We all love celebrities. We love to love them and we love to trash them. We like to watch their movies and read their interviews. More than ever, we like to watch them fail, but to rise again.
Why? It gives us hope. Hope that if they could do it, we could too. If they could survive such a public fail, a dismissal from fame, and yet rise to the occasion and re-invent themselves and their careers in a bigger, better way – we too could rise from our little stumbles and brush failures off.
Most of us think of celebrities as super or even sub-humans. They aren’t. They are as human as you and me, with plenty human foibles. To fail or to err is to be human. So is the eventual resurrection. A fall from grace is hardly the end of the world, right? This happy list of celebrities has proven so, ipso facto…
15. Neil Patrick Harris: Down, But Never Out
He certainly started with a bang when he was nominated for a Golden Globe for his role as David Hart in the movie Clara’s Heart opposite Whoopi Goldberg when he was all of 15. The very next year, Neil Patrick Harris landed lead role in the TV series Doogie Howser, M.D., where he instantly attained heartthrob status along with another Golden Globe nomination.
The show ended in 1993 after a four-year run and post that Neil starred in many forgettable movies such as Starship Troopers and The Next Best Thing. Successful moments came few and far between despite critically-acclaimed performances in Broadway shows such as Rent and Cabaret.
In 2005 though, he landed his biggest success as the skirt-chasing Barney Stinson in How I Met Your Mother and things have never been brighter for this been-there-done-that star. In an openly gay marriage now raising twins, Neil’s in a better place for sure…
14. Michael Keaton: A Shot In The Arm
He’s won a Golden Globe for his portrayal of washed-up actor Riggan Thomson in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman, and was even nominated for an Academy Award for the same. The role he plays in reel-life might as well be written for him in real life.
From being quite the star of the 80s and the 90s where he even played Batman much to comic-movie enthusiasts’ horror, but carried off the role in his own indubitable style, to literally evaporating from movies; Keaton’s newfound success has been a long-awaited one.
He may not have been considered Oscar material in the 90s, but his performances in movies like The Paper and in Jackie Brown were noteworthy. Post that, Keaton seemed to have disappeared into nothing more than the ignominy of lesser roles being offered and even lesser being accepted.
13. Britney Spears: From The Ashes, A Musical Phoenix
The “Hit Me Baby One More Time” star was launched with a bang. An instant teen icon; Britney Spears became the it-girl for just about every media group, especially when more hits like “Oops, I Did It Again” and “I’m A Slave for you” followed. Then came the downfall.
Starting with a 55-hour marriage to childhood friend Jason Alexander in Vegas in 2004 that was annulled, to another rather toxic marriage with dancer Kevin Federline in the same year – Britney slowly unraveled. Despite having two sons with Kevin in 2005 and in 2006, the marriage ended in a rather ugly divorce in 2007. In the same year she also lost custody of both her children to her ex-husband. Rehab and psych-ward admissions followed; with the paparazzi going crazy over her disheveled appearance and shaven head.
In 2008, she rose from the ashes with “Womanizer” that became No. 1 on the Billboard Top 100, proving that she still had it in her. With rehab, her parental rights have improved and Spears seems back on track, hopefully without any more oops, I did it again in real life!
12. John Travolta: A Rollercoaster Of A Ride
Most of us first remember having seen, or heard about John Travolta when he played a suave Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever (1977) and then carried forward this lucky stoke with the 1978 hit Grease. The next decade was mediocre for him, though the Look Who’s Talking comedies with Kirstie Alley revived his career a bit. But it was only when Quentin Tarantino offered him Pulp Fiction in 1994 with his rendition of Vincent Vega, that he got propelled him into the carder of substance actors. Movies like Get Shorty, Face Off and Swordfish followed.
