Why Hollywood won't cast David Schwimmer anymore

David Schwimmer rose to prominence as the lovable nerdy paleontologist Ross Geller on the iconic sitcom Friends. The role made him a household name and cemented his place in TV history. He even earned his first Emmy nomination for outstanding supporting actor in a comedy series in 1995. But while the actor seemed ready to take on the world when the pop culture phenomenon ended its ten-season run in 2004, his fame hasn't skyrocketed as fans had once expected. In fact, it arguably feels like he's disappeared in recent years.

From questionable career moves and big-screen criticism to possible co-star kerfuffles and scandalous lawsuits, Schwimmer has gone through quite a lot over the years — and, unfortunately, all the drama has left a permanent mark on his career. Could Schwimmer rebuild his reputation gig by gig and restore his career to its former glory? Well, let's first answer the question on everyone's minds: Why does it feel like Hollywood won't cast David Schwimmer anymore?

He struggled mightily with fame

Schwimmer became an overnight sensation in 1994, but quickly learned that fame wasn't all it was cracked up to be. "It was pretty jarring and it messed with my relationship to other people in a way that took years, I think, for me to adjust to and become comfortable with," the actor said on the Awards Chatter podcast in 2016. "It made me want to hide under a baseball cap and not be seen." Striking a balance between work and celebrity was "tricky," he added. "I was trying to figure out: How do I be an actor in this new world, in this new situation? How do I do my job?"

He disappeared behind the scenes

After Friends went off the air, Schwimmer turned his attention to directing — with varied levels of success. He made his film directorial debut with the British-American comedy Run Fatboy Run in 2007. While the movie received mixed reviews, it did well at the box office, earning the green director a British Independent Film Award nomination for best debut. Schwimmer went on to direct 2010's Trust, a sex abuse drama which garnered generally favorable reviews but was a box office flop. His TV directorial work has included Little Britain USA, Growing Up With Fisher, and Joey, Matt LeBlanc's failed Friends spin-off.

He's done good work, but have you seen any of it?

Schwimmer's heartbreaking performance in the 2005 drama Duane Hopwood was regarded as one of his strongest, but few have actually seen it. "It's not a comedy. I play a father struggling with alcohol, divorce, and the custody of his two daughters," he told The Independent at the time. "I'm really proud of that film, it was like a real role in a real story." 

Famed critic Roger Ebert loved it. Calling Duane Hopwood "one of the best movies of 2005." He singled out Schwimmer's work as a "career-transforming performance." Unfortunately, the indie flick saw only a limited release after premiering at the Sundance Film Festival and received mixed reviews, so what should have been a headline-making moment disappeared into thin air. 

He's heard but not seen

One of Schwimmer's most successful acting roles was one that didn't even require him to appear on screen. In 2005, he voiced Melman, the panic-stricken, hypochondriac giraffe in the DreamWorks moneymaker Madagascar. While the computer-animated film earned mixed reviews — Metacritic gave it a score of 57 — The Washington Post said Schwimmer was "particularly appealing" as the fan-favorite character.

Regardless of its less-than-stellar ratings, the kid-friendly comedy raked in hundreds of millions of dollars worldwide and was a bonafide box office smash that became a full-blown franchise. That's definitely a good thing for Schwimmer, as his character is one of the leads of the series alongside Ben Stiller's lion Alex, Chris Rock's zebra Marty, and Jada Pinkett Smith's hippo Gloria. It remains to be seen if that success will help him transition into more mature, life-action projects.

'Ross from Friends' hit the stage

David Schwimmer further distanced himself from Hollywood when he returned to his first love: the theatre. In 2005, he made his West End debut, starring as a man who's about to get married in Neil LaBute's comedy Some Girl(s). "I'm sure there will be people … saying it's just Ross up there," he told The Independent. "And I'll take that … really hard actually." 

Let's hope Schwimmer doesn't read the Daily Mail, which, sure enough, referred to him as "Ross from Friends." According to the publication (via BBC News), "the performance he gives…is so similar to what he does on the sitcom that it barely seems worth the bother." Despite the depressing feedback, Schwimmer continued pursuing stage work, making his Broadway debut in The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial in 2006, appearing in Chicago's Our Town in 2009, and going Off-Broadway with Detroit in 2012.

