Can actors just "lose it?"

Is it possible for a talented actor or actress, known for consistent and solid performances, to experience a sudden inability to act, similar to “the yips” in sports, where they seemingly forget the basic skills of their craft? I’m not referring to actors who deliver one poor performance and then return to doing good work, but rather experienced performers who unexpectedly struggle to execute even the most basic skills, regularly making mistakes that even a grade school student in a Christmas play would know to avoid. If you think this happens, what are some good examples?

I dunno, but any guy who is cashing in on those Geezer Teasers would be an example. Bruce Willis was catching a bunch of flack for how bad he is in some of them, but it turned out he was battling the early stages of dementia.

Was Stephen Seagal ever good at acting in anything?

It is a bit subjective since unlike sports, acting doesn’t have concrete definable outcomes, but I think what we may see more is actors giving poor performances for external reasons–drugs and alcohol…and age.

Although I will say, a decade ago there were multiple reports of Al Pacino suddenly turning in terrible stage performances and people concluded dementia as the most likely culprit (he appeared disoriented and lost on stage and would call “line” during performances with audience members) and then it seemed to pass so maybe he was just off for awhile?.. But now people are saying he might actually be suffering from dementia again, so who knows?

“good” is, of course, subjective, but, yeah. That is to say, he was good at what he was doing, and I’ve seen worse from better. Unfortunately, he since reverted to the mean.

When people discuss conspiracy theories they actually believe, I always list “Seagal’s current movies are money laundering schemes” as mine.

Come on. They have to be.

Are you including actors that suffered physiological cognitive decline, like Bruce Willis (as mentioned by @Mahaloth)?

What was Marlon Brando’s last excellent performance? He was famously lazy, but the talent was there. Read his Godfather lines of cue cards, still did a great job. Showed up late and unprepared for Apocalypse Now, still gave a performance worth seeing.

Did he do anything in the 80’s and 90’s worth seeing?

He was great in The Freshman, but he was essentially doing a parody of Vito Corelone.

The cast on the Carol Burnett Show regularly lost it during sketches, but I don’t think that’s what you mean.

Daniel Day-Lewis walked offstage in mid-performance while playing the title role in Hamlet and never acted in a stage production again. He later said:

I had to leave the stage because I was an empty vessel. I had nothing in me, nothing to say, nothing to give.

I actually enjoyed his performance in Don Juan DeMarco (1995).

90% of being good enough to turn in a reasonable performance is being comfortable in front of a camera. The other 10% is things like hitting the right tone and not making bizarre choices in character motivation that make no sense. Usually, if you can just deadpan and let the dialogue speak for itself, you’re going to be pretty safe with this portion.

Maybe there’s some case of someone finding religion, becoming horribly body-conscious, or something that has lost them their sense of comfort in front of the camera. None is coming to my mind.

But in terms of making horribly bad acting choices, I’d have to go with 1) Brando in the Isle of Dr Moreau, and 2) Val Kilmer in The Saint. These are both instances where the director and the actor were just on vastly different wavelengths and the director simply couldn’t wrangle them in, nor get enough reasonable content to allow them to use some creative editing to fix it, after the fact.

I’m mainly talking about actors who are still in their prime in terms of health and age.

Just wait until the World Acting Championship starts up.

I think this is pretty much it for the most part though inflated egos come into play. There are some actors who become such prima-donnas and they’re constant butting of heads with co-stars and directors leads to slowed or halted production.

IMHO he was okayish in his last film The Score (2001) with De Niro and Edward Norton. He even received some maybe over-stated praise, but his was a small part so Norton and De Niro had to try and do the heavy lifting. Not a great film (it’s a pretty paint-by-numbers heist film), but certainly watchable.

Jean Arthur, although never giving a bad performance in a long career, batted stage fright until it overwhelmed her abilities. She switched to teaching drama. Meryl Streep was one of her students while at Vassar.

And yet I’m certain that up until the moment he walked offstage, he was giving a better performance than 99% of professional actors will ever give in their entire lives.

That’s known as corpsing. Actors drying / drying-up on stage, where it matters much more than on film, is a real thing, which is why they have a word for it. And apparently it can happen on your hundredth performance after 99 faultless ones.

ISTM that this discussion would have to be limited to stage performances. In film or TV performances, if an actor “goes up” (corpses), they just don’t use that take and film another.

On stage, an actor could forget a line, or piece of movement/business. But for the most part, even a deadpan delivery and minimal movement, as long as one was in the right place, wouldn’t necessarily be noticed by the audience as a mistake.

Acting can be easy as “Hit your mark and say your line.”