Then in 2000 came Battlefield Earth, which earned Travolta two Razzies instead of any accolades and turned into the biggest dud of his career. This failure hit and hit hard resulting in desultory roles for Travolta in movies like Wild Hogs and Hairspray. The animated movie Bolt (2008) resurrected him, or rather his voice for a while but nothing really worked for Travolta until February 2016. He co-produced The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story, a miniseries that aired on FX True where he starred as Robert Shapiro, O. J.’s lawyer for which he also won an Emmy. Truly an actor with a rebound factor, he is currently filming for The Life and Death of John Gotti along with his actress wife Kelly Preston.
11. Matthew McConaughey: From Stardust To Rising Star
From Dazed and Confused (1993) to the rather forgettable Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994) to the king of rom-coms like The Wedding Planner (2001), Failure to Launch (2006), Fool’s Gold (2008), and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (2009) – Matthew McConaughey was never considered to be an A-list actor. Known for light movies that were nonetheless entertaining, no serious director ever wanted to cast him in any role of substance and Mathew was well on his way of being forever dubbed as a mediocre actor in frilly entertainers. While he was making lists like the Time’s Sexiest Men Alive, work was slowly drying up to a trickle.
Matthew made a dramatic change in his career and in 2012 starred in Magic Mike along with Channing Tatum. But it was in 2013 when the accolades really rolled in when he starred as an AIDS-stricken rodeo rider Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers Club. Suddenly he was on the Time’s Most Influential List! The Wolf of Wall Street and Interstellar followed – and Mathew has been on a roll ever since.
10. Teri Hatcher: The Not-So-Desperate Actor
Teri Hatcher got the break of a lifetime when she landed the starring role of Lois Lane in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman from 1993 to 1997 that ran on ABC. One of her images wrapped in a Superman cape was 1995’s most downloaded Internet image – when the show was at its peak popularity. Between 1997 and 2004 Teri did many, mostly forgettable movies whilst also playing Paris Carver in the James Bond flick Tomorrow Never Dies. A box office dud Heaven’s Prisoners (1996) with Alec Baldwin did not help her case either and neither did a role in Spy Kids.
Mostly on her way to obscurity, Teri’s luck changed in 2004 with Desperate Housewives when she beat four contenders to land the starring role of Susan Mayer for which she won both the Golden Globe and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy. Just goes on to prove that in Hollywood, luck may just be round the corner.
9. Harvey Keitel: The Hard-Working Actor
What do movies like Mean Street, Taxi Driver and Saturn 3 have in common? Amongst other things, the very talented and very hard-working Harvey Keitel. What they do not have in common is the fact that while the first two were made in the 1970s and propelled Keitel towards stardom, the latter was a huge box office dud of the 80s and did absolutely nothing positive towards the star’s career.
Harvey was down to doing two-bit roles in movies like Thelma and Louise and Bugsy. Yet again, like with John Travolta, Tarantino’s ensemble cast hit Reservoir Dogs resurrected Harvey’s career. What’s noteworthy is that Harvey himself was one of the co-producers of the movie.
While it might have seemed like Keitel did Tarantino a favor by raising the big bucks needed to produce the movie, this movie also gave Harvey a much-needed boost. Successes like Bad Lieutenant, The Piano and Pulp Fiction followed and Keitel was on a roll in the 90s, whatever the 2000s may have brought or not.
8. Marlon Brando: Undoubtedly, The Godfather Of All Resurrections
With his smouldering good looks and a rather markedly different acting style, Brando ruled the roost in the 50s with stellar performances in movies like A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), The Wild One (1953) and his AcademyAward winning performance as Terry Malloy in On The Waterfront (1954).
Success had perhaps gone to his head and the 1960s were largely unsuccessful years for him. His own production Mutiny on a Bounty turned out to be a huge box office dud, so much so that he turned poison for most if not all directors. His rather flagging career was jointly revived by two very diverse movies directed by two very diverse directors. Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 hit The Godfather had him playing Mafioso Vito Corleone which propelled him to cult status.
