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The 13 Most Surprising Producer Credits in Movies

Leonardo DiCaprio & Red Riding Hood Getty Images / Warner Bros.

Sure producers accept the award when a movie wins Best Picture at the Oscars and get to say awesome things like "I'll make you a star, kid!," but what the hell does a producer actually do?

Well, the answer is sometimes everything from coordinating the script's development, financing and hiring the film's director ... and sometimes doing little beyond having a famous name and giving a thumbs-up at the movie's premiere. However, we're sure the following famous folks, who have had surprising producer credits on a variety of flicks, were more hands-on types when it came to getting these 13 movies made.

1. Tobey Maguire, '25th Hour' (2002)

Spike Lee's "25th Hour" is one of his most memorable joints, featuring a knockout performance from Edward Norton as Monty, a drug dealer on his last day as a free man before heading to jail. Originally, however, Tobey Maguire had bought film rights to the source book with plans to star, but Spidey stuff got in the way. Instead, Maguire recruited his buddy Norton to star and stayed on as a producer.

25th Hour Touchstone Pictures

2. Robert De Niro, 'Rent' (2005)

What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think of "Rent"? A group of lazy schmucks who for some reason think they should be exempt from bill-paying and working? Okay, what next? The frequently downward-sloping mouth of Robert De Niro? No? Well, it turns out that De Niro teamed up with Miramax to buy rights to the musical all the way back in 1996. They also reportedly had Martin Scorsese in mind as director for what we'd like to imagine would've made for a "Rent" movie that would've included far more bare-knuckle boxing and deaths by ice pick than the one we ended up actually getting.

Rent Sony

3. Nicolas Cage, 'A Thousand Words' (2012)

Nicolas Cage and Eddie Murphy, two of Hollywood's most maligned actors, combined their financially destructive powers for "A Thousand Words," a movie that holds an unfathomable 0% Rotten Tomatoes score. Murphy is the star, which makes enough sense considering the type of roles he tends to go for these days, but why Nicolas Cage was a producer we may never know. But considering he's spent millions and millions on things like trilobite fossil collections and an enormous pyramid-shaped tomb,  "A Thousand Words" may just be among the most sound financial decisions Cage has ever made.

A Thousand Words Paramount

4. Kevin Spacey, 'The Social Network' (2010)

Had "The Social Network" taken its proper place in history as the Best Picture of 2010 over "The King's Speech," you would have seen the familiar, near-freakishly round face of Kevin Spacey take the stage at the Oscars. Spacey's production company, Trigger Street Productions, owns the movie rights to all of author Ben Mezrich's books, including "Bringing Down the House," which turned into the uber-mediocre Spacey vehicle "21," and  "The Accidental Billionaires," which turned into "The Social Network." Another Mezrich adaptation, "Sex on the Moon" — which is unfortunately about a moon rock heist and not space coitus — is currently in the works.

The Social Network Sony

5. Leonardo DiCaprio, 'Red Riding Hood' (2011)

The sub-mediocre thriller "Red Riding Hood" sounded a lot more promising back in 2009 when it was being billed as "Leonardo DiCaprio's gothic reimagining of 'Little Red Riding Hood.'" But we'll forgive Leo's production company Appian Way for the misstep, which has done much better with the likes of "The Aviator," "Shutter Island" and 2011 festival favorite "Detachment."

Red Riding Hood Warner Bros.

6. Ben Stiller, 'The Ruins' (2008)

If we've said it once, we've said it a million times: sexy young folks and ancient Indian burial sites just don't mix. Nonetheless, the two combined forces yet again in "The Ruins," and some predictably terrible on-screen stuff started happening. Stiller became involved in the project when his company Red Hour Productions, which usually sticks with silly Stiller fare like "Starsky and Hutch" and "Tropic Thunder," picked up the film rights to the book before author Scott B. Smith had even finished writing it.

