Becoming a movie or television star is often not an easy process. It’s rare that an actor just walks into the Hollywood scene and gets popped up onscreen without ever having to dig through the mud and the muck that is lousy acting jobs or hundreds of auditions trying to find that one role that sets them up for future success. Many celebrities can tell you stories of their struggles before they hit it big.
So when the rich and famous do finally make it, maintaining the top spot can be challenging. You have to choose your next project wisely. Then you have to do so again and again, making the most of every opportunity. In Hollywood, you don’t get many chances at starting over once you make the wrong decision.
Some come extremely close to losing it all, whether because of a movie that was considered a box office flop or a role that failed to showcase their acting ability. Some television stars move to movies and fail and other movie stars move to television to start fresh. Some take roles and are never heard from again.
It can take hard work or just dumb luck to rebound after a misstep when you’re famous. These 15 celebrities were able to do so, but they’re probably the lucky ones. No, we’re not talking about drugs, abuse, nor arrests. Instead, here are 15 of the most famous people out there who almost lost it all and ruined their careers with one bad acting decision.
15. Natalie Portman: “Star Wars”
For all the great things Star Wars has done for fans who grew up idolizing arguably the greatest movie franchise in history, the films themselves are not terribly loved by the actors who played roles in them. Alec Guinness, who played Obi-Wan Kenobi in the first films, said he regretted taking on the role back in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s and we can name another actor who thinks her decision to take on the part of Padme Amidala in George Lucas’ Star Wars prequels was a mistake.
After the films came out and were met with backlash by fans, Natalie Portman was viewed in Hollywood as someone you wanted to steer clear of. It wasn’t until Mike Nichols (director of Bird Cage) wrote a letter on her behalf to Anthony Minghella and said, ‘Put her in Cold Mountain. I vouch for her.’ And then, Anthony passed her on to Tom Tykwer, who passed her on to the Wachowskis.
14. Will Smith: “After Earth”
Will Smith had a great acting career. If he did nothing else, he’d be leaving Hollywood as a very famous and rich person. Perhaps that feeling crept into his decision-making because after he successfully starred alongside his daughter in The Pursuit of Happyness, he took more roles working with his children. He made the film After Earth with his son, Jaden Smith, and it flopped miserably. Both of them were so bad in the movie that afterward, Smith had a hard time landing the type of roles that he wanted. He definitely wasn’t commanding the kind of money he was used to and he was being turned away from parts he probably would have otherwise gotten easily. He rebounded with the movie Concussion which described the story of the NFL and its history of medical issues, but it took some time for Smith to get back on track.
13. The Rock: “Tooth Fairy”
The Rock is now one of the hottest male celebrities out there, but he almost made a huge mistake. After leaving the WWE to pursue his acting career, he starred in some films where he could be the action star most people wanted him to be. He took a calculated gamble that worked with him having a supporting role in Too Cool, but he followed that up with a huge mistake in Tooth Fairy, which was a family comedy that saw him dressed in tights and a tutu. He almost didn’t rebound and had to go back to his roots as an action star and using the name “The Rock” on some of his credits to gain back his loyal fans. He rebounded by signing on to popular franchises like G.I. Joe: Retaliation and Fast and Furious 6, helping them rebound after financial disappointments.
12. Topher Grace: “Spider-Man 3”
You wouldn’t think that when you sign on to play a role in Spider-Man, you’d have a hard time ever getting good work again. That’s what happened to Topher Grace who was so miscast as Eddie Brock (Venom) that it wasn’t until three years later in 2010 when he landed another decent movie role. Grace lacked the imposing size and presence to play Venom, and his absurd snarls and facial expressions turned the most vicious monster from the comic books into the least scary villain in the Spider-Man series. Since 2010, Grace has taken roles in a number of projects but nothing significant. And he’s definitely not going to be a leading man which you have to think he thought being in Spider-Man 3 might help him achieve.
11. Sean Connery: “League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen”
This role actually did end an acting career. Sean Connery was a versatile action star with roles in James Bond and other mega-hits like The Rock. After Connery made The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, he never worked as an actor in a movie again. It was that bad.
Because he was up there in age and had such a long and distinguished career, it’s fair to say that this film didn’t ruin his legacy. It just forced him into retirement in 2005. The movie itself was one he produced and it was met with resounding hatred by critics and was a box office disaster. It was not likely the way Connery wanted to go out after being voted People’s Sexiest Man of the Century at the age of 69.
10. Halle Berry: “Catwoman”
Few actors in Hollywood saw swifter and more sudden backlash than Halle Berry did after taking on the role of Catwoman in 2004. Her portrayal of the character and the poorly made movie nearly swept the Razzies for worst movie ever and her career took a major beating because of it. Nevertheless, Berry has returned to play her role as Storm in the X-Men series, but she really hasn’t been a prominent leading lady in Hollywood since. She’s still doing better and making more money than most of us, but she should have been one of the biggest female stars ever. She killed that momentum with one bad choice.
