There is only room for so many superstars in Hollywood. The constantly revolving door of famous people is hard to keep up with sometimes, and only the lucky ones actually stay in the spotlight for the better part of their career. Sometimes all it takes is one or two big movies to catapult a new face into household name status. No one knew who Megan Fox was before she starred in the Transformers movie. Then all of a sudden she was gracing the pages of magazines all over the world.
It is easy to make the wrong choices, and Hollywood is not usually big on second chances. Choosing the wrong scripts, getting involved with the wrong people, or personal issues can all derail a promising career. A lot of celebrities drop off everyone’s radar, and no matter how hard they try, they never recapture the magic of their first big break. But it doesn’t have to be that way. After all, we all love a good underdog story. Here are 10 of the biggest celebrity comebacks that Hollywood has ever seen.
When the Spice Girls were in the height of their fame in the late 1990s, Victoria Adams, or Posh Spice, was definitely not the one people thought would go on to bigger and better things. But since marrying pro footballer, David Beckham in 1999, Victoria’s fame has risen to epic proportions. She went from the Spice Girl no one noticed was there, to an internationally recognized style icon and fashion designer. The rest of the Spice Girls have done little of note compared to Posh, and she has accumulated an impressive net worth of $300 million. To top it all off, she has recently been named the UK Entrepreneur of 2014.
Neil Patrick Harris
Neil Patrick Harris got his big break as Doogie Howser when he was 16, but the show only lasted for 4 seasons, and ended in 1993. He did a series of guest starring roles, and small parts until he landed the role of Barney Stinson in How I Met Your Mother, in 2005. He was nominated for numerous Emmy’s, and the show lasted for nine seasons, finally ending earlier this year. Harris recently appeared in Gone Girl, the highly anticipated film adaption of Gillian Flynn’s bestselling novel, and it has been announced that he has joined the cast of American Horror Story: Freak Show. He is also scheduled to host the 87th Annual Academy Awards in 2015.
Robert Downey Jr.
Robert Downey Jr. rose to fame in the 80’s as a part of the Brat Pack era. One of his biggest roles was in the film adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ Less Than Zero in 1987, and he earned an Oscar nomination for the role of Charlie Chaplin in Chaplin in 1992. But beginning in 1996, his drug and alcohol habits started to catch up with him, and he was arrested numerous times. He attended rehab, and relapsed many times, and was even let go from Ally McBeal, the TV show that had earned him a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor. Finally, in 2001, he made the commitment to conquering his substance abuse problems, and focusing on his career. His biggest role to date has been playing Iron Man in numerous Marvel films. He currently tops Forbes’ list of the highest paid actors, with an estimated $75 million in earnings between 2012 and 2013.
Despite the fact that his acting career was steadily on the rise due to roles in films like 9 1/2 Weeks, Rumble Fish, and Angel Heart, in 1991, Mickey Rourke decided to return to amateur boxing. After a few years in the ring, and a significant amount of reconstructive surgery to fix the damage boxing had done to his face, he decided to return to acting. But it wasn’t until he landed the lead role in the film adaption of Sin City, that people really started taking notice. His role in The Wrestler earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor, and now he is as in demand as he ever was before he left Hollywood to be an amateur boxer.
Martha Stewart built her entire empire on her reputation as a homemaker, and businesswoman. Her business ventures included a successful magazine, two TV shows, merchandise, and bestselling cookbooks, and home decorating books. In 1995, New York Magazine called her the “definitive American woman of our time”. In 2004, Stewart was charged with insider trading after she received information that prevented her from losing money on a stock she owned. Her trial was highly publicized, and the media speculated that her guilty verdict would mean the end of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. After serving 5 months in federal prison, Stewart launched a comeback, included two TV shows, new partnerships for her merchandise, and new books. Her time in prison, it seems, was nothing more than a blip on the radar.
The daughter of Lionel Richie first made her mark as Paris Hilton‘s best friend on Fox’s The Simple Life. Nicole Richie and Paris showed off their sense of privilege and entitlement by working low paying, menial jobs, and spending time with “average people” across America. During the fourth season of the show, Richie was arrested for a DUI, and sentenced to 4 days in jail. In 2006, she started dating Joel Madden of Good Charlotte, and after having two kids together, they got married in 2010. Although Richie was initially considered only a socialite who was “famous for being famous”, she has turned her reputation around, and is now known for her fashion sense, philanthropy efforts, and her popular reality show, Candidly Nicole.
The eldest Baldwin brother, Alec Baldwin, had a successful career on the rise when he divorced wife of nine years, Kim Basinger. The couple had a daughter, who became the subject of an expensive, time consuming, custody battle. Baldwin claimed Basinger denied him access to their daughter, and tried to cut him out of her life. Baldwin published a book, detailing the extremes Basinger went to to keep him from his daughter. He spent over a million dollars on the lawsuit, and in 2007, a voice mail he left was released during which he called his daughter a “rude, thoughtless little pig.” He revealed a couple years later that he contemplated suicide over the controversy the voice mail caused. Despite his personal demons, his career has thrived, and his role on 30 Rock, from 2006-2013 has earned him two Emmy’s, and three Golden Globes.
Charlie Sheen was the highest paid actor on TV for his role as Charlie Harper on CBS’s Two and a Half Men. But his falling out with creator, Chuck Lorre, ended with Sheen being dismissed from the show. He went on to have a very public meltdown, which included bizarre TV interviews where he claimed he was a “warlock” with “Adonis DNA”, relationships with porn stars he called his “goddesses”, and an unexpected comedy tour to promote himself and his catchphrase, “Winning!” Despite his drug and alcohol problems, frequent stays in rehab, and speculation of mental illness, Sheen returned to TV with the FX comedy, Anger Management, in 2013, which debuted to 5.74 million viewers, making it the most-watched sitcom premiere in cable history.
After “Hit Me Baby One More Time”, Britney Spears was launched into the kind of worldwide fame pop singers dream about. She had a highly publicized relationship with Justin Timberlake, before marrying backup dancer Kevin Federline, and having two sons. She and Federline divorced after two years, and her personal problems started a media frenzy over her strange behaviour, which included shaving her head bald. She lost physical custody of her sons, and her father, Jamie was granted conservatorship over her and all her assets. But despite her personal problems, her career pursuits remained as successful as ever. She is currently in the middle of a 100-show Las Vegas residency, and is working on her tenth studio album.
Ben Affleck started out as a regular in Kevin Smith-directed films like Chasing Amy, and Dogma, but it wasn’t until he won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Good Will Hunting alongside Matt Damon, that people began to take notice. He starred in the blockbuster, Armageddon, and his career was on the rise, until his highly scrutinized relationship with Jennifer Lopez. The two made the flop Gigli together, and it seemed like Affleck might never recover. He turned to directing, and all his films (Gone Baby Gone, The Town, Argo) have been critically and commercially successful. He recently appeared in Gone Girl, and will be playing Batman in 2016’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.