Hollywood is packed with celebrities (and wannabe celebrities) clamoring for time in the spotlight. The competition is fierce to land a role in a film or to record an album. Even then, it’s still a fight for the project to be successful and for artists to remain popular and relevant after they’ve enjoyed their time in the limelight. Needless to say, Hollywood careers can be short-lived thanks to fickle North American audiences.
To mitigate the rollercoaster ride of a Hollywood career, many actors and musicians have discovered and cultivated passionate fan bases outside of North America in regions such as Europe and Asia. They encourage their fan bases by doing special projects, tours and promotions in these areas of the world. As a result, some celebrities’ careers have continued to soar in many countries, even as their American careers stagnate or decline.
From Nicolas Cage, who is a little past his prime in Hollywood yet is one of the most popular and respected American actors in China, to Beyonce’s former Destiny’s Child cohort Kelly Rowland who enjoys significant fame in the UK, here are some artists who are actually more popular abroad than they are at home.
Nicolas Cage – China
Nicolas Cage enjoyed a thriving action movie career in the 1990s with hits such as Con Air, Face/Off, City of Angels, Gone in Sixty Seconds and more. Although he’s still chosen to lead in some big productions such as National Treasure and voicing a main character in The Croods, Cage is a little past his prime in Hollywood these days. Luckily for Cage, he’s still one of the most respected American actors in China, where his movies – including the National Treasure series that was met with mixed reviews in the U.S. – are huge hits. He’s also done advertisements in Asia, such as promotions for a Chinese auto manufacturer. His work has also been acknowledged with major Chinese awards: last year he won the award for “Best Global Actor in Motion Pictures” at China’s Huading Awards.
George Clooney – Europe
No one would say that George Clooney is past his prime in Hollywood quite yet, but it might be safe to say that the meteoric levels of fame he enjoyed in the 2000s have tempered in recent years. If he needs an ego boost, however, all Clooney has to do is look to Europe and Asia, where he still dazzles audiences. In Asia, his movies often do better than at home. In Europe, he made Nespresso a household necessity when he became the face of the coffee capsule company (he continues to be paid millions to do their commercials). His advertisements for Nespresso have even attracted other Hollywood stars to join him in the commercials, including Matt Damon and John Malkovich.
Avril Lavigne – Asia
Canadian singer Avril Lavigne rose to the top of the charts in 2004 with the release of her “Under My Skin” album. She’s released several albums since then, though none have topped the success of “Under My Skin” in North America. Lavigne, however, still enjoys immense popularity in Asia. As in many other countries, she was first embraced in Japan after the release of her 2004 album “Under My Skin,” and her subsequent albums continued to be successful throughout Japan, China and other parts of Asia even when they were met with mixed success back home. In 2014, she toured throughout Asia, and last year she won the award for “Best Global Singer” in China’s Huading Awards.
John Malkovich – France
John Malkovich has been featured in many critically acclaimed films in Hollywood, often playing the role of the darkest characters. He also cultivates a significant body of work in Europe. He has said that fame isn’t everything to him and he prefers making smaller, artsier, low-budget films in countries such as France. For many years, he lived in France with his family, returning only to his home city of Chicago from time to time to act and direct there. The actor is, of course, fluent in French and his international work has been met with praise. He has also appeared in a Nespresso commercial with George Clooney.
Megadeth – Latin America
The thrash metal band Megadeth started out as an underground group in California in the 1980s and achieved steady commercial success after. It is now considered one of the most successful heavy metal bands of all time. Domestically, however, their popularity has gone up and down over the years, since the genre only enjoys varying levels of popularity at home. In contrast, the group has enjoyed steady, lasting success with fans in Latin America. They have a huge and extremely loyal following there and the group makes sure to hit the region’s largest cities whenever they are on tour.
Kelly Rowland – UK
Former Destiny’s Child member Kelly Rowland is a somewhat familiar name in music in North America, but that doesn’t begin to compare with her huge international success. In fact, she’s so popular in the UK that she has arguably been more successful than her Destiny’s Child partner Beyonce across the pond. Her second solo album, 2007’s “Ms. Kelly” included the songs “Like This” and “Work” that became international hits. Rowland was also a judge on the smash hit TV series The X Factor UK in the show’s eighth season. Rowland’s third album in 2011, “Here I Am,” also had an international top-ten hit, “Commander.”
30. Seconds to Mars – Europe
The California-based rock band featuring front man Jared Leto is relatively unknown in the U.S. but has a substantial fan base abroad. They have had sold out tours abroad, especially in Europe, and have won several MTV Europe awards. The band may soon become more well-known back at home, however; thanks to Leto’s Oscar win and the group’s 2013 album, “Love, Lust, Faith and Dreams,” 30 Seconds to Mars has recently enjoyed more attention in the U.S.
Jessica Sanchez – Philippines
A runner up in the eleventh season of American Idol, Jessica Sanchez found some success after her appearance on Idol when signing with a label and releasing two albums. Originally from California, she has found the most fame in the Philippines (her mother is Filipina, lending her a small connection to the country). She cultivated her fan base there by releasing a music video that was shot in the Philippines and hosted her first solo concert there in 2013. She has since signed endorsement deals in the Philippines and has garnered a significant fan base in the country.
Jonathan Kos-Read – China
If you haven’t heard of this actor, it’s probably because he’s never really worked in Hollywood. American Actor Jonathan Kos-Read is unheard of in his home country, yet is a well-known and well-regarded television and film actor in China. Kos-Read works under the stage name Cao Cao, The actor has starred in lead roles in several movies and has had dozens of roles in Chinese film and television. He was also the star of a reality show in China about his life. Since he’s a Caucasian man but he is fluent in Mandarin Chinese, he fills a niche market in the Chinese film industry. He is one of the few Western actors who has established himself as a respected actor, and is often asked to take on American, European or other Western roles. When you consider that China has a population of 1.35 billion people, he has a much bigger market to cater to than he ever would at home.
Arnold Schwarzenegger – Asia
Arnold Schwarzenegger is a former action movie star (and California governor) whose memorable movies like the Terminator series were huge in Hollywood in the 1980s and 1990s. It’s safe to say his fame has already peaked in North America. Like many other actors, he wisely makes it a habit to visit the Far East to continue to promote his projects to fans there. The actor has also made a couple of bucks doing promotions in Asia over the years; in the 1990s in particular he was featured in commercials for many products, including for a coffee beverage.
David Hasselhoff – Germany
The actor best known for his role in the TV series Baywatch, David Hasselhoff was actually a hit pop singer in Germany in the 1980s. In fact, he was so big, he was one of the biggest selling male solo artists in Germany in that decade. Before the Berlin Wall came down, Hasselhoff actually played a concert on top of the landmark. His 1989 song “I’ve Been Looking for Freedom” was a huge hit in the country (no doubt in part because it resounded with the political events happening at the time). His career peaked in the 1980s and has since waned over there.