The second movie, dubbed by many as erotica, starring Maria Schneider and directed by Bernardo Bertolucci was Last Tango in Paris (1972) and yet again made him one of the highest paid stars in Hollywood. While immensely talented, Brando’s self beliefs and love of gastronomical delights did hinder his career from time to time, though for many he will remain as one of Hollywood’s most talented actors who resurrected himself with grace.
7. Diane Lane: From A Burnout Child Actor To A Mature Actress
Diane Lane’s story starts out rather rosy – she starred with Meryl Streep and Irene Worth in Joseph Papp’s theatrical rendition of The Cherry Orchard. At age 13 she made her first feature film debut opposite Thelonious Bernard and Sir Lawrence Olivier in A Little Romance (1979). Her career shined with Francis Ford Coppola’s The Outsiders and Rumble Fish in 1983 where she co-starred with Hollywood’s leading brat pack Tom Cruise, Patrick Swayze, Nicolas Cage and Matt Dillon.
In 1984 she bombed at the Box Office with Streets of Desire and The Cotton Club and went into a hibernation post that. She made a comeback of sorts, but it wasn’t until her performance in TV miniseries Lonesome Dove that directors once again started noticing her.
Despite Lonesome Dove (1989) she got rather lackadaisical supporting roles in movies like Judge Dredd and Jack. Diane finally got a break with A Walk on the Moon (1999) and shot to stardom with it and again with her rather hot performance in Unfaithful (2002). Things have been good for Lane since then and she’s currently seen reprising her role as Martha Kent, Superman’s mom.
6. Drew Barrymore: From Innocence, To Wild Child, To Mommy Material
From being an adorable child actor in the very successful E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial movie to entering rehab at the age of 14, Barrymore has been on a rollercoaster ride when it comes to her personal and professional life. After movies like ET and Firestarter, Barrymore spiraled down into a life full of marijuana and cocaine and finally had to be entered into rehab three times round before finally turning sober.
Free of drugs, her teenage year movies seemed to be related to her real life escapades with her playing coy and rebellious characters in movies like Poison Ivy and Gun Crazy in 92 and 93, but they shot her back into stardom. Rom-coms became her salvation and with movies like Never Been Kissed, 50 First Dates and Duplex – Drew Barrymore became a very bankable star. Her directorial debuts Whip It and Donnie Darko were successful as were her reprised roles in Charlie’s Angels. Her once downward spiral over, Barrymore is now enjoying directing and motherhood.
5. Ben Affleck: The Bad Actor-Turned Star Director
We all love Affleck for his good looks, and for writing the script (along with Matt Damon) of the movie Good Will Hunting. We didn’t quite mind him in Armageddon (probably because of Liz Hurley & Bruce Willis) or in Pearl Harbor. We quite liked him in Shakespeare in Love too. In 2001 he entered alcohol rehab and got clean – another thing we like about him. Then he did movies like Gigli, Paycheck and Jersey Girl. We didn’t much like him for that. Then most of us decided to in fact forget about him – and all agreed it to be a shame – such a handsome, charismatic actor fading away into obscurity.
Then Ben turned it all around by directing. He did Gone Baby Gone, The Town and Argo. Suddenly everyone sat up and started taking notice. He then starred in Gone Girl and even donned the cape as Batman: Batman Vs. Superman. Now, we’re back to liking him, a lot – despite the Ben-Jen fall out. And we’re also awaiting his directorial and acting venture Live By Night.
4. Mike Tyson: From Have-It-All To Almost-Lost-It-All
Where do we begin with Mike Tyson? Do we talk about his spectacular win or his equally stunning losses in his ring fights? Do we talk about the rape conviction? Do we talk about the ear bite? Or the drug and cocaine usage? Or the alcohol addiction? His three marriages? Despite all the negativity around the guy, the fact is that he was very talented at his choice of violent sport – he was an undisputed heavyweight champion and holds a hitherto unbroken record as the youngest boxer to win the WBA, WBC, and IBF heavyweight titles at 20 years, 4 months, and 22 days old. Famous for his knockouts and aggressive fighting style, Tyson won 12 of his professional fights by knockout in the very first round itself.