The Ruins DreamWorks / Paramount

7. George Clooney, 'Rumor Has It ...' (2005)

Between acting, directing, screenwriting and producing, we think it's fair to say that George Clooney has his hands all up in Hollywood's business. As a producer he even took home a Best Picture Oscar earlier this year for the pretty-good-but-let's-be-honest-not-really-that-great "Argo." He's also had his name attached to a whole mess of unexpected movies including "Rumor Has It ...," a bargain bin rom-com that not only managed to waste the considerable talents of George Clooney but Rob Reiner, Shirley MacLaine, Richard Jenkins and Mark Ruffalo as well.

Rumor Has It ... Warner Bros.

8. Brad Pitt, 'Kick-Ass' (2010)

Being incredibly handsome, acting in movies and saving New Orleans somehow doesn't take up all of Brad Pitt's time, as he proved when he teamed up with "Snatch" collaborator Matthew Vaughn to produce "Kick-Ass" in 2010. Pitt is also at least partially responsible for this year's "Kick-Ass 2" which, outside of some controversial Tweet-work from co-star Jim Carrey, was met with a collective "meh" from critics and fans alike.

Kick-Ass Lionsgate

9. Tom Cruise, 'Elizabethtown' (2005)

If Cameron Crowe had never made 2011's sweet-but-snoozy "We Bought a Zoo," his least memorable film would have been his 2005 Orlando Bloom/Kirsten Dunst rom-com "Elizabethtown," which was developed by Tom Cruise's Cruise Wagner Productions. The company, which has mostly been behind Cruise showcase movies like "Valkyrie" and "Jack Reacher," famously fell out with frequent business partner Paramount Pictures after Cruise did some couch jumping, psychiatric medication naysaying and "Mission: Impossible III" underachieving back in 2006.

Elizabethtown Paramount

10. Will Smith, 'This Means War' (2012)

Last year's romantic action comedy "This Means War," about two CIA operates jonesing over the same lady, slipped under the radar like a lame Reese Witherspoon-piloted low-flying aircraft. So it's somewhat surprising that Will Smith, one of Hollywood's most consistently bankable stars, oversaw the project's development as a producer. Between "This Means War" and "After Earth," it's been a tough couple of years for Will Smith — hopefully he's taken solace in his piles of money and perfect superstar family.

This Means War Fox

11. Johnny Depp, 'Hugo' (2011)

Johnny Depp is probably the second strangest name attached to "Hugo," considering it's a 3D children's movie done by Martin Scorsese, who's usually good for about a baker's dozen of brutal murders an outing. Depp was originally slated to have a cameo in the movie but was too busy doing his semi-annual impression of Keith Richards as a pirate to get to the set. Instead he co-produced the movie with his friend Graham King, a prolific Hollywood figure who took a financial beating after the movie underperformed at the box office despite the rave reviews and awards.

Hugo Paramount

12. Julia Roberts, 'Kit Kittredge: An American Girl' (2008)

History shows us that children's toys and movies generally make for a craptastic mix. The Abigail Breslin-led "Kit Kittredge," probably the least depressing movie ever to take place during the Great Depression, ended up being an exception to the rule, performing modestly well at the box office and getting high marks from critics and audiences. Producer Julia Roberts was reportedly inspired by motherhood and bringing the American Girl toy line to "a bigger audience" in making the film, which is pretty ambitious considering it's one of the biggest toy brands, y'know, ever.

Kit Kittredge: An American Girl New Line Cinema

13. Tom Hanks, 'Where the Wild Things Are' (2009)

Tom Hanks hits the movie circuit hard as a J-Lo-esque triple threat of actor, producer and director, so it's no surprise that his name has popped up as a producer more than a few times — on his own movies, like "Larry Crowne" and "Cast Away," as well as other folks', including "Evan Almighty" and "Mama Mia." But his oddest producer credit has to be "Where the Wild Things Are," which started its long journey to the screen in the mid-'80s, back when Hanks was barely a Bosom Buddy.

Where the Wild Things Are Warner Bros.

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