditched by Michael Keaton that eventually went to Martin, who suits the material far better.
Sadly the film bombed. “I've made over 40 films. How can I not have some losers in there?” says Steve.
How Obnoxious? He’s a scam artist extraordinaire. With a good sense of humour...
Directed by frequent collaborator Frank Oz, Steve again takes the piss out of LA and Hollywood playing a film director who can’t get anybody to star in his rubbish film, Chubby Rain . Luckily he’s found a doppelganger of star Kit Ramsey (Eddie Murphy)...
It’s basically The Player , but not as good. Nowhere near. It also reinvigorated Eddie Murphy’s annoying trend of playing more than one character in a film.
We think this probably counts as another one of Steve’s “losers”.
How Obnoxious? Are Hollywood directors obnoxious?
Reports that Martin and co-star Helena Bonham Carter were having an off-screen romance plagued this production.
Steve plays a dentist again (this one’s a bit nicer than Little Shop ’s Orin). When an attractive patient seduces him into handing over drugs, he becomes the chief suspect in a murder case.
Further co-star drama occurred when Martin took a disliking to Scott Caan’s disrespectful treatment of the flick’s stunt doubles.
How Obnoxious? The obnoxious persona is all but dead and buried by this point. Sad...
Cheaper By The Dozen (2003)
By now, Steve’s commanding a cool $10m. Returning to kid films, he’s again the put-upon dad, this time to a brood of 12 ankle-biters.
Though droll, it’s a million times better than Eddie Murphy’s similar Daddy Day Care .
That same year, Steve was listed in People Magazine as one of the 50 Most Beautiful People In The World. “People seem to enjoy my beauty and are genuinely happy for me,” the actor deadpans.
How Obnoxious? He’s wearing dad jumpers, so it’s the kids who are the obnoxious ones.
A couple of years after Steve wrote his 2000 bestselling novella Shopgirl , Hollywood came a-knocking wanting to turn it into a film.
“I said, ‘If you think you're going to take this book and change it around, and Hollywoodize it and change the ending... that's going to cost you,’” says Steve.
Directed by Anand Tucker, our man takes the lead as a rich loner who takes a fancy to Claire Danes’ titular (and, evidently, titillating) shopgirl.
How Obnoxious? Aww, int he lovely? A lonely millionaire, his heart’s beating in the right place.
The Pink Panther (2006)
Why did Steve sign on to resurrect the Pink Panther film franchise? It’s all about the chops.
“These Pink Panther movies are a great opportunity to use my physical chops,” says he. “And I love doing that stuff. These zany or extreme movies are hard to find. It's difficult to come up with something to justify the slapstick. I'm lucky I found this series.”
Unfortunately, critics and audiences couldn’t justify the slapstick, even if Steve could.
How Obnoxious? More clumsy than anything else.
Baby Mama (2008)
Before she made it big with TV’s 30 Rock , Tina Fey teamed up with Steve for this nipper-themed comedy.
His is a small, scene-stealing part as Round Earth health guru Barry. He has long hair, which makes him all kinds of awesome.
Steve also seems happier in a supporting role, lapping up lines like “I’ve toasted pine nuts on the edge of an active volcano" with obvious glee.
How Obnoxious? Sort of. He’s a nutty health guru, which means he probably thinks we’re all idiots if we don’t follow his enlightened way of thinking.
Its Complicated (2009)
Steve reunites with Father Of The Bride director Nancy Meyers for a midlife romance that's very much in the mould of the latter’s Something’s Gotta Give .
He plays an architect who falls for Meryl Streep. Only hitch is that she’s having an affair with her ex-husband (Alec Baldwin).
Highlights? The bit where Steve gets high with Streep and tries to keep a straight face while talking to her ex. Worst bit? Uh, the rest of the movie.
How Obnoxious? Dammit, not at all. He’s like the perfect man. We want the old Steve back...