It doesn’t take a lot for a celebrity to become the subject of ridicule in Hollywood. However, it does take a lot for a celebrity to become more well-known for being made fun of than their actual work. Though there was a time when they were at the top of the Hollywood heap, that’s where many of the figures on this list currently are positioned in Tinsel Town.
Here are 15 stars whose careers have sadly been reduced to punchlines…
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Here’s a tip for anyone in the entertainment industry who is under the age of 50– never announce your retirement. This is a lesson Amanda Bynes could have used as the former Nickelodeon star has retired twice—once in 2010 and again last year. Even worse, the actress managed to dovetail her “permanent retirement” with five driving offenses (that included hit-and-runs, driving under the influence, and driving with a suspended license) and several instances of bizarre behavior (from parading around nude in a NYC tanning salon to facing eviction from her Manhattan home). The actress’ public meltdown has officially overshadowed her former achievements in the entertainment industry, making her the tabloid equivalent of a Lindsay Lohan-lite.
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While Bynes lifestyle seems to be pushing her into the “deep end” of Hollywood’s fringe dwellers, Lindsay Lohan has been living there for years. We won’t bore you by recanting her sordid history of legal issues and rehab stints. Instead, we’ll point out the actress was among Hollywood’s favorite A-listers from Mean Girls all the way through A Prairie Home Companion. These days her fans are able to reflect on the disastrous production stories circulating her indie The Canyons and lament the fact her high profile role in Liz & package turned out to be little more than Lifetime Original Movie schlock. Oh, not to mention the fact she’s facing jail time for lying to LAPD and violating her probation. Lindsay Lohan– Hollywood’s easiest target for jokes since 2006.
David Hasselhoff’s resume was never a jaw dropper, but TV shows like Knight Rider and Baywatch commanded loyal fanbases. After these shows ended, the actor managed to use his status as a campy performer to score roles in a host of comedies including Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story and Click. Unfortunately, the actor’s penchant for drinking tainted his career’s growth when a drunken video of him leaked onto internet (filmed by daughter Taylor Ann Hasselhoff and leaked to try to shame him into sobriety). Nowadays, the actor is apparently sober and is eking out a living playing parodies of himself in movies and television. Yes, his career may be a punchline now, but the Hoff is sporting enough to be in on the joke.
Flashdance, Jagged Edge, Basic Instinct—screenwriter/producer Joe Eszterhas wrote a string of Hollywood hits from the mid 1980s through, well, Showgirls. The 1995 sensual drama was Hollywood’s first and, to date, only major theatrical release sporting an NC-17 rating. Eszterhas commanded $2 million for his script, a hefty price tag that producers Carolco Pictures would later regret. The film bombed in the box office and received a great deal of controversy thanks to the misogynistic excess peddled by Eszterhas and director Paul Verhoeven. It hurt the careers of everyone involved, but the majority of the blame fell on the writer. Rather than attempt a comeback, Eszterhas opted to write Burn, Hollywood, Burn, a cinematic stab at industry satire that tanked in the box office and alienated him from his peers. Following that film and his tell-all memoir, Hollywood Animal, Eszterhas has been all but eliminated from Hollywood. His most recent claim to fame was releasing Mel Gibson’s latest recorded rant and authoring a Kindle-exclusive short about his experiences working with the troubled director.
John Travolta’s career went downhill in the late 80s and it took Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction to revive it. The actor has seemingly been on top ever since, though recent allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior may have changed that. Last year a quartet of accusations were leveled at the actor claiming Travolta engaged in inappropriate sexual trysts with his male masseurs. Soon after a former pilot came forward claiming that he carried on a six-year affair with Travolta during the 1980s. This only helped stir the pot for comedians who grand high time contrasting the allegations with Travolta’s family man image (in spite of the fact the claims were later dropped). Even Carrie Fisher came out in December to claim “everyone” in Hollywood knew he was gay. Travolta and his legal team have continued to dodge the rumors through litigation and the actor seems to have cleared himself of any wrongdoing. Still, the whole saga remains a prime target for humor and whether or not the claims will impact his movie career remains to be seen.