Trouble came knocking with rape allegations and his was convicted of the same, though he served only three years of his six year sentence. He won his comeback rounds but after a few years of continuously unraveling lifestyle, Tyson started losing. In 1996 Tyson lost to Holyfield. Tyson challenged Holyfield for a rematch in 1997 and the rest, is ear-biting history.
In 2003 Tyson won his last professional match and also declared for bankruptcy. He now claims to live paycheck to paycheck, is married to his longtime sweetheart, is happy and continues to be the legend he once actually was. His comeback being, he never really went away, despite massive public, professional and personal failures.
3. Alec Baldwin: From A Rocky Marriage To 30 Rock
Alec Baldwin is perhaps best known for his baby blue peepers and his innumerable back-togethers and breakups with his ex-wife Kim Bassinger. He was first noticed when he played Joshua Rush in CBS’s Knots Landing. Films like Beetlejuice, The Hunt for Red October, The Aviator and The Departed came but none really catapulted Baldwin to win any awards.
His biggest and most notable role has been in the TV series 30 Rock, playing Jack Donaghy from 2006 to 2013 for which he has won an astounding two Emmy Awards, three Golden Globe Awards, and seven Screen Actors Guild Awards. 30 Rock made him the male performer with the most SAG Awards, ever.
He also starred in the fifth Mission: Impossible franchise as well as the critically acclaimed Julianne Moore film, Still Alice. With more movies under production and in filming, Baldwin is steady as a rock.
2. Mickey Rourke: The Comeback Of Faded Talent
We’re not sure what makes Mickey Rourke tick – from giving compelling performances in movies like Barfly and Angel Heart in 1987, in 1991 Rourke retired from films and turned to boxing. Rumor mills went nuts over his erotic movies like 91/2 Weeks and then Wild Orchid, the latter being more notorious than popular for the widespread belief that Rourke and Carre Otis were doing it for real on screen.
Mickey retired post being awarded Razzies for movies like Desperate Hours and Harley Davison and The Marlboro Man. Boxing shenanigans over, Rourke shined (though under heavy makeup) as Marv in Sin City. But it was his award-winning performance as Robin Ramzinski in The Wrestler that really brought Mickey back to life as far as Hollywood is concerned.
Commercial successes in the form of Iron Man 2 and The Expendables followed, but post-that Rourke hasn’t had any further releases. Thankfully for him, he hasn’t had any further breakdowns either; though he needs another good release soon in order to avoid fading into obscurity again.
1: Robert Downey Jr: There Are Comebacks, And Then There’s Downey
Robert Downey Jr.’s turnaround success story is the one of the few that many may dream about, but few actually work to attain. That he was talented was never in question. From Wonder Boys to his glorious stint in TV series Ally McBeal – his charisma was unmistakable, his effortless portrayal a testament to how much he was actually hiding beneath the surface. What got Robert Downey Jr. down and nearly out was constant drug abuse. The roots of his drug abuse ran deep – his father, filmmaker Robert Downey Sr. let him use marijuana at age six – something the senior Downey has vocally regretted.
Despite an Emmy nomination for Ally McBeal, Robert Downey Jr. was fired in 2011 after yet another drug-related arrest. And that’s when the proverbial straw broke the camel’s back. Downey finally got clean, but landed himself a gig proved difficult. It was only when Mel Gibson paid his insurance bonds that he finally made a comeback with The Singing Detective (2003). With the Iron Man franchise and the Sherlock Holmes movies, the rest is history for Robert and that too in a good way…
So there you have it, amongst the many despairing stories of Hollywood – there are these 15 stars who tightened up their shoelaces and managed to get to their goals, even if they took the long way round to get there…