9. Cuba Gooding, Jr.: “Jerry Maguire”
It doesn’t make a lot of sense to win an Oscar and call the movie that helped you win it the same movie that essentially killed your acting career. That’s what happened with Cuba Gooding, Jr. who went from an actor who could get movies green-lit just by being in them to an actor who did nothing but straight-to-DVD garbage for nearly a decade. In talking about his own career, Gooding Jr. describes his choice to turn down roles like Amistad and Hotel Rwanda as a way to counteract the possibly of being parodied as someone who was a tagline in a movie. Instead, the world was subjected to movies like Snow Dogs, Rat Race, Boat Trip, Norbit, and Daddy Day Camp.
8. Hayden Christensen: “Star Wars” Prequels
In what should have been the role of a lifetime, Canadian-actor Hayden Christensen found himself typecast as Anakin Skywalker. To make matters worse, he was absolutely terrible in the role, thanks to a combination of a dry and awful script and playing one of the evilest villains in film history as a spoiled child. He simply wasn’t believable in the role and ruined a lot of fans’ vision of Darth Vader. Since Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, Christensen did a string of poor and not very profitable movies. There’s a substantial gap in his onscreen resume from 2010 through 2014, but it looks like acting is not completely out of the picture. He’s been getting busier over the last year or so.
7. Elizabeth Berkley: “Showgirls”
She started out on the hit show Saved by the Bell. It was about as wholesome a character as one could play on television. It was adored by kids and teens everywhere. Trying to shed that teen actor image, in 1995, she took on a leading role in the NC-17 film, Showgirls, which was met with some of the worst responses in movie history. She was nominated for Razzie Awards as Worst New Star and Worst Actress. The movie did even worse. She was immediately thrust back into small supporting roles and showed up on episodes of CSI. Her decision to take such a huge leap in her acting career has to be one of the worst choices ever made. Thank goodness for Dancing With the Stars.
6. Demi Moore: “Striptease”
It’s a good thing Demi Moore got the paycheck she did when she agreed to star in the movie Striptease. The $12.5 million she got paid to be a part of such a stinker was kind of like severance pay. The movie was incredibly bad and while she got one more chance to fix her mistake, her portrayal of a head-shaved G.I. Jane just didn’t put her back on the map. She went from the highest paid female actress in history to supporting roles in some low-budget flops to finally becoming famous for marrying Ashton Kutcher. That’s probably not where she envisioned her career going and she hasn’t really rebounded since. It’s actually amazing how far she fell, thanks to one terrible but profitable decision.
5. Geena Davis: “Cutthroat Island”
Cutthroat Island has the distinction of killing three careers. Director Renny Harlin and actors Geena Davis and Matthew Modine never found major success after this box office flop was released to the public. Davis was, at one time, one of the biggest female stars of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, with hits such as Beetlejuice, Thelma and Louise, and A League of Their Own to her credit. After Cutthroat Island, she all but disappeared from Hollywood until resurfacing to star in the Stuart Little films and try her hand at television acting on ABC with her self-titled show that lasted for only a year and wasn’t re-upped. It’s been pretty much TV series after TV series. Well, at least she’s still getting work. By the way, her marriage to Harlin ended not long after Cutthroat Island was considered such a bomb.
4. Taylor Lautner: “Abduction”
There were a few teen actors set for stardom the way Taylor Lautner was after the Twilight franchise ended. He was literally one of the biggest movie stars between 2010 and 2012. Thanks to both Abduction and Tracers, Lautner successfully brought the Twilight momentum train to a screeching halt and since that time, is probably only in films due to his friendship with producer and actor, Adam Sandler. Sandler has cast him in Grown Ups 2 and The Ridiculous 6 and without Sandler’s help, Lautner would probably be completely out of the Hollywood scene.
3. Chris Klein: “Rollerball”
The lovable Oz in the American Pie series, Chris Klein looked like he was set to be one of the “it” guys in Hollywood. Instead, he chose to take the lead role in Rollerball and it nearly killed his career.He worked a little after that, but it was a full decade later that he got to reprise his role in American Reunion and it was straight to television after that. He’s been working on and off since, but he has still not done anything significant and he’s been almost completely forgotten about in Hollywood. I’m sure if the producers of American Pie offered Klein nothing but roles as Oz in any and all upcoming movies in that franchise, he’d jump. It seems to be the only significant work he’s done.
2. Mike Myers: “The Love Guru”
There was a time that Mike Myers was considered one of the funniest male actors in Hollywood. His smash hits Austin Powers and Wayne’s World looked like nothing was going to slow him down. Well, except for The Love Guru. This film not only slowed down Myers. It practically killed his career. The only thing that kept him going was that he was the voice of Shrek in the movies of the same name. Since then, Shrek has been really the only thing Myers has done of significance. He disappeared for almost five years. If you’re a Myers fan, the good news is that it was recently announced that a fourth Austin Powers movie is in the works. The problem is that this movie has about as good a chance at being a flop as it does being a hit.
1. Jennifer Lopez: “Gigli”
Jennifer Lopez is still a huge star, so perhaps this entry is a bit out of the ordinary. But as far as her acting career went, Gigli pretty much sent Lopez back to music full-time. At one time a leading lady in Hollywood, Lopez starred in a movie that almost killed both hers and Ben Affleck‘s careers and it’s no wonder since the movie was about as bad a movie as anyone could ever make. She took a number of supporting roles in ensemble casts and is now back on television. But her movie career is pretty much dead in the water. It’s a good thing she’s multi-talented and extremely hot. She’s had a pretty good fallback career in music and, in overall, just being a megastar.