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Tom Cruise’s career hasn’t quite been the same since 2004. The handsome, good guy, everyman actor took on a very different patina when he became more vocally outspoken about his religion, Scientology, in particular his belief that psychiatry should be outlawed. Keep in mind, this came from a guy who also danced on Oprah’s couch and declared his love for fellow actress Katie Holmes. That same year the actor would return to his anti-psychiatry views in a heated on-air argument with Matt Lauer on Today. Instances like these caused Paramount to sever their contract with Cruise the following year (CEO Sumner Redstone publicly called his behavior unacceptable). Cruise subsequently put the brakes on his controversial views, though the stigma has continued to haunt his public image (thanks also to his recent divorce from Katie Holmes). Tabloids scrutinize his every move, the actor’s non-Mission Impossible entries have proven box office disasters, and the Cruise’s association with Scientology remains a constant source of parody from comedians.
Chris Klein had a rough time around 2005. The actor’s longtime relationship with actress Katie Holmes ended (thanks, many believe, to the aforementioned Mr. Cruise), he was arrested for a DUI, and roles steadily began drying up. In 2009 the actor delivered one of the most over-the-top, cringe worthy performances of the year in Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li. Then in 2010 the actor was arrested once again on a DUI and was forced to enter rehab. The same year the actor’s disasterous audition tape for the musical Mama Mia surfaced online, rendering his Street Fighter performance as Oscar-worthy in comparison. Though the actor has since gotten sober and experienced a brief revival by reprising his character of Oz in American Reunion, Klein’s washed-up reputation isn’t quite out of the water yet. Still, given previously stellar performances in films like Election, we’re certainly pulling for him.
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After producing and starring in a string of flops in the mid to late 90s, Steven Seagal trimmed down to fighting weight and teamed up with action mega-producer Joel Silver. The resulting film, Exit Wounds, hybridized hip-hop culture with martial arts action and cop drama. The combination rendered a hit for the actor and it seemed like he the raspy voiced Akido master was poised for a comeback. To no one’s surprise, Seagal returned to the hip hop action well with Half Past Dead, though the reaction from audiences wasn’t a thrilled one. Somehow the once lean Seagal had gained more weight than ever. To make matters worse the doughy action hero was put in the middle of an action film with very little action. The film barely turned a profit and was laughed off the screen by moviegoers, critics, and Seagal fans alike. This has been the typical reaction from mainstream audiences throughout the majority of the martial artists latter day career. Of his fellow action stars, Seagal is the most regularly ridiculed thanks to his lack of athleticism and his mostly straight-to-video output. At this rate, it will take The Expendables 3 to bring him mainstream legitimacy again.
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NBC’s Community can be credited for bringing Chevy Chase back into the mainstream fold. The comedy veteran, best known as Clark Griswold from National Lampoon’s Vacation, gained a reputation in Hollywood for being difficult. When the actor’s box office bank began wavering, Chase was forced out of the role of leading man and into supporting roles in a number of comedies (some which were straight-to-video). Community did something few doubted would ever happen: it made Chevy Chase relevant again. As the incorrigibly rac1st and feeble millionaire Pierce Hawthorne, Chase was able to put his knack for physical comedy and clueless screen persona to good use once more. Then the inevitable happened: Chase began showing signs of difficulty. Objecting to his character’s latent racism, the actor famously caused an onset kerfuffle where he facetiously used the “n” word. After conflict with the cast and series creator Dan Harmon, Chase decided to make season 4 his last on the show. Earlier this month, star Joel McHale confirmed Chevy’s “difficulty” in an interview with Howard Stern, reporting the two actors nearly came to physical blows.
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Kevin Smith has successfully reinvented himself as a podcaster, writer, and reality show personality, but don’t get film fans going on his former filmmaking career. As a director Smith had a number of ups and downs, but cultivated a rabidly loyal fan base. Things started going off the rails with Cop Out in 2010, a buddy cop comedy that was shrouded in controversy due to conflict between Smith and actor Bruce Willis (Smith claims Willis was difficult while insiders claimed Smith shirked his responsibilities onset). The film was released to the most abysmal reviews of Smith’s career from fans and critics alike. This prompted the director to extend a middle finger toward Hollywood at Sundance 2011 by auctioning his indie horror film, Red State, off to himself in a grandiose style. Smith also announced his retirement from the industry following the production of his pending hockey epic Hit Somebody. The sports film was conceived as everything from a film to two films to an original mini-series. Smith has talked up the film as his cinematic swan song but it’s yet to come to fruition. Then, earlier this year, Smith announced that Clerks III would be his final film… only to announce weeks later he would instead be releasing it as a serialized novel. By cashing in on past glories, constantly hyping unmade projects, and alienating his supporters (fans and peers), Smith has become a subject of ridicule among those outside of his fanbase.
