Mo’ money mo’ problems.
Having too much money can turn a person into one of the world’s great charitable benefactors … or one of its weirdest creeps. Exhibit A: John Dupont, the oddball rich guy at the center of the movie Foxcatcher, which released in Australia last week and which netted Steve Carell an Oscar nomination earlier this month. It’s not that Dupont tries to bankroll the U.S. Olympic wrestling program, or that he fancies himself both a coach and an actual wrestler, or that he basically pays people to say nice things about him and be his friend. No, the things that make Dupont weird are a) those creepy staccato speech rhythms, and b) the heavy artillery he buys from the military. That nose doesn’t help either. Forthwith, eight others whose money has made them just a bit batty:
8 | Mason Verger, Hannibal (2001)
It would be tempting to say that Verger (played by Gary Oldman) gets a boost on this list because his physical appearance is so disfigured, it’s difficult even to look at him. Rather, instead consider the fact that at the time Hannibal Lecter rendered him unrecognisable, he was undergoing therapy mandated by the courts upon being found guilty of child molestation. (He was spared further punishment because of the connections of his rich and powerful family.) Then there’s the fact that he keeps a pen full of hungry, man-eating pigs, just waiting for the day when he might feed Dr. Lecter to them. Hey, nice house, though. Mason Verger makes Hannibal Lecter seem comparatively normal.
7 | “Big Edie” & “Little Edie,” Grey Gardens (1975)
Does a rich weirdo still have to be rich at the time of his or her (or their) movie? In Albert and David Mayles’ classic documentary, Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale and her daughter, Edith Bouvier Beale, are great examples of how being too weird can eventually cause you to run out of money. The directors capture the increasing squalor in the titular Hamptons estate as these two relatives of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis become ever more eccentric and insular, to the extent that they don’t recognise their own living quarters as the home of feral cats and raccoons. Wrapped in fur coats and outlandish head garments, the women appear to be eating away each other’s sanity. “The cat’s going to the bathroom right in back of my portrait,” says Big Edie, tellingly.
6 | Howard Hughes, The Aviator (2004)
One of the 20th century’s great entrepreneurs, Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio) amassed an unparalleled fortune through real estate, manufacturing, aviation, hospitality and entertainment. He then began collapsing in on himself through increasingly hubristic ventures, such as building an airplane so big it couldn’t even get off the ground. He ended his days as a reclusive germaphobe beset by crippling obsessive-compulsive disorder; he ends the movie stuck in an apparently endless dialogue loop, repeating simply “The way of the future.” Unfortunately for Hughes, uncut fingernails and wearing tissue boxes on your feet did not prove to be the way of the future after all. See also: Jason Robards as Hughes in Melvin and Howard.
5 | Willy Wonka, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)
Hey, no one said the movies these rich weirdos appear in have to be good. Gene Wilder’s take on Roald Dahl’s iconic character in 1971’s Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is certainly the more successful one, but Johnny Depp’s is undoubtedly the weirder. Depp’s chocolate impresario essentially giving away his fortune has elements of Michael Jackson’s soft-spoken strangeness combined with Prince’s love of the colour purple, and he descends into ever-greater levels of alien weirdness whenever the audience is most desperately searching for an excuse to embrace the fellow. For his sheer unembraceability, Depp’s weirdo earns a spot on this list.
4 | Harold Chasen, Harold and Maude (1971)
Harold Chasen (Bud Cort) is what happens when having too much money leaves you deathly bored. Excessively privileged but unable to get the affection from his mother (Vivian Pickles) that he craves, Harold stages elaborate fake suicides in and around the grounds of his palatial Northern California mansion, trying to provoke a reaction from her. This is when he’s not driving around his hearse, attending the funerals of strangers and falling in love with a woman (Ruth Gordon) more than five decades his senior. I suppose that much sought-after reaction from his mother might have helped things for Harold, but this is a reaction typical of her, when she spots him hanging from a noose: “I suppose you think that’s funny, Harold. Dinner at eight, and do try to be a little more vivacious.”
3 | Count Dracula, Dracula (1931)
Sure, nowadays we all know Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi) as the world’s most famous vampire, a designation that would disqualify him from anything so pedestrian as the title “rich weirdo.” But just imagine you were the blissfully ignorant solicitor Renfield (Dwight Frye) visiting the count’s Transylvania estate, just looking to close a real estate deal in London. What would you think of entering a mansion that had clearly once been extravagantly outfitted, but was now crawling with insects and … armadillos? Yes, armadillos. Given his lifestyle, the fortune Dracula has amassed is somewhat irrelevant to him and could probably easily be replaced if need be … but no behaviour is weirder than getting sustenance from drinking human blood.
2 | Frank N. Furter, The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
Whether the main character, or anyone else from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, really qualifies for this list is debatable. After all, they are ultimately revealed (spoiler alert!) as aliens from the planet Transsexual in the Transylvania galaxy. However, Tim Curry’s Frank – a mad scientist decked out in sexy lingerie – bears all the other hallmarks of a man of means, who has no better way to spend his idle time than inviting a coterie of costumed freaks to his house to enact dance numbers and science experiments. Besides, it was Brad Majors (Barry Bostwick) who commented, upon first spotting Frank’s castle in the woods, “Uh, it’s probably some kind of hunting lodge for rich weirdos.”
1 | Rahad Jackson, Boogie Nights (1997)
For reaching simply unbearable levels of discomfiting behaviour, Alfred Molina’s indelible supporting role in Boogie Nights takes top honours on this list. As the drug dealer Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg) et al are trying to scam, Molina walks around in an open bathrobe and Speedos, singing along to the 80s hits “Sister Christian” and “Jessie’s Girl,” twirling a revolver with one bullet in it, as Dirk and his compatriots sit nervously on a nearby couch. It’s not his evident ability to kill them and his increasingly menacing demeanour that makes the guy so weird, though – it’s that he’s got a random Asian kid in shorts, lighting off firecrackers inside his home. Is this some kind of mentee? Some kind of servant? Some kind of sex slave? No one knows.