His reputation came under attack

David Schwimmer nearly had his nice-guy reputation ruined when former charity fundraiser Aaron Tonken alleged that the actor demanded two Rolex watches in exchange for appearing at a charity event. The actor sued for defamation in 2006 and won $400,000. Tonken, who received a five-year prison sentence for fraud in an unrelated case, eventually retracted his statements about Schwimmer and apologized. "I feel vindicated by the judgment," Schwimmer said at the time. "I am pleased that Aaron Tonken has set the record straight and admitted that his statements about me … were untrue."

Critics questioned his skills as a director

David Schwimmer brought his directorial expertise to the stage with the 2008 premiere of Stephen Belber's dark comedy Fault Lines, but critics didn't know what to make of his directorial hand. While the New York Post hailed Schwimmer as someone who "knows a thing or two about freewheeling banter," AM New York had a much harsher take on the production. "Based on Fault Lines … we can't really tell whether Schwimmer has much talent as a director," its critic said. "We're surprised he didn't try something more challenging for his debut. If not much else, Schwimmer has encouraged his actors to intense their energy levels and comic timing at all costs."

He can't outrun Ross

Just a glance at Schwimmer's IMDb page shows that the actor had somewhat of an identity crisis in a post-Friends world. Other than directorial, theatre, and voice work, his other roles include multiple caricatures of himself on shows such as Curb Your Enthusiasm, 30 RockEpisodes, and the BBC's Come Fly With Me. In other words, David Schwimmer has disappeared under Ross Geller's shadow.

"I feel equally comfortable on stage as I do in television or film," he told the Los Angeles Times in 2016, explaining that the "paradox" of his fame was finding himself typecast despite the financial stability that gave him options. "I don't really have a strategy. Maybe if I did I'd be a much bigger film actor or star."

His doppelgänger is a wanted man

The one where truth is stranger than fiction: David Schwimmer made headlines worldwide when U.K. police shared security camera footage of a man making off with what appears to be an armload of beer in October 2018. That suspect just so happens to look a lot like the Friends star. So much so that the footage went viral as the police, and even Schwimmer, got in on the fun. 

The actor posted a hilarious video to his Twitter mimicking the actions of his criminal look-alike. In Schwimmer's video, he hustles down the aisle of a store juggling an armload of silver cans while furtively glancing up at the camera — just like the mystery man across the pond. "Officers, I swear it wasn't me," Schwimmer tweeted. "As you can see, I was in New York. To the hardworking Blackpool Police, good luck with the investgation. #itwasntme."

The police force eventually announced that it had identified the guy in the real footage, confirming that Schwimmer was in the clear, but by that time, the internet had already cut loose. "I don't think it's been this guy's day, his week, his month or even his year," read one tweet. We could go on, but this seems like a good time to pivot to our next topic.

He's notoriously private

Having spent much of his adult life in the spotlight, David Schwimmer is understandably guarded when it comes to his personal life, which has mostly been shrouded in secrecy. Schwimmer met artist Zoe Buckman in 2007 while directing Run Fatboy Run in London. Three years later, the actor-director's rep announced their engagement, and they wed in a secret ceremony in June 2010. However, the wedding news wasn't publicly revealed until four months later. The couple welcomed their daughter, Cleo, in May 2011, but Schwimmer has only made the rare public appearance with the entire family in tow. Clearly, the actor wants his private life to disappear from the bright lights of Hollywood.

He's focused on advocating for rape victims

David Schwimmer has served on the board of directors for the Rape Treatment Center in Santa Monica, Calif. since 2001. The center helps victims of date rape and child rape. He's also a longtime advocate of banning date rape drugs such as Rohypnol and GHB. "I thought I could maybe give voice and give presence and get guys to see that it is their issue and it is their responsibility," he said of his decision to channel much of his energy into activism instead of Hollywood (via Look to the Stars). "I realized that these are our girlfriends, our wives, our daughters, our sisters, so it's as much a man's issue as it is a women's issue."

