Everyone loves a good Hollywood comeback story, but for every Mickey Rourke and Robert Downey Jr. there’s several stars who haven’t bounced back quite as successfully. Here are 15 attempted comebacks that missed the mark with most audiences.
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After an appearance in Robert Rodriguez’s Machete failed to bring the trouble actress back to the big screen, Lindsay Lohan took a role in the high-profile Lifetime movie Liz and package. The film chronicled the troubled marriage of Elizabeth Taylor (Lohan) to fellow actor Rich Burton (Grant Bowler). Despite solid ratings, the film was torn to shreds by critics and audiences alike.
Former child star Macaulay Culkin returned to the big screen with Saved! in 2004. Though the role would garner Culkin critical acclaim, Saved! failed to bring the Home Alone star back to mainstream movies.
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Following her high-profile marriage to Tom Cruise, Dawson’s Creek star Katie Holmes made several attempts to kickstart her career. A solid turn in the Guillermo Del Toro produced Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark was diminished by bad box office. Her follow-up, the controversial TV miniseries The Kennedys, garnered her mixed reviews and didn’t quite set the ratings world on fire. Finally, a role in Adam Sandler’s abysmal comedy Jack and Jill solidified the Holmes’ failure to create a popular role for herself outside of tabloid headlines.
The Love Guru (2008) was intended to revive the live-action movie career of Mike Meyers the same way the Austin Powers franchise had years earlier. Unfortunately, it failed miserably both critically and commercially. A brief supporting role in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds was overshadowed by the breakout performances by Christoph Waltz and Michael Fassbender. Meyers will soon be attempting another career reinvention with Wayne’s World 3 and Austin Powers 4, which are currently in the works.
Mel Gibson found out the hard way that being a superstar actor doesn’t necessarily erase the public’s memory of scandal. Edge of Darkness (2010) and The Beaver (2011) both followed on the heels of Gibson’s drunken, sexist, racist ranting Los Angeles police (in a 2006 DUI arrest) and his former wife (recorded in a series of voice mails that leaked in 2010). In a move that eerily follows that of Lindsay Lohan, Gibson will be teaming with Robert Rodriguez to star in Machete Kills.
The Wachowski Siblings
With Speed Racer (2008), Lana and Andy Wachowski (pictured right and center), attempted to overcome the legacy of two awful sequels to The Matrix. Sadly, the anime adaptation failed to find acceptance with critics or moviegoers and tanked in the box office. They took another shot at big screen game changing this year with the high profile Cloud Atlas, a heady science fiction drama with a high profile cast (Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, and Hugh Grant, among others) and buzz worthy trailer. Unfortunately, the film only garnered attention for its controversial casting of actors like Tom Hanks and Keith David in the roles of Asian characters.
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Joaquin Phoenix has and hasn’t garnered a career comeback. Following a disastrous year performing bizarre publicity stunts for Casey Affleck’s mock-documentary I’m Still Here (2010), Phoenix gained a lot of audience and critical esteem this summer with Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master. What could be a full-blown comeback may be diminished by the actor’s anti-Hollywood feelings, which he made public when announcing he refused to be considered for an Academy Award nomination this year.
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During the ’90s, Tom Sizemore proved himself to be one of the most versatile and talented character actors in Hollywood, starring in films like Saving Private Ryan and Heat. After a very public battle with addiction and scandal in the following decades, Sizemore attempted to get back on the Hollywood wagon. After doing a string of independent movies, Sizemore came back into the public spotlight with roles in Hawaii Five-O and Crash (2005). Unfortunately, these turns failed to gain him notoriety and Sizemore continues to languish in the direct-to-DVD field.
The Academy Award winning actor was once one of the biggest stars in the world. Though he still headlines several theatrical films per year, Cage’s box office returns seems to be diminishing with time. The actor seemed like he was going to break the cycle briefly, offering up freshly manic onscreen performances in Bad Lieutenant: Port Call of New Orleans in 2009 and Kick-A$$ in 2010. Unfortunately, bombs like Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, Drive Angry 3D, Trespass, Stolen, and Seeking Justice seem to have confirmed the actor’s career is on its last leg.
Heigl’s reputation with audiences was harmed when the actress became the subject of tabloid scandal behind-the-scenes of Grey’s Anatomy. Her subsequent bad mouthing of a previous hit, Knocked Up (2007), also seemed to harm her reputation among Hollywood’s elite comedic performers. Though she experienced a brief resurgence with The Ugly Truth (2009) bombs like Life as We Know It (2010), Killers (2010) and One For The Money (2012) tell us her career is on a parallel track with that of Nicolas Cage.
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Steven Seagal’s career was revived from the direct-to-video skids in 2001 with the success of Exit Wounds, co-starring rapper DMX. The Akido-practicing action star’s big screen status would be short-lived, however, as the failure of Half Past Dead the next year relegated Seagal’s action flicks to delete bins permanently.
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After a string of poor career decisions made in the 90s, the notoriously difficult comedian Chevy Chase gained vast acclaim for his turn as Pierce Hawthorne on NBC’s Community. Following a public dispute with series creator Dan Harmon (which helped contribute to Harmon leaving the show), it has been announced Chevy would be departing Community three episodes before the series’ finale—an insult to fans of the series that may hurt his chances for further high profile roles in the future.
The Basic Instinct star received a fine reception from audiences with supporting roles in Alpha Dog and Broken Flowers. Ironically, her return to the franchise that made her a star, Basic Instinct 2, informed the film industry her days as a big-screen leading lady seemed to be behind her.
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Following his much publicized departure from the wildly popular Two and a Half Men, Charlie Sheen attempted to reinvent himself with the television adaptation of Adam Sandler’s comedy hit Anger Management. Though the FX Show has been fairly popular and green-lit for a second-season, it has failed to bring in the massive ratings of Two and a Half Men.
After a string of bombs, Harrison Ford whipped his way to box office gold by returning to the franchise that made him a star in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008). Unfortunately, the success would be short lived. Subsequent efforts like Cowboys and Aliens (2011), Extraordinary Measures (2010) and Morning Glory (2010) proved to be flops. Perhaps Indiana Jones 5 is in order?