Even if you’re not a celebrity, you know that Hollywood can be a very fickle place to work. One day, a celebrity can be on the cover of virtually every magazine and tour the country for interviews, and the next day, that same celebrity can become a forgotten memory in the minds of the public, and have a hard time getting jobs.
Some celebrities who were once on the Hollywood A List end up living the glamorous life for a while when they’re unable to get gigs. Some start their own businesses or endorse products until they are able to get acting work again. Other celebrities fall off the radar for years and the public barely remembers them until they happen to make the news for something negative.
Fortunately, there are some actors who are lucky enough to make a comeback. Maybe it’s not “luck” entirely. Some of these actors have kept their professional connections over the years, and an opportunity finally came up for them to show their talent again. Others revamped their image to be more appealing. Either way, we’re sure these creative professionals are sure to be back in the spotlight again. Here are 10 of the greatest acting career comebacks.
10. Robert Downey, Jr.
Robert Downey Jr. is the son of independent filmmaker Robert Downey Sr., and became popular in the 1980s when he appeared in movies like Weird Science and Less Than Zero. In the 1990s, Downey, Jr. was more famous for his drug and alcohol binges than his acting career. Downey Jr. was in a relationship with Sarah Jessica Parker during the time he was using drugs and alcohol, and she has stated how concerned she was for him at the time. He even had a three-year prison sentence during the 90s, which meant he wasn’t getting any acting jobs for a while. In the past few years, however, Robert Downey Jr. has cleaned up his act and made a comeback. He’s quite popular these days for the Iron Man films, which have been pretty successful. Downey Jr. has also cleaned up his public image by responding warmly to young fans who admire his work.
9. Neil Patrick Harris
Neil Patrick Harris was pretty popular in the 1980s when he played the genius teenage doctor on the hit show Doogie Howser, M.D. After the show went off the air, we didn’t hear much from Harris, and he didn’t get back in the spotlight until he appeared on Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, which was a web miniseries. Neil Patrick Harris then made everyone fall in love with him again when he played sex-crazed Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Mother. Neil Patrick Harris also made a comeback in the spotlight by hosting a number of award shows and appearing on Broadway as the main character in Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
8. Jason Bateman
Jason Bateman was quite popular in the 1980s when he was on Little House On The Prairie as a child. His sister Justine, was in the spotlight as well and was one of the starring characters on the 1980s sitcom Family Ties. During the 1990s, Jason had a hard time making the transition into being a teen star; he even starred in the movie Teen Wolf Too, which was supposed to be a success. In the early 2000s, Bateman landed a role in the series Arrested Development, which proved to be his career comeback. He went on to achieve more Hollywood success with the movies Up In The Air, Juno and Horrible Bosses. When Arrested Development was revived on Netflix, Jason Bateman got two Emmy nominations, which definitely serves as a career boost.
7. Betty White
Betty White is now in her 90s, and has been in Hollywood for decades. She is the first woman to win an Emmy as a game show host and the first woman to produce a television sitcom. White is also well-known for her role as the sweet but dim-witted Rose, on the sitcom The Golden Girls. She is the only surviving member of the show’s main cast. After The Golden Girls went off the air, Betty White wasn’t in the spotlight very much, although she had a few minor roles in the 1990s. In the 2000s, however, Betty White was given more opportunities to let the world know that she’s still a legendary talent. White appeared as a Saturday Night Live host in 2010, and starred in Hot In Cleveland until the show’s final season in 2015.
6. Drew Barrymore
Drew Barrymore has had her share of “child star” troubles, and she was pretty young when she went through her bouts with alcohol abuse and body issues. She even wrote a memoir on her drug and alcohol abuse when she was just 14. At one point, Barrymore was partying pretty heavily and people were unsure whether the E.T. star would get back on track. After going to rehab twice–once for a cocaine addiction and once for a suicide attempt, in 1995 Drew made a comeback when she starred with Whoopi Goldberg and Mary Louise Parker in Boys On The Side. She went on to appear in movies like The Wedding Singer, Charlie’s Angels, 50 First Dates and Blended.
5. Joaquin Phoenix
Joaquin Phoenix started out as a child actor, but left the spotlight for a while when his older brother River, died from a drug overdose in 1993. At the time of his brother’s death, Joaquin went by the name “Leaf,” but when he was 15, he changed his name back to Joaquin. This was also around the time he returned to acting, and in 2000, got the attention of the public again with his role in Gladiator. He continued to pursue strange and thought-provoking roles in movies like Hotel Rwanda, The Village and Walk The Line. Phoenix checked into rehab in 2005, and the following year, he wrecked his car while intoxicated. He has since resumed a serious acting career, starring in the movies Her and The Master.
4. John Travolta
John Travolta was a major star in the 1970s and 1980s, starring in the hit sitcom Welcome Back Kotter and in the cult classic Grease. He also starred in Stayin’ Alive and Saturday Night Fever. Then, several years went by where the media didn’t hear much from Travolta. He voiced a baby in the movie Look Who’s Talking, which, to be honest, was a step down for him. In the mid-1990s, Quentin Tarantino cast Travolta in the movie Pulp Fiction, which helped the public to view him as a serious actor again. In 2007 John Travolta also starred in the movie adaption of Hairspray, as the main character Tracy’s, mother.
3. Rob Lowe
Like Robert Downey, Jr., Rob Lowe was part of the adorable group of young actors in the 1980s known as the Brat Pack. Low appeared in projects such as St. Elmo’s Fire, Youngblood and The Outsiders, but lost popularity after a while. Then in 1988, the public noticed him again, but not in the way he’d hoped. He was videotaped having sex with two women the night before the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta, GA. One of the “women” was 16 at the time, which is the age of consent in Georgia (lucky for Lowe). A short time later, he was taped having sex with a model in Paris. Rob Lowe decided to make fun of his escapades during his appearance on Saturday Night Live, and eventually got roles on Brothers and Sisters and Parks and Recreation.
2. Kiefer Sutherland
Kiefer Sutherland is the son of legendary actor Donald Sutherland. Kiefer had a breakout role when he starred in the movie Stand By Me, in 1986. He then went on to appear in Young Guns, Dark City and Lost Boys. Kiefer Sutherland strangely “retired” in the late 1990s. During that time, he bought a ranch in Montana and entered cattle-roping contests, many of which he won. Then in 2001, he got the role of Jack Bauer in the drama series 24. This became the role that attracted an entirely new audience to him, and he’s now best known for this long-running role.
1. Alec Baldwin
Alec Baldwin is the oldest of the Baldwin brothers. All of the Baldwin siblings have tried their hand at acting, but Alec definitely stood out, especially when he starred in movies like The Hunt for Red October. He married fellow A-list actor Kim Basinger, but the two went through a nasty divorce and lengthy custody battle in 2002. He also got a lot of criticism for the unsavory voicemail he left for his young daughter Ireland, while he and Basinger were going through their divorce. As a result, Baldwin’s career dwindled away slowly, and he took supporting roles whenever he could. That all changed when he got the role of Jack Donaghy in the sitcom 30 Rock. This transformed his image, and reminded people that he could be funny, as well as charming in a leading role.