He may be derailing a Friends reunion

Following the reboots of beloved sitcoms such as Will & Grace and Full House, Friends fans are no doubt eager to see their fave characters reunite at Central Perk. So what's the holdup?

Rumor has it that David Schwimmer is delaying the reunion. Actress Courtney Cox, who played Schwimmer's younger sister Monica Geller on the hit NBC series, jump-started the gossip in a June 2015 when she told Yahoo'd Myself, "We're not doing it! It's just not going to happen." When asked if the cast at least had an off-screen reunion in recent years, she said, "We've gotten about 80 percent there, but there's always one person who flakes at the end." She added, "I'm not going to name names, but it may not be Schwimmer." 

Is Schwimmer only guilty of messing up dinner party plans, or is he the reason our hopes for a Friends reboot have all but disappeared? Schwimmer has made it clear that he's not too keen on the idea of seeing the whole Friends cast in their later years. Speaking with Megyn Kelly Today, he said, "Look, the thing is, I just don't know if I want to see all of us with crutches [and] walkers." That does sound sort of depressing, no?

Feed the Beast tanked

The AMC series Feed the Beast marked David Schwimmer's first starring role on television since Friends went off the air. The drama — which saw him as Tommy Moran, a widowed, alcoholic father and restaurant owner who suddenly finds himself involved in a Bronx crime ring — allowed the actor to show off his range. However, the series failed to get off the ground, and not everyone was impressed by Schwimmer's acting chops. The Los Angeles Times said, "Schwimmer's woe-is-me, slump, shuffle, shuffle, slump interpretation of a man beset seems simply a matter of over-compensation." 

Metacritic gave the crime drama series a score of 46, while Rotten Tomatoes critics gave it a measly 23 percent. As could be expected, the show was unceremoniously canceled after one season in 2016, thus further contributing to the notion of Schwimmer's career disappearing. 

He split from his wife in 2017

When David Schwimmer and Zoe Buckman announced their separation after seven years of marriage in April 2017, it was made clear that their family would continue to be the actor-director's primary focus. "It is with great love, respect and friendship that we have decided to take some time apart while we determine the future of our relationship," the former couple said in a joint statement to Us Weekly. "Our priority is, of course, our daughter's happiness and well-being during this challenging time, and so we ask for your support and respect for our privacy as we continue to raise her together and navigate this new chapter for our family."

He spoke out against sexual harassment at a time when many were silent

Before the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke in October 2017, David Schwimmer was already busy taking a stand against sexual misconduct in the entertainment industry, producing a campaign video series against sexual harassment called #ThatsHarassment. "The reality is there's still fear of retaliation [of reporting harassment on social media]," Schwimmer said during a Cosmopolitan panel. "We're trying to get at the culture and generate as much awareness, for men, as well. We just feel like men have trouble really understanding where the line is."

Schwimmer's outspoken stance began at a time when key Hollywood heavyweights had not yet been taken down by the #MeToo movement. Did his bold activism hinder his opportunities among powerful industry leaders, causing potential roles to disappear? We may never know.

How he's turning it around

David Schwimmer may have spent much of his post-Friends career disappearing behind the camera or on stage, but that changed in 2016, with Ryan Murphy's American Crime Story: The People v. OJ Simpson. Schwimmer delivered a critically acclaimed performance as Robert Kardashian in his highly anticipated return to the small screen, receiving an Emmy nomination for what GQ called an "angst-ridden, emotional performance." Not to mention, he finally overcame the shadow cast by the Friends role that made him famous more than 20 years earlier.

But that doesn't mean Schwimmer has said goodbye to his off-camera work. In the spring of 2018, he directed Plantation!, a play by Kevin Douglas. The production's world premiere coincided with the 30th anniversary of the LookingGlass Theatre, which Schwimmer co-founded after college. In December 2018, Variety reported that Schwimmer would "play a power-hungry NSA agent relocated to the U.K." in a British comedy series called Intelligence.

Though Schwimmer may have spent the previous two decades expanding his resume to varying success, it looks like he could be heading right back to where he started — at the top of his game!