M. Night Shyamalan
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With The Sixth Sense, director M. Night Shyamalan legitimized horror and suspense movies. The intelligent thriller was masterfully directed, acted, and sported one hell of a twist ending. The same could be said of his follow-ups, Unbreakable and Signs. Then came The Village, a film that to many audiences felt like a drawn out episode of The Twilight Zone. But that was okay for most, because everyone likes The Twilight Zone, right? Then came The Lady In The Water, which was like a sentimental episode of The Twilight Zone (which people weren’t quite as fond of). Finally, there was The Happening, which played like a really bad episode of—well, you get it. As his career progressed, the director’s penchant for heady twists began to border on self-parody as his characterizations grew thinner and thinner. The term “Shymalan-ed” has since been coined by the TV show It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia to describe an overblown, inexplicable, nonsensical but straight faced twist ending. Shyamalan is currently trying to distance himself from this stigma with the upcoming Will/Jayden Smith vehicle After Earth.
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By attempting to become the antithesis of his older brother, Alec, Stephen Baldwin has become the biggest joke in the Baldwin bunch. Before his spiral kicked in, Stephen emerged in Hollywood as a legitimate talent delivering top grade performances in films like The Usual Suspects. Then a struggle with substance abuse ensued, in all likelihood influencing his involvement in films like The Flintstones In Viva Rock Vegas and Bio-Dome. The actor experienced a burnout, then rehab, then found God and become one of Hollywood’s leading Christian evangelist. This, of course, has led him down the path of also becoming a Republican pundit whose views are frequently in defiance of his more liberally leaning (and popular) brother Alec. Unlike Alec, however, acting roles have more or less dried up for Baldwin, who now seems to make his living off playing himself in movies and reality television. While Stephen may stand as an anti-Obama, evangelical celebrity personality, the move hasn’t saved him from financial and professional ruin.
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Unlike his contemporary Stephen Baldwin, Kirk Cameron had nowhere to go but up when he found religion. The former Growing Pains child star was never going to be cast in a Usual Suspects-style film, so when he found religion as a teenager and began shying away from adult-themed projects most of us chalked it up as a win. Cameron then deviated from Hollywood and began starring in faith-based films like Left Behind: The Movie and Fireproof. He did fairly well for himself on the Christian-themed movie circuit and even had Hollywood rethinking faith-based films when Fireproof became a mainstream hit. Then, in 2012, Cameron began preaching the evils of homosexuality on an episode of Piers Morgan Tonight. That’s when the tide turned from “Kirk Cameron, Christian actor” to “Kirk Cameron, anti-gay Christian actor.” In Hollywood, a town that is notoriously friendly toward the homosexual community, it would not fly and the actor found himself berated by everyone from Roseanne Barr to his old Growing Pains co-star Alan Thicke. His image has since become the center of the popular internet meme “Scumbag Christian.”
Cuba Gooding Jr
Cuba Gooding Jr.’s performance in Jerry Maguire won him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1996. The actor was among Hollywood’s biggest A-listers for a stint but a series of box office flops and bad career choice (see Boat Trip, Snow Dogs, or Norbit) led him down the drain of direct-to-video movies. Though the actor has managed to score a few substantial theatrical parts since his decline (in films like Red Tails or American Gangster), the actor has become a punchline among his contemporaries due to his “anything for a paycheck” attitude. Rumors of alcohol abuse have also hounded the actor, who was admitted to a rehab facility last August. Whatever the case, Cuba Gooding Jr. has become a testament to the fact that Oscar glory is a fleeting thing.
Nicolas Cage stood shoulder-to-should among the reigning kings of Hollywood’s box office from the 1990s through the 2000s. The Academy Award winner was a favorite with audiences thanks to his knack for balancing action movies (like The Rock and Con Air) with character-driven dramas (like Leaving Las Vegas or Adaptation). Unfortunately, the Cage’s passion for mega-budgeted, escapist entertainment began outweighing his more intimate projects, causing a lot of flack from his peers in Hollywood (like friend Sean Penn, who in 1999 lamented Cage was “no longer an actor”). Cage didn’t seem to mind—audiences flocked to his action flicks in droves regardless of criticism. Then, in the early aughts, audiences stopped showing interest. The actor experienced a slew of big budget bombs like The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Knowing, Drive Angry, etc. In pursuit of his mainstream ambitions, Cage’s populist taste and penchant for over-the-top “mega acting” diluted his own brand. The actor has unfortunately become a punchline among his peers due to these projects, a sentiment that has gotten a lot of help due to Cage’s continued financial problems. The actor will soon be collaborating with David Gordon Green on Joe, an intimate drama that will hopefully restore